The 50 Best-Kept Secrets in Sports
Not all secrets are created equal, but that doesn’t make them any less enticing. If someone tells you they know a secret, you want to be in on it…despite the possibility it may be completely ordinary.
How inflated is the currency of secrecy? Just consider all the ways we use the designation: there’s "secret" sauce, "secret" weapons, "secret" societies and countless other things made much more compelling by the moniker.
The sports universe is ripe with secrets—from conspiracies about the nature of victory, to the best place to watch the game outside the stadium. Some secrets people want to keep to themselves forever, while others simply evolved into something hidden from view.
Of course, a secret is worthless if some people don’t know it, so what you consider to be common knowledge, may be a secret to other people.
These are the 50 best-kept secrets in sports.
50. Randy Moss Owns a Juice Bar?
There are a lot of words that would come to mind if one was asked to ponder the talented malcontent wide receiver Randy Moss. Some would be good. More would be bad. But I don't think any of them be "juice bar."
But that's just Moss, always a man of mystery. In 2006 he opened a juice bar franchise, Inta Juice, in Charleston, W.Va. According to Moss, he just loved the product. The Caribbean Blend was the first flavor he ever tasted, and he "fell in love with it."
Apparently executives at Inta Juice were quite surprised to hear from Moss' management at first and didn't think he'd be a great fit for the company. Which is the least surprising part of this entire story, honestly.
But eventually they came around and…now Randy Moss has a juice bar.
49. Handsome Dan Is a Screamapillar
It's stunning that so many college mascots are English bulldogs, considering how tragically unhealthy they are as a breed.
They barely function as a couch potato in a nice quiet home, so why are people parading them out in front of tens of thousands of people on the regular?
Yale's Handsome Dan has had some seriously unqualified iterations over the years.
The very first one cost only $5 and lasted quite awhile. But Handsome Dan II was kidnapped by those jerkface pretty boys over at Harvard.
Handsome Dan III was horrified of crowds and almost instantly retired. And Handsome Dan VI died from a fear of fireworks at the Harvard game.
Maybe they should change their mascot to the Yale German Shepherds. They're a bit tougher.
48. Lundqvist Squared
The Rangers superstar goalie Henrik Lundqvist isn't just one of the greatest goalies in the game today. He also happens to be one of the most attractive men in all of sports.
I know you're probably a dude, and you are being all silly saying you can't recognize that kind of thing in men. So you'll just have to take my word for it.
Having one Lundqvist roaming this planet of ours is blessing enough, but did you know that Henrik has a twin brother named Joel? He's a model, which is ridiculously unsurprising.
All I have to say is: Thank you Sweden. And I still hate the Rangers.
47. The "Boomstick" Is MLB's Biggest Hot Dog
This one might not be much of a secret anymore, considering the "Boomstick" has caught the eye of more than a few reporters. But as of the 2013 season, the Rangers ballpark in Arlington will now be offering the largest hot dog in MLB.
Although, this thing could be the largest hot dog in the world for all I know. The specs for this massive piece of meat are pretty impressive. It's 2 feet of beef covered in chili, nacho cheese, jalapeños and caramelized onions, and it rests peacefully atop a potato bun that is approximately the size of a canoe.
This behemoth weighs in at three pounds and will set you back a whopping $26. And as for the name? Presumably it has something to do with a very unpleasant bathroom moment you'll have within 12 hours of consumption.
Today's massive hot dog consumption is tomorrow's massive regret.
46. The Ravens Have Three Spooky Mascots
Every team in the NFL these days has a mascot, but most of them have only one. The Ravens, however, decided to buck the trend and have three mascots.
They are named Edgar, Allan, and Poe, after the city of Baltimore's most famed resident; legendary writer and poet Edgar Allan Poe.
Apparently they each have their own distinct personalities as well. Although it's hard to imagine that three dudes in a raven costume could distinguish themselves that much.
45. The NFL on WOF
Unless you're over the age of 50, chances are you don't watch a lot of Wheel of Fortune. The show was known to reach a broader audience a few decades ago, but good luck finding anyone but your great aunt who watches it today.
Which means you may be unaware that WOF had an entire week of NFL players as contestants, which aired in early January 2004. Among the players who participated were Keyshawn Johnson, Tim Hasselbeck and Jerome Bettis.
No word on how well, or positively wretched, they did on the show. But apparently the week of appearances raised upward of $300K for charitable causes.
44. Cheerleading: The Most Dangerous Game
Further underscoring how dangerous cheering is as a sport, the case of Orlando Magic cheerleader Jamie Woode, who fractured a rib and vertebrae in a nasty fall last year.
43. Jose Canseco Sends His Twin Brother to Do His Dirty Work
Listen. We all know that juiced up former MLB slugger Jose Canseco is batsh*t crazy. Following him on Twitter for just a couple of days will give you a very disturbing look into the window of his soul.
But in March 2011 he really out-Canseco-ed himself when he sent his twin brother, Ozzie, to appear in his place at a celebrity boxing match. Did anyone even know he had a twin brother before that?
The promoters were, naturally, a bit peeved. They called it the classic "bait-and-switch" and added that he was "disgusted."
Apparently Jose has sent Ozzie out plenty of times over the years to cover for him at pesky fan events like autograph signings and personal appearances.
42. Mascots Can ALWAYS Be Worse
There are so many ridiculous mascots out there. Sammy the Banana Slug, The Fighting Okra, Artie the Fighting Artichoke, and that nutbag wild-eyed Stanford Tree. And that's just to name a few.
I always used to wonder what the heck they were thinking with some of these ideas, assuming they must have overlooked a couple of winners—or at the very least, something less stupid—before landing on their final decision.
As it turns out, I was wrong. Based on the Canucks' 2012 mascot contest, the decision to go with the plushie whale costume someone lifted from Sea World was genius. At least when compared to the other finalist submissions.
A nonsensical robot. An obviously rabid beaver. A mentally challenged goalie. And Shamu. The decision here was beyond obvious. Makes you wonder what the other options were in the Sammy the Banana Slug discussions.
41. So...Uh...These Two Were High School Teammates
File this one in the "best-kept secrets you never cared to know" category.
Apparently Lions running back Reggie Bush and Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith were teammates on their San Diego high school football team.
It was secret, in that I had no idea, and it surprised me. But once I found out, I literally couldn't have cared less.
40. Dennis Rodman Was the Skip Bayless of His High School Hoops Team
Hall of Fame Bulls bad boy Dennis Rodman put together quite a career for himself in the NBA, winning five championships over 15 years in the league. But you never would've believed he had that kind of potential in high school.
Rodman's two sisters were all-American basketball players, but at 5'11, he didn't even get a chance to play. Naturally he wasn't recruited by any universities and ended up working the late night shift at the Dallas-Forth Worth Airport at the age of 20.
By that time Rodman had shot up an amazing eight inches and enrolled in junior college, later transferring to Southeastern Oklahoma State. So let that be a lesson to all you undersized athletes out there, maybe you'll wake up tomorrow nearly a foot taller and in an awful lot of pain—because I imagine that kind of rapid growth would hurt a little.
But it probably (definitely) won't happen, so study hard...because Kim Jong Un isn't going to be paying your bills when you're grown.
39. You Can See an Angels Game for $4
According to a report by The Christian Science Monitor in April 2013, Angels fans can score Upper View Seats for six home games in April for a mere $4.
A pretty sweet deal for fans, but not so much for the team. Each ticket sold at that price should cover the cost of Albert Pujols blinking—just once though.
38. Bart Starr Wasn't REALLY Bart Starr
This one isn't really a big deal, because it's not really much more than a nickname situation. But you've probably heard the name of the legendary Hall of Fame quarterback of the Packers Bart Starr about a million times.
It's such a familiar name, and he's such an iconic player, that it's just weird to hear him called anything else. But he was definitely called something else at some point during his life, because his full name was Bryan Bartlett Starr.
Certainly doesn't have the zip to it that Bart Starr does, that's for sure.
37. The Nationals Mascots Are Completely Anonymous
Every year the Nationals conduct tryouts for locals interested in becoming one of the famous racing president mascots. Apparently it's a pretty rigorous audition that requires everyone trying out to be at least 5'6" and have the ability to wear a 45-pound foam dome on their head for hours at a time.
Having lived in D.C. for the last five years, I'm familiar with the process, as it's a pretty big deal around here. The one thing I had no idea about until just recently is that everyone selected as a mascot is required to protect their identity and be completely anonymous.
Obviously a little strange, but in 2011 a spokeswoman for the Natties said it's to protect the "Walt Disney World effect." She added, "Would you want to know that Mickey Mouse is really your neighbor from down the street? I don't think you would."
I don't think I would either...I guess.
36. Seeing These Teams Live Will Cost You
- New York's MetLife Stadium. The Jets have a Fan Cost Index of $628.90
- Arlington's Cowboys Stadium. The Cowboys have a Fan Cost Index of $613.80
- New York's MetLife Stadium. The Giants have a Fan Cost Index of $592.26
- Foxborough's Gillette Stadium. The Patriots have a Fan Cost Index of $566.67
- Chicago's Soldier Field. The Bears have a Fan Cost Index of $557.18
It's not cheap to see an NFL game in person in any city, but there are a few that will cost you a lot more of your hard-earned cabbage. According to a report in September 2012, the most expensive venues in the league are as follows:
Wow. That's gotta be just awesome for Jets fans. Although, I would've paid more than that to witness the infamous "butt fumble" in person.
35. Spencer Haywood Is Filled with Secrets
It's been 30 years since Spencer Haywood retired from the NBA, but his influence is still being felt to this day. In 1971 Haywood v. National Basketball Association, an anti-trust lawsuit against the league, went all the way to the Supreme Court.
The court ruled in his favor, which struck down the four-year rule, which mandated no player could enter the league until four years after graduating high school. Obviously, the decision paved the way for future superstars like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James to enter the NBA straight from high school.
Although that's not the only thing that Haywood is known for. In his autobiography he revealed that he grew up in rural Mississippi in the 50s and his brother convinced him that self-circumcision was the only sure-fire way to avoid insanity. Because that makes a lot of sense.
So he did it. At least he got to drive a Rolls Royce, marry and divorce a supermodel, and enjoy the perks of being one of the NBA's first villainous superstars.
34. The NFL & NHL Outlawed the Jersey No. 00
Jersey No.'s 0 and 00 are relatively common in most sports. Well, maybe not common, but they certainly exist. That is, unless you're talking about the NFL or NHL, both of which have banned players from wearing the number.
The Raiders' Hall of Fame center Jim Otto wore the double zeros throughout his career and had retired before the league "retired" his number permanently in 1973.
A number of NHL players had worn No. 00 over the years, but it was ultimately banned in the late 90s and is now specifically addressed in the official league rules.
Ridiculous fashion police stuff. Don't these two leagues specifically have much bigger issues to deal with these days?
33. The First NHL Goalie Masks Were Leather and Useless
Most hockey fans out there know that NHL players used to play this incredibly physical game with a stunning lack of protective equipment. It took decades before the issue even became a topic of discussion, let alone addressed in a serious manner.
But the one player on the ice who has always been the most vulnerable is the goalie, with high speed projectiles constantly being launched at their faces. The first goalie to try out a mask was Clint Benedict back in 1927.
He sported this primitive leather mask after being knocked unconscious in a game, but it didn't last. Apparently he couldn't see shots coming low, so he quickly abandoned it. Frankly, it doesn't look all that protective anyway.
The goalie mask then faded into oblivion for the next 30 years.
32. Herschel Walker Studied Ballet
Herschel Walker is a beast of a man. He played college football at Georgia, where he won the Heisman and went on to play in the NFL for just over a decade.
Walker retired in 1997 and just over a decade later was signed by MMA's Strikeforce to compete in their heavyweight division. Did I mention he was closing in on 50 when he decided to give that a go?
Good gravy. Only Walker would attempt one of the most physically grueling sports in the world at the half-century mark.It's because he's an unstoppable athlete who is known to be absolutely fanatical about physical fitness, as well as a vegetarian.
In April 1988, a piece in The New York Times reported on what was, perhaps, Walker's most unlikely training method—ballet. While it was clear he didn't have a future in dance, he pursued the training to help make him lighter on his feet.
31. UConn's Mascot Jonathan's Troubled Past
There are actually a lot of live university mascots that have troubled pasts. Many have been kidnapped, agoraphobic, or run over by cars. UConn's poor mascot Jonathan, named after Revolutionary War era Governor Jonathan Trumball in 1934, has seen his share of trouble over the years.
Apparently Jonathan I was hit by a car just one day after being named. Jonathan VI lasted just two months on campus before suffering the same tragic fate.
But it was Jonathan VIII that suffered more than a fatal car accident, he was humiliated by the UConn faithful. The poor guy was damn near sold by a bunch of college hippies in 1970 because they felt he "represented the establishment."
Stupid idealist teenagers. Sheesh.
30. Some Big Time Athletes Keep It Fit with Yoga
If you think professional athletes are just running laps and lifting weights to keep themselves in top form, think again. Their bodies are literally worth tens of millions of dollars, so many think outside the box when it comes to perfecting them.
Every athlete develops their own regimen over time, and some are more diverse than others. When you think of yoga, you probably imagine slender women in very tight pants. Which is fine—I don't want to rob you of that image.
But the fact of the matter is that yoga isn't just for the ladies anymore, assuming it was ever gender exclusive. Superstars such as LeBron James, Ray Lewis, Kevin Garnett, Victor Cruz and Kevin Love are just a few of the athletes who have embraced the practice of yoga.
Retired NFL running back Ricky Williams also loves yoga, though not nearly as much as he loves weed, and is said to be a certified instructor. Now that's a yoga class I might actually consider attending.
29. How Picabo Street Really Got Her Name
Retired Olympic skier Picabo Street's interesting first name and the story behind it has always attracted some interest. Probably because she rose to fame a few years before celebrities started naming their babies things like "Apple" and "Banjo."
The child of a couple of Idaho hippies, Street was referred to as "Baby Girl" by her parents for the first two years of her life.That's because they wanted to wait until she was older and let her name herself—which many people believe she did.
But it was actually her parents who named her Picabo, an Indian world meaning "shining water," because those pesky government squares required Street have a name before issuing her a passport. Although, I'm going to have to side with the government here.
The whole thing is funny, though, because as a 2-year-old, there's at least a decent chance that she would've landed on that name herself!
28. Jim Harbaugh Once Appeared on Saved by the Bell
49ers coach Jim Harbaugh has a reputation of being one of the most animated, intense, and downright angry people in the NFL. That's no surprise, though; he's got nothing but football and ice water in his veins.
Which makes it all the more difficult to reconcile the wild-eyed screaming Harbaugh we know today with the goober who appeared on an episode of Saved by the Bell: The New Class back in 1996.
Apparently Harbaugh played himself on the show, but a version of himself who happened to be the cousin of noted weirdo Screech.
Of course, Screech was the only member of the original gang to return for that garbage dump of a sitcom. And no, Mr. Belding doesn't count as a member of the gang (exaggerated eye roll).
27. NFL Stadiums with the Cheapest Brew
Everything about going to an NFL game these days is expensive. The tickets, parking, snacks and any merchandise will set you back a pretty penny.
It's enough to make you drink, right? Well the best places in the league to kick back with a beer are Cleveland and Green Bay, which will cost you $5 and $5.25, respectively.
Cleveland is actually great for cheap brew, if nothing else, because it's got the second-cheapest in MLB, too. The Diamondbacks are serving the cheapest in 2013.
26. That's Technically an "Ice Resurfacer" Not a "Zamboni"
One of the biggest misconceptions in sports is that the machine that freshens up the ice in between periods—or on any recreational rink for that matter—is called a Zamboni.
I've been a hockey fan since the late '80s and, until recently, was under this impression myself. But in truth, that miraculous machine actually has a much more mundane, if not more descriptive, name: ice resurfacer.
The first one of its kind was developed by Frank Zamboni in 1949, and the trademark family name has become synonymous with the machine.
Although there are other companies that make ice resurfacers, you'd probably get beat up at a hockey game for lecturing anyone about the distinction. So maybe just stick to calling it a Zamboni.
25. Steve Nash Isn't REALLY Canadian
Everyone knows that legendary point guard Steve Nash is Canadian—right? This is a widely known fact of the sports lexicon. At least that's what I assume, because I've always thought of him, and referred to him, as a Canadian.
But it turns out, Nash isn't entirely Canadian. He was born in South Africa to a Welsh mother and an English father. The family moved to British Columbia before his second birthday, but technically he's British, South African and Canadian.
Consider your mind blown...if you're as interested in geography as I am. And I realize that you probably aren't.
24. The Steelers Had the First NFL Cheerleaders
There are only a handful of NFL teams without cheerleaders, and the Steelers stand out among them. Which makes it all the more surprising that the very first cheerleaders in the league were actually in Pittsburgh.
The Steelerettes, nice job with the name (not), were formed in 1961 because owner Dan Rooney was advised some sexy ladies might help him sell some tickets—which they couldn't give away at the time.
The girls were actually all students at Robert Morris University who had to maintain a 2.0 GPA and pass a basic test about football—basically to prove they'd know when to cheer. High expectations...
23. Melo's Madness...Literal and Figurative
Early in his NBA career, Knicks superstar Carmelo Anthony, then with the Nuggets, appeared prominently in an underground DVD entitled "Stop Snitching."
It was kind of a PSA aimed at witnesses of criminal activity to keep their mouths shut, lest they be dealt with in a murderous fashion.
You know Carmelo Anthony, always the philanthropist.
Apparently in the production, 'Melo was with an "alleged" drug dealer who gleefully explained what happens to those who cooperate with the police.
Man, and Charles Barkley thought he wasn't a role model! Having never seen this DVD myself, I'm not sure what led to Anthony revealing that he threw his bronze medal from the 2004 Olympics in Athens into a Lake somewhere.
But apparently that's what he did. Although if he thought that was an effective way to get people to "stop snitching," he probably should have thought on that one a little longer.
22. Richard Seymour's Musical Musings
Free agent tackle Richard Seymour was a Georgia standout who was selected by the Patriots in the first round of the 2001 NFL draft. The three-time Super Bowl champion was unquestionably a great talent throughout his career, which has stretched over a decade, so far.
But there's more than meets the eye to this bruiser with a size 17 shoe—he's got an artsy side too! According to Seymour's official Pats bio, Seymour doesn't just play football, he also plays the trombone.
21. Secrets of Lord Stanley
The NHL's ultimate prize, the Stanley Cup, was actually named after Lord Stanley Preston, who was Canada's Governor General in 1888.
While he was a great fan of the game, he never had the chance to see the championship Cup awarded in person because he had returned to England.
The Cup itself was made of silver in London for just a few dollars, but the equivalent today would be approximately $1,200.
20. Terry Bradshaw's Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
Steelers Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw isn't known to be the sharpest pencil in the box, but he's sure done well for himself in his post-football life. Although there are many out there who believe that Bradshaw isn't nearly as dim as he'd have you believe, and I'd have to agree.
He has routinely found acting work over the last three decades, some roles more impressive than others. And Bradshaw has been working as an NFL analyst, co-hosting Fox NFL Sunday since 1994. Prior to that, he worked for CBS for 10 years.
So, suffice it to say, Terry Bradshaw's accomplishments are many. But there's one thing he has managed that no other player in NFL history has—his very own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. My guess is that his role in Smokey and the Bandit II put Bradshaw over the top.
19. The Pirates Are Trying to Feed Their Fans to Death
Since the Pirates are so desperately terrible at baseball, management has decided to refocus on something else at PNC Park. They've long since given up on competitive baseball and as of 2013 have decided to focus on giving every fan who walks through those gates diarrhea.
'Burghers will be treated to new treats such as the Brunch Burger, which is a hamburger made from beef and ground bacon, topped with maple bacon, a fried egg and cheddar cheese and served in between two halves of a glazed donut.
If you're looking for something lighter this summer, try the Scotch Egg. It's a hard-boiled egg in the center of a giant ball of spicy Italian sausage, which is breaded, deep-friend and served with "Fire Sauce."
And if you're really hungry, you can shell out $42 bones to sit in the "All You Can Eat Seats Presented by Pepsi." Then you've got nine full innings to stuff your gullet with as many hot dogs, hamburgers, nachos, salads, popcorn, peanuts, ice cream and pop (probably just Pepsi).
Then you can throw up in the parking lot, free of charge!
After two decades of losing seasons, is it any wonder the Pirates are adjusting their strategy to keep asses in the seats? I just think they are taking a good idea too literally—people are going to eat themselves sick and literally get stuck in the seats.
18. The NFL's Original Logo Is a Mystery, Even to the NFL
The NFL is by far the most popular professional sports league in the United States, and its logo is instantly identifiable by even the most casual of American sports fans.
That being said, one would think that origins of the (original) logo would be well known—at least by the NFL itself. Well, one would be wrong, at least in part.
The logo itself, as a shield, was developed in the 1940s, but the 25 stars above the NFL emblem was a complete mystery. And, as far as I can tell, it remains as such to this very day.
That's why when the league decided on a streamlined redesign in 2008, the football image was changed to resemble the famed Lombardi trophy, and "it features four larger stars on each side, denoting the league's eight divisions."
17. Madison Square Garden: Not Just Another Arena
We all know that New York's historic Madison Square Garden is the home of the NBA's Knicks and the NHL's Rangers and routinely hosts some of the most high-profile musical events in the country.
But the most famous evening in the history of MSG didn't have anything to do with sports, and only a little to do with music. In May 1962 the venue hosted President John F. Kennedy's 45th birthday party.
Although it wasn't just any old birthday party, of course. After all, we're talking about the President of the United States here. But we're also talking about one of the most famous actresses, and sex symbols, of all time.
It was at that party that the splendiferously sexy Marilyn Monroe delivered the most sultry rendition of the song "Happy Birthday" of all time. And in a nude sequined dress so form-fitting that it looked like it was painted on the actress.
Thank goodness Mrs. Kennedy was visiting friends in Virginia that night, letting JFK fly solo. Otherwise that cold have been extremely uncomfortable, assuming it wasn't already uncomfortable to begin with—considering the 15,000 onlookers.
16. A Few NHL Legends That Weren't (Entirely) One of a Kind
Hall of Fame NHL greats Gordie Howe, Bryan Trottier, Patrick Roy and Mario Lemieux are definitely epic talents for the ages. The four of them have well over a dozen Stanley Cups among them—as players and owners/coaches.
One-of-a-kind talents…sorta. If not for that fact that each of them have substantially less revered brothers who also played in the NHL. That's not a slight at Vic Howe, Rocky Trottier, Stephane Roy or Alain Lemieux or anything.
Just saying that those "friendly" brotherly competitions around the holidays probably got ugly on occasion back in the day.
15. Carl Everett Doesn't "Believe In" Dinosaurs
Former MLB player Carl Everett gave an interview with Sports Illustrated in 2000 in which he spoke at length about his religious beliefs. He explained that he was a Christian who believes that the Bible should be interpreted literally, in all cases, without exception.
That may or may not be your cup of tea, but Everett elaborated a bit on something that most religious folks don't take issue with: dinosaurs. They may take issue with the timeline of their existence, but it's not often you find someone who simply doesn't believe in them.
Everett stated that God created everything from the sun and the stars to the Earth and Adam and Eve. He went on to explain that Adam and Eve obviously existed because "someone actually saw" them, but that "no one ever saw a Tyrannosaurus Rex."
No word from Everett on who actually saw Adam and Eve in person, aside from maybe some dinosaurs, depending on your timeline. As for the dinosaur bones reconstructed in museums worldwide? "Made by man," he says.
Well that's a new take.
14. Farrah Fawcett Wasn't Joe Namath's First Noxzema Co-Star
The '70s Super Bowl commercial starring legendary Jets quarterback Joe Namath and actress Farrah Fawcett, Charlie's sexiest Angel, remains one of the most memorable of all time.
But that wasn't the first time Namath appeared in a Noxzema commercial with a beautiful blond bombshell. Model Gunilla Knutsson, a former Miss Sweden and semifinalist in the Miss Universe pageant, starred in a series of ads for the shaving cream between 1967 and 1973.
It was in '73 that Knutsson appeared with Namath in a commercial in which she urged men to "take it off, take it all off." Obviously referring to facial hair! Get your mind out of the gutter.
13. Al Michaels' Famous Line That Almost Wasn't
The Miracle on Ice at the 1980 Olympics in Lake Champlain was one of the greatest moments in the history of American sports.
But according to an article in Sports Illustrated, one thing could have been very different if announcer Al Michaels had a do-over. He admitted his famous line, "Do you believe in miracles? Yes!" wasn't a preconceived line and that he probably never would have said it if he had any time to sit on it.
Michaels said if he had thought of it in advance he would have tossed it, concerned it would sound corny or even "jingoistic." Proving sometimes the best of history is a complete accident.
12. The Mariners Owner Has Never Heard of Ken Griffey Jr.
Every professional sports franchise has an owner, and, as we all know, some are far more visible than others. Did you know the Mariners have been owned by Nintendo since 1992? Or, more specifically, retired Nintendo chairman Hiroshi Yamauchi.
Perhaps this is more of a well known fact in Seattle, but it's a pretty well kept secret everywhere else. That's because Yamauchi is basically the antithesis of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. Yamauchi has owned the franchise for 20 years and has never even seen the team play in person.
According to The Seattle Times, the Mariners "are (surely) the only team in professional sports history whose owner has never seen them play." Not only that, but when he bought the team at the age of 64, he had never been to a "baseball game in person, period."
That's probably because Yamauchi doesn't really like baseball…although he doesn't dislike it either. But he's so amazingly disconnected from the team he owns that he doesn't even have a clue who Ken Griffey Jr. is. Seriously!
11. Tim Duncan Was *ThisClose* to Becoming a Swimmer
If you're surprised that Spurs ageless superstar forward Tim Duncan is a man of many talents, then obviously you just don't know Tim Duncan. He's been one of the most quietly dominant forces in the NBA for 15 years, but basketball isn't the only sport he has excelled at.
Duncan was born and raised on the U.S. Virgin Island of St. Croix, where swimming was a more natural fit for his and his two older sisters' natural athleticism. By the age of 13 Duncan was already a world-class swimmer with Olympic dreams who had already broken a number of world records.
But when Hurricane Hugo hit the island, his swim team's pool and facilities were decimated, which required practices to be moved to the ocean for a period of time. Duncan immediately began skipping practices and ultimately gave up the sport entirely due to an extreme, but understandable, phobia of sharks.
A promising young swimmer may have been lost. Thankfully, swimming's loss was the NBA's gain.
10. Bear Bryant's Prediction
Bear Bryant, the legendary coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide, knew a lot about a lot. He knew about football. He knew about recruiting. He knew about talent.
Bryant also knew about himself. He once said he'd "croak in a week" if he ever quit coaching 'Bama. It wasn't quite a week, but he did die 27 days after his last game.
9. Muhammad Ali
According to his biography, legendary boxer Muhammad Ali may have stumbled into becoming, arguably, the greatest boxer of all time, completely by accident.
When he was just 12 years old, Ali and a friend went to a local event boasting of free hot dogs and popcorn in Louisville. Eventually the pair decided to leave, only to discover Ali's bicycle had been stolen.
He reported it to the local police but was reportedly fuming over the incident. Ali told officer Joe Martin that he wanted to beat up whoever stole his bike, and Martin suggested that Ali should learn to fight first—just in case.
Ali was training at Martin's gym days later. Amazing how such an arbitrary event can change the course of sports history.
8. Deion Sanders Played in Championship Games, in Two Sports
Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders had one helluva a career in the NFL. His career in MLB, however impressive, was substantially less illustrious.
Although he didn't have quite the success in baseball that he did in football, Sanders did accomplish something that no other athlete in history has managed.
"Neon Deion" won two Super Bowls while playing in the NFL, one with the 49ers and one with the Cowboys. And he played for the Braves in 1992 World Series.
Sure the Braves lost the World Series that year, but just being there ended up making history for Sanders. He is still the only player to ever play in a championship game in two different professional sports.
7. Kobe WHAT Bryant?
Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest players in NBA history. He's tough, talented, trash-talking and sometimes downright mean.
The Lakers legend may not be well-liked by everyone in the world, but he sure as hell is respected. And if you don't respect him, I dare you to take it up with him to his face.
That's what makes the fact that his middle name is "Bean" all the more amazing. Kobe. Bean. Bryant. Apparently his middle name came from his father's nickname, Jelly Bean.
And his first name came from the premium Japanese beef his parents once saw on a menu at a steakhouse. Seems like the Bryant family is quite food oriented!
Between his genes and wife Vanessa's, those Bryant kids are probably always hungry and covered in diamonds.
6. Speaking of Middle Names...
The Lakers' Kobe "Bean" Bryant isn't the only athlete out there with a head-scratching middle name. You know how parents are, always trying to be original.
Here are a few interesting others you probably didn't know:
- Calvin Coolidge Julius Caesar Tuskahoma McLish. The MLB player, who retired in 1964, was known better as "Cal McLish." Hmm…wonder why he decided to shorten it?
- Eldrick "Tiger" Tont Woods. His middle name was a tribute to his Asian heritage. And Tiger was a much hipper choice than Eldrick, so good on him.
- Terrell Eldorado Owens. Reportedly named after a mythical city of gold. Is it any wonder that T.O. grew up with the self-entitled attitude and "love me some me" philosophy on life?
- Bristol "Bris" Robotham Lord. The etymology of which suggests it's an alternate spelling of an English word meaning a "depression in the ground inhabited by deer." His nickname, "The Human Eyeball," is definitely a little more interesting.
In other news, feel free to start calling me "The Human Eyeball."
5. The Raiders Were Nearly the Oakland Señors
It's impossible to imagine the NFL's Raiders as anything but the Raiders, but they actually almost ended up with quite a different name. When the team came into existence, an Oakland newspaper ran a contest.
The name chosen at the time was the "Oakland Señors," perhaps a nod to the area's large Latino community. And the original colors were supposed to be black and gold, which could have been confusing in the '70s.
The "Raiders" name actually came in third place but was ultimately chosen after incessant criticism from both fans and media alike. Because the initial idea was nixed, there are no original logos that exist.
4. Don Cherry's NHL Career Less Illustrious Than His Suits
The way controversial Canadian blowhard Don Cherry talks about hockey, one would think all that passion (rage, may be the more appropriate term) stems from his own glory days in the NHL.
After all, Cherry has something terrible to say about just about everyone:
- He has described the great Mario Lemieux as a "phony."
- He has said that Russian players are "quitters, and evidently they take a lot of drugs too."
- He also hates French Canadians…and Americans.
- He has called out former players speaking out about the violence in the game as "hypocritical pukes" and believes that if a player wears a visor, he's not a "tough guy."
Well, nobody every said Cherry was a nice guy, but at least he was one helluva a hockey player, right? Ha. Wrong! This "Legend of Hockey" played just one game in the NHL. A single playoff game for the Bruins in 1955.
Suppose we know why he's so damn bitter. Maybe if only (non-French) Canadians were allowed to play in the NHL, he wouldn't have spent his entire career toiling away in the minors.
3. The Redskins Were the Last All-White Team in the NFL
Segregation was an ugly time in American history, let alone sports history. After the election of President John F. Kennedy, integration began its slow process, thanks to his pro-civil rights positions. Although, not everyone appreciated JFK's efforts.
In 1961 there were 14 teams in the NFL and 13 of them had at least one black player on their roster. The lone holdout was the Redskins, whose owner, George Marshall, was vehemently opposed to desegregation, insisting that they'd sign black players "when the Harlem Globetrotters start signing whites."
Support for Marshall's position dwindled rapidly, but he had an ally in the American Nazi Party, which demonstrated in D.C. with signs reading "KEEP REDSKINS WHITE." Irony is probably lost on those types.
After integration began, the 'Skins went 5-30 from 1959-61, which may have contributed to Marshall ultimately relenting. But when the American Nazi Party is your strongest ally in D.C., clearly things aren't going your way.
2. Vince Carter Was a Band Geek...A Big One
Mavericks guard Vince Carter has been dishing out dunk faces since being drafted No. 5 overall by the Warriors in the 1998 NBA draft. He was named the league's Rookie of the Year and the Central Division's Sportsman of the Year in 1999.
Carter won gold with the U.S. team at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. And in the 2004-05 season, he became the 26th-fastest player ever to reach 10,000 points—putting him among some very impressive company. That's some pretty legit balling.
But Carter wasn't always such a badass jock. In high school, he actually played baritone and saxophone in the jazz band and was voted drum major his senior year. Carter was even offered a music scholarship to Bethune-Cookman.
Talk about giving hope to band nerds everywhere!
1. The Time Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig Were Struck out by a Girl
Maybe all you baseball historians out there already know this bit of trivia, but it came as quite a surprise to me and my fellow baseball neophytes.
The late Jackie Mitchell was one of the first female pitchers in professional baseball history who was signed by a women's team in Chattanooga, the Lookouts, in 1931 at the ripe old age of 17. The Lookouts received some substantial publicity from the signing, which eventually caught the attention of MLB.
Back in the day, it was common for MLB teams to compete in exhibition games against minor league clubs during spring training. And in April 1931, the Lookouts played a game against a very unlikely opponent—the Yankees. Although that was far from the most unlikely event that happened that day.
Perhaps not expecting much competition from a teenage girl, the legendary Babe Ruth stepped up to the plate to hit against Mitchell. He was promptly struck out and threw down his bat. Next up was Lou Gehrig. And it was one, two, three strikes you're out at the old ball game.
In classic Ruth fashion, he made light of Mitchell and denigrated women in general to the press after the game. But history was made that day, whether he liked it or not.
**Speaking of girls Babe Ruth probably would've hated, you should follow me on Twitter: Follow @blamberr