Golf and cricket feature in a final Top 10 from my hoard of hilarious sporting anecdotes collected from colleagues during my long career in journalism.
Flee of a Kind
Japan’s top golfer Isao Aoki was much in demand at the Open Championship at Lytham St Annes following his World Matchplay victory the previous year.
Unfortunately, his English was not quite as good as his golf, and an interpreter had to be called in to translate his comments to the gathered press corps. Straight-faced and meticulously, the interpreter put each question to Aoki in Japanese, then translated his replies back into English for media consumption.
The question-and-answer session was nearing a close when one hack urged the interpreter: ‘‘Would you ask Mr Aoki how he came to drop a shot at the 17th?’’ This time, Aoki himself moved up to the microphone and in Oriental pidgin English announced slowly: ‘‘I flee putt flom flucking flinge of gleen.’’
Ignoring the roars of laughter ringing around the press tent, the expressionless interpreter took over again and confirmed: ‘’Mr Aoki says he flee putt flom flucking flinge of gleen.’’
Lee Trevino, golf’s happy-go-lucky Supermex, even managed to retain his sense of humour after being struck by lightning during the Western Open near Chicago. Along with playing partner Jerry Heard, a shocked Trevino was rushed to hospital following the incident, which left him lying semi-conscious on the 13th green at the Butler National Club.
"I could see the next morning’s headline—Supermex Becomes Super-Ex," he joked. As he began to recover in hospital, the chunky little Texan put a call through to his wife.
"How do you feel?’’ asked worried Claudia.
"Sensational,’’ replied her irrepressible husband. "For the first time in my life, I was six-foot-two!’’
Golfer Eamonn D’Arcy was looking anything but happy as he took his bearings for an approach shot during the first round of the Madrid Open.
"What’s the matter, pal?’’ asked his playing partner, as the confused Irishman looked quizzically into the trees alongside the Puerta de la Hiero course.
"I can’t work out my distance to the green,’’ moaned D’Arcy. "I marked it yesterday against a red car that was parked over there, but the bloody thing has gone.’’
On another occasion, D’Arcy was undergoing a press grilling after a particularly successful opening round in the Benson and Hedges Open at Fulford.
‘‘What’s your best finish this year?’’ asked freelance writer Gordon Richardson.
"Fifth,’’ replied D’Arcy.
"Was that in the German Open?’’ ventured Richardson.
"No, I was fourth in that.’’
Hole Don, Please
Golf fanatic Don Revie, keen to keep up with the news from the United States tour, made one of his regular late-night calls to the Daily Express sports desk in Manchester.
On this particular evening, the sub-editor who intercepted the call was somewhat the worse for drink—and blissfully unaware of Revie’s eccentric habit of calling in the early hours of the morning.
‘‘Don Revie here,’’ echoed the instantly-recognisable voice of the then-England football manager.
‘‘Could you please give me the latest details from the Greater Greensborough Open in America.’’
‘‘What did you say?’’ asked the sozzled sub.
‘‘The Greater Greensborough Open.’’
‘‘No, who’s that calling?’’
‘‘Aye, and I’m Santa Claus,’’ snapped the Expressman, slamming down the receiver.
President John F Kennedy was playing golf with Chris Dunphy, chairman of the famous Seminole Club in Florida. At the first hole, the President hit his approach shot to within three feet of the pin—and promptly made it clear he expected the putt to be conceded.
‘‘Have a go, Mr President,’’ said multi-millionaire Dunphy. ‘‘A putt like that builds character.’’
‘‘OK,’’ sighed Kennedy, ‘‘but let’s keep moving. I've got a meeting with the Internal Revenue (tax) director right after this round.’’
‘‘The putt’s good,’’ said Dunphy instantly. ‘‘Pick it up, sir.’’
Now for something completely different - some cricket funnies.
Exit the Dragon
Fiery Welsh paceman Greg Thomas was determined to make an impression on the watching England cricket selectors when Viv Richards came out to bat for Somerset against Glamorgan at Taunton.
The red-hot dragon pitched his first delivery yards short—and saw it rear up viciously and whistle past King Viv’s nose. Thomas glared down the wicket, turned away and fired himself up for his second tilt at the West Indian maestro. He stormed past umpire David Lloyd—and down crashed an equally unplayable ball. Again Richards could do nothing but take evasive action as it flew through to the wicketkeeper at head height.
Standing menacingly half-way down the wicket, Thomas eyeballed the world’s No.1 batsman and snarled: ‘‘It’s round….and it’s red.’’ With that, he stalked back to his mark before zooming in even more venomously and thumping his next delivery in short yet again.
Calmly, Richards swung his bat…and off flew the ball, high over long-on and clean out of the ground. Richards swaggered slowly down the wicket, looked Thomas straight in the eye and sneered: ‘’You know what it looks like. You get it.’’
New Ball Game
England’s cricket team, stranded in Aden on their way to Australia for an Ashes series, were invited to a party by a local dignitary. One of the guests was a sheikh whose proud boast was that he had 81 wives.
When this noble fact was pointed out to Fred Trueman, the fiery Yorkshireman remarked: ‘‘Does he know that with four more he can have a new ball?’’
Later on the same voyage, Britain’s top distance runner Gordon Pirie—a fellow passenger on the Canberra—offered to organise some physical training for the party.
"You need some exercises to strengthen your legs,’’ he advised Trueman.
‘‘Strengthen my legs!’’ blasted Fred. "I bowled 1,000 bloody overs this season and they’ve never let me down yet. It’s not me who needs your f***ing exercises.’’
Then, with a cold look over the side of the ship, he added menacingly: ‘‘Can thee swim, lad?’’
Hooray Henry Blofeld, plum firmly entrenched in his Old Etonian mouth, was waxing lyrical to BBC Radio Three listeners as Notts went out to bat in the NatWest Trophy final at Lord’s.
‘‘It’s quite remarkable how alike Tim Robinson and Chris Broad are,’’ he observed as the opening pair set about the Essex pace attack. ‘‘Right down to their headguards and arm shields, they look identical. I must admit I have great difficulty telling them apart.’’
It was left to fellow commentator Colin Milburn to clarify the picture for suffering Blowers, silly old thing that he is. ‘‘Actually there is a small difference,’’ pointed out the ex-England opener. ‘‘If you look every so closely, you might notice that Broad bats left-handed.’’
Little and Large
Lancashire batsman Clive Lloyd had just reached the wicket, accompanied by his teammate Harry Pilling—barely five-feet tall and as pale-skinned as Big Clive is dusky. The 6'2" West Indian was just taking guard when a voice piped up from deep inside the Old Trafford bar room.
‘‘Which one is Clive Lloyd?’’ sniggered the wise guy.
‘‘The one with the glasses,’’ confirmed quick-witted Lancashire off spinner Jack Simmonds.
Darts commentator Syd Waddell, jabbering away as ever at the Embassy World Championships quarter-final between John Lowe and Bob Anderson, assured TV viewers: "This match is so exciting that the crowd are on the edge of their tenterhooks.’’
I'm now off to put my other hat on. Check out www.grumpyoldgran.com if you are intrigued...