Did Michael Jordan Really Buy a Fancy Bus for His Minor League Team?

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.

BASEBALL/BASKETBALL URBAN LEGEND: Michael Jordan bought a fancy team bus for his minor league baseball team to ride around in.

The sports world was shaked to its very foundation when Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player in the NBA, retired in 1993 to pursue a career a professional baseball player.

He signed with the Chicago White Sox and was assigned to their minor league affiliate, the Birmingham Barons.

While with the Barons, the Barons received a brand new, top of the line team bus, dubbed the Jordan Cruiser.

As the story was reported pretty much everywhere, Jordan purchased the bus (which ran about $300,000) so that he and his teammates could travel in style and comfort.
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Did Ed Olczyk Feed a Kentucky Derby-Winning Horse Oats Out of the Stanley Cup?

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: Ed Olczyk took his time with the Stanley Cup in 1994 to let the winning horse of the 1994 Kentucky Derby use the Cup as a feedbag.

Ed Olczyk had a long career in the National Hockey League, both as a player and as a head coach.

Today he is one of the top TV Hockey analysts.

He was inducted into the Pro Hockey Hall of Fame earlier this year.

Back in 1994, Olczyk was a member of the New York Rangers. He was injured for most of the year and did not get to play in the Stanley Cup Finals, which was won by the Rangers. Although the rule usually is that you have to have played 40 games OR played in the Finals to get your name on the Cup, Olcyzk’s Ranger teammates insisted he get his name on the Cup (it would be the only Cup victory of Olczyk’s long career).

Well, Olczyk was (and is) a big fan of horse racing.

So when it was his turn to have the Cup, he decided to have a photo opportunity – the Stanley Cup with the winner of the 1994 Kentucky Derby, Go for Gin!

So the photo has Go for Gin with his head in the Cup.

The photo was very popular, and it soon began a legend that Olczyk had filled the Cup with feed and had let the horse eat of the Cup.

Of all the weird things people have done with the Cup over the years, that really isn’t even all THAT weird, but is it true?
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Was One of the Most Famous NFL Photographs Ever Never Actually Printed in a Newspaper?

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 famous photograph of Y.A. Tittle was never published in a newspaper.

Morris Berman’s photograph of New York Giants quarterback Y.A. Tittle moments after suffering a concussion and cracked sternum (on a play that resulted in an interception for a touchdown) is one of the most iconic photographs in sports history.

And yet his newspaper would not even run it!

The photograph happened in an early season game between the visiting Giants at the Pittsburgh Steelers.

It beautifully captured, more or less, the ending of a beautiful career by a Hall of Famer. Tittle was 37 at the time and 1964 was to be his last season.

However, Berman’s paper, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, felt that the picture lacked action and refused to run it!
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Did Former Dodger Star Wally Moon Coin the Term “Flake” to Describe an Eccentric Person?

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: Former Dodger star Wally Moon coined the term “flake” to describe an eccentric person.

Wally Moon cemented his place in Los Angeles Dodger lore by adapting his swing in his first season playing for the team, 1959, which was the second year that the Dodgers played in Los Angeles. You see, Moon typically drove the ball to right field, but when the Dodgers first played in Los Angeles, they held their games in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, a gigantic football stadium converted for baseball usage. Due to the strange dimensions of the stadium, right field and center field were far away while left field was only 250 feet from home plate. The Dodgers erected a 40-foot-high screen designed to keep balls in play, but even with this precaution, a stunning 182 homers were hit to left field in 1958, with just three hit to center and eight to right. So Moon adapted his swing to loft balls towards left field and the screen.

As a result, Moon led the league in triples and also his 19 home runs. His fly balls to left for soon referred to as “Moon shots.”

Moon was an All-Star and came in fourth in the MVP voting as the Dodgers went on to win the World Series for just the second time in franchise history (and first in Los Angeles). Moon was around to win two more World Series with the Dodgers before retiring.

However, Moon had a strong career before joining the Dodgers as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals. Moon actually won the Rookie of the Year with the Cardinals in 1954, beating out a strong crop of rookies that included a shortstop named Ernie Banks and an outfielder named Hank Aaron, who I think both went on to have decent careers in the majors.

As impressive as a ballplayer Moon was in St. Louis, it is actually an off the field “accomplishment” that I’d like to discuss here.

You see, it appears that Moon coined the term “flake.”

Seems hard to believe, doesn’t it? Or it certainly sounds extremely random, but it also appears to be true.
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Did the “Larry Bird Exception” Get Its Name From The Celtics Using it on Larry Bird First?

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 “Larry Bird exception” to the NBA salary cap got its name from the Celtics being the first team to go over the salary cap to re-sign one of their players, namely Larry Bird.

In 1983, the National Basketball Association (NBA) gained a great deal of attention due to their Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), which instituted a salary cap for player salaries. Neither the National Football League, National Hockey League or Major League Baseball had salary caps at the time.

The salary cap was set to kick in for the 1984-85 season. However, while the original intention was to create a so-called “hard cap” (where there was a set limit to how much teams could spend and they could not go over this limit), the NBA quickly adopted a “soft cap” instead. By a “soft cap,” I mean that teams could exceed the cap on how much they could spend on salaries (which was $3.6 million to start with, but otherwise 53% of league revenue) but only under certain circumstances.

One of the most famous examples is that teams were allowed to re-sign their own player, even if in doing so, they exceeded $3.6 million. They could do so by matching offer sheets given to the free agent player by another team or simply giving the player a new contract. This was to allow teams not to be forced to let their players leave simply to stay under the cap. The NBA figured that it would be better for the popular teams to retain their stars if they so chose.

This rule exists to this day, only further modifications have made it so that not only is it possible for teams to re-sign their own players, but it is actually in the financial best interests of players to not leave their original team, as they are limited to four-year contracts if they sign with other teams but can sign five-year contracts with their own team (and their own team can give their players larger yearly increases in salary than other teams can).

While technically called “Qualifying veteran free agents,” this exception has long since been referred to as the “Larry Bird Exception,” as it supposedly was developed so that Larry Bird, a free agent after the 1983-84 season, could be re-signed by his team, the Boston Celtics.

That might very well have been the intent of the rule (to specifically make sure that Larry Bird did not have to leave the Boston Celtics). However, the rule was not actually used on Bird! Read the rest of this entry »

Thanks to Do You Remember!

Do You Remember, an awesome nostalgia website, just put me on their friends list.

Thanks, guys!

Did a Man Hold Up a CBC TV Station to Force Them to Air His Son’s Hockey 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: A father of an NHL player held up a local CBC station to get them to air his son’s game.

In many ways, former National Hockey League (NHL) star Brian Spencer’s story is a common one, but in a few notable ways it is clearly not.

Spencer was born and raised in Fort St. James, British Columbia. Fort St. James is a small former fur trading post located in North-Central British Columbia. It is an area known for long, severe snowy winters and short summers. It’s far from any big city. And in that sense, Spencer’s path to the NHL is a well-worn one – the kid from the country who is pushed to a career in hockey as the only way out of his small town, and the best way to get out of his small town is to be an angry, physical player. Heck, this type of story is so well-known that the late, great Warren Zevon even wrote a song about just this type of career path – “Hit Somebody,” with lyrics like:

A scout from the flames came down from Saskatoon
Said, “There’s always room on our team for a goon
Son, we’ve always got room for a goon”

and

Brains over brawn–that might work for you
But what’s a Canadian farm boy to do?
What else can a farm boy from Canada do?

And sure enough, Spencer went on to become a fan favorite in the NHL as one of the tougher players in the league. He gained the nickname “Spinner” for his aggressive skating style.

Spencer was drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 5th Round of the 1969 Draft. He would be called up at the end of the 1969-70 season for 9 games, but 1970-71 was his first full season in the league (and his official “rookie” season).

Here’s where Spencer’s story takes a bit of a dramatic turn from the typical into the bizarre (and tragic).
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Did Wally Moon Effectively Promote Himself to the Majors?

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: Wally Moon effectively promoted himself to the big leagues.

Wallace “Wally” Moon was signed to a minor league contract by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1950, when he was 20 years old.

While still in the minors, Moon finished work on a master’s degree in administrative education from Texas A&M University in College Station.

He began coaching baseball while still in the minors, and he was getting really tired of still being in the minors.

He had a degree and he had a promising future as a baseball coach if he wanted to pursue it, but he did not want to give up his dreams of playing professional baseball, especially for his boyhood heroes, the St. Louis Cardinals.

So even though he had other opportunities, he signed another minor league contract in 1953.

You have to understand, while minor league contracts might not be anything to write home about nowadays, salary-wise, back in the 1950s they were dreadfully small.

And Moon had a wife and was beginning a family – pretty soon it would be downright foolish of him to turn down a career in coaching if his dreams of playing professional ball were not going to happen.

After winning the Caribbean World Series in the winter of 1953/54, Moon figured that 1954 HAD to be “the” year, so when he was told to report to the Cardinals’ minor league camp – he was not pleased. So he decided to take a remarkable leap of faith.
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Did the Owners of the Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers Actually TRADE Franchises?

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: In 1941, the owners of the Philadelphia Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers actually traded franchises.

There quite possibly is not a single sports franchise in the United States more associated with a single family than the Pittsburgh Steelers are with the Rooney family. However, for a short bizarre period in the history of the franchise, Rooney actually sold off the team!

Art Rooney Sr.

And the results of that sale led to a strange time in Pennsylvania pro football history!
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Is Wilt Chamberlain Really in the Volleyball Hall of Fame?

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: Wilt Chamberlain is in the Volleyball Hall of Fame.

Wilt Chamberlain was an amazing athlete. Just amazing.

SO amazing that after he retired from playing professional basketball in 1973 (at the age of 36), he began a SECOND career in professional sports!

This time as a professional VOLLEYBALL player!!


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