10 Hilarious Sports Throwback Stories to Brighten Your Day
A high school football player hung up on Bill Belichick. An MLB veteran took batting practice with a young Alex Rodriguez's tacos. Sports throwback stories really are the best.
Folks in sports love to reminisce—or at minimum, can often recall some juicy stories when specifically asked. Interviews, oral histories, autobiographies, press conferences—all have produced some delightful tales over the years. The following are simply some of the most recently disclosed.
Behold, 10 sports throwback stories that are not only entertaining, but funny to boot.
Shaq Meets Dr. J
Shaquille O'Neal was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in September. Around that same time, he shared a great story during a speaking engagement at Springfield College.
O'Neal told the crowd about the first time he met the great NBA legend Julius Erving. Shaq was still in college at LSU at the time, and apparently Dr. J just showed up in his dorm room.
Per Conor Ryan of Masslive.com, Shaq said:
True story -- he woke me up in my college dorm room one day. Seriously. He was going to speak either in Baton Rouge or LSU and I was sleeping and woke up and I saw this good-looking brother with his hand on my chest. I was like, 'God? God is a black man?'
And then I said, 'Dr. J?' And after I said that, I thought I was dead. I said, 'Damn, I'm dying in college? Can you believe this?' And it was Dr. J. We talked and we had a good conversation.
How random is that?
Jurgen Klopp and 'Pizzarazu'
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp is a funny dude.
At a September press conference, a reporter asked about his goalkeeping situation for an upcoming match. But, instead of asking about one "Simon Mignolet," the reporter accidentally mispronounced it, "Smignolet."
The blunder prompted Klopp to share a similar story from earlier in his career.
Mark Jones of Mirror wrote:
Recalling a friendly match he took charge of against Bayern Munich - presumably when he was a lot more flustered than he is now - Klopp said he once told his players to 'be aware of the quality of 'Pizzarazu'.
Now that, kids, isn't actually a Pokemon, but a mixture of the former Bayern and Chelsea forward Claudio Pizarro and World Cup winner Bixente Lizarazu, a combo 'which would be a fantastic player' according to Klopp.
The story was funny, but Klopp's jovial delivery is what really made this one. Check it out here.
A-Rod and the Tacos
After over 20 years, Alex Rodriguez may or may not actually be finished playing professional baseball. Regardless, it's never too early to reminisce about his long and eventful career.
For his part, Chicago Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio shared a hilarious story recently. Bosio was a veteran teammate of young Rodriguez with the Seattle Mariners in the mid-1990s. In August, Bosio said on The Mully and Hanley Show (via CBS Chicago):
We were in Kansas City for early hitting, and Alex had never been to Kansas City. It's about 106 out there on the turf, and Alex showed up with a bag of Taco Bell, and he's sitting in the dugout and says, 'Hey guys, anybody want a taco?' Jay Buhner, a really high-spirited Texan bald dude, you know, had a really mean demeanor but he was as a puppy dog, he walks up to Alex and goes, 'What are you doing? How come you're not out here early?' He goes, 'Oh man, I'm just having some food, I was starving.' Jay goes, 'Wow man, that's awesome, you got Taco Bell. You going to get that for everybody?’ Alex goes, 'Oh yeah, I brought plenty.' And Jay picks the bag up, throws it up in the air, takes his bat and swings and just smashes it all over the wall of the dugout and goes, 'Don't ever be late for early hitting again, rookie. Now clean up this ****!'
Apparently, even a once-in-a-generation talent has to pay his rookie dues.
Wayne Gretzky and the HOF
Wayne Gretzky is a pretty recognizable guy—not just in hockey circles but in general. And yet, he managed to spend two hours in the Hockey Hall of Fame without being recognized...well, almost.
Gretzky recently told a fantastic throwback story, per Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo Sports. Apparently he took his son to the Hall, wore a hat and managed to check out the whole place incognito.
He continued, per Wyshynski:
We went down to the part where you can [play interactive hockey games], and take some shots. So my son goes first, and he's 4-for-5. He says 'Dad, try it!'
So I said, 'OK,' and I got up there and missed the first three shots I took. And the young man who was taking care of the line walked over to me and said, 'Sir, you should move your hand down the stick a little.'
'I lifted my hat up and I said, 'Why don't you go over there and get me one of those pucks. There are 802 of them!'
Ooh, burn. Gretzky scored his 802nd goal in 1994 to break Gordie Howe's record.
Jerry Goff's First Hit
When will Los Angeles Rams quarterback and No. 1 NFL draft pick Jared Goff get his first start? Time will tell, but in the meantime please enjoy this story from his father, Jerry Goff.
Jerry played Major League Baseball for six seasons—spending time with three teams from 1990-96. In April, he recounted the story of his first big league hit, a single against the San Francisco Giants.
Per Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times, Goff said, "Back then, it wasn't like a rite of passage. You get the ball and all that. But now it's like, stop the game, and everybody knows it because you have the Internet."
The baseball made its way to the dugout, and that's when Goff's teammates pulled a fast one on him. He continued, per Farmer, "They put the wrong date on it, then crossed it out. Then they wrote, 'A 15-hopper through the hole against no-throwing, big daddy Reuschel.' They screwed it all up."
As it turned out, the ball was a fake. Those ballplayers—such pranksters.
Mickey Rourke Challenges Usain Bolt
In fact, Russ Bengtson of Complex asked Bolt in September if folks often challenge him to races.
Bolt responded, "People all the time. People all the time. But the only person that was the biggest thing was Mickey Rourke. He challenged me to a race and I thought he was joking he's like 'let's go!' In the streets at like three in the morning, he took his shoes off and everything. Like for 20 meters."
Bengtson asked, "How many meters did you beat him by? Like 19?"
And here's Bolt: "[Laughs.] It was good though, it was good fun."
Plot twist! It's possible Rourke actually gave Bolt a run for his money, so to speak. In 2012, the actor told his version of the story to Martin Rogers of Yahoo Sports. Rourke claimed he got a head start and said, "But at least I won something that night."
Phil Mickelson Pranks His Caddie
Jim "Bones" Mackay has been Phil Mickelson's caddie since 1992, so the two go way back. In September, Mackay told PGA.com a gem of a throwback tale about his boss' prankster ways.
As the story goes, it was the first day of the 1996 U.S. Open. Mackay was apparently driving slowly around a parking lot with Mickelson in the car.
Via Golfweek, Mackay said, "There was this gentleman alongside our car who decided to take a left turn, walked right into the side of our car, he bumped into the car, said, 'Oh, I'm sorry' and went on his way."
I go to the range, Phil goes to put on his shoes, and the next thing I know, I have two officers tap me on the shoulder who tell me I'm being investigated for felony hit-and-run. So here we are 45 minutes before our tee time, and they're talking about putting me in cuffs. So I was stressed to say the least. I somehow looked over out of the corner of my eye and I saw Phil behind a tree giggling.
Hanging Up on Bill Belichick
If Bill Belichick called you on the phone, what would you do? Surely, the following is at least a possibility.
David Fleming's oral history of the New England Patriots coach appears in the Oct. 17 issue of ESPN The Magazine. In it, Mike Whalen told a hilarious story about a young recruit's reaction to getting a call from the famous coach.
Mike Whalen, "Belichick's Friend, Wesleyan Athletic Director and Former Coach," per Fleming, recalled:
My first year as coach at Wesleyan I'm trying to turn things around and I'm recruiting a kid out of West Hartford who was leaning toward Princeton. So I emailed Bill and asked him to call the kid. Bill calls him that same night and the kid hangs up on him. 'Hello, this is Bill Belichick from the New England Patriots,' and the kid goes, 'Yeah, right.' Bill keeps going: 'I'd like to talk to you about Wesleyan and the kind of opportunity you'll have there,' and the kid goes, 'Yeah, yeah, sure, Bill' -- click. Bill emails me and says, 'I reached out to him but, um, I don't think I really connected.'
Can't really blame the kid.
Kliff Kingsbury's Parking Tickets
How do people arrive at their chosen professions? Often, there is a bit of chance and even serendipity mixed in. For Texas Tech football coach Kliff Kingsbury, there were parking tickets.
Apparently, the former Red Raiders quarterback once considered grad school but ran into a road block. Don Williams of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal offered this little tidbit in September:
Kingsbury was in the Canadian Football League, ready to retire from playing in 2007, and was thinking of going back to school to pursue an MBA. Instead, he wound up taking Dana Holgorsen's invitation to help the University of Houston coaching staff.
Kingsbury revealed that before, but not the full story on why he backed out.
'I called Texas Tech about having to get my diploma (or transcript),' he said, 'and I had, like, $1,500 worth of parking tickets. I couldn't get it out. I was really looking into getting my MBA, looking at different grad schools, but I was like, 'Well, I'm not paying that.''
'So yeah, that deterred the MBA, and it kind of worked out from there.'
Yep, you could say it worked out.
Steve Young and the Ref
Autobiographies are great for throwback stories. Legendary NFL quarterback Steve Young has a new one out called QB: My Life Behind the Spiral, and one excerpt did not disappoint.
Young recalled an interaction he had with a referee during a 1985 game vs. the Indianapolis Colts (via Peter King of MMQB.com):
Partway through the second quarter I'm in the huddle when the head referee taps me on the shoulder. 'Can I talk to you for a second?' he says. I step away from the huddle. 'Hey, listen, my daughter's going to BYU,' he whispers. Next thing I know he starts trying to convince me that I should meet his daughter. 'I'd like you to take her out,' he says.
I cannot believe this. We're in the middle of a game! 'Oh, okay,' I said. 'What's her name?' He tells me and I return to the huddle...Late in the game we're down 31-23 and I'm trying to mount a comeback. I scramble out of the pocket and take a brutal hit. It causes me to fumble just before the whistle blows to stop the play. I am lying on the ground when the defense recovers the loose ball, all but sealing our defeat. Suddenly out of nowhere a yellow flag lands next to me. The referee whose daughter is headed to BYU calls a personal foul on the defense. First down, Tampa Bay. I get up and brush myself off. Then the ref walks past me and whispers she likes Italian food.
If this is true, it's downright hysterical (and a little concerning).