Baseball's 25 Biggest Myths, Unsolved Mysteries and Urban Legends

Robert KnapelCorrespondent IApril 16, 2012

Baseball's 25 Biggest Myths, Unsolved Mysteries and Urban Legends

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    With such a storied history, it is no surprise that there are a number of myths associated with the game of baseball.

    Some of these stories have grown into urban legends, and in some cases, people believe that they are actual facts.

    Stories like these are part of what makes the game of baseball so great. In this article, I will clear up these myths and try to guess the answers to several unsolved mysteries.

Jackie Robinson Was the First African-American to Play in the Majors

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    Jackie Robinson is celebrated for breaking baseball's color barrier, but as it turns out, he was not the first African-American to play in the major leagues.

    That honor goes to Moses Fleetwood Walker, who played one season with the Toledo Blue Stockings of the American Association in 1884. Walker played one season with the team and posted a .263 batting average. His brother, Welday Walker, also played for the Blue Stockings that season.

    The next time an African-American played in the major leagues was when Robinson stepped on the field for his first game.

Performance-Enhancing Drugs Are a Recent Problem

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    Power numbers have increased in recent years as a number of big-time sluggers have been connected to steroid usage. While the problem may seem relatively new, it is not.

    Pud Galvin pitched in the 1800s and was the first player in baseball history to win 300 games. Galvin was elected to the Hall of Fame even though he used performance enhancers. He took the Brown-Séquard elixir, which allowed him to feel younger perform better.

Wade Boggs Drank 64 Beers on a Cross-Country Flight

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    When teams are flying from city to city, players need to find something to do to entertain themselves during the flights. Wade Boggs apparently decided to drink beer. A lot of beer.

    It is rumored that during a cross-country trip, Boggs drank 64 beers. This one is false, but Boggs won't say how many beers he actually drank.

Josh Gibson Is the Greatest Power Hitter of All Time

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    By all accounts, Josh Gibson was an incredibly talented baseball player. He was a feared power hitter and his performance apparently reached legendary levels.

    Records were not well kept for some of the teams that Gibson was playing for, so his exact numbers will never be known, but it is rumored that Gibson once hit 84 home runs in a season and had as many as 962 home runs during his career.

    This one could be true, since Gibson did play against some sub-par competition when he faced off against semi-pro teams. Still, Gibson may be the most prolific power hitter in baseball history.

Babe Ruth Called His Shot During the 1932 World Series

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    During Game 3 of the 1932 World Series, members of the Chicago Cubs bench were giving Babe Ruth a tough time. What happened next is hotly debated.

    Ruth pointed at something, but it is not known what. Some say it was the bench, others say it was the pitcher, but the most common response is that he was pointing to the center field bleachers and calling a home run.

    The next pitch was knocked out of the park by Ruth for long home run that landed in the center field bleachers.

    Video evidence has not been able to prove this story one way or the other, but it seems like something that Ruth would do.

The Chicago Cubs Threw the 1918 World Series

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    The 1918 World Series was the last one that the Boston Red Sox won before 2004, but they may not have won their original championship fair and square.

    It has been hinted that the Chicago Cubs threw the 1918 World Series, though there is not much information available about the possible fix.

    This is an unsolved mystery that may turn out to actually be true. If gamblers could make the Chicago White Sox throw the World Series the next year, it is not hard to believe that they could have done the same with Chicago's other baseball team.

Shoeless Joe Jackson Participated in the Black Sox Scandal

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    The Chicago White Sox threw the 1919 World Series and one of the players that was thought to be involved in the fix was Shoeless Joe Jackson. He was eventually banned from baseball for life.

    It turns out that Jackson may have actually been innocent. He played very well in the series and put up a World Series record 12 hits. Jackson allegedly chose not to participate in the scandal, and after reviewing all of the evidence, it appears that Jackson is actually innocent.

"Say It Ain't So, Joe"

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    After the trial for the 1919 World Series, it is said that a young boy came up to Shoeless Joe Jackson and said, "Say it ain't so, Joe." This story has become part of baseball lore.

    As it turns out, this encounter never even happened. In an interview with Sport Magazine in 1949, Jackson made it known that sportswriter Charley Owens of the Chicago Daily News made the whole thing up.

Michael Jordan's Reason for Playing Baseball

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    One of baseball's biggest myths is also one of the biggest myths in the history of the NBA. Why would Michael Jordan, the best player in NBA history, retire from basketball in the prime of his career to go play baseball?

    It is rumored that Jordan and NBA commissioner David Stern worked out an agreement for him to step away from the game and to serve as a secret suspension for his gambling issues. The league had begun to investigate Jordan's gambling and part of the suspicion arose after Jordan responded "five years down the road, if the urge comes back, if the Bulls will have me, if David Stern lets me back in the league, I may come back," when he was asked if he would consider coming back to the NBA.

    This one is likely a myth. It seems highly implausible that no one would have come forward with proof that Jordan was actually suspended.

The New York Yankees Had a Mascot

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    Mascots are common nowadays for baseball teams, but one place that you will not see a mascot is in Yankee Stadium. The team does not have one. The concept seems very unlike the Yankees.

    It turns out that at one point in time the New York Yankees did have a mascot. His name was Dandy and he was confined to the parts of the stadium where the fewest people could see him from 1979 to 1981.

The Inventor of the Curveball

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    The curveball is an invaluable part of a major league pitcher's arsenal today, but its history is a bit muddled. It is not known who invented the pitch.

    Hall of Famer Candy Cummings is generally considered to be the person that invented the curve. However, it is also maintained by some that Fred Goldsmith is actually the first person to come up with the pitch.

    This mystery will likely never be solved, but Cummings was likely the one that came up with the pitch, as there are certain facts about Goldsmith's first curve that are hard to believe.

The Inventor of Baseball

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    For years, it was thought that Abner Doubleday was the man that invented baseball, but that was proven to be a myth. Alexander Cartwright Jr. was declared baseball's creator by Congress in 1953.

    However, official MLB historian John Thorn does not believe that Cartwright Jr. is the one that created the game. Thorn says that Daniel Lucius Adams, William Rufus Wheaton and Louis Fenn Wadsworth should be credited with inventing baseball.

Drunken Trade at Hotel Bar

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    The Winter Meetings are a very exciting time during the offseason as a number of baseball executives try to work out trades. A negotiation that allegedly happened at a hotel bar has become part of baseball lore.

    In 1974, the Detroit Tigers thought that they reached a deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. Detroit would get catcher Bob Boone and pitcher Larry Christenson and deal Bill Freehan and Jim Northrup to the Phillies. It is alleged that the Phillies executives were drunk when they made the deal and that they had no recollection of it in the morning, so the deal was nixed.

    This is certainly something that it is not hard to see being true.

Dave Bresnahan Has a Little Fun

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    There are a number of people that play the game of baseball to have fun and Dave Bresnahan was one of them. One of the times that he enjoyed the game too much came during a play that has reached legendary proportions.

    While playing for Double-A Williamsport, Bresnahan went to grab a new glove when there was a runner on base. Hidden inside of that glove was a potato. Bresnahan then threw the potato over his third baseman's head and the runner came home.

    It was an easy tag for Bresnahan, but after much deliberation, the runner was called safe.

Deion Sanders Plays Football and Baseball on the Same Day

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    There have been a few players in MLB history that have also played in the NFL. Some of these players include Bo Jackson, Brian Jordan and Deion Sanders. There is a bit of an overlap between the seasons that the two sports have.

    Sanders was prepared to become the first player to play both an NFL game and an MLB game on the same day in 1992. He played a game with the Atlanta Falcons in Miami and then he flew to Pittsburgh to play in Game 5 of the NLCS, but he never played.

    He did dress for the game, but he did not see any action.

Baseball's First Professional Player

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    Back in the early days of baseball, all of the players were amateurs and did not get paid for performance.

    The Philadelphia Phillies have acknowledged that Al Reach was the first professional baseball player, but that is not true. It turns out that Jim Creighton was actually the first person that was paid to play baseball.

Rube Waddell Doesn't Need Fielders

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    Rube Waddell was an outstanding pitcher, but he was known for struggling with alcoholism and having an erratic personality. Even so, that could not have allowed anyone to predict what Waddell did during an exhibition game.

    During a spring training game in 1903, Waddell decided that he did not need any of his fielders. After he walked the bases loaded with two outs in the ninth, Waddell sent everyone but his catcher off the field and then proceeded to strike out the final hitter he faced to end the game.

Signals Were Created to Help Deaf Player

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    William Hoy was the first deaf player in the major leagues and it is rumored that he was an important part of the creation of hand signals in baseball as they helped him communicate.

    Even though hand signals were crucial for Hoy, they were actually used before he reached the majors in 1888. Their use stemmed from the use of signals in the Civil War and they were used by the Cincinnati Red Stockings starting in 1869.

The First Night Game Was Played in 1935

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    Night games are now very common for baseball teams, but they were not introduced to baseball for many years.

    In 1935, the Cincinnati Reds and the Philadelphia Phillies played the major league's first night game. This is thought to be the first night game in baseball by some. That is not the case, though, as night games date back to the 1880s and games that were played under carbon lights

The World Series Got Its Name from a Newspaper

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    The World Series is the biggest spotlight event that Major League Baseball has, but there are many people that are uncertain about the origins of the event's name.

    It was alleged that the World Series got its name because it was sponsored by the New York World newspaper, but that is not true. The name comes from the fact that winner of the early events was truly the world champion.

MLB Logo Is Modeled After Harmon Killebrew

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    The MLB logo is incredibly iconic and it can be recognized by any baseball fan.

    It was originally thought that the logo was modeled after baseball great Harmon Killebrew, but Killebrew was actually not the inspiration for the logo. The designer of the logo, Jerry Dior, has admitted that the logo is supposed to be nondescript.

A Tie Goes to the Runner

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    It is an adage that is taught to everyone that steps onto a Little League diamond. If the ball and the runner get to a base at the same time, then the tie goes to the runner.

    As it turns out, there is actually no rule that states this. At that point, it is up to the umpires' discretion to make what they believe is the right call.

A DH Was Used Before the DH Rule Was Put in Place

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    The designated hitter rule was adopted for the 1973 season, but that was not the first time that teams used a designated hitter.

    It turns out that the first DHs, called designated pinch hitters at the time, were used during spring training games in 1969. They were used in two games on an experimental basis and the league decided not to continue with the idea at that point in time.

Don Zimmer Retires in the Middle of a Game

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    Don Zimmer has been involved with baseball for a long time and there are a number of stories about him. One of them is that he retired in the middle of the game.

    While some people may not believe this, it is in fact true. While with the expansion Colorado Rockies in 1995, Zimmer announced his retirement during the fifth inning of the game and most of the team did not find out what had happened until after the game ended.

Babe Ruth Is Sold to Finance a Musical

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    In one of the worst trades in baseball history, Babe Ruth was sold to the New York Yankees for $100,000. The deal helped shape the direction of the two franchises for the next 80-plus years.

    It was believed that Boston Red Sox owner Harry Frazee dealt Ruth so that he would have money to finance his musical, No, No Nannette. This is not exactly true. Ruth was dealt in part because of the fact that he was demanding a $20,000 salary and also because he followed his own rules and would occasionally drink before games.