7 Bizarre Moments in American Sporting History

Dan Bryan, March 27 2012

Dennis Rodman in a wedding dressThis is Dennis Rodman

Anything can happen in the wild, lucrative world of American sports. Fred Dean once "retired" from the NFL because his car wouldn't start. Duane Thomas went silent for five months and played an entire season as a vegetarian. Here are a few amazing happenings from the last hundred years.

7. The St. Louis Browns play a 3 foot 7 inch midget (1951)

In 1951, the future Baltimore Orioles were as usual a terrible baseball team. As such, their manager conceived of the idea of hiring a 3 foot 7 midget named Eddie Gaedel as a pinch hitter.

Gaedel was brought out in the middle of a game against Detroit. After some outrage from the opposing Tigers and arguments with the umpire, it was deemed that nothing in the rulebook prevented Veeck's strategy.

Eddie Gaedel, the baseball playing midget, 1951Eddie Gaedel takes ball four

Gaedel crouched down to reveal a one-inch strike zone, and was promptly walked. The very next day, rules were updated and Veeck was sanctioned by the league office.

On a side note, this wouldn't be the last time Baltimore stole the Browns from someone.

6. Art Rooney buys the Pittsburgh Steelers after a "lucky day at the track" (1933)

The NFL was certainly a fledgling enterprise in the midst of the Great Depression, but at times it seemed like anyone could buy a team if they could cobble a few bucks together.

For instance, Art Rooney founded the Pittsburgh Steelers after a few lucky bets at the racetrack. That's right… the Pittsburgh Steelers who are currently valued at $1 billion were incorporated by Mr. Rooney for a $2,500 franchise fee.

It is said that Rooney actually won over $100,000 at the track in the weeks before he bought his NFL team (and raked an even bigger score in 1936). If you're wondering how in tarnation one person could win that much at the horse track, that's an excellent question. Rooney grew up above a salon and knew the bookies as a small child. He was also known to be extraordinarily gifted at the art of conversation. Let your imagination roam.

Art Rooney, Smoking a CigarDon't play the horses 'til you talk to this guy

The team played its first four home games on Wednesday night, because until November of 1933, it was illegal to play on Sunday in the state of Pennsylvania.

5. Insane lunatic launches himself into the Evander Holyfield - Riddick Bowe fight via motorized parachute (1993)

At first thought, it seemed like a pretty good idea to host a world championship bout in the open air of Nevada.

That was before a deranged maniac decided to construct a motorized parachute.

Unfortunately for the individual in question, he missed his landing by a few feet, thanks to some ring lights which tangled his parachute. The crowd took the opportunity to pulverize him for five or ten seconds before security surrounded him.

Twenty minutes later, with the parachutist safely in the hospital, the fight restarted.

Only in Las Vegas.

4. Mike Tyson takes a bite out of Evander Holyfield's ear (1997)

By now you might be thinking, "What the hell is up with Evander Holyfield?"

Holyfield seems to have fallen in that special class of people who -- while completely normal themselves -- possess a sort of "lunatic magnet" in their essence.

Almost forgotten after Tyson bit Holyfield's ear cleanly off, there were actually multiple incidents of insanity in the period of about five minutes. There were two separate incidents where Tyson bit Holyfield, and Tyson also nearly started a brawl with security after he was disqualified.

In the main act, the upper part of Holyfield's right ear was masticated and ejected onto the ring by Tyson in a fit of enigmatic self-expression.

Observers blamed the incident on the fact that Mike Tyson was completely fucking insane. In an attempt to explain himself, Tyson reminded reporters that he had a family to feed.

It's also interesting to note that Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston were both in the stands that evening.

3. Leon Lett makes the most egregious game-blowing play in NFL history (1993)

Leon Lett was already known as a bit of a screw-up for an incident in the previous Super Bowl, when he was stripped of the football at the one-yard line while celebrating a touchdown prematurely.

In this incident, the Dallas Cowboys blocked a game-winning field goal with mere seconds left in their Thanksgiving game, and were already in the process of celebrating when Leon Lett swooped in to "recover" the ball (per NFL rules, there was absolutely no need to do this).

Instead Lett kicked it ten yards through the snow where Miami recovered for a much closer attempt, which they promptly hit to win the game.

The broadcaster evinces a mixture of pity and despair as the replay rolls...

"It's Leon Lett! NOOO!!!!!! ...... NOT Leon Lett"

2. Allen Iverson deconstructs the concept of "practice" to a group of news reporters (2002)

"Play every game like it's your last." was the mantra of Iverson, who won four NBA scoring titles. And on the court, during games, he played with ferocious abandon.

Practice? Not so much...

Pressed on this topic by a reporter, Iverson unleashed a tirade for the ages.

"We're talking about practice!" he said, over and over and over and over and...

The repetition of this statement nearly reaches the level of an enlightened Bodhisattva, deconstructing the very parameters of our English language. Wait, what were we talking about?

1. Dock Ellis throws a no-hitter on LSD (1970)

If you're like me, you're probably asking why a professional athlete would drop LSD in mid-season on the same day that they have to pitch -- even if it was 1970 and the world was coming apart at the seams.

Dock Ellis didn't know what day it was.

When the Pittsburgh Pirates landed in San Diego on the eve of an off day, Ellis received clearance from his manager to leave the team and go to Los Angeles, where he was from.

Ellis planned on using the day off to indulge in a harmless LSD binge. Fortunately for the annals of crazy, he got so high on the substance that he lost track of time, until a lady friend notified him that he had to pitch in just a few hours. Her source of information was the Los Angeles Times.

The rest is history. Watch the narrative in Dock's own words.

Related Topics

Fallen woman

Spread the Word

About the Author

Dan Bryan

Dan Bryan is the founder and editor of American History USA. He holds a B.A. in American History from the University of Chicago. He has created this site to empower Americans of all backgrounds to increase their historical literacy.

comments powered by Disqus