There are certain pieces of sports information that even the casual fan knows right off of the top of his head. The Green Bay Packers won the first ever Super Bowl. Joe Namath guaranteed that the New York Jets would win the Big Game, and he was proven right despite the fact that he did not throw a touchdown in that Super Bowl showdown involving the Jets and the Baltimore Colts. Wilt Chamberlain once scored 100 points in a regular season basketball game. No Major League Baseball team has more World Series championship rings than the New York Yankees. Some facts just stick with a person.
One of the reasons we are able to retain some of these records is because they involve numbers, which are, in some cases, easy to remember. “56” represents the historic hit-streak of Yankees and baseball icon Joe DiMaggio. It was at Super Bowl 42 when the New York Giants prevented the New England Patriots from making history and finishing the season with a perfect 19-0 record. Michael Jordan won six National Basketball Association titles while with the Chicago Bulls. Those of us who are passionate about following sports know those figures better than we do the phone numbers that belong to friends and family members.
Say, however, that you want to impress the fellow sports fanatics in your life with bits of trivia that would leave them wondering how and why you ever learned those facts in the first place. Those of you who are into that type of thing have come to the right place. One could take the information that follows and turn it into a torturous sports trivia game that people would only win upon opening up a Web browser or asking Siri. The list begins with a player who is likely unfamiliar to those who do not follow the New York Mets. In fact, younger fans of that club may not even recognize the name.
20. The Historic Danny Heep
Who? Heep will forever be part of Major League Baseball history for more than one reason. He was officially the first ever designated hitter in the history of the New York Mets, picking up that distinction in the 1986 World Series when the Mets famously defeated the Boston Red Sox. Heep was the first player in World Series history to be a designated hitter who also had the initials “D.H.” Last but certainly not least, Heep was on the wrong side of baseball history when he was the 4000th recognized strikeout of all-time great and Hall-of-Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan.
19. Say Yes to the “S”
Most teams in the top-four North American professional sports leagues have nicknames that end with the letter “S.” Here are the clubs that don’t: The Miami Heat, the Utah Jazz, the Orlando Magic, the Boston Red Sox, the Chicago White Sox, the Colorado Avalanche and the Tampa Bay Lightning. All NFL team names end with the letter “S.” Major League Soccer, as you’ll see, goes against that trend, having more non-S nicknames than the other leagues: DC United, New England Revolution, Columbus Crew, New York City Football Club, Orlando City Soccer Club, Toronto FC, Chicago Fire, Montreal Impact, LA Galaxy, Real Salt Lake, FC Dallas, Sporting Kansas City, and Houston Dynamo.
18. Gaylord Perry…maybe?
The legend goes that somebody, either Perry himself or manager Alvin Dark, claimed that “they’ll put a man on the moon” before Perry would hit a home run. Perry would eventually go yard during a regular season Major League Baseball game: On July 20, 1969, not long after Neil Armstrong took his one giant leap for mankind. Whether or not the tale is accurate remains a debatable topic, and Snopes could not lock down a definitive answer as of the summer of 2014. The old adage goes that one should not let facts get in the way of a good story, and thus the Perry tale qualifies here.
17. Babe Ruth and the Cabbage Leaf
It can get mighty hot during those long summer days, especially for players out on a baseball diamond. Babe Ruth fought the heat during his Major League Baseball days by placing a cabbage leaf that had been soaked in cold water underneath his cap. Ruth is not credited with inventing this method of staying cool during baseball games, and he also isn’t the only person associated with professional baseball to have done so. Umpires, who wear all black during hot sunny days, because apparently baseball hates those men, were also known to use this trick back in the day.
16. Babe Ruth Worth $20
This piece was created at time when certain sports memorabilia fetches thousands upon thousands of dollars at auctions. Life was different on July 13, 1934, when Babe Ruth launched his 700th career home run. Ruth, so the legend goes, screamed “I want that ball!” has he prepared to circle the bases, and get the ball he did: After paying the fan who had retrieved it $20. That young man also received a signed baseball from the Babe. The ball would be worth well over $100,000 as of January 2015, and it may, if put up for auction, be worth even $1 million. $20 for that prize is one incredible investment.
15. The events that make up a decathlon are…
Decathlon is a word that most of us hear only once every four years during the Summer Olympics. Odds are that, unless you are a former track athlete or somebody who actively follows those sports, all you know about a decathlon is that is includes ten sporting events. Those events are: The 100 Meters, the Discus Throw, the Pole Vault, the Javelin Throw, the 400 Meters, the 100 Meters Hurdles, the Long Jump, the Shot Put, the High Jump and the 1,500 Meters. It is easy to understand why the individual who posts the top overall points total for a decathlon is regarded as the best overall athlete in the world.
14. Rick and Paul Reuschel pitch shutout
Two or more pitchers combine for a shutout against an opposing lineup all the time during a Major League Baseball regular season. Those men may be teammates, but they are not family. Rick and Paul Reuschel were pitching for the Chicago Cubs in August 1975 when Rick started a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Rick kept the Dodgers off of the scoreboard before Paul replaced him, and Paul held the shutout through the end of the game. The two are the only siblings in the history of professional baseball to have been recorded to combine for a shutout victory.
13. Eddie Gaedel takes the plate
Those of you who have watched the excellent Baseball documentary may recognize the name. Gaedel made Major League Baseball history on August 19, 1951 when he became the shortest player to ever participate in a regular season contest. He was listed at 3-foot-7 at the time of his professional debut, and the tale goes that Gaedel was threatened to not take a swing during the at-bat, so much so that there was a sniper ready and willing to take him out if he swung! Gaedel walked on four straight pitches, and he never again made an appearance in an MLB game. It is widely believed that his record will never be broken.
12. Maryland loves to joust
Americans participate in a variety of sporting events throughout the calendar year. Baseball is popular over the summer months, football is the sport of the fall in this country, and both basketball and hockey, indoor sports, are ideal for winter. Those who live in Maryland may enjoy all of those sports and others, but they also live in a state that adopted jousting as its official sports back in 1962. Maryland is recognized as the first state to ever name an official sport. Some additional information that won’t cost you an extra click: Lacrosse is the official team sport of the state of Maryland.
11. NFL refs get hardware too
Those of you feeling angry or upset at some National Football League referees – specifically fans of the Detroit Lions in January 2015 – you may want to skip this portion of the piece and move along to the next fact. Officials who are given the honor to work a Super Bowl get rings similar to those awarded to the players that win the Big Game. While the rings given to the refs are not as big and flashy as those given to the players, they are still valuable pieces of jewelry. Remember this the next time a ref blows a big call on the final Sunday evening of an NFL season .
10. Bowling turkeys
Those of us who have been part of bowling teams during our lifetimes know that throwing three consecutive strikes is referred to as a “Turkey.” You may, however, be unclear on where the term originated. Professional Bowlers Association historian Chuck Pezzana has, according to Lucky Strike Entertainment, explained that the tradition goes back to the days of the Great Depression. Those who would bowl three straight strikes during the holiday season – Thanksgiving through Christmas – would receive actual turkeys for the feat. What would be an expensive tradition on Thursday league nights has since faded into history, but the term has carried on.
9. No thanks, Olympics
The 1976 Winter Olympics were held in Innsbruck, Austria. That was not the original plan, however, as Denver had originally edged out five other bids for the rights to hold the Winter Games. Somebody apparently forgot to poll local voters, however, who were unhappy to learn what hosting a Winter Olympics costs a city. Denver, as is explained in this piece, would relinquish the rights to host the ’76 Olympics over $5 million, a drop-in-the-bucket amount of money these days. Chicago spent around $50 million just to bid for the rights to host the 2016 Summer Olympics, a bid that was unsuccessful.
8. Hasselbeck lightning rods
The saying goes that lightning never strikes twice in the same place. National Football League quarterback Matt Hasselbeck would like to disagree with that adage. Hasselbeck has been struck by lightning twice during his lifetime, amazingly surviving both of those scares. The story gets even more fascinating when you learn that Sarah, Hasselbeck’s college sweetheart and spouse, was also once hit by lightning. That is an astonishing combination of awful and incredible luck. Hasselbeck is the kind of guy you want to take to Vegas with you, but one you would not want to be standing next to at the blackjack table.
7. First ever college football game
It is mentioned just about every fall that the first ever recognized college football game involved the Rutgers Queensmen and the College of New Jersey (now known as Princeton). What is rarely included in television broadcasts is that Rutgers defeated their in-state rivals 6-4. No, there were not five safeties that led to the final score of the contest. The game was played under modified rules, and the popularity of rugby among college athletes helped grow what became the modern game of American Football. Thanks for your contributions to what is now the biggest sport in North America, former New Jersey college students.
6. Silver and Gold
You work for years to fulfil a dream and take part in an Olympics, arguably the biggest stage in all of sports. Then, in front of a worldwide audience, you outdo all of your competitors, winning your event/competition and earning the top award: The gold medal. You are over the moon with your shiny prize, and then you find out that gold is not always gold. As it turns out, gold medals are, according to CNN Money, more made out of silver than they are gold. Good luck fetching top dollar for that thing if you ever need to melt it down.
5. Football or Soccer? It’s both
It is as useless a debate as you will hear, and yet it arises among supporters of the sport every year: It is soccer or is it football? Are you more of a real fan if you refer to Premier League games as “football” and not “soccer?” The answer, of course, is no, and that is not an opinion on the matter. Soccer merely comes from the shortened version of “association,” as in “Association Football.” The word was broken down multiple ways over the years until soccer was born. Soccer. Football. Either way, it is the beautiful game and the world’s game, one that should be enjoyed regardless of what you call it.
4. What is in Pele’s name?
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports Images
Pele is arguably the greatest soccer player to ever live, an international superstar who is recognized throughout the world. His face is synonymous with the sport for a generation of casual American sports fans who, for a time, followed Pele and the New York Cosmos. Those individuals would probably give you a blank stare were you to ask them about what it was like to watch Edson Arantes do Nascimento play soccer in the United States. That is the birth name of the legend of the sport. While I can’t speak for everybody reading this sentence, I can say that I prefer Pele.
3. Costly incomplete passes
Think about the least accurate quarterbacks who play in college and in the National Football League when learning this: Incomplete passes used to mean a 15-yard penalty, and a forward pass that fell to the ground without being touched resulted in a turnover. Such rules were put in place to discourage teams from utilizing forward passes. That brand of football did not, of course, last. The NFL is more of a quarterback-driven league today than it has ever been, and that trend is only going to continue so long as the rules favor players who line up under center on Sundays during the fall months.
2. Perfect in 2014
Only one quarterback in the National Football League had a perfect QB rating in 2014. It was not New England Patriots living legend Tom Brady, nor was it Hall-of-Fame bound players Peyton Manning or Aaron Rodgers. Geno Smith – yes, the Geno Smith of the New York Jets, completed 20 of 25 pass attempts for 358 yards through the air and three touchdowns. It represents the best start to date in the history of Smith’s NFL career, but it was not good enough to save the job of head coach Rex Ryan. Smith has also found himself at the opposite end of the spectrum as it pertains to quarterback rating, and he is not the only player to have ever gone perfect and to have earned a zero rating over time.
1. Perfect and no so much
Ten National Football League quarterbacks have, through the conclusion of the 2014 NFL regular season, had a perfect passer rating (158.3) and also posted a 0.0 rating at some point during their careers. This includes, as mentioned earlier in this piece, Geno Smith. Johnny Unitas, Joe Namath, Terry Bradshaw, Len Dawson, Bob Griese, James Harris, Bob Lee, Craig Morton and Eli Manning have all pulled off the same accomplishment. That there are multiple current (and maybe even one future) Hall-of-Fame quarterback on that list shows you that even all-time greats have terrible days on the field from time to time.