10 Crazy Urban Legends From the World of Sports

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When it comes to sports, there are a lot of weird, wild stories. Some are just so unbelievable that they couldn’t be real, yet so weird that it’s hard to believe someone simply made them up. These are some of the strangest, craziest tales in the world of sports. Some are true, some are false, and some find a comfortable middle ground with a little from each column.

10. Elvis Stojko Pummeled Eric Lindros

Elvis Stojko

One urban legend that’s especially popular in Canada is that in 1992, 5-foot-7, 156 pound figure skater Elvis Stojko got into a bar fight with Philadelphia Flyers’ captain Eric Lindros. Lindros stood 6-foot-4, weighed 237 pounds and was known for his physical game. Yet apparently Stojko was able to beat the maple syrup out of Lindros.

No one is really sure where the rumor got started, but the story spread quickly. Around the time it originated, Lindros was having some legal problems after an incident in November of 1992, when he was accused of pouring a beer on a woman and then spitting a mouthful at her. This gave Lindros a bit of a reputation that he was a bar-brawler, which gave the story some credibility. But there’s no truth to the story. In reality, Stojko and Lindros are friends and even joke about the myth.

9. The Ultimate Warrior Died in 1991

ultimatewarrior

After Summer Slam in 1991, the incredibly eccentric Ultimate Warrior disappeared from the WWF (now known as the WWE), only to return the next year at WrestleMania VIII. The Warrior ran down to help Hulk Hogan, who was being beaten up by two other wrestlers. That’s when people started to notice that something was different about the Warrior after his return. He seemed to be “fleshier”, and his hair was shorter and blonder. Since he wore so much face paint, it was hard to tell if it was him, especially since using replacements was a common ploy in the WWF. It seemed plausible this was a new man pretending to be the Warrior, and the story took an odd turn when people became convinced that the original Ultimate Warrior died in 1991 from liver failure due to steroid abuse. The other theory was that his arm tassels had cut off his circulation, which seems too ridiculous even for pro wrestling.

Of course, none of this was true. Jim Hellwig was always the Ultimate Warrior, and legally changed his name to Warrior in 1993. Warrior died at the age of 54 in 2014, two days after appearing at WrestleMania XXX and the day after his last public appearance on Raw.

8. Wade Boggs Pounded 64 Beers on One Flight

Boggs

There are a few legendary partiers in the sports world, but one man that sticks out is Hall of Fame third baseman Wade Boggs. The legend goes that while Boggs was playing for the Red Sox, he was on a cross-country flight and managed to pack away a mind-blowing 64 cans of beer.

Boggs has never confirmed or denied this, but plenty of witnesses have attested to Boggs’ love of beer. For example, former Yankee teammates Jeff Nelson and Paul Sorrento said that on flights from New York to Seattle, Boggs would start drinking as they drove out of New York to New Jersey, where they would board a plane, and he would drink throughout the flight. Boggs would buy more beer in North Dakota as the plane refueled and kept right on drinking even after the team arrived at the clubhouse. Nelson and Sorrento said Boggs would put away 50-70 beers every trip. Other evidence that might prove that the story is true is that after Boggs appeared on the television show It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia in 2015, one of the stars of the show, Charlie Day, said that Boggs told him it was more like 107 beers.

Regardless if the actual number is true; one thing that everyone can agree on is that Boggs really, really likes Miller Lite.

7. The Legendary Josh Gibson

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It’s a sad reality that segregation dictated much of American history, extending to professional sports. As a result, some amazing athletes were never allowed to play in Major League Baseball and were either forced to play in the Negro League or in South America. One such man was a legendary player named Josh Gibson, who had the nickname “The Black Babe Ruth.” Gibson played catcher in the Negro League and in Mexico and was, by all accounts, an amazing hitter. Over the course of his 17-year career, his lifetime batting average was reported anywhere from .350 to .384, with more than 800 home runs, including a rumored season of 84 dingers. Witnesses said he regularly sent balls flying over 500 feet, with one supposedly measured at 580 feet away from home plate. For perspective, Babe Ruth‘s 575-foot blast is thought to be the longest ever recorded.

Sadly, Gibson died at the age of 35 in 1947, just three months before Jackie Robinson would debut in the Major Leagues. Gibson has basically become a folk hero, and no one knows for sure if his records are correct. After all, they’re almost too amazing. His lifetime batting average is in the realms of “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, and his home run record in one season is 11 more than the record currently held by Barry Bonds. Due to Gibson’s amazing feats, some people have wondered if the stats are embellished. In any event, baseball experts agree that Gibson was one of the best baseball players who never got to play in Major League Baseball.

6. “God” Phoned Reggie White

reggie white

Coming out of college, defensive football player Reggie White was a hot prospect. He signed with the United States Football League, which launched in 1983 to compete against the NFL. After Donald Trump put the USFL into an early grave, White signed with the Philadelphia Eagles, where he was an outstanding player for eight seasons, making the Pro Bowl every year that he played.

In 1993, White and a group of other players won a landmark court case leading to the implementation of unrestricted free agency. On something of a whim, White decided to visit Green Bay while choosing his new team. There were a lot of reasons White wouldn’t sign with Green Bay. It was a small, cold, and the franchise didn’t spend much on players. Yet out of all the teams in the NFL, White ended up signing with the Packers.

How? Well, White said in an interview that he would go where God wanted him to play, so the story goes that Green Bay coach Mike Holmgren called White’s number and left a message on his answering machine saying, “Reggie, this is God. Come to Green Bay.” A short time later, White signed a four year contract for $17 million per year. Holmgren claims the story is true, but White never confirmed it. White played with the Packers for six seasons, winning Super Bowl XXXI in 1997 in a game where White got three sacks. He retired after the 2000 season and passed away in 2004.

5. Gaylord Perry’s Moon Shot

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Gaylord Perry pitched for 22 seasons in the big leagues, making five All-Star teams and becoming the first pitcher to win the Cy Young in both the AL and the NL. However, the most famous story about him doesn’t involve his pitching, but his hitting. The story is that in 1963, Perry apparently said that “they would put a man on the moon before I hit a home run.” On July 20, 1969, just hours after Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, Perry hit his one and only home run.

Like some of the best urban legends, there is a bit of truth to the tale. First off, Perry did hit his only home run on July 20, 1969. As for who exactly said that there would be a man on the moon before he hit a home run is up for debate. Some accounts say that Perry said it himself while others said that the manager of the San Francisco Giants, Alvin Dark, made the quip to a sportswriter. There’s also confusion on when exactly the quote was said, with a time span ranging from 1963 to 1968. However, what is known is that while Perry was a great pitcher, he was a terrible batter and it’s highly possible that someone made the comment at some point, because apparently having a name like “Gaylord” wasn’t enough fodder for his teammates in the clubhouse.

4. The 1994 Shell Caribbean Cup Incident

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This odd incident happened in 1994, when Grenada and Barbados were playing a match in the Shell Caribbean Cup soccer tournament. Barbados was leading 2-1 when they purposely scored on their own net to tie things up. That goal led to them advancing in the tournament, which probably makes no sense, but this urban legend is completely true.

Both teams were in the group stage and in order to advance, Barbados needed to win by two clear goals. If Grenada lost by one goal, tied, or won, they would move on. As the match progressed, Barbados decided to take advantage of a new rule that was introduced in the tournament. The rule stated that if a team won in a shootout, they would be credited as winning by two goals. The logic behind the rule was that a shootout was difficult and the winning team would only win by one goal, so the tournament officials thought it would be fairer that a team could win by two for making it through the game and winning the shootout.

Barbados was aware of the strange rule, so in the 87th minute, they scored on their own net. The Grenada players were stunned until it dawned on them what was happening. They frantically tried to score on their own net, but it didn’t work. They went to penalty kicks, where Barbados won and advanced to the second round.

3. The Ghost of George Gipp

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George Gipp was one of the best all-around football players to ever play at Notre Dame, but now is mostly remembered for a soundbite from then-actor and future-President Ronald Reagan in the movie Knute Rockne, All American. The start of the legend begins two weeks after being chosen as an All-American in 1920, when Gipp returned to campus after curfew and found his dorm locked. He was forced to sleep outside, which is how he caught pneumonia and was hospitalized.

On his deathbed, Gipp got a visit from Rockne, with Gipp famously saying, “Some time, Rock, when the team is up against it, when things are wrong and the breaks are beating the boys, tell them to go in there with all they’ve got and win just one for the Gipper. I don’t know where I’ll be then, Rock. But I’ll know about it, and I’ll be happy.”

After Gipp’s death, there were a number of ghost sightings on the Notre Dame campus. Whether it was his ghost or not, the spirit of Gipp was alive in Notre Dame’s football program. In 1928, Notre Dame trailed Army 6-0 at halftime, when Rockne delivered his now famous halftime speech and rallied the Irish to a 12-6 win. As for how much of the story is true is debatable. The reality is Gipp probably contracted strep throat during a game against Northwestern, and in the days before antibiotics, there wasn’t much that could have been done for him. Chances are Rockne made up the inspirational deathbed story as well, which is kind of a jerk move in retrospect, considering he basically used a friend’s death to get a win.

2. Kevin Costner and Cal Ripken’s Wife

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One of the most incredible records in baseball belongs to Cal Ripken, Jr., who shattered Lou Gehrig’s “unbeatable” iron man streak. Gehrig set his record in 1939 after playing in 2,130 consecutive games, but according to one urban legend that streak almost wasn’t broken, all because of Kevin Costner.

The story goes that after Costner finished shooting The Postman, Ripken allowed him to stay at his house in August of 1997. As Ripken was driving to the ballpark for his game, he realized he forgot something and turned around to get it. When he walked in, he found Costner in bed with his wife and proceeded to beat the holy hell out of Crash Davis. The beating was so bad that Costner couldn’t do promotional work for weeks after the incident. As for Ripken, he was in no shape to play. He had just beaten up a movie star and was distraught about his wife. He called the owner of the Orioles and told him he wasn’t coming in, until he was reminded him of the streak. When Cal said the streak was over, it didn’t sit well with the owner, so he said there was an “electrical failure” at the stadium and canceled the game. The next day, the lights were working again and Ripken was able to continue the streak.

While Costner probably deserved a beating for making The Postman, it simply never happened. A game on August 17, 1997, was cancelled but there was an actual electrical failure. The game was postponed by the umpire and Ripken was at the stadium, ready to play. Both Costner and Ripken have denied that this ever happened as well. Ripken would go on to play in 2,632 consecutive games and finally sat out one on September 20, 1998.

1. Michael Jordan’s Gambling Debt

michael jordan

In 1993, Michael Jordan led the Chicago Bulls to their third NBA Championship before stunning the world and announcing his retirement mere months later at the age of 30. He cited fatigue, as well as his continued grief over the murder of his father, who’d been killed earlier that summer. His retirement only lasted about a year and a half, when he returned to the NBA and ultimately led the Bulls to another three-peat.

Jordan’s sudden retirement and his quick return led to a conspiracy theory based on his notorious gambling habit. As the story goes, Jordan’s gambling had spiraled out of control, so David Stern gave him a secret suspension disguised as a retirement in order to spare Jordan and the league any embarrassment. At the time, it was estimated that Jordan was responsible for a $10 billion economic impact, so a vice like gambling would have given the league a black eye.

But, is it true? Well, only a handful of people, like Jordan and Stern, know for sure. However, one thing that is known is that Jordan liked to gamble on the golf course. It first came to light in 1992, when Jordan had to testify at the trial of James “Slim” Bouler, a convicted cocaine dealer, and admitted he paid Bouler $57,000 to cover gambling debts. A short time after testifying, a San Diego businessman named Richard Esquinas published a book called Michael and Me: Our Gambling Addiction… My Cry for Help. In the book, Esquinas claimed he won around $1 million from Jordan. His Airness has admitted to having a gambling problem, but has never directly commented on the supposed forced retirement.

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Robert Grimminck is a Canadian freelance writer. You can friend him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter, or visit his website.

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