Every once in a while, your grandfather will tell you about some fabulous feat that happened before you were born, often to belittle whatever modern-day achievements some of us are celebrating. Guess what? Often, they’re embellishing the facts or just making stuff up.
Frankly, there are a lot of things – some of them sports things – I do not believe. Here now, Couch Slouch’s first installment of History That Did Not Happen:
Cy Young’s 511 wins: This is one of sport’s most unbreakable records, if it did happen. A pitcher could average 20 wins a season for 25 years – and still be short of Cy Young’s mark!
Young made his big-league debut at age 23, pitching a three-hit shutout; he was Stephen Strasburg before Strasburg, though, in all likelihood, less hyped. In his second full season in 1892, Young threw 453 innings – I guess he wasn’t on a pitch count – and allegedly was 36-12.
During a career that spanned from 1890 to 1908, Young pitched for the Cleveland Spiders, St. Louis Perfectos, Boston Americans, Cleveland Naps and Boston Rustlers. This is the only set of facts that seem plausible – that not once, but twice, Cleveland gave up on Cy Young himself.
Anyway, my research shows that Young often was credited with two victories on the same day – and they weren’t even playing doubleheaders! Uh, 511? Balderdash.
Lou Gehrig’s 2,130 consecutive games played: Okay, let’s debunk the first myth – that Gehrig replaced a slumping Wally Pipp for the Yankees on June 2, 1925. In actuality, Gehrig arrived to the ballpark two hours early and hid Pipp’s glove, cleats and jockstrap, forcing manager Miller Huggins to insert the 21-year-old into the lineup.
Then we’re told “The Iron Horse” did not miss a game between 1925 and 1939. We’re supposed to believe he played through countless injuries? They didn’t even have pain relievers back then – sure, you could get aspirin via mail order out of Peking, but it took 90 days to ship on a slow boat from China.
Plus, my Uncle Nathan was at a Yankees-Indians game at Municipal Stadium in 1932 and Gehrig wasn’t even there – he took a “personal day” because his mother had cooked strudel.
Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game: No TV. No radio. No fans. You know how, like, 150,000 people claim to have been at the Polo Grounds for Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” in 1951? Well, nobody claims to have witnessed Wilt’s feat.
It was March 2, 1962, and the Philadelphia Warriors beat the New York Knicks, 169-147. According to the box score, Wilt made 36 of 63 field goal attempts and 28 of 32 free throw attempts. What, he went to bed as Warren Beatty and woke up as Rick Barry?
The game supposedly was held in Hershey, Pa., which, to this day, does not have a regulation-size basketball court anywhere within city limits. Not to mention that Wilt was playing the Knicks, which, even back then, had no front office and no defense.
Bob Beamon’s 29-foot 2 1/2-inch long jump: Sure, it was on TV, but it’s like Neil Armstrong’s moon walk, which we now know was some Hollywood-generated sham.
The jump occurred during the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City and here are the stunning numbers: He broke the world record by nearly two feet, and Beamon himself never reached 27 feet again. It is a statistical improbability that anyone can exceed his average performance that much on a given day; it would be like Keanu Reeves walking onto a movie set and turning into Russell Crowe.
Do your own at-home test: Go outside and see how far you can long jump. Maybe 8 feet. And this joker went 29 feet? Please. I’m guessing they simply measured it wrong.
David slays Goliath: Fable has it that Goliath, in full armor, met with David, wearing an oxford and khakis. David struck Goliath’s head with a stone from a sling, then cut off his head and took it back to Jerusalem to sell at a weekend swap meet.
Great, great story, the stuff of legends, except David not only didn’t own a slingshot, his parents wouldn’t let him go beyond their driveway unaccompanied.
By the way, Goliath, unofficially, was 9 feet tall – he dated Gheorghe Muresan’s great-great-great-great- great-great-great aunt – and David was 5-6 1/2 in Birkenstocks.
Ask The Slouch
Q. My local bowling establishment has a pitcher of Pabst on special for $6.59. I’m a little short – I could afford, say, $5.34. Any idea where I could acquire the extra $1.25 to enjoy some refreshing PBR with my teammates? (Chuck Moody; Pittsburgh)
A. “Barkeep – a pitcher of PBR for my Steel City friends!”
Q. When football, baseball and basketball players miss the playoffs, they go golfing. What do golfers do when they miss the cut? (Roberto Kirchhoff; Mayfield Heights, Ohio)
A. Card room!
Q. How did John Daly’s pants clear British customs? (Philip Booth; Houston)
A. He used a fifth of Jack Daniel’s as a decoy.
Q. Were your first two wives interviewed by Jim Gray outside the courthouse after their victories over you? (Jack Leibovitch; Towson, Md.)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
Norman Chad is a syndicated columnist. You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!