Weird Sports Trivia
Strange but True Sports Stories
This page contains some of the weirdest "strange but true" sports
trivia. Here you can discover the answers to unusual questions like "Why was it
necessary to put a man on the moon in order for a weak-hitting pitcher to
finally hit a home run?" Or how about, "Which first baseman was such a
notoriously terrible fielder that 30,000 fans once gave him a standing ovation
for catching a stray hotdog wrapper?"
A young boy named Tim Smith had Tug McGraw's baseball card taped to his bedroom
wall. One day he found his birth certificate and learned that Tug McGraw was his
father. The boy then changed his last name. He grew up to become country music superstar Tim McGraw.
(As a bonus, he got to marry Faith Hill.)
ODDLY EVEN NUMBERS: Ashley Force was the first woman to win a
national funny car race. Ironically, in winning she beat her father, John Force,
denying him his 1,000th winning round in his 500th NHRA tour event!
A different level of arrogance? Larry Bird was famous (or infamous) for talking
trash. But Bird took arrogance and trash talking to a new level, when he told
teammates and the press that he was going to play the final game of a road trip
left-handed. Sure enough, Bird scored 10 of his 21 field goals against Portland
with his left hand, and finished the game with 47 points, 14 rebounds and 11
Perhaps we should call Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus the "Bookends" since Tiger
was the youngest Masters winner at 21 and Nicklaus was the oldest at 46. Tiger
Woods was not just the youngest player to win the Masters in 1997. That year he
had the lowest score ever recorded at the Masters, 270, and the widest margin of
victory, 12 strokes. The Golden Bear's final Masters victory in 1986 may have
been the most thrilling comeback in golf history ... at least until Tiger's phenomenal
comeback in the 2019 Masters. When asked to compare the two, Nicklaus pointed
out that in 1986 no one thought he would contend for victory, including himself!
Those were comebacks and victories for the ages, by the two best golfers the
planet has seen to date.
On August 17, 1957, hall-of-fame centerfielder Richie Ashburn of the Philadelphia Phillies hit spectator
Alice Roth with a foul ball, breaking her nose. As Roth was being carried off
the field on a stretcher, Ashburn hit her with another foul ball, breaking a
bone in her knee. The odds of a fan being hit by a baseball are 300,000 to one.
The odds of the same fan being hit twice during the same at-bat, and breaking
bones both times, are beyond astronomical.
Before Donald Trump fell in love with Kim Jong-Un, the North Korean dictator's
most famous bromance was with Dennis Rodman. Rodman has called the despot a
"great guy," a "great dad" and a "friend for life." Stephen Colbert opined
that Rodman may be "all that is standing between us and thermonuclear
The oldest tennis court in the world is the one built at Hampton Court in 1530
for Henry VIII (the king who kept beheading his wives).
Golf was banned in England in 1457 because it was considered a distraction from
the serious pursuit of archery.
Old Tom Morris won four British Opens, the last one in 1867. The next year his
son, Young Tom Morris, won the first of his four British Opens.
Dave Winfield, a hall-of-fame outfielder playing for the Yankees
in 1983, was arrested for killing a
seagull with a thrown ball. The cop who arrested him and fans
who witnessed the event claimed that
Winfield hit the bird deliberately. But Yankees manager Billy Martin questioned
whether Winfield possessed the necessary accuracy: "Cruelty to animals? That's the first time he hit the cut-off man
On March 24, 2001, during the seventh inning of a spring training game between
the Diamondback and Giants, a wayward dove flew into a Randy Johnson heater and
literally exploded into a shower of white feathers. The small symbol of
peace did not survive. The event can be viewed on YouTube and there are pictures
of Jeff Kent holding the nude corpse like a tiny plucked turkey.
One stroke below par in golf is called a birdie. Two strokes below par is called
an eagle. In bowling, three consecutive strikes is called a turkey.
Jack Burke Jr. set a PGA record by coming from eight strokes down in the final
round to win the 1956 Masters, defeating the unfortunate Ken Venturi. So who was
the first golfer to tie the new record? It was Venturi, three years later in the
1969 Los Angeles Open.
Dick Stuart, a first baseman for the Pittsburgh Pirates, led the league in errors
a record seven years in a row, from 1958 through 1964. Stuart was renowned for his
atrocious fielding and earned the nicknames "Dr. Strangeglove," "Stonefingers,"
and "The Man with the Iron Glove." Stuart recalled that "One night in
Pittsburgh, 30,000 fans gave me a standing ovation for catching a hotdog wrapper
on the fly." He owned a car with the license plate "E3." His
29 errors at first base in 1963 remain the major-league record for the position.
When the University of Nebraska sells out a home game, the stadium becomes the
state's third largest "city."
Maryland's official sport is jousting.
George Brett once hit a game-losing home run! Brett's apparent
game-winning home run with two on and two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning
in the famous "pine tar" incident. Brett was declared the last
out, so he managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Billiards, now commonly known as "pool," was originally an indoor version of an
outdoor game similar to croquet. The object was to strike a ball with a mallet and
maneuver it around a course faster than one's rivals.
A billiard table's felt is green because grass is green. A "bank shot" is so
called because a billiard table's cushions simulate river banks. The pockets
were originally hazards to be avoided, like those on a golf course. The original
pool cue was called a "mace" because it had a large bulky head similar to a
croquet mallet or putter. The tapered end of a billiard cue was originally used only when
balls were too close to the rails for the bulky head to be employed. Billiards
was a game of kings, lords and the affluent. Bloody Mary complained that her
billiard table had been taken away shortly before her execution. Marie
Antoinette was a billiards enthusiast with a custom-made cue. George Washington
kept a diary of the money he won and lost playing billiards.
A striped billiard ball weighs .1 ounce more than a solid.
Dock Ellis threw a no-hitter while tripping on LSD. Unfortunately, he was unable
to remember his greatest game!
Yankees pitchers Mike Kekich and Fritz Peterson went a step beyond wife-swapping
by swapping their families, kids and all!
In 1870, British boxing champ Jim Mace and American boxer Joe Coburn fought for
nearly four hours without landing a single punch.
The yo-yo was once used by hunters in the Philippines to stun prey from trees.
Imagine how hard it would be to hit a 4-inch-wide NFL goal post with a booted ball. Yet
Chicago placekicker Cody Parkey somehow managed to do it five times in a single
season! The fifth time hurt the most, because it came at the end of the Bears'
16-15 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Wild Card Game in Chicago
on January 6, 2019. To make matters worse, the season-ending kick was a
because it hit the left upright, then the crossbar, before ricocheting the wrong
way, forward into the end zone.
But the playoff kick does not begin to compare to Parkey
hitting the uprights on all four kicks (two field goal
attempts and two extra point attempts) in the Bears' 34-22 victory against the
Lions in Week 10. One wit suggested there must be magnets involved, the
way Parkey's kicks seem to head unerringly toward the uprights. Or perhaps
Parkey made Mr. Magneto angry.
"Pistol" Pete Maravich is the greatest scorer in college basketball history,
with 3,667 points in only three seasons and an average of 44.2 points per game,
without the three
pointer. Second place isn't within 10 points per game (Oscar Robertson with a
33.8 scoring average, followed by Elvin Hayes, Freeman Williams and Larry Bird,
the only other players to average 30 ppg for their careers). Furthermore, John Wooden
called Pistol Pete the greatest ballhandler of all time. Maravich averaged 5.1
assists, so altogether he accounted for 54.4 points per game! And that's with
everyone on the other team knowing who to gang up on. With the three-pointer,
who knows what Maravich could have done?
So who is the greatest three-point shooter in college basketball history?
Fletcher Magee of Wofford is the NCAA's all-time
leading three-point maker with 509. Travis Bader of Oakland is second
with 504. The single-season record holder is slightly less
obscure: Stephen Curry of Davidson.
Larry Bird and Magic Johnson were the two greatest players of their era, or at
least until Michael Jordan started winning rings. Bird and Johnson were both
six-foot-nine and weighed 220 pounds in their primes. They played against each
other for the NCAA championship in 1979. Larry Legend played for Indiana State,
Magic for Michigan State. They both entered the NBA in 1979. They joined the
NBA's two most storied franchises: the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles
Lakers. They were probably the two best-passing big men of all time. Both were
more cerebral than supremely athletic. They both played 13 seasons in the NBA.
They were both three-time MVPs. They both made twelve all-star teams. They both
were all-NBA ten times. In their first seasons, Bird led the Celtics to 61
victories while Johnson led the Lakers to 60 victories. If you add their career
scoring and assist averages per game, Bird averaged 30.6 and Magic averaged
30.7. They both played on the greatest basketball team ever assembled, the famous 1992 American Olympic "Dream Team."
They were, apparently, made for each other. Twin sons of different mothers,
Here are some candidates for the worst sports teams of all time: The 1962 New
York Mets had the most losses and the worst winning percentage in MLB history,
going 40-120. (The Mets were rained out twice, denying them a chance to
"improve" on their record.) The 1972-1973 Philadelphia 76ers went 9-73, setting
an NBA record for the most losses and finishing 59 games out of first place.
However, the 2011-12 Charlotte Bobcats racked up the worst winning percentage in
NBA history (.106) in a strike-shortened year. The Bobcats won their first game
(by one point), then dropped 26 of their next 28 games, before ending the season
on a 23-game losing streak. The 2010-2011 Cleveland Cavaliers set an NBA record
by losing 26 straight games in the season after LeBron James made "The Decision"
to play elsewhere in search of championship rings. The 1986-1987 Los Angeles
Clippers went 12-70 and finished dead last in both scoring and scoring defense.
The 2016 Cleveland Browns went 1-15 but the 2017 Browns were even worse, going
0-16 and setting an NFL record for the most losses in consecutive seasons. But
the Browns barely "won" over the Detroit Lions, who followed up a winless 2008
campaign with a 2-14 season in 2009. The 2008 Lions were amazingly bad on
defense. They were last in the NFL defending the run, 27th in pass defense, and
gave up 32.3 points per game. The 1974-75 Washington Capitals are widely
considered to be the worst team ever to lace on skates. Washington had 21 points
for the entire season, its .131 winning percentage is the worst in NHL history,
and the Caps somehow managed to lose four games by 10 or more goals. Prairie
View A&M lost every game for nearly a decade, 80 in a row, from 1989 to 1998.
While modern basketball prizes "length," thanks to the three-pointer the little
guys are making a comeback. In 2019, for instance, 17 of the top 25 college
scorers were 6-foot-3 or shorter. The NCAA's leading scorer, Chris Clemens of
Campbell College, was only 5-foot-9, but was averaging 30.1 points per game.
Nearly half his shots (46%) were three-pointers. The highest-scoring major
college player, Markus Howard of Marquette, was 5-foot-11 and 42% of his shots
were threes. Bubba Parham, a 5-foot-11 guard for VMI, was scoring 20.8 points
per game by throwing up treys an astonishing 54.9% of the time. What these
mighty mites have in common is that they shoot a
LOT of threes. And it seems the little guys are more accurate
outside shooters than their taller counterparts. Seven of the top ten NCAA
players in three-point accuracy were 6-foot-2 or shorter, and only one was over
6-foot-5. And shorter players were making the most three-pointers as well: 25 of
the top 27 players in terms of "makes" were 6-foot-5 or under, while 13 of the
top 27, or nearly half, were 6-foot-1 or shorter. And the NBA seems to be taking
notice, since 29 of the top 60 players in mock drafts, or virtually half, were
6-foot-6 and under. And so, while the NBA prizes "length," it seems to prize
outside shooting just as much. Perhaps NBA coaches have been taking note of what
undersized guards like Steph Curry, Kemba Walker, Chris Paul, Isaiah Thomas, Ty
Lawson and Kyle Lowry have been "up" to, pardon the pun!
Nazi Germany hosted the 1936 Olympics. Adolph Hitler wanted to prove to the
world that his Aryan "supermen" were superior to people with darker skin.
Swastikas were everywhere. But Jesse Owens disproved Hitler's "superman" theory
by winning gold medals in the 100 meters, 200 meters, long jump, and 4×100 meter
relay. Owens was the most successful athlete at the Games and, being a black
man, was credited with "single-handedly crushing Hitler's myth of Aryan
supremacy." But unfortunately Owens wasn't invited to the White House in those
dark Jim Crow days. That honor was reserved for white athletes. In fact, when
Owens attended a non-presidential reception in his honour at the Waldorf Astoria
hotel, he and his mother had to use the service elevator!
Steve Young, who won the Heisman trophy as a Brigham Young University
quarterback, is the great-great-grandson of Brigham Young.
In 1943, Slingin' Sammy Baugh led the NFL in passing, punting and interceptions
(as a defensive back!). So he had a claim to be the NFL's best offensive player,
its best defensive player and its best special teams player. It may have been
the greatest individual season in NFL history. In 1943, Baugh set an NFL record
by throwing six touchdown passes in a single game. He set another record with
eleven interceptions for the season. And his 45.9 average yards per punt was 8.4
yards better than the league average. That magical year Baugh was like Tom
Brady, Deion Sanders and Reggie Roby—rolled into one! In
1943 he also had the greatest game in NFL history: In a 42-20 win over the
Detroit Lions, Baugh threw four touchdown passes, intercepted four passes and
had an 81-yard punt, the longest of the year! And it wasn't a fluke. Baugh led
the NFL in passing completion percentage nine times. He is the only punter of
his era to average over 45 yards per punt for a career, and he still ranks in
the top 25. His 1940 average of 51.4 yards per punt has stood as the record for
nearly 80 years.
Boxing legend Muhammad Ali won his three heavyweight championships on three
different continents: North America, Asia and Africa.
On March 3, 1985 a new Celtics franchise record was set when Kevin McHale scored
56 points in a game against the Detroit Pistons. Unfortunately for McHale, one
of his teammates was the ultimate alpha male. Nine days later, on March 12,
1985, Larry Bird broke McHale's shiny new record by scoring 60 points against the
Atlanta Hawks. One sportscaster called Bird's performance a "video game" because
he was hitting fade-away jump shots from three-point territory. It
may have been the best "real game" shooting exhibition in NBA history.
Larry Bird, despite standing 6 feet 9 inches and averaging 10.0 rebounds per
game for his career, was one of the best outside shooters in NBA history. He won
the first three three-point shooting contests, hitting nine three-pointers in a
row in one contest, and eight in a row in another.
On Valentines Day, February 14, 1986, Larry Bird told his teammates and the
media that he planned to play the next game left-handed. He ended up scoring ten
field goals with his left hand. Bird finished the game with 47 points, 14
rebounds and 11 assists. He also scored a clutch basket to send the game into OT
and eventually hit the game-winning shot with three seconds left to lift the
Celtics to a 120-119 victory over the Trail Blazers.
Jerry West is famously the NBA's logo. But did you know that the silhouette on
the Major League Baseball logo is Harmon Killebrew?
Tiger Woods' real name is Eldrick Tont Woods. It's hard to imagine his mother
yelling, "Eldrick Tont, finish your veggies before you leave the table!"
The original name for basketball, when invented by Dr. James Naismith, was
"indoor rugby." The name "basketball" was adopted because of the peach baskets
that acted as the original goals.
Gheorghe Mureșan was the tallest NBA player, at 7 feet 7 inches (2.34 meters).
Mureșan is also the tallest living person in the European Union. Manute Bol was
slightly shorter (2.31 meters) and much lighter at only 200 pounds. At 325
pounds, Mureșan outweighed Bol by 125 pounds. Yao Ming and Shawn Bradley were
both 7 feet 6 inches. None of them compare to the tallest human being on record,
Robert Pershing Wadlow, who when last measured was found to be 8 feet 11.1
inches, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
Manute Bol is the only NBA player to have more career blocks than points.
While Andre the Giant was listed as 7 feet 4 inches during his pro wrestling
days, in reality he was "only" around 6 feet 10 inches according to wrestling
historian Dave Meltzer. If you want confirmation, there is a photo of Wilt
Chamberlain, who stood 7 feet 2 inches, standing next to Andre. Chamberlain was
barefoot and Andre was wearing thick heels, but Chamberlain was still around 3
inches taller. Andre was a giant primarily because of his girth and thickness.
His weight was billed as 520 pounds, although that may also have been an
Yogi Berra inspired the name of the famous cartoon character Yogi
Bear. Their names became irretrievably linked, to the extent
that when Yogi Berra died, the Associated Press announced the death
of Yogi Bear to newspapers around the world! (Honest to God, no one can make these things up!)
So how did Lawrence Peter Berra come to be called "Yogi" in the first place? Was
he really a swami? No, but he used to sit cross-legged in the on-deck circle. One of
his friends started calling him "Yogi" and the nickname stuck.
Only two players in the history of major league baseball have made the exclusive
30-30 Club five times. The first to do it was Bobby Bonds. Who was the second?
His son, Barry Bonds! The power-speed genes obviously run in that family!
Did you know that Babe Ruth once threw a perfect game? Well, sorta.
During a 1917 game against the Washington Senators, Ruth was the starting
pitcher for the Boston Red Sox. Ruth walked the first batter on four pitches, argued vehemently with home plate umpire
Brick Owens, slugged him, and got ejected. Ruth's replacement, Ernie Shore,
promptly picked off the runner on first base, then retired the next 26 batters,
finishing baseball's wildest and most improbable
"perfect game." But if the keen-eyed Ruth was correct that the first batter
shouldn't have been awarded first base, it really was a perfect game!
Babe Ruth was the best left-handed pitcher of his era, and Red Sox manager Ed
Barrow was understandably reluctant to tamper with success by letting him play
in the outfield. But in 1918 when Barrow finally agreed to let the Bambino play on
his non-pitching days, Ruth hit home runs in four consecutive games and the rest―as
they say―is history.
Moon Shots and Spitballs
Gaylord Perry was a notoriously weak hitter. For seven major league seasons and
over 300 plate appearances, he failed to hit a single dinger. San Francisco Giants manager Alvin
Dark joked with reporters, saying: "They'll put a man on the moon before Gaylord
Perry hits a home run!" Then on July 20, 1969, a matter of minutes after Neil
Armstrong set foot on the moon, Gaylord Perry hit his first major league home run!
Was it written in the stars, perhaps? Or are we trapped in the Twilight Zone?
Gaylord Perry had nothing on Bartolo Colon, who hit his
first-ever home run when he was 42 years, 349 days old! No major leaguer had
ever waited until such an advanced age to hit his first four-bagger. "You could tell
it was his first home run," quipped Jimmy Fallon, "because at each base, he
stopped to ask directions to the next one." Unfamiliar territory indeed!
Colon was also the oldest major leaguer to earn his first walk, which he did at
the ripe young age of 43! In 521 major league games, Colon managed to
walk exactly once, raising his career OBP to a scintillating .095! In 316 career
plate appearances, Colon has one walk and one home run ... but he is rapidly
Speaking of "moon shots," Lefty Gomez helped baffled scientists identify one:
"When Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon, he and all the space scientists
were puzzled by an unidentifiable white object. I knew immediately what it was.
That was a home-run ball hit off me in 1937 by Jimmie Foxx!" In 1937, Foxx hit a ball into the third deck of the
left-field stands at Yankee Stadium, a very rare feat because of the distance
and angle of the stands. Gomez was the pitcher that day, and when he was asked
how far the ball traveled, he said, "I don't know, but I do know it took
somebody 45 minutes to go up there and get it back!" The big fish tale
apparently grew and grew until it reached lunar proportions!
Getting back to Gaylord Perry ... in a roundabout way he helped create the TV show
Cheers. In 1971, Perry was traded for "Sudden" Sam McDowell, a
flame-throwing pitcher and the 1970 Sporting News Player of the Year.
After the trade, McDowell's career tanked, while Perry went on to win two Cy
Young awards and make the Hall of Fame. When McDowell retired, his strikeout
rate of 8.86 per nine innings was second only to Nolan Ryan and Sandy Koufax.
McDowell later admitted that his "flameout" was due to his abuse of alcohol,
amphetamines and barbiturates. Eventually, McDowell's life became the model for
Ted Danson's party-boy character Sam Malone, so "cheers" to Gaylord Perry.
Sam McDowell still insists that he was better with the ladies than Sam Malone!)
In his very first at-bat, future Hall of Fame knuckleballer Hoyt Wilhelm
hit a home run. His career lasted 21 more years and 493 plate appearances, but
he never hit another homer. Wilhelm is also unusual because he didn't debut as a
rookie until he was 29 years old, but then played to age 49. He retired with 143
wins, 228 saves and a gaudy 2.52 ERA. Oh, and that one freakish homer to go with
his career .088 batting average!
Okay, there is something very fishy about these knuckleballers and their solo
career homers! In 1976, Joe Niekro hit his one and only MLB home run. But it
seems very "taterish" because the pitcher who served up the gopher ball was
another knuckleballer ... his brother Phil!
Who were the last brothers to lead a league in
wins? Who was the last pitcher to lead a league in wins and losses in the same
season? It's those weird knuckleballers again! In 1979, Phil Niekro
went 21-20 for the Atlanta Braves, leading the league in both wins and
losses. The same year his brother Joe went 21-11 for the Houston Astros, tying
Phil for the NL wins title!
Who is the best starting pitcher of all time according to the ERA+ statistic?
ERA+ adjusts ERAs to account for differences in eras (please pardon the pun!).
According to ERA+, Clayton Kershaw is the best starting pitcher of all time,
with an astronomical 161. But here come those weird knuckleballers again,
because Hoyt Wilhem is tied with Walter Johnson for sixth place with an utterly
stellar 147, comfortably ahead of pitching luminaries like Roger Clemens, Cy
Young, Christy Mathewson, Pete Alexander, Whitey Ford, Randy Johnson and Sandy
Now here's a very tricky question. Walter Johnson is generally considered to
be the greatest pitcher of all time. His career ERA was a miniscule 2.167.
Clayton Kershaw's career ERA is currently 2.363. Which two Hall-of-Fame pitchers
will Kershaw have to pass in order to catch the Big Train? Here's a hint: the
first HOF pitcher is Eddie Plank, with a brilliant 2.350 ERA. So who's the
other? None other than Babe Ruth, with a glittering career ERA of 2.277! And
while Kershaw could conceivably catch the Bambino in the pitching stats, it
seems safe to say that Kershaw won't challenge Ruth's batting stats anytime
soon. Kershaw has a miniscule 6 OPS+ and one homer in ten seasons.
Okay, back to moon shots! Babe Ruth certainly knew how to go out with a bang.
Make that a triple bang, because his last three hits were all home runs! Oh, and
his very last home run was the first ever to leave Pittsburgh’s venerable Forbes
Field and remains the longest drive ever hit there (for all eternity, since the park
has since been replaced). It was 1935 and a 40-year-old Babe Ruth was playing for the Braves
against the homestanding Pittsburg Pirates. In the first inning, batting against
Red Lucas, Ruth lofted career home run number 712 into the right field stands to
give the Braves a quick 2-0 lead. Ruth then hit another two-run blast, number
713, in the third inning off Guy Bush. In the fifth, Ruth hit a RBI single off
Bush. But the Pirates clawed back to take a 7-5
lead. With Bush still pitching, Ruth came up with the bases empty in the
seventh. "By now the home crowd was solidly on the Bambino's side and rooted
enthusiastically for more of his old magic." The Babe obliged by slamming home
run number 714. This blast bettered the Babe's earlier efforts by "majestically
clearing Forbes Field’s right field roof—for the first time in the ballpark's
26-year history." Once again, Ruth had gone where no man had gone before. Two weeks
later the Babe retired, but we can always remember him by that magnificent
parting shot. (Someone will undoubtedly discover the ball on Venus or Mars one
So who hit the longest "moon shot" of all time? In 1953, Mickey Mantle hit a
mammoth blast against Chuck Stobbs of the Senators, in Washington's Griffith
Stadium. The Yankees' Arthur "Red" Patterson estimated its distance at 565 feet. He allegedly used a tape measure to determine the exact
distance of the home run, giving birth to the term "tape-measure shot."
Ironically, the 21-year-old Mantle was almost declared out because he put his
head down to avoid "showing up" the pitcher and nearly passed Billy Martin on
the basepaths (Mantle was very fast and Martin was lollygagging).
But wait a minute! Apparently, Mantle was just getting warmed up! He is said to
have also hit home runs of 620, 630, 643, 650 and 656 feet. Beginning with the
blast in Washington, Mantle "went on a tear of longball hitting the likes of
which had never been seen." Long distance homers became a topic of animated
conversation. During one game Yankees hall-of-fame catcher Bill Dickey was
arguing that Babe Ruth and Jimmy Foxx had both hit balls farther than the Mick.
But after Mantle hit one of his gargantuan blasts in that game, Dickey did a
complete about-face: "Forget what I just said. I've never seen a ball hit that
Mickey Mantle said that the hardest ball he ever hit came on May 22,
1963 at Yankee Stadium. Mantle was leading off in the bottom of the 11th, with
the score tied 7-7. A's pitcher Bill Fischer tried to blow a fastball past him.
Bad idea. Mantle stepped into the pitch with perfect timing, met the ball with
the sweet spot of his bat, and hit it with everything he had (which was a lot of
toned muscle.) The sound of the bat colliding with the ball has been likened to
a cannon shot. The players on both benches jumped to their feet. Yogi Berra
shouted, "That's it!" The ball rose in a majestic laser-like drive, rocketing
into the night toward the farthest confines of Yankee Stadium. The question was
not whether it was a home run. The question was whether this was going
to be the first ball ever hit out of Yankee Stadium.
It had the height and distance. But would it clear the façade of the third deck in
right-field? Even Mantle was mesmerized: "I usually didn't care how far the ball
went so long as it was a home run. But this time I thought, 'This ball could go
out of Yankee Stadium!'" Just as the ball was about to leave the park, it
struck the façade mere inches from the top with such ferocity that it bounced
all the way back to the infield. That the homer had won the game was merely an
afterthought. The Mick had just missed making history. It was the closest a ball
has ever come to going out of Yankee Stadium in a regular season game. Later, it
was estimated that the ball would have traveled 734 feet if it hadn't hit the
So it seems Mickey Mantle was the strongest of all baseball's power hitters. But
who was the fastest? Incredibly, it may have been the strongman, Mickey Mantle,
who was allegedly timed going from home to first in 3.1 seconds. According to
The Sporting News, when manager Casey
Stengel saw Mantle work out, he said: "My God, the boy runs faster than
In 1961, Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth's record for hitting the most home runs in
a season, with 61. That's an interesting coincidence, because if we flip over
the 19 in 1961, we have three matching 61's! Now here's a test of your baseball
trivia powers. In 1961, Maris had 61 homers, 141 RBI, 366 total bases and
slugged .620. That's one of the greatest power-hitting seasons in MLB history!
So how many times was Maris walked intentionally that year? Hey, no cheating! If
you scroll down past the
REVENGE OF BASEBALL'S BEAN COUNTERS
article, you can find the answer. But please take an honest guess first! Here's
a clue: When Mark McGwire broke Maris's record in 1998, he had 28 intentional
walks. Here's another clue: When Barry Bonds broke McGwire's record in 2001, he
had 35 intentional walks. If you come within 5 of the correct answer, you can
declare yourself a winner!
In 1968 Bob Gibson had an insane ERA of 1.12 and limited opposing batters to a
miniscule .233 on-base percentage. In an interesting
synchronicity, Gibson had a .233 OBP as a batter that year, so he turned the
entire NL into weak-hitting pitchers.
Rick Wise threw a no-hitter against the fabled Big Red Machine on June 23, 1971. In the
same game Wise
also hit two homers, a feat no other MLB pitcher has ever achieved while
throwing a no-no.
By 1925, Babe Ruth had become so overweight and ill that he experienced "the
bellyache heard 'round the world." At age 30, he didn't just seem to be washed
up; he seemed to be dying. In fact, The London Evening News reported
his death in an obituary which said that due to his portliness Ruth wore braces
(suspenders) rather than a belt and this had "started the fashion for braces in
the U.S." Canadian papers also announced the Babe's death. While Ruth wasn't
dead, he seemed to be well on his way. The Bambino collapsed on a train and
because he was so large, a hole had to be cut into the car before medics could
extract him. He had three convulsive attacks while on the stretcher and
it took six men to hold him down. Ruth did eventually recover, after missing
much of the 1925 season. The day he returned to the lineup, a young teammate
broke into the Yankee lineup. His name was Lou Gehrig and he started his streak
of 2,130 consecutive games played that very same day. Ruth would go on to play
at an ultra-high level till age 39, defying all the rules of "proper nutrition"
and―seemingly―physics. He and Gehrig would become the most
"offensive" duo in the history of major league baseball.
Babe Ruth was the greatest power hitter in World Series history, with 15 homers
in 167 plate appearances (Mickey Mantle had 18, but it took him more than 100
additional plate appearances). But Ruth may have also been the best pitcher in
World Series history, with a 3-0 record and a miniscule .87 ERA. He pitched 29
2/3 scoreless innings, a World Series record that would stand for 42 years.
Hey, Philadelphia is supposed to be the city of brotherly love! So how did nearby
rival Pittsburgh replace Philly in brotherly affection? Well, in the eighth inning of
a game at Pittsburg on September 15, 1963, for the first time in MLB history,
three brothers played together in the same outfield! The brothers were Felipe,
Jesus and Matty Alou.
When Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak ended in 1941, he immediately went on
another 16-game spree. So Joltin' Joe had at least one hit in 72 of 73 games!
Pete Rose had the second-longest hitting streak of the modern era, 44 games, in
1978. Since Rose's streak, no one has really come that close. Is the Yankee
untouchable? Right now it certainly seems that way. But ironically the player
who came closest to matching DiMaggio happened to also do it in 1941, and in the
same league, no less! In 1941, Ted Williams had a streak of reaching base in 69
consecutive games. He hit .406 and that's the last time anyone crossed the
magical .400 barrier for a complete season. How good was Teddy Ballgame? Well,
in 1949 he reached base officially 84 games in a row, or over half the damn
season! So the two greatest players of their era hold two very similar
records. But wait ... the story isn't over yet! ... because in 1957 at the
advanced age of 38, the Splendid Splinter had an on-base percentage of .526! So
he was on base more than half the time, for an entire season! That's crazy ...
for anyone else. But not for Williams, who finished with the highest career OBP
in major league baseball history, a phenomenal .482. Thus, he was on base nearly
every other at-bat for his entire freakin' career! And he also
holds the record with 17 consecutive seasons with a .400 OBP or higher. But this
may be the craziest stat of all: he only had one season with an OBP lower than
.436, and that was when he was 40 years old! Oh, and the next season, at age 41,
he was back up to .451! Now I understand what Williams was called The Greatest
Hitter Who Ever Lived. He definitely earned it, if the goal of hitting is to get
on base rather than make outs.
How on earth did Harvey Haddix manage to lose the best-pitched game in the
history of major league baseball? And how did a perfect game turn into an utter
farce? Pitching for the Pirates against a loaded Braves lineup in 1959, Haddix
threw 12 innings of perfect baseball: 36 batters up, 36 batters out. But then in
the unlucky 13th an error, sacrifice and intentional walk to Hank Aaron brought
Joe Adcock to the plate with a runner in scoring position. Adcock hit a
Kafkaesque out-of-the-park "double" and the perfect game was lost 1-0, with the
strangest of all possible endings when Adcock passed Aaron celebrating on the
basepaths and their runs were negated. Lew Burdette, the Milwaukee pitcher that
day, later said: "I have to be the greatest pitcher who ever pitched, because I
beat the guy who pitched the greatest game ever pitched!" (Ironically, Burdette
had been the opposing pitcher when Haddix won his first big-league game.) Elroy
Face, the first great Pirates reliever, also called it the best game ever
pitched. Haddix stood only 5-9, weighed just 155 pounds and was nicknamed "the
Kitten," so he seemed like an unlikely candidate to throw the most dominating
game in MLB history. But he did. How? With pinpoint control. Haddix later
explained: "I could have put a cup on either corner of the plate and hit it."
Bill Mazeroski, the great defensive second baseman, called it the easiest game
he ever played because there were no hard-hit balls or difficult outs. And yet
the most perfect of games was lost. As Yogi Berra would say, "You could look it
up." And we might add that fact really is stranger than fiction ... in
baseball's Twilight Zone.
TRIVIA ANSWER: In 1961, when Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth's
record for hitting the most home runs in a season, he had ZERO
intentional walks. How is that possible? Well, he had Mickey Mantle hitting
behind him, and that year Mantle hit 54 homers and slugged .687 with an
astronomical 206 OPS+. The numbers don't lie ... as great as Maris was in 1961,
Mantle was even better! And opposing pitchers confirmed it.
We will start this wonderfully weird section with our third and last trivia question. How is this
even possible? Which
hall-of-fame pitcher won 20 or more games a staggering 15 times, but never once
won the Cy Young Award? What a travesty! Here's a hint: He had a glittering
career ERA of 2.63, just a few ticks behind the poetic duo of Noodles Hahn and Hippo Vaughn. Give
up? Well, of course it was Cy Young himself!
There are some questionable members of the Baseball Hall of Fame, perhaps none
more questionable than catcher Rick Ferrell, who was not even the best player in
his immediate family! Rick Ferrell finished his career with only 29.8 WAR, a .363
slugging percentage and a less-than-stellar OPS+ of 95. Wes Ferrell was a pitcher whose 61.6 WAR
vastly eclipsed his brother's. And according to baseball metrics, despite being
a pitcher, Wes was the better hitter as well, with a .446 slugging percentage
and OPS+ of 100!
Who was the oddest MVP of all time? Probably Zolio Versalles, the AL MVP in
1965 when he hit .273 with a .319 OBP and led the league in strikeouts (122)
and errors (39). After his MVP season, Versalles never hit higher than .249, never had
an OBP over .307, and despite being only 25 when he won the MVP award, had
negative 2.4 WAR for the rest of his career. Versalles finished his career with only 12.5 WAR and
a not-so-sterling 82 OPS+.
Stolen Base Strangeness
How did all-time stolen base leader Rickey Henderson miss three games due to
frostbite, in August? (He fell asleep on an ice pack.)
Speaking of steals ... if Rickey Henderson was the best base-stealer of all time, who was the worst
ever? Ironically, according to stolen base percentage, it
was the greatest baseball player of all time, Babe Ruth! From 1920 to 1935 the
Bambino stole 110 bases and was caught 117 times, for a "success" rate of .485
(the lowest for a player with at least 200 career attempts). But hold on, there's
another candidate for the worst base-stealer of all time, thanks to a metric
called wSB. There was one player―and only one―with
a worse career wSB than Babe Ruth. So who on earth was it? Well, we don't have to look
very far. It was Lou Gehrig, who hit immediately behind Ruth for
For a decade, from 1949 to 1958, Yogi Berra hit 257 home runs and struck out 250
times. Just in case that didn't sink in, let me repeat it a different way: Yogi
Berra had more home runs than strikeouts for a freakin' decade! And to make
matters worse (or better), he was a notorious bad-ball hitter! How the hell did
he do it? In 1950, Berra hit 28 homers and had an insanely low 12 strikeouts.
Most modern sluggers could strike out 12 times in a doubleheader!
But amazingly, Berra was not even the best player on his own team in this
category. From 1937 to 1941, his teammate Joe DiMaggio averaged 34 home runs per
season, but only 24 strikeouts.
In the early 1930's, someone protested that Babe Ruth was demanding more money
than President Hoover made, for playing a game! The quick-witted Babe had
the perfect retort for those Great Depression days: "I had a better year than he
Here are ten things you may not know about Babe Ruth: (1) He was apparently born
for baseball: as a boy in Baltimore, he lived on the site of what later became
Oriole Stadium in Camden Yards. (2) He was apparently also born to drink, as he
lived above a saloon his father owned! (3) Ruth was drinking before he turned
eight, and was sent to a reform school as incorrigible. (4) Ruth was destined to
be a shirtmaker, before he signed with his hometown Orioles (then a
minor league team) at age nineteen. (5) The Orioles were struggling financially
and quickly sold Ruth's contract to the Red Sox. On his first day in Boston,
Ruth allegedly met the girl he would marry and won the first game he pitched.
(6) Ruth quickly became a star pitcher with the lowest ERA (2.19) and highest
winning percentage (.659) among AL lefties. (7) Ruth posted a 0.87 ERA in three
World Series starts and his record of 29 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings in
the Fall Classic stood from 1918 until Whitey Ford broke it in 1961. (8) Ruth
hit his first major league home run against his future team, the Yankees.
When Ruth demanded a raise in 1919, his contract was sold to the Yankees for
$100,000 and a $300,000 loan secured by Fenway Park. This sale apparently
ushered in the "Curse of the Bambino," as the Red Sox would fail to win a single
World Series while the Yankees were winning twenty from 1920-1964. (9) Babe
Ruth hit the first home run in Yankee Stadium, the "house that Ruth built" and
which was built to favor his bat. How many home runs would Mickey Mantle, Willie
Mays and Hank Aaron have hit, if someone had built stadiums to suit them, one
wonders? (10) Babe Ruth played himself in four movies, including Pride of
the Yankees (for which he lost 40 pounds to play his younger self).
The most earthshaking trade in baseball history didn't happen and may have
prevented fans in two major cities from going insane! In 1947 the Red Sox and
Yankees had a verbal agreement to trade Ted Williams for Joe DiMaggio. What a
conundrum it would have been, for Yankee fans to cheer "Mr. Boston Red Sox"
while Bostonians were cheering for the "Yankee Clipper" ... the mind boggles!
But the trade didn't happen because Tom Yawkey, the owner of the Red Sox, wanted
Yogi Berra to be included, but Larry MacPhail, the general manager of the
Yankees, refused. Thus the tenuous sanity of Red Sox and Yankee fans was preserved!
No, the Cardinals were not named after birds or exalted priests. In 1899 a woman in
the stands gushed about the players' uniforms containing a "lovely shade of
cardinal." St. Louis Republic reporter Willie McHale overheard her and
included her remark in his column the next day. The rest, as they say, is
history. But then shouldn't it be "cardinal" singular?
In 1972, Mike Kekich and his teammate Fritz Peterson traded families. They
swapped wives, children, dogs and houses!
Related Pages: All-Time Cincinnati Reds Baseball Team,
The Greatest Baseball Infields of All Time,
Cincinnati Reds Trivia,
Is Mike Trout the GOAT?,
Best Baseball Nicknames,
Mike Trout Nicknames,
Weird Baseball Facts and Trivia,
Baseball Hall of Fame: The Best Candidates,
Why Pete Rose Should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame,
Big Red Machine Chronology,
Baseball's All-Time Leaders in WAR per Season,
Baseball's All-Time Leaders in WAR7,
Who is the NBA
The Best Tennessee Vols Basketball Teams and Players of All Time,