What Rule Change Kept Famed Pulp Novelist Zane Grey From Ever Playing Professional Baseball?

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: Amos Rusie and Cy Young helped to keep Zane Grey from becoming a major league pitcher.

Pearl Zane Grey (better known as just Zane Grey) was one of the most prolific and popular pulp novelists of the 20th Century. His books have been adapted countless times for films and TV (he even had a TV series in the late 1950s based just on his stories), with perhaps his The Riders of the Purple Sage being his most popular story (both in terms of popularity with fans and with amounts of times adapted into other media).

Grey’s path to literary stardom was a circuitous one, though, and it was one that might have gone an entirely different way had it not been for the abilities of the best pitchers of the early 1890s, Amos Rusie and Cy Young in particular. How did these two future Hall of Famers alter the path of Zane Grey’s life? Read on to find out!
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How Did Theodore Roosevelt Help Save the Game of Football?

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 annual Army-Navy Game drew two separate U.S. Presidents directly into the planning of the game and, ultimately, the future of football itself.

Today, let us look back at a time when the highest elected official in the country, the President of the United States, ended the Army-Navy football rivalry nearly as soon as it began! And then marvel at how a later President both saved the rivalry and, in many ways, the game of football itself!
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Did the Philadelphia Phillies Move to Philadelphia From Worchester, Pennsylvania?

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: The Worcester professional baseball team moved to Philadelphia to become the Philadelphia Phillies.

Let’s say that you own a franchise of a company that only gives out limited amounts of franchises. You open your franchise in Cleveland. It fails.

The company then decides to give your spot to me, and I open a franchise in Duluth (where Bob Dylan was born).

Did I purchase your franchise and move it from Cleveland to Duluth? Or is the only connection between the two of us the fact that your franchise going under made an opportunity for me to get a franchise?

That’s the question that is at the heart of the great “Are the Philadelphia Phillies descended from the Worcester baseball team?” debate.
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Did Lee McPhail Go Against the Written Rules When He Made His Ruling in the “Pine Tar 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/MUSIC URBAN LEGEND: American League President Lee MacPhail went against the letter of the law when he overturned the umpire’s decision in the famous “Pine Tar Game.”

It seemed like the entire sports world was shocked on June 2, 2010 when Detroit Tiger pitcher Armando Galarraga seemed poised to pitch a perfect game (which would have been a record three in one year, following Oakland’s Dallas Braden and Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay). After retiring the previous 26 Cleveland Indians, the 27th man to face Galarraga, rookie shortstop Jason Donald, hit a grounder that was fielded by Tiger first baseman Miguel Cabrera, who threw to Galarraga covering first base. The ball went into Galarraga’s glove a good full step before Donald touched first base, and yet first base umpire Jim Joyce missed the call, calling Donald safe and turning Galarraga’s perfect game into perhaps the most famous one-hitter in baseball history (as Galarraga promptly retired the 28th batter to finish the game).

After the game, many fans and sportswriters wished for Major League Baseball (MLB) Commissioner Bud Selig to overturn Joyce’s call and rule Galarraga’s game an official perfect game. Whether one agrees with that position or not, I think it’s important to note the misconceptions that exist with the major example cited by most of these fans and sportswriters – American League President Lee MacPhail’s decision in the (im)famous 1983 “Pine Tar Game.”

The Pine Tar Game is the shining beacon that pretty much all sportswriters (or fans) will point to when they wish to make an argument about why a sports league should make a certain decision that, while not necessarily according to the rules of the game, seems to be the “fair” decision. In the National Basketball Association (NBA), the Pine Tar Game was cited during the 1996-97 Playoffs as well as the 2006-07 Playoffs, when key players of two teams (the New York Knicks and Phoenix Suns, respectively) were suspended due to a rule stating that players cannot leave their bench during an altercation on the court. The rule is clear on that point, but sportswriters would compare the situation to the Pine Tar Game and ask for the NBA Commissioner David Stern to make the same decision that Lee MacPhail did in 1983, and look past the rule and let the players play (in both instances, Stern chose not to).

But exactly what decision did MacPhail actually make?

The famous New York Daily News columnist Mike Lupica described the Pine Tar Game in a June 3, 2010 column about why Selig should overturn Joyce’s call:

Overturning Joyce’s call would not have made the stars fall out of the sky or made the earth stop spinning on its axis. This would have been a proud variation of what Lee MacPhail, then the American League president, did with the Pine Tar Game, Yankees vs. Royals, back in the 80s.

You remember the game. George Brett hit a home run with a bat that had too much pine tar on it. Technically, the umpires were right, going by the letter of the law, to take what turned out to be a game-winning home run from Brett out of the stands.

MacPhail said no.

He invoked the spirit of the law in sports, not the letter of it. He said that the rule about pine tar HADN’T been written to take game-winning home runs out of the stands. The home run stood. You bet it did. The Yankees and Royals came back later on a Monday afternoon and finished the game, which the Royals did end up winning.

Lupica’s take on the game echo many fans and sportswriters. But is that really an accurate description of the Pine Tar Game? I don’t believe it is.
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What Surprisingly Large Role Did Allergies Play in Dennis Rodman’s NBA Career?

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: Allergies allowed the Detroit Pistons to, in effect, steal Dennis Rodman in the 1986 NBA Draft.

During Season 8 of the NBC TV series Celebrity Apprentice in 2009, Dennis Rodman missed one of the weekly competitions on the program. When later asked why he was not able to do the task, Rodman explained that he had severe allergies that knocked him out for the count. His fellow contestants doubted his story, claiming instead that Rodman had been partying and that he was hungover not suffering from allergies. I certainly cannot tell you whether Rodman was telling the truth on the show, but I can say that Rodman does, indeed, suffer from severe allergies. Rodman also has asthma, and his allergies can cause a terrible reaction with his asthma. While Rodman managed to control his allergies and his asthma long enough to have a Hall of Fame career in the National Basketball Association (NBA), it was due to his allergies that Rodman became one of the biggest steals in NBA Draft history.
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Did a Waived Football Player Pull a Gun on the General Manager After Being Waived?

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: A waived player once pulled a gun on his general manager.

In November of 1968, Houston Oilers general manager Dan Klosterman (pictured here…)

donklosterman

was at the Oilers team complex when a former player, Charles Lockhart, entered. Lockhart had been waived by the Oilers before the season.

Lockhart had suffered a shoulder injury while in training camp with the Oilers. He had an operation. According to NFL rules, if a player was still injured, he would be owed his full salary. The Oilers claimed that the surgery fixed Lockhart. Lockhart disagreed. He talked to the NFL Commissioner’s Office about the issue and they said he had to talk to the Oilers about it.

He talked, all right, and THEN some!
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Did a Baseball Player Spend His Career in the Majors As a Pop Star Under a Different Name?

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 baseball player spent his career in the Major Leagues also as a pop artist, using a slightly different name.

Lee Maye broke into the Major Leagues in 1959 with the Milwaukee Braves, one year after the club, led by Hammerin’ Hank Aaron and Eddie Matthews, had lost to the New York Yankees in the World Series. Maye would play a little in 1959 and 1960 before settling in for a solid four-year run for the Braves from 1961-1964, including leading the league in doubles in 1964!

He was dealt to the expansion Houston Astros in the middle of the 1965 season. That would start Maye on a long career as a journeyman. A season and a half in Houston, a season or two in Cleveland, a season in Washington and two seasons spent mostly on the bench for the Chicago White Sox to close his career out. His last game was in June of 1971.

Oddly enough, Maye’s career ended at roughly the same time that Arthur Lee Maye’s career ended. Who was Arthur Lee Maye?
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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.

1976-olympic-torch-relay-cauldron-lighting

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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