Does the “V” on Fresno State’s Helmets Stand for Victory?

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: Fresno State wears a “V” on their helmets as in “V for Victory”

California State University, Fresno, better known as Fresno State, has a bulldog as the mascot for their football team.

The bulldog is seen on their helmets, as well…

However, also visible on Fresno State helmets since the late 1990s is a green letter V…

Since Fresno State does not have a V anywhere in its name (nor does California, although I guess there is one “v” in University), the meaning of the V has been much debated.

A popular theory was that the V stood for “Victory,” as the phrase “V for Victory” is a well-known turn of phrase.

However, the actual meaning behind the V is much more straightforward.
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Did the NBA Try Out 12-Foot Rims to Handicap George Mikan?

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: The NBA tried out 12-foot rims to handicap George Mikan.

George Mikan was the first truly dominant player in NBA history.

The six foot ten inch, 245 pound Mikan was practically a man amongst boys in the early days of the NBA.

Mikan’s Minneapolis Lakers won the NBA title five of the first six seasons that the NBA existed (including its time as the Basketball Association of America, before it folded the National Basketball League into itself to form the NBA). The only season that the Lakers did not win, Mikan broke his leg during the playoffs!!

So the NBA was quite worried about Mikan dominating the game TOO much. They widened the lane beneath the basket from six feet to twelve feet, as Mikan was basically just hanging around the basket too much.

Eventually, his various injuries led to Mikan retiring, so the NBA no longer had to worry. Honestly, though, the 24-second shot clock likely would have diminished Mikan’s effectiveness substantially, as the lumbering Mikan would not have been as dominant in the faster paced NBA of the post-shot clock era (as Mikan was slowed down from all of his injuries).

But the NBA did not know that they would one day have a shot clock, so they kept trying new ideas. One particularly bizarre idea was tried out during an official game in March 1954 between the Milwaukee Hawks and the Lakers.
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Was an Owner of the Philadelphia Phillies Forced to Sell the Team After Their Stadium Collapsed, Killing a Dozen People?

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: After a tragic stadium collapse, the owners of the Philadelphia Phillies were forced to sell the team.

In 1903, perhaps the worst baseball stadium collapse ever occurred. During a Phillies doubleheader in August of 1903 at their fairly substandard stadium, Philadelphia Park (later known as the Baker Bowl), an altercation took place in one of the wooden stands.

Over 300 people rushed to the stands, which could not support the weight and collapsed.

Hundreds were injured and TWELVE people were killed! Can you imagine if something like that happened today?

In any event, there, naturally enough, was an onslaught of lawsuits by the victims and the families of the dead.

So in many histories of the Phillies, you will hear that that is why the owner of the Phillies, John Rogers, was forced to sell the team to James Potter.

Heck, here’s the Wikipedia page for the Phillies:

To add tragedy to folly, a balcony collapsed during a game at the Baker Bowl in 1903, killing twelve and injuring hundreds. Rogers was forced to sell the Phillies to avoid being ruined by an avalanche of lawsuits.

That’s a commonly told story.

Here’s the problem.
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Was There Really a Mystery Over Whether Gino Marchetti Won the 1958 NFL MVP Award?

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: Gino Marchetti won the 1958 NFL MVP Award.

Here is a 2008 list of Associated Press National Football League Most Valuable Player Award winners from the Dallas News.

Here‘s a site devoted to the Baltimore Colts.

Here is a football database site profile on Hall of Fame Defensive End Gino Marchetti.

I could keep giving you links, but I think three is enough.

What do all those sites have in common?

They all list Baltimore Colt defensive legend Gino Marchetti as the 1958 Associated Press NFL MVP (which is basically just “the NFL MVP”).

And they’re all wrong.
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Did an Olympic Athlete Steal the Olympic Flag and Return It Eighty Years Later?

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: An Olympian who stole the Olympic flag in 1920 returned the flag…eighty years later!!!

Haig Prieste (who went by the name “Hal”) was a member of the 1920 U.S. Olympic platform diving team. He won a bronze medal at the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp, Belgium.

However, a bronze medal was not the only thing that Prieste took away from those Olympic Games.

On a dare from a teammate, Prieste climbed a flag pole and stole the official Olympic flag, the first official Olympic flag since the Modern Olympics had begun. That flag was replaced and was then used in every Olympics until 1988, when it was retired and a new official flag was made (and has been used since).

Seventy-seven years later, Prieste was at a sports banquet for the U.S. Olympic team and a reporter asked about the missing flag. Prieste then shocked the reporter by noting that he had had it in a suitcase since 1920!!!

Read on to see what happened next!
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What Was the Strange Deja Vu Effect of the NBA’s “Phantom Buzzer” Game?

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: There was a strange piece of deja vu involved with one the first NBA games ever to be replayed – the so-called “Phantom Buzzer” game.

One of the rarest events in the history of the National Basketball Association is for the league to uphold an NBA team’s protest of a game. Earlier in the 2014-15 season, the Sacramento Kings protested the ending of their loss to the Memphis Grizzlies (a loss that turned out to be a rather big deal in the tightly fought Western Conference playoff race, as the Grizzlies ended up getting the #5 seed at the end of the season due to a tie-breaker over the #6 seeded San Antonio Spurs, a tie-breaker that would not have come into play had Memphis had one less win than San Antonio. Memphis, of course, won their series against the #4 Portland Trailblazers while the Spurs lost to the #3 Los Angeles Clippers) when they argued that Memphis guard Courtney Lee could not possibly have made a seemingly game-winning layup with 0.3 seconds left, since Sacramento center Ryan Hollins tipped the inbounds pass. No matter the official scorer’s time, time is supposed to start when the any player in the field of play touches the inbounded ball, so if Hollins did, in fact, touch the ball, then time should have started to count down at that point, in which case there’s no way that Lee could have made a layup in the remaining time, as the league rules state that with less than 0.3 seconds left, a player cannot do anything but tap the ball into the basket.

This protest was one of less than forty protests ever filed with the league. Like the vast majority of them, it was denied (the league ruled that it was within the referees’ judgment whether Hollins tipped the ball, and there was not enough evidence for them to overrule the referees. After all, they DID examine it at the time using instant replay). Less than ten games have ever been successfully protested in NBA history, and one of the first had a really strange twist to it. So let’s take a look at the second NBA game ever to be successfully protested and thus replayed – the legendary “Phantom Buzzer” Game!
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Did Bo Belinsky Intentionally Hit Hank Aaron After Giving Up Aaron’s 400th Home Run, Tipping His Cap to Aaron Both Times?

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: Bo Belinsky intentionally hit Hank Aaron after Aaron hit his 400th home run off of Belinsky, with Belinsky tipping his hat to the slugger both times.

In 1962, Bo Belinsky was 25 years old, a rookie in the Major Leagues and pitching for the second-year Los Angeles Angels.

Belinsky won his first five games of the season, setting an Angels rookie record that stood until Jered Weaver won his first nine games in 2006.

But no Belinsky victory was as famous as his fourth game of the 1962 season, when Belinsky threw a no-hitter against the Baltimore Orioles – the very team that had left Belinsky available to be drafted away in the 1961 Rule V Draft!

So, as you might imagine, things were flying high for Belinsky – a young man with great fame and success, living in Los Angeles in the early 60s – what a life!

Belinsky dated a bevy of beauties, including Gilligan’s Island’s Tina Louise…

and was even engaged to blonde bombshell, Mamie Van Doran…

before ultimately marrying the 1965 Playmate of the Year, Jo Collins, in 1970…

But by then, Belinsky’s career was already in shambles, known more for his wasted talent than for anything else.

After his 5-0 start in 1962, Belinsky finished the season 10-11. In 1963, he pitched so poorly he was actually sent back to the minors for an extended stay before he rebounded with a strong 1964 on the field. Off the field, though, an altercation with veteran Los Angeles Times sportswriter Braven Dyer led to a suspension and later a trade to the Philadelphia Philles in the offseason.

After pitching nearly two seasons for the Phillies, Belinsky then pitched for the Houston Astros, the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Cincinnati Reds before his career finished in 1970 at the age of 33.

The fun-loving and flamboyant Belinsky was still very interesting to the media (and to his credit, he became very good at handling the media), and in 1973, venerable baseball writer Maury Allen wrote a biography of Bo, Bo: Pitching and Wooing, which detailed all of Belinsky’s various exploits in great detail.

One story, in particular, stood out to me.

Here it is:

I’ll get in the Hall of Fame because I gave up some big home runs to some big guys. I think of that now with a guy like Hank Aaron. He’s driving on Babe Ruth’s 714 and I gave him number 400. He came around the bases and I tipped my hat to him and he smiled. The next time I faced him I drilled him in the ribs. I tipped my hat to him again.

That’s a great story, isn’t it?

It really captures the rapscallion nature of Belinsky to a tee.

But is it true?
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Did the Sports Term “Upset” Come About From a Horse Named Upset Defeating the Heavily Favored Man O’ War in a Race?

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: The term “upset” to describe an underdog winning a sporting event was derived from a horse named Upset defeating the heavily favored Man o’ War in 1919.

There are certain sports stories that are just so good that you almost feel bad debunking them. This is one of those stories.

As you are all well aware, one of the meanings of the word “upset,” especially when applied to the world of sports (although politics, or really, anything involving competitions between people, has latched on to the word, as well), is to describe situations where a favored team/athlete/horse loses to an underdog opponent.

The origin of the term is thought to have derived from one of the biggest upsets in horse racing history. Man o’ War is one of the greatest Thoroughbred racehorses history (amusingly enough, with the 2015 Kentucky Derby just being run, Man o’ War never actually competed in the Kentucky Derby, so he never had the chance to win the Triple Crown), with a 20-1 record. Blood-Horse magazine named him the #1 Racehorse of the 20th Century. And yet, on August 12, 1919, Man o’ War lost its only race ever – to a horse that it had already defeated six times before!

There are plenty of places that tell how this story led to the term “upset,” so I’ll just pick literally the first result that came up for me when I did a web search. Here, from the official Secretariat website, in an article about how Secretariat also lost to a severe underdog in 1973 is a description of Man o’ War’s loss:

It was at Saratoga, in 1919, that the word “upset” entered the American sports lexicon. That’s when a horse named Upset beat the mighty Man o’ War. It was the original Big Red’s only defeat.

In those days, the word upset had a more literal meaning, along the lines of tip over, or capsize. But it had no particular connection with sports.

Then came Upset’s victory over the seemingly invincible Man o’ War. So shocking was Upset’s triumph over Man o’ War, that sports scribes began to describe unexpected outcomes in other sports like football and basketball by saying so-and-so “pulled off an Upset.” Eventually, the capitalized “U” in Upset became lower case as upset became a part of regular usage, and a word we know well today.

So, is that true?
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Did a Former NHL Goalie Really Die During an Old-Timers Game?

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: Bruce Gamble died during an Old Timer’s Game.

Bruce Gamble was a hockey goalie who was best known for his time with the Toronto Maple Leafs, for whom he played for from 1966-67 until the middle of the 1969-70 season.

During that season, he was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for Bernie Parent.

He would play until the 1972 season for the Flyers before retiring at the age of 34 because of heart problems. He actually had his first heart attack after a Flyers game (the onset of the heart attack occurred during the game!).

What happened next was quite sad but is also misreported…
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Did an Olympic Athlete Have a Hit Song Re-Named After Her?

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 song was re-named years after it first came out because it was used in a clip package for an Olympic athlete.

In an amusing coincidence, yesterday I had a sports legend that seemed like it could also work as an entertainment legend and an entertainment legend that could also work as a sports legend, so I figured I’d do them as bonus legends on each site.

In 1971, Barry De Vorzon and Perry Botkin, Jr. wrote a piece of incidental music for the movie, Bless the Beasts and Children.

It was called “Cotten’s Dream.”

A couple of years later, the pair adapted the song to serve as the theme song to a new soap opera called The Young and the Restless. The show became very popular, and remains today one of the most popular soap operas out there. The song also gained quite a bit of notoriety from being the theme to the program.

However, it was not until three years later, in 1976, that the song REALLY took off and in the process, amusingly enough gained a new NAME!
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