Column: Random facts for a final column
In 1962, the expansion New York Mets were possibly the worst baseball team of all time, with a record of 40-120. One of its picks in the expansion draft was the (terrible) catcher Choo Choo Coleman. When a reporter asked Mets manager Casey Stengel why they had drafted Coleman first, Stengel explained, “You gotta have a catcher. If you don’t, the ball rolls all the way back to the backstop.”
That same year, the Mets acquired catcher Harry Chiti from the Cleveland Indians for a player to be named later. Chiti was so terrible that when it came time for the Mets to trade a player back to the Indians, they sent Chiti, making him the first baseball player ever to be traded for himself.
It’s hard to argue against Bill Russell’s 1957-1969 Celtics, which won 11 championships in 13 years, as the greatest dynasty in major professional team sports. They won their first championship in 1957 in particularly absurd fashion. The seventh game against the St. Louis Hawks went into double overtime (Russell had 32 rebounds!). With one second left, St. Louis player-coach Alex Hannum drew up a play wherein he threw a baseball pass the length of the court from under his own basket, hoping to bounce it off the backboard to star forward Bob Pettit. Hannum threw the pass perfectly, and it actually worked, bouncing straight to Pettit, but Pettit missed the shot from near the foul line. The Celtics went on to win 10 more finals during Russell’s career.
The only player to score 100 points in a Division I college basketball game was Furman guard Frank Selvy, who scored 100 against Newberry College in 1954. Selvy later missed a shot that could have won the seventh game of the 1962 NBA Finals for the Lakers against the Celtics.
Wilt Chamberlain was so afraid of fouling out that he would effectively stop playing defense when he got five fouls. He never fouled out in his career.
Look up outfielder Hal Chase. There are too many stories for me to tell, but if you think any athletes are crooked today, you should look at Chase.
In the 1960 NFL Championship game, the Green Bay Packers played the Philadelphia Eagles. With time running out and the Eagles ahead 17-13, Philadelphia linebacker Chuck Bednarik tackled Green Bay running back Jim Taylor at the eight-yard line. To prevent the Packers from running another play, Bednarik simply sat on Taylor until time ran out. Bednarik was also the last true two-way player, playing middle linebacker and center for the Eagles for 14 years. He was a tough dude.
The youngest player ever to play in Major League Baseball was 15-year-old Joe Nuxhall, who pitched two-thirds of an inning for the Reds during 1944, when baseball was decimated by the war. Nuxhall got the first batter out, but then gave up five walks, two hits, one wild pitch and five runs before being removed. He returned to the Reds in 1952 and held the team’s career record for games pitched from 1965 to 1975.
There was a player drafted in the 1997 NBA Draft whose name is God Shammgod. Shammgod went to Providence University, was drafted by Washington and has played professionally in China, Saudi Arabia and Poland. And his name is God Shammgod. God Shammgod.
Larry Bird once got so bored in a game against the Atlanta Hawks that he started shooting with his left hand for fun.
Pete Maravich is still the all-time leading scorer in NCAA Division I history, despite playing for only three seasons (during his career, freshmen could not play varsity) and without a three-point line. He averaged 44.2 points per game during his college career and shot from so far out that with a three-point line it probably would have been more than 50 under today’s rules.
Finally, a story of an old-time baseball player and manager ... I think it’s Jesse Burkett, but I can’t remember. Anyway, this manager was well-liked by the fans, and one game he was presented with a gold watch as a gift (this sort of thing happened in those days). He didn’t want to ruin the watch on the field, so he gave it to the umpire to hold, and the umpire obliged. Later there was a call he disagreed with, so he ran over to the umpire to argue. They talked for a few minutes until the umpire finally got fed up and told Burkett he had one minute to get off the field. He pulled out a watch to keep the time. Burkett, worked up into a fury by the call, snatched the watch out of the umpire’s hand, threw it on the ground, stomped on it and kicked it all over the field.
Only after he got back to the dugout did he realize that he had spent the last couple minutes destroying his own brand new watch. Oops.
Thanks for reading the random things I’ve written, if you have.