Fifteen. For real.
All were on the back half of a double-steal, where the Yankees’ Hall of Famer also known Piano Legs and Biscuit Pants happened to be on third base, and the runner from first took off and stole second. Leaving Gehrig to sprint home. Fifteen times. And hit six inside-the-park homers.
Lou Brock never stole home.
That’s just one of the 101 things worth pondering from the new ESPN-compiled book, “The Mighty Book of Sports Knowledge: 101 Things You Need to Know about the Games We Love,” edited by Steve Wulf (Ballantine Books and ESPN Books, $25, 210 pages).
Wulf calls the book a “kind of a flea market” full of “anecdotes, arguments, quotes, quizzes, lists, lessons, histories, mysteries, speaches, facts, curios.” Contributions come from all the ESPN campus, and the art work, plus photographs of neat artifacts (some from Wulf’s private treasure) are just worth admiring all the same.
Aside from the Gehrig gem, here’s the rest of our Top 10 list of things we really didn’t know that much about, but do now, and may be better for it, after finding this new release at our local chain bookstore (apparently, it’s not even up yet on ESPNbooks.com, so go figure):
9. Howie Schwab, ESPN’s resident know-it-all, is asked to pick his all-time uniform numbers, from 0 to 99 and beyond.
For No. 65, he took Gary Zimmerman. The former offensive lineman from the USFL’s Los Angeles Express. Who ended up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, mostly for his performance with the Minnesota Vikings and Denver Broncos. Back in October, 2007, when we did our list of the All-Time Southern California sports roster, listing those from 0 to 99 who belonged best with a certain number, Zimmerman wasn’t even on our radar for No. 65 (linked here), who we assigned to former L.A. Rams great Tom Mack. Did Zimmerman even wear No. 65 with the Express (when he blocked for quarterback Steve Young)? We’re trying to find out.
Also — and mind you, this is an all-time list, not just L.A. — for No. 71, he took Tony Boselli, the former USC Outland Trophy winner, while we took Joe Scibelli, the former L.A. Rams star.
8. Former Dodgers third base coach Rich Donnelly explains how simple it is to give signs to hitters.
“There are 12 areas you can touch without going to jail,” he says. “What I try to do is touch all thos espots at least once, giving the sign in the middle. You don’t want to go too fast or too slow.”
Donnelly says that he practices giving signs all the time — at red lights, even at his house of worship.
“In church, people think I’m blessing myself. I’m not. I’m giving the sign for a hit-and-run.”
7. You can have your own one-name Brazlian soccer name.
Go to the website minimalsworld.net and click on the Brazlian soccer name generator (linked here). Enter your first and last names, as well as your favorite jersey number. For example, Landon Donovan and No. 10 would be: Donovisco.
We came out: Hoffinhosa. That’s my Brazilian name, or my porn name?
6. Where did the catchphrase “Boom Goes the Dynamite” come from?
This video clip of Ball State University fill-in sports anchor freshman Brian Collins’ 3 minutes, 54 seconds of hell:
5. If Cy Young had a chance to win the Cy Young Award, how many would he have?
Four, according to someone who compared his stats to those against the others he competed against in 22 seasons between 1890 and 1911.
That’s it, just four? He was going up against Christy Mathewson, you know. But Cy would have probably lost out to Amos Rusie in 1893, to Chick Hoffer in 1895, to Kid Nichols in 1896 and ’98 and to Jay Hughes in 1899. Guys who shouldn’t even be in the same sentence as Cy Young.
So why hasn’t the name of the thing been changed to the Roger Clemens Award (since he’s won seven Cys)? Oh, right …
4. Staph infections can be a killer. It’s when bacteria grows in the pads or equipment of athletes, makes ‘em sick, and can lead to … bad things.
How does an athlete make sure he doesn’t get a staph infection from his equipment? The New York Rangers equipment manager Acacio Marques says the key is drying everything out, hanging the gear up (not leaving it in the equipment bags) and cranking up the heat. There’s also a “sani sport machine” that disinfects things with bactericide and ozone gas. And there’s some germ-killing stuff that goes in the washing machines with all the towels and underwear.
3. Ever hear of Lou Novikoff?
He was a Chicago Cubs outfielder (1941-44) (linked here) known as “The Mad Russian” who thought the outfield wall at Wrigley Field was lined with poison ivy, so whenever there was a ball to chase against the fence, he’d veer away. They say even his wife, Esther, booed him for doing that.
They say that when he died in 1970, he was “buried in a leafy Los Angeles cemetery.”
We did some more checking. The name was too familiar.
He was buried, according to the baseball-alamac.com, at the Russian Molokan Cemetery in the City of Commerce (linked here).
He was a four-time minor-league batting champ, and the 1939 Minor League Player of the Year when he split time with the Los Angeles Angels of the PCL and Tulsa Oilers of the Texas League (linked here). In 1940, he won the PCL’s Triple Crown — batting .343, with 171 RBIs and 41 homers with the Angels.
So if he played with the Angels, at Wrigley Field in L.A., it also had ivy. Right?
By the way, Novikoff made the Hall of Fame. In softball. After he left the big leagues after five years, he became a fast-pitch softball player (under the name Lou Novik) and is in the International Softball Congress Hall.
2. A list of the “five best sports leads” — that is, opening paragraphs to a sports newspaper story — has two from Red Smith, one from Grantland Rice (about the Four Horseman), one from Jim Murray and the last from Peter Pascarelli.
From Murray, the late Los Angeles Times star, previewing the 1975 Muhammad Ali-Chuck Wepner fight:
“For those of you who missed the Russo-Finnish War, the Johnstown Flood and Custer’s Last Stand, be of good cheer. Muhammad Ali is going to ‘fight’ Chuck Wepner, Type O. Like the Titanic fought that iceberg.”
As for his best line (which wasn’t the lead), I’dl still go with the one he wrote before the 1966 Indianapolis 500 (linked here): “Gentlemen, start your coffins.”
1. On page 158, there’s a list of the five biggest sports movie errors.
Did you know, for example: In “Rudy” (1993), in the scene that takes place right before the game where Rudy plays, the Notre Dame Stadium shows the Penn State band on the field playing the Penn State fight song. Then Notre Dame comes out and takes on Georgia Tech.
And Shoeless Joe Jackson (Ray Liotta) bats right handed in “Field Of Dreams” (1989), when the actual Shoeless Joe was a left-hander.
And … you can look it up. You can’t make it up.