Was Pedro Martinez Left Off the 1999 MVP Ballot Entirely by a Voter Who Had Voted for David Wells and Rick Helling the Previous Year?

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: Pedro Martinez lost the 1999 American League Most Valuable Player Award due to being left off the ballot of two voters completely, one of whom who had made some rather interesting votes the previous season.

The American League had quite a succession of pitching feats from 1997-2000, as Roger Clemens of the Toronto Blue Jays received back-to-back Cy Young Awards for his pitching performances in 1997 and 1998, when Clemens won the “Triple Crown” of pitching, leading the league in wins, strikeouts and Earned Run Average.

The following year, Pedro Martinez of the Boston Red Sox ALSO won the Cy Young by ALSO winning the “Triple Crown” of pitching. He followed THAT up by winning the Cy Young again in 2000 (no Triple Crown, though, although his 2000 season might have been even better than his 1999 season).

Martinez’s 1999 season was particular notable for what happened when the awards were handed out.

Naturally, he won the Cy Young Award easily. However, he came in a very close second in the voting for the Most Valuable Player, with 239 points compared to winner Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez’s 252 points. Martinez had received more first place votes, but as it turned out, he was left off of the ballot of two voters COMPLETELY, New York’s George King and Minneapolis’ LaVelle Neal!

In both cases, the voters determined that starting pitchers shouldn’t be eligible (in their mind) for the award, as they don’t play every day.

Now there’s naturally nothing in the award that SAYS that you shouldn’t include everyone, and the aforementioned Roger Clemens had already WON the MVP Award in 1986, but I suppose fair enough – people can make odd decisions, I guess.

However, in the case of King, it was weirder than that…
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Is the Current Distance of the Olympic Marathon Really Based on Where Queen Alexandra Sat at the 1908 Olympics?

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: The current distance for the Olympic marathon was based on where Queen Alexandra was sitting at the 1908 Summer Olympics.

While over the years it has been passed in popularity by sports like gymnastics and basketball, the marathon used to be one of the marquee events of the Summer Olympics. Its past popularity gave rise to a tradition that is still done at the Summer Olympics to this day, which is to have the marathon as the last event of the games, with the finishing point of the marathon being in the main stadium for that year’s games. Sometimes the finish is even worked into the closing ceremonies! This tradition is what appears to have led (indirectly) to the current distance of the Olympic marathon, with a little help from the British Royal Family, as well.

The marathon race gets its name from the legend of the Greek messenger, Pheidippides, who, in 490 BC, ran from the city of Marathon all the way to Athens to deliver the message that the Greeks were victorious against the Persians in the Battle of Marathon. Whether it happened or not, the legend was cemented into popular folklore, especially in the late 19th Century when the famed poet Robert Browning wrote a poem about the journey (which ended with Pheidippides collapsing dead after delivering his message). Due to Mount Penteli standing between the two cities, there are two routes from Marathon to Athens, a shorter one with a very difficult climb that goes to the north of the mountain and a longer one that is, however, on flat land to the south of the mountain. The second route is typically what most folks presume that Pheidippides used on his journey, and that distance is roughly 26 miles.

So from the beginning of the Modern Olympics in 1896, 26 miles was the basic length of the marathon. A specific length, however, was not determined, mostly because the main object of the race is to force everyone to run a really long distance, and whether you run 25 miles, 25 and 1/2 miles or 26 miles, the end result is that you ran a really long distance, and so long as everyone is running the same distance, the goal of the race is achieved.

In fact, from the first Modern Olympics through 1920, a span of seven Olympics, a total of SIX different distances were used in the marathon! In 1896 and 1904, the distance was 24.85 miles, in 1900 25.02 miles, in 1906 26.01 miles, 1908 26.22 miles, 1912 24.98 miles and in 1920, 26.56 miles.

In 1921, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) decided to settle on an official distance for the marathon, and ever since then, the 1908 distance of 26.22 miles (or more specifically, 26 miles and 385 yards) has been the official distance for the marathon in all competitions, including the Summer Olympics.

But why 26 miles and 385 yards?
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What was Mark Teixeira’s Unique Way of Expressing His Fondness for the Band Nirvana?

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 LEGEND: As an adolescent, Mark Teixeira had an interesting way of expressing his appreciation for the band, Nirvana.

Mark Teixeira is the first baseman for the New York Yankees.

He was the runner-up for the 2009 American League Most Valuable Player Award.

Born in 1980, as a pre-teen, Teixeira was a major fan of the band Nirvana, and especially its lead singer, Kurt Cobain.

The young man was SO into the group that when he was 12 years old, which was right smack in the middle of that two-three year period when Nirvana was pretty much the biggest band in the world (their 1991 album, Nevermind AND their 1993 album, In Utero, both hit #1 on the charts), the young Teixeira decided to pay tribute to Kurt Cobain.

How?
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Did Vince Lombardi Once Trade a Player Five Minutes After Learning That the Player Had Hired an Agent?

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: Vince Lombardi traded a player five minutes after learning the player had hired an agent to represent him in contract negotiations with the Packers.

Vince Lombardi was the larger-than-life head coach of the Packers from 1959-1967 who won five National Football League (NFL) championships (plus the first two Super Bowls) in that time span.

Soon before he died, former New York Giants placekicker (and longtime NFL announcer) Pat Summerall released a book (co-written by Michael Levin) about what he learned from his time spent with Lombardi and Tom Landry when both coaches were assistants on the Giants, Giants: What I Learned About Life from Vince Lombardi and Tom Landry, Summerall discussed how different it was for players when they tried to negotiate their contracts during the 1950s and 1960s:

Negotiating didn’t always work out, though. As I’m sure you’ve heard, one year, Jim Ringo, the all-pro center for the Packers, went into negotiations with Lombardi when he was the Packers’ head coach. He brought his agent to the meeting. Lombardi said, “I don’t negotiate with agents. Hold on, let me make a phone call.” He turned away, picked up the phone, and the moment he hung up he said, “I told you I don’t negotiate with agents. You’ve just been traded to Philadelphia.” Ringo was one of his best players and all-pro for several years, but Lombardi chose to trade him rather than deal with his agent. I think it was sort of an unwritten rule at that time not to bring others into negotiations because nobody had agents or other people speaking for them.

Summerall is correct in noting that this is a very popular story, but it also happens to not be true.
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Does the Deed to Kenan Memorial Stadium Require That the Stadium Never Reach the Height of the Trees That Surround it?

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 deed to Kenan Memorial Stadium required that the stadium never rise above the pine trees that surround the stadium.

Kenan Memorial Stadium is the home to the Tar Heels, the football team of the University of North Carolina (UNC). The stadium is nestled in a cluster of pine trees towards the middle of the Chapel Hill, North Carolina campus. It is one of the most beautiful college football stadiums that there is, particularly due to the way that it fits in so well with the landscape that surrounds the stadium. Built in the late 1920s, for decades the stadium never rose above the pine trees that surrounded it. This has led to an interesting “fact” about the stadium, that the man who funded the building of the stadium, William Rand Kenan, Junior, specifically required (either in the deed to the stadium or in a contract with the University) that the stadium never rise above the surrounding pine trees.

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Was a College Basketball Game Once Called Due to Floor Condensation!?

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: A 2001 game between Michigan State and the University of Virginia was canceled due to a bizarre situation with the floor of the court.

Every year since 1999, the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Big Ten Conference have held a yearly basketball match called the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, where teams from the ACC are matched up against teams from the Big Ten and the conference who wins the most games is deemed the overall winner (the ACC won the first ten challenges).

In 2001, the Big Ten’s Michigan State Spartans were set against the ACC’s University of Virginia Cavaliers in the Cavaliers’ home court of Richmond Stadium…


The game was held on November 28, 2001.

At least, they TRIED to hold it on November 28, 2001…
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Was Garry Maddox’s Famous Hair Style Due to Injuries He Suffered in the Vietnam War?

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 LEGEND: Garry Maddox’s hair style was due to an accident during his time fighting in the Vietnam War.

Garry Maddox was one of the most acclaimed defensive center fielders of the late 1970s/early 1980s.

He won the Gold Glove Award (for fielding excellence) a remarkable EIGHT times!

He was a big part of the 1980 Philadelphia Phillies, who won the first championship in team history.

As you can see from above, Maddox was well known for his thick facial hair.

Oddly enough, his hair was not actually a fashion thing (although obviously there was SOME fashion involved).
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Were the Phillies Once Known as the Philadelphia Blue Jays?

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 LEGEND: For a few seasons, the Philadelphia Phillies were known as the Philadelphia Blue Jays.

The Phillies were a bit of a hot potato, when it came to owners, in the first half of the 20th Century.

After Rogers sold to Potter, Potter sold it to the team’s business manager, Bill Shettsline, in 1905. Shettsline sold it to Horace Fogel in 1909, who was kicked out of baseball in 1912 (for claiming that the umps intentional ruled against his team). William Baker owned it from 1913 until his death in 1930. Baker left half of the team to his wife and half to his secretary. The secretary’s husband, Gerald Nugent, became the head of the team (a place he solidified when Baker’s widow passed away in 1932).

However, Nugent, being just a normal guy, did not have the money to keep the team afloat (as he was pretty much just stuck using box office receipts, and as this was the Great Depression and all, times were tough).

So he was forced to sell in 1942, and the team was purchased by lumber broker, William B. Cox. Cox was a hands-on owner who had a minor problem – he did not know that you were not allowed to, you know, bet on your own team. So when it turned out that he was doing so, he was banned from baseball. The team was then sold to Bob Carpenter, Sr., who let his son, Bob Jr., run the team.

The Carpenters owned the Phillies until 1981, finally adding some stability to the franchise.

But not before Carpenter Jr. put into place a rather odd idea.

He changed the name of the team!!!!!!
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Why Was the First Chinese Delegation to the Olympics Just a Single Athlete?

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: Through strange political circumstances, the very first Chinese delegation to the Summer Olympics was a single athlete.

In 1932, China entered its first delegation to the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, USA.

Aside from a few officials, the delegation consisted entirely of ONE person, sprinter Liu Changchun!

How did a country of 400 million people come to send only ONE athlete to the Olympics?
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Did the NFL Come Up With A New Rule Due to a Kicker With No Toes?

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 Saints kicker who held the NFL record for longest field goal for four decades inspired the NFL to come up with a new rule because of the special shoes he wore due to having no toes on his kicking foot!

One of the most memorable Saints victories in their early years occurred on November 8, 1970, in a game against the Detroit Lions.

The Lions were leading 17-16 with just a few seconds left on the game clock. The Saints seemed well out of field goal range, as Saints kicker Tom Dempsey would have to hit a 63-yard field goal to win the game.

But that’s exactly what Dempsey did, giving the Saints a nearly impossible 19-17 victory! The kick set a new record for longest field goal, breaking the SEVENTEEN year record held by the Colts’ Bert Rechichar, whose record field goal was 56 yards!

Now this should have been a perfect period in Dempsey’s life, especially considering the obstacles he had to face in his life. You see, Dempsey was born without any toes on his right foot or fingers on his right hand.

Here he is in action…

You can see his hands in that photo clearly.

And here is the special shoe Dempsey would use…

While you would think that this would be a happy occasion, a player overcoming adversity to set a record (a record that stood for over 40 years until Matt Prater kicked a 64-yarder in 2013, although Denver kicker Jason Elam TIED the record in 1998), some owners took issue with the special shoe Dempsey used. Could it perhaps be HELPING him too much?
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