Ranking the 10 Most Unbelievable Myths/Legends in MLB History
Most MLB moments can be relived through highlights and radio broadcasts, but the most compelling historical accounts are the myths and legends that will never be confirmed. These unbelievable claims continue to pique our curiosity, and even thorough investigation often fails to validate them.
The truly inconceivable events received priority in this piece, and no amount of evidence can convince us that they were human achievements.
Here are the 10 most unbelievable myths/legends in MLB history.
As always, readers, please speak up in the comments section if anything has been overlooked.
10. Billy Martin Picked Starting Lineups out of a Hat
There are at least four reported instances of manager Billy Martin choosing his batting order at random to break his team out of a slump.
Most notably, the 1977 New York Yankees began the season with high expectations and a 3-8 record. Martin selected names out of a hat for their April 21 matchup, which sparked a hot streak of 13 wins in 15 games.
Actually, the only time this strategy didn't contribute to a victory was with the Oakland Athletics, five years later. Rickey Henderson started from the eighth spot for the only time in his life as the A's were held scoreless.
9. Bo Jackson Hits 450-Foot Home Run...Left-Handed!
Nobody doubts that Bo Jackson could hit a 450-foot home run. The world saw him exceed that distance at the 1989 MLB All-Star Game and at least a dozen other times during the regular season.
But left-handed? Jackson had enough trouble making contact from the other side of the plate.
Veteran baseball writer Peter Gammons witnessed this fabled blast in Minnesota, according to Joe Posnanski of The Kansas City Star.
Gammons is still a reliable source at age 67, so there's every reason to believe him in this instance, too.
8. Moises Alou Urinated on His Hands
Moises Alou detested batting gloves and used his own pee to toughen his hands. Former New York Yankees catcher Jorge Posada subscribed to the same routine, but wasn't quite as open about it.
In speaking to ESPN.com's Gary Miller, the 17-year MLB veteran insisted that it prevents callouses from forming.
Dan Kois of Slate is not convinced:
"Proponents of urine therapy say urine softens the skin, rather than hardening it...Urea, a major component of urine, is a compound also used in many commercial moisturizing creams as a skin softener...So, why do baseball players do it? Athletes, especially baseball players, are superstitious creatures."
Regardless, there's no denying his outstanding results (.303/.369/.516 career slash line with 332 HR), so he must have been doing something.
7. Mark Ellis Barely Avoids Leg Amputation
An "undisclosed leg injury" nearly ended Mark Ellis' career in 2012.
The Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman underwent emergency surgery the day after being upended by Tyler Greene, and allegedly, doctors came close to amputating the leg.
Manager Don Mattingly spoke with team physician Neal ElAttrache following the drama, according to Jim Peltz of the Los Angeles Times. He explained that the leg muscle was dying and not receiving any blood from the rest of Ellis' body. Another "six or seven hours" and Ellis might have lost a chunk of his body.
L.A. was without its top-of-the-order hitter for nearly seven weeks of the season. Of course, that's better than permanently losing his contributions.
More dire health situations have resulted from on-field incidents, but the loss of a limb certainly isn't something that we would normally consider in the 21st century.
6. Ty Cobb Sharpened His Spikes to Do More Damage
There's a fine line between being an intense competitor and an evil individual.
Ty Cobb unquestionably emerged as the latter during his career.
We already have evidence of the center fielder's racism and tendencies to provoke others, yet accounts of Cobb sharpening his spikes cannot be verified. Even Grantland's Anna Clark notes that this was probably a rumor "to psych out his opponents."
Still, it's sickening to think that a player with so much talent would use it to inflict harm.
5. Jose Canseco's 40-Yard Dash Time of 3.9 Seconds
Jose Canseco had a lot to say in Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant 'Roids, Smash Hits & How Baseball Got Big back in 2005.
Many of his accusations about the widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs have resulted in confessions. Numerous major league veterans whose career overlapped with his have either admitted to cheating or have decided not to refute anecdotes.
Steroids molded Canseco into a impressive physical specimen, too. Few players before him possessed the same combination of strength and speed, and he became the first to launch 40 home runs and steal 40 bases in the same season.
With that said, he tends to embellish his own accomplishments.
The aforementioned Bo Jackson is credited with running the fastest 40-yard dash in history, an incredible 4.12 seconds. Even if Canseco did set the bar higher, it would've been by mere hundredths of a second, rather than 0.22 full seconds.
4. Shoeless Joe Jackson Was Innocent in Black Sox Scandal
Motivated by their dislike of club owner Charles Comiskey, a handful of Chicago White Sox players bet against themselves and intentionally under-performed during the 1919 World Series.
To this day, it's unclear if Shoeless Joe Jackson was involved with the fix.
The numbers suggest otherwise, as Jackson's .375/.394/.563 batting line resembled his exceptional career norms. He led the team in runs batted in and played every inning of all eight games in the series.
Nonetheless, Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis banned him for life.
Here's an excerpt:
"I thought when my trial was over that Judge Landis might have restored me to good standing. But he never did. And until he died I had never gone before him, sent a representative before him, or placed before him any written matter pleading my case. I gave baseball my best and if the game didn't care enough to see me get a square deal, then I wouldn't go out of my way to get back in it."
3. Babe Ruth's "Called Shot"
Babe Ruth was always a man among boys.
Sabermetrics, raw totals and word of mouth all vouch that he had unprecedented baseball skills.
The New York Yankees emphatically swept the Chicago Cubs to clinch the 1932 World Series, and the Bambino fueled their unstoppable offense. In Game 3, it's been claimed that he "called his shot" by pointing to the bleachers moments before hitting a home run to that very same spot.
2. Dock Ellis' No-Hitter on LSD
It's almost too insane to be true.
However, the way Dock Ellis—no relation to Mark—gives us an in-depth look at his "long, strange trip," it's impossible to remain skeptical.
Psychedelic drugs were all the rage in the early 1970s and MLB players joined in on the fun. The right-hander lost track of the calendar and thought he had another day off before taking his next turn in the starting rotation.
Instead, he attempted to pitch mere hours after dropping acid, "throwing baseballs he couldn't always feel, in the general direction of batters he didn't always see, trying very, very hard not to fall over."
Ellis walked a career-high eight batters while under the influence, but seldom allowed a hard hit and shut out the San Diego Padres.
1. Curse of the Billy Goat
The Chicago Cubs are more than a century removed from their last world championship.
Each of their near-misses since 1945 have been blamed on the "Curse of the Billy Goat."
As the story goes, Billy Sianis and his goat were kicked out of Wrigley Field because their awful smell was offending other fans. Understandably upset, Sianis declared that the Cubs would never be successful again. The franchise coincidentally hasn't won a National League pennant since.
Of course, there is a bright side to this.
Perennial disappointment unites generations of die-hards. Even though Chicago isn't close to contending in 2013, its fanbase still ranks among the strongest in the sport.