Did the Cincinnati Reds Change Their Name at the Height of Anti-Communism in the U.S.?

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 past baseball urban legends featured so far.

BASEBALL URBAN LEGEND: Did the Cincinnati Reds change their name during the height of anti-Communism in the United States?

The Cincinnati Reds, taking their name from the Cincinnati Red Stockings, are baseball’s tie to the original baseball franchise, and as a result, for years, on Opening Day, the Reds would be the first team to play (a tradition since discarded).

The second team to call themselves the Red Stockings, the Red Stockings were part of the American Association until they joined the newly formed National League in 1890 (it is here that they shortened their name to the Cincinnati Reds).

The Reds were just another baseball team for the rest of the way, some success, some failure, and a couple of World Series victories along the way.

In the 1950s, though, with the fear of Communism at perhaps its highest level in the history of the United States, the Cincinnati Reds decided that their name “Reds” had far too much negative connotation.
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June 24th, 2021 | Posted in Baseball Urban Legends | No Comments

Was a Female Player Once Drafted By an NBA Team?

BASKETBALL URBAN LEGEND: An NBA team drafted a female player.

Today, if you are a talented female basketball player, you can possibly play professionally in the WNBA and even if you did not make the pros, women’s basketball is a thriving sport in colleges all over the country (last year, eleven different women’s basketball programs drew over 100,000 in attendance), with female players setting themselves up for success later in life with athletic scholarships to colleges. However, this was not always the case. Title IX, the federal law dictating equal treatment between the sexes in college athletic programs, did not became law until 1972 (and it took a number of years for the effects of the law to show up in college sports). The Olympics did not have Women’s Basketball until 1976. So if you were a great female basketball player before this era, there was few avenues for you to benefit from your skills. This was the situation that Denise Long found herself in 1969 when she amazingly found herself as the first woman ever drafted into the National Basketball Association. Read on for more!

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June 22nd, 2021 | Posted in Basketball Urban Legends | No Comments

Did Tennis Tournaments Once Come Up With Rules Specifically to Handicap Pancho Gonzales’ Style of Play?

SPORTS LEGEND: The officials behind the pre-Open pro tennis tournaments once came up with a rule specifically to handicap Pancho Gonzales’ style of play.

Before 1968, there were two separate tennis competitions – “amateur” and “pro.” The amateur tour has most (if not all) of the most famous tournaments, while professional tennis looked a lot different. Rather than showing the best players competing against each other in tournaments, professionals typically went on “tour,” which is sort of like barnstorming – they would travel the world playing each other over and over again. The theory was that fans wanted to see the best players play each other, not a tournament where less famous people might win.

It was this attitude of “making it more entertaining” that led to an interesting decision regarding the rules of professional tennis.
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June 17th, 2021 | Posted in Tennis Urban Legends | No Comments

Did the NBA Used to Have a Limit of How Many Black Players Could Be on a Team?

BASKETBALL URBAN LEGEND: There was a quota in the NBA in the 50s and early 60s of how many black players could be on a team.

The NBA was around for three years before the league was integrated. Earl Lloyd was the first black player to play in the NBA. He suited up for the Washington Capitals in October 1950 for the 1950 NBA Opening Night (two other black players also suited up for their teams opening games in 1950 – they just played the next day, so Lloyd gets to be known as “the first”).

Black players were accepted a great deal more in the NBA than the were in baseball. There are likely a number of reasons why that is – for instance, the league was newer and it was mostly based in the northeast and college basketball was already integrated. Lloyd has said in the past about how sorry he felt for Jackie Robinson, because while both men were integrating their respective leagues, Lloyd got just a fraction of the abuse Robinson received.

Okay, now as to the idea of a quota system.
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June 15th, 2021 | Posted in Basketball Urban Legends | No Comments

Why Won’t Josh Gibson Be the All-Time Home Run Leader in Major League History?

BASEBALL URBAN LEGEND: Once Major League Baseball adopts the Negro Leagues as official Major Leagues, Josh Gibson will be the new home run leader.

In a major piece of news, Major League Baseball recently announced that they would be adding the Negro Leagues to the list of official “Major Leagues.” You see, what we now think of as Major League Baseball (the American League and the National League) is not the only accepted “Major Leagues” in baseball history. There were a number of other professional leagues (most of which predated the formation of the American League) and Major League Baseball has determined that those old leagues, like the American Association, the Union Association, the Players’ League and the Federal League.

Well, now Major League Baseball has officially adopted the Negro Leagues, as well, as being part of the Major Leagues, as well. Not EVERY Negro League, just the ones that baseball history experts have determined were effectively on par with the Major Leagues. These leagues are: Negro National League (1920-31), the Eastern Colored League (1923-28), the American Negro League (1929), the East-West League (1932), the Negro Southern League (1932), the second Negro National League (1933-48) and the Negro American League (1937-48). MLB has decided that anything before 1920 was too disorganized and anything after 1948 was too diluted (as the Majors were now accepting African-American players).

So, with the statistics accumulated in those Negro Leagues becoming “official,” does Josh Gibson, one of the most famous home run hitters of the 20th Century, take his spot on top of the Major League home run record books? After all, his Hall of Fame plaque reads, “almost 800 home runs in league and independent baseball during his 17-year career.” The MLB record is currently 762 home runs by Barry Bonds. Would Gibson therefore be ahead of Bonds?
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December 19th, 2020 | Posted in Baseball Urban Legends | No Comments

Did the Yankees Accidentally Leave Tim Belcher Unprotected in the 1984 Free Agent Compensation Draft?

BASEBALL URBAN LEGEND: The Yankees accidentally left Tim Belcher unprotected in the 1984 Free Agent Compensation Draft.

Few Major League Baseball players have had as strange of a road to the Major Leagues as Tim Belcher did (Danny Goodwin is one of the few who could compare). Drafted number one overall in the 1983 amateur draft by the Minnesota Twins, the team had such major cash flow problems that they couldn’t afford to make a realistic offer to him. Belcher recalled to Eric Malinowski in 2014, ” I just felt like I was a victim of some circumstances that didn’t allow me to sign with the club. You know, that was a time when the Twins were at the end of the Calvin Griffith ownership period and they had no money. And not only did they not sign me, they didn’t sign Billy Swift, who was their No. 2 pick. He pitched in the big leagues a while. And Oddibe McDowell, who became an outfielder with the Rangers. They didn’t sign him, and we were three of their picks. They just didn’t have any money. So it was a little different situation than what you see currently.”

Belcher then went to go pitch for Team U.S.A. during the rest of 1983. According to the rules of the time, Belcher then became eligible for the supplemental amateur draft, which was in January of 1984. The Yankees selected Belcher with the number one pick of that draft.

However, a month later, Belcher was on the move again. There was a short-lived method of dealing with free agent compensation that allowed teams that lost “Type A” free agents to then essentially draft a player from any level (minors or Majors) of any other Major League team (besides 26 protected players on each team. In addition, if a team ceded the right to sign a Type A free agent, they could protect all of their players). ANY team, not just the team that signed their player. It was a system clearly designed to curtail free agency and it was a big part of the 1981 Player’s Strike. However, despite the strike, it still went into place in 1981. The Oakland Athletics lost Tom Underwood to then-reigning World Champion Baltimore Orioles and so the Athletics chose Belcher from the Yankees.

As the legend goes (from Baseball Reference’s Bullpen Wiki, as an example), “However, because of a front office mix-up, his name was left off the team’s protected players’ list for the free agent compensation draft and he was selected by the Oakland Athletics on February 8th. Yankees owner George Steinbrenner was livid over this development and blamed young general manager Murray Cook for it and fired him shortly afterwards.”

It is true that Steinbrenner was livid over the situation and he helped push for the elimination of the system after that year (the Mets also famously lost Tom Seaver to the Chicago White Sox in 1984, but that was just flat out incompetence by the Mets, who actively left Seaver off of their protected list, figuring no one would want to take an older player like Seaver. They were way wrong and it possibly cost them the division in 1985), but was it really a screw-up that Belcher was eligible to be taken?
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March 8th, 2019 | Posted in Baseball Urban Legends | No Comments

Did a Catcher Once Pick a Runner Off Third Base…With a Potato?

BASEBALL URBAN LEGEND: A catcher once picked off a runner at third with the use of a potato!

One of the most legendary plays in the annals of baseball history is the so-called “Hidden Ball Trick.” It is when an infielder pretends to hand the baseball back to the pitcher but instead secretly holds on to the ball. Once the pitcher steps on to the rubber, the play is not allowed, so the pitcher has to really sell that he is getting ready to step on to the rubber without actually doing so. When the runner is convinced that the pitcher has the ball, he will typically take a small lead off of the base. Then the fielder (who secretly still has the ball) will tag the runner out. It used to happen a lot more frequently in the past, but you’ll still occasionally see it pop up. Mike Lowell, for instance, pulled it off on more than one occasion, during his career. However cool the hidden ball trick is, though, it does not compare to the variation on the play that Dave Bresnahan pulled off in 1987, where he used a potato to help pick off a runner at third base.

Read on to see how it happened!

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March 8th, 2019 | Posted in Baseball Urban Legends | No Comments

Was The First NFL Halftime Show Just Designed as a Way to Sell Dogs?

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 first professional football halftime show was designed as a way to sell dogs.

Today, halftime shows are a consistent part of any National Football League game with the Super Bowl halftime show routinely being the most lavish example of the year. However, in the early days of professional football, halftime shows were non-existent. The players would go into the locker rooms and that was it. Even in college football, halftime shows by the 1920s were a rarity. This changed with the introduction of a brand-new football team in 1922 that was designed all around one very important function…selling dogs.

Read on to learn more about the short-lived (but eventful) history of the Oorang Indians, the first professional football team to have a halftime show.

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January 7th, 2019 | Posted in Football Urban Legends | No Comments

Did Kareem-Abdul Jabbar Really Lose Millions Building Special Hotels for Tall People?

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: Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar lost millions of dollars building specialized hotels for tall people.

In 2003, the rock band Pearl Jam released Lost Dogs, a compilation album consisting of notable B-Sides, unreleased songs and other rare material from the band over their then decade-plus career. One of the highlights of the album was the extensive liner notes where the band went into detail on each song on the album. Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament explained the history behind the unreleased song, “Sweet Lew,” one of the few Pearl Jam songs where Ament sang lead. As Ament explains it, he met Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1994 at a charity basketball game (Ament was on Abdul-Jabbar’s team) and while Ament was looking forward to meeting his boyhood idol, he was disappointed when he felt that Abdul-Jabbar essentially ignored him.

So Ament wrote “Sweet Lew” (referring to Abdul-Jabber’s name when he first joined the NBA, Lew Alcindor) including pointed references to the rumor that Abdul-Jabbar had lost millions building hotels for tall people:

build him high, build him tall

and later…

tear ’em down, one and all
7’2″ is a long way to fall
sweet lew, how’s the view?
sweet lew, how could you?

Is there any truth to this rumor? Read on to find out…

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January 5th, 2019 | Posted in Basketball Urban Legends | 1 Comment

Was a Pitcher Once the Winning Pitcher and Losing Pitcher…in the Same 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 pitcher once was both the winning pitcher as well as the losing pitcher in a baseball game.


Back in the 2009 season, Joel Hanrahan of the Pittsburgh Pirates received his first win of the season…in a game between the Washington Nationals and the Houston Astros! You can read this past edition of Baseball Urban Legends Revealed to get the specifics, but suffice it to say that it involved a suspended game and a trade. However strange Hanrahan’s situation was, though, Mexican League pitcher Mauro Ruiz did Hanrahan one better in 1963 when he somehow managed to be both the winning and the losing pitcher in a game! Read on to learn how this strange occurrence took place.

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June 9th, 2018 | Posted in Baseball Urban Legends | No Comments