Was the Olympic Flame Once Extinguished and Then Re-Lit With a Cigarette Lighter?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about the Olympics and Olympians and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the Olympic urban legends featured so far.

OLYMPIC URBAN LEGEND: A cigarette lighter was once used to re-light the extinguished Olympic Flame.

While the interlocking rings that make up the Olympic flag are undoubtedly the most recognizable symbol of the Olympic Games, the Olympic Flame is certainly a close second. Representing the theft of fire from the Greek Gods by Prometheus, a fire was kept burning throughout the ancient Olympic Games. This tradition continues today, with a relay of the flame (typically via torch) from Olympia, Greece (home of the original Olympics) to wherever the current Games are being held.

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The handling of the Olympic Flame almost always goes off without a hitch. In 1976, however, at the Olympic Games in Montreal, Canada, there was one notable slip that was magnified by the well-meaning efforts of a quick-thinking plumber with a cigarette lighter.
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Were the Cardinals Named After The Faded Football Jerseys They Wore?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about football and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the football urban legends featured so far.

FOOTBALL URBAN LEGEND: The Cardinals got their name from the faded used jerseys they wore.

The University of Chicago Maroons were one of (probably the) most dominant football teams in the early days of college football. It is fascinating to think of what the program would be like if the school had not discontinued the sport in the late 1930s (by the time they picked it up again, decades had past).

In any event, it was likely the success of the Maroons that inspired Chicago painter/contractor Chris O’Brien to create an amateur football team in Chicago in 1898. The local club soon began playing at Normal Park on Racine Avenue in Chicago. The team therefore became the Racine Normals.

In 1901, O’Brien made a major purchase that would eventually lead to the name of the team, a name that has stuck with them even as they have moved states twice.
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How Did “Tessie” Become a Red Sox Good Luck Charm Twice…One Hundred Years Apart?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about baseball and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the baseball urban legends featured so far.

BASEBALL/MUSIC URBAN LEGEND: A song had a strange history with the Boston Red Sox to the point of seeming to be a World Series “good luck charm.”

“Tessie (You Are the Only, Only, Only)” was a popular song from the Broadway musical The Silver Slipper. It was written by WIll R. Anderson. The musical lasted just 160 performances (which actually is not that bad) from October 1902 and March 1903, but the song remained popular after the show closed.

In the classic book, The Glory of Their Times: The Story of the Early Days of Baseball Told by the Men Who Played It, Lawrence S. Ritter had longtime Pittsburgh Pirate great Tommy Leach tell the story of the 1903 World Series and the effect that Leach felt that “Tessie” had on the series…

I think those Boston fans actually won that Series for the Red Sox. We beat them three out of the first fouer games, and then they started singing that damn “Tessie” song, the Red Sox fans did. They called themselves the Royal Rooters and their leader was some Boston character named Mike McGreevey. He was known as “Nuf Sed” McGreevey, because any time there was an argument about anything to do with baseball he was the ultimate authority. Once McGreevey gave his opinion that ended the argument: nuf sed!

Anyways, in the fifth games of ther Series the Royal Rooters started singing “Tessie” for no particular reason at all, and the Red Sox won. They must have figured it was a good luck charm, because from then on you could hardly play ball they were singing “Tessie” so damn loud. “Tessie” was a real big popular song in those days. You remember it, don’t you?

Tessie, you me feel badly,
Why don’t you turn around.
Tessie, you know I love you madly,
Babe, my heart weighs about a pound.

Yeah, that was a real humdinger in those days. Like “The Music Goes Round and Round” in the ‘thirties. Now you surely remember that one?

Only instead of singing “Tessie, you know I love you madly,” they’d sing special lyrics for each of the Red Sox players, like “Jimmy, you know I love you madly.” And for us Pirates, they’d change it a little. Like when Honus Wagner came up to bat they’d sing:

Honus, why do you hit so badly,
Take a back seat and sit down.
Honus, at bat you look sadly.
Hey, why don’t you get out of town.

Sort of got on your nerves after a while. And before we knew what happened, we’d lost the World Series.

Here is a picture of the Rooters in 1903…

Whatever luck effects the Royal Rooters and their song, “Tessie,” had, the group disbanded in 1918 (their leader, the aforementioned McGreevey, ran a saloon, so perhaps he knew Prohibition was coming soon. His bar closed in 1920). In case you don’t recall, 1918 saw the Red Sox win a World Series…something they would not duplicate until 2004!

Here’s where things get weirder.
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Did John Fogerty Write “Centerfield” After Watching the MLB All-Star Game From the Centerfield Bleachers?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about baseball and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the baseball urban legends featured so far.

BASEBALL/MUSIC URBAN LEGEND: John Fogerty wrote “Centerfield” after watching the 1984 All Star Game from the centerfield bleachers at Candlestick Park.

One of the particularly interesting about baseball and songs about baseball is that while yes, there are a goodly amount of songs about baseball, there are not a whole lot of them that you would want to listen to when you’re not actually at a baseball game. John Fogerty spoke about this in a good interview with Tom Singer of MLB.com:

“Having grown up as a rock-and-roller, I was more into what kids my age were doing. Rock-and-roll has a certain set of formal dogmas, and the rule book says, ‘Anything that is perceived as lame, we don’t want it around here.’ Over the years it seemed like sports songs just didn’t qualify into the rock-and-roll lexicon. There was that unwritten distinction. It was never considered rock-and-roll.” Fogerty, naturally, challenged that notion with his classic 1985 tune, “Centerfield” (the title track to his comeback album of that year, an album that reached #1 on the Billboard charts) which both became an acclaimed rock ‘n’ roll song as well as a an instant baseball classic.

Nowadays, it is among the most famous songs ever written about baseball and it is even enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame (here is a picture of Fogerty at the event – note his baseball bat guitar)!!

There is a good deal of folklore about the song, which is about a baseball player who just wants a chance to play “Put me in, coach – I’m ready to play today; Look at me, I can be centerfield” – a sentiment that Fogerty explains also works as “a metaphor about getting yourself motivated, about facing the challenge of one thing or another at least at the beginning of an endeavor.” Probably the most common legend about the song is that Fogerty was inspired to write the song after watching the 1984 Major League Baseball (MLB) All-Star Game in the center field bleachers in San Francisco’s Candlestick Park, just a hop, skip and a jump from Berkeley, California, which is where Fogerty was born.

It is a good story – but is it true?
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Did an NHL Team Once Draft a Fake Player as a Joke?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about hockey and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the hockey urban legends featured so far.

HOCKEY URBAN LEGEND: An NHL team drafted a fake player as a joke.

George “Punch” Imlach was not someone you would typically think of as a funny guy.

As the General Manager and Head Coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Imlach was very successful, but he was also very hard nosed.

After being let go by the Leafs (after winning three Stanley Cups with them during the 1960s), Imlach became the General Manager and Head Coach of the expansion NHL team, the Buffalo Sabres.

Here he is with some of his Sabre players…

After suffering a heart attack in 1972, Imlach stepped down as coach but remained General Manager.

In the 1974 NHL Entry Draft, Imlach showed off his funny side (or at least his petty side). At the time, the NHL was worried about the rival league, the World Hockey Association, so they decided to do the Entry Draft over the telephone, so as to not allow the WHA to know what they were doing (I don’t precisely get the logic in that, but hey, whatever). As you might imagine, this could get pretty darn tedious, so in a joking bit of rebellion, Imlach decided to just MAKE UP a draft pick.

So with the 183rd pick of the NHL Draft, the Buffalo Sabres selected Taro Tsujimoto of the Japanese Hockey League’s Tokyo Katanas (Katanas and Sabres, of course, are both swords). Taro Tsujimoto, naturally enough, did not exist.

Imlach just picked a name out of the phone book.

The League was not amused when they found out a week or so later, and the pick was wiped from the books and is officially listed as an “invalid pick.”

Taro Tsujimoto, of course, has become a bit of a cult icon in Buffalo, sort of like an invisible mascot!

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He even got a fake rookie card!

TARO-copy

The legend is…

STATUS: True

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future urban legends columns! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com

Did Pamela Anderson Get Her Big Break While Being Spotted by a TV Camera at a Canadian Football Game?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about football and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the football urban legends featured so far.

FOOTBALL URBAN LEGEND: Pamela Anderson got her big break when caught by a TV camera at a Canadian Football game.

A number of professional football players made it big in the United States of America after first proving themselves in the Canadian Football League. The most famous example of a player not being drafted or not making a National Football League team before becoming a star in the CFL is clearly Warren Moon, the legendary quarterback who is the only man to be enshrined in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But Moon is far from the only player to do so – some others include Pro Bowl Quarterback Jeff Garcia (undrafted by the NFL), defensive end Harald Hasselbach (the last player to win a CFL championship and an NFL championship) and wide receiver Mervyn Fernandez. This is not even counting those players who had a choice between the two leagues and went with the CFL before later coming to the States (guys like Rocket Ismail and Joe Theismann).

However, the CFL did not only give the United States football players. It also was (in a roundabout way) responsible for giving the USA Pamela Anderson!
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Did Dan Gilbert Make a Special Fathead to Send a Message to Lebron James?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about basketball and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the basketball urban legends featured so far.

BASKETBALL URBAN LEGEND: Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert specially priced a Lebron James Fathead to make a statement against his former player.

Last year, Lebron James made history by returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers after spurning them to join the Miami Heat in 2010. So all is forgiven between Lebron and the fans of the Cavaliers and the owner of the Cavs, Dan Gilbert. Back in 2010, however, things were a bit different.

Gilbert spoke out against Lebron and famously celebrated the Heat losing to the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 NBA Finals. Gilbert also found another avenue to express his displeasure with James – his Fathead!
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Had the Writers of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” Never Been to a Baseball Game When They Wrote the Song?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about baseball and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the baseball urban legends featured so far.

BASEBALL URBAN LEGEND: The songwriters of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” had not attended a baseball game at the time they penned the tune.

We certainly give songwriters plenty of leeway when it comes to their songs being “true to life.” No one hears “Yellow Submarine” and then criticizes Paul McCartney for the Beatles not actually living in a yellow submarine. Similarly, if you were to learn that Rupert Holmes does not actually like Pina Coladas, I don’t think anyone would judge “Escape (the Pina Colada Song)” too harshly (do note that Holmes actually is not a fan of the tropical drink, noting in the past that he felt it tasted like the medicine Kaopectate). But surely the people who wrote “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” had actually attended a baseball game before they wrote the song, right?

And yet…
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Did Lou Whitaker Forget His Uniform at the 1985 All-Star Game?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about baseball and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the baseball urban legends featured so far.

BASEBALL URBAN LEGEND: A baseball player forgot to pack his uniform for his appearance in the All-Star Game!

With the Major League Baseball All-Star Game tonight, I figured I’d spotlight a pair of All-Star legends yesterday and today! Here‘s yesterday’s All-Star-related legend. On to today’s!

The 1985 All-Star Game was, at the time, a fairly routine All-Star Game from the 1970s and 80s, in that it was a National League victory (their THIRTEENTH in the last FOURTEEN All-Star Games at the time!).

However, while the American League team was not victorious, in retrospect, their team that day was historic.

Of the eight position players starting the All-Star Game for the American League that year, a stunning SEVEN of them were later elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame!

Eddie Murray was at first base, Cal Ripken was at shortstop, George Brett was at third, Jim Rice, Rickey Henderson and Dave Winfield were in the outfield and Carlton Fisk was behind the plate – Hall of Famers all. Heck, the starting pitcher for the American League even has a chance of eventual enshrinement, as the pitcher, Jack Morris, was so close to enshrinement in the initial 15-year voting period that he likely has a good chance at the Veteran’s Committee electing him eventually.

Comparatively, the National League team that same year had only two Hall of Famers on it (Tony Gwynn and Ozzie Smith).

And perhaps the most shocking thing is that the only American League position player on the team who ISN’T in the Hall of Fame probably has a decent case FOR being a Hall of Famer (or at least being considered)!

That player is Lou Whitaker, the longtime second baseman for the Detroit Tigers.

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Whitaker ended up with 244 homers, 1084 runs batted in, 1386 runs scored and 2369 hits. Those are some pretty amazing numbers for a second baseman! And a second baseman who won four Silver Sluggers, was named to five All-Star Games, won a World Series and even won three Gold Gloves (especially impressive when you consider he was a contemporary of Frank White, who won about a gazillion and twelve Gold Gloves during his playing career at second base)!

Even if you don’t think Whitaker ultimately should make it, the fact that he did not even last more than a single season on the Hall of Fame ballot is an utter joke. Not even 5% of the voters felt that he deserved to be in the Hall of Fame? Ridiculous.

Anyhow, I’m getting away from the point of this story.
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Was Hank Greenberg Once Not Chosen for the All-Star Game Despite Having 100 RBI at the Break and His Own Teammate Selecting the Team?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about baseball and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the baseball urban legends featured so far.

BASEBALL URBAN LEGEND: A baseball player was not selected for the All-Star Game even though he had over 100 runs batted in at the All-Star Break and his own manager/teammate was picking the team!!

With the Major League Baseball All-Star Game tomorrow, I figured I’d spotlight a pair of All-Star legends today and tomorrow! Both involve the Tigers, oddly enough.

Hank Greenberg was one of the most dominant hitters in Major League history. Think Albert Pujols in his first nine seasons, or Frank Thomas in his first nine seasons. That’s how good Greenberg was (and, like Pujols and Thomas, he was a first baseman). Although he had a relatively short career, he still put up big-time numbers and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1956.

But as great of a player as he was in his heyday, he still had a bit of a problem standing out.

You see,at the same time Greenberg was lighting up the ballparks as a 24 year old in 1935, two OTHER first basemen were doing similar things in the American League, and both of the other players were ALREADY famous. One of them is the aforementioned Jimmie Foxx, who won the American League MVP Award in 1932 and 1933 (he was three years older than Greenberg). The other was Lou Gehrig, the famed Iron Horse of the New York Yankees, who had four years on Foxx, and had won the MVP in 1927 and come in second in 1931 and 1932.

So when the All-Star Game was introduced in 1933 (initially intended as a one-time event), Gehrig was the starting first baseman and Foxx had to settle for a reserve spot (even though, as I noted, Foxx won the MVP that year). That first year, the managers for the game were Connie Mack and John McGraw (McGraw came out of retirement for the event). When the game became an annual tradition in 1934, so, too, did the tradition begin of the manager of the previous year’s pennant-winning club choosing the players for that season’s All-Star Game (it would not be until after World War II that the fans began to get a vote).

In 1935, that manager was Detroit Tiger manager/player Mickey Cochrane (as the Tigers had lost to the Cardinals in the World Series the year before)….

Well, at the All-Star Break, Greenberg had 103 runs batted in, an “at the All-Star Break” record that stands to this day (I think Juan Gonzalez came the closest to it in 1998, with, like, 101 or 102 ribbies).

Cochrane, though, made a surprising decision.
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