5 Ghosts Haunting The Sports World

Getty Images
Getty Images

As baseball season cranks up, so will talk about hardball's various paranormal activities. This year will likely feature more talk than ever about the Curse of the Billy Goat, the hex that's supposedly played a role in the Chicago Cubs not winning the World Series in a century. The Billy Goat and Babe Ruth aren't sports' only prominent ghosts, though. Here are a few spooks that might not have frightened you yet.

1. Eddie Plank

Plank was Major League Baseball's first left-handed pitcher to win 300 games, and he ended his illustrious career in1917 with an impressive 326 victories against just 194 losses. You'd think all that pitching would have made him eager to move on to other endeavors, but apparently not. Although Plank passed away in 1926, he's still trying to pitch.

In 1996, the Hall of Famer apparently got the urge to start pitching again. In the middle of the night, the owner of the Gettysburg, PA, house where Plank had died heard a repetitive series of noises. A man would grunt, then there would be a thud and the sound of footsteps. Apparently, Plank was launching pitches to a catcher, who would occasionally have to chase down an errant toss. The owner determined that not only must the noises have come from Plank's ghost, but that the "ball" was traveling sixty feet, six inches, exactly the distance from the pitcher's mound to home plate in baseball. The noises supposedly stopped within a month of the first pitch, possibly because ghosts play a shorter season than living baseball players.

2. The Hockey Hall of Fame

The Toronto home of the Hockey Hall of Fame is a repository of memorabilia and anecdotes about some of the greatest players in hockey history. However, the ghost that allegedly haunts the building probably never skated a shift in her life.

Since moving to its current digs in 1993, the Hall has enjoyed the company of Dorothy, the ghost of an employee of the Bank of Montreal branch formerly housed in the building. As the legend goes, Dorothy was a vivacious teller at the bank when, in 1953, she showed up for work early and promptly shot herself. Legends can't seem to agree on exactly where or why the young woman took her own life, but whatever her motivations, Dorothy wasn't gone long. Soon after her death, employees started hearing noises in the bank late at night and noticed that things were inexplicably moving around on their desks. Visitors and employees continue to report hearing Dorothy walking around, encountering cold spots, and feeling a presence while in the Hall.

3. Owen Hart

Professional wrestler Owen Hart tragically fell to his death while he was being lowered into the ring for a WWF show in Kansas City's Kemper Arena in 1999. Earlier this year the Kansas City Star ran a small item commenting on a "Haunted America" column that suggested Hart's ghost now haunts the arena.

The reports were somewhat vague, but employees claimed to have seen Hart walking the rafters while dressed in his Blue Blazer costume, the gimmick he was portraying when he died. The same witnesses claimed to have seen the cable that Hart used for his descent into the arena, and some claimed lights in the arena flickered during these sightings.

4. George Gipp

The Notre Dame football star who inspired Knute Rockne's famous "Win one for the Gipper" speech may still be lurking around campus. Gipp was the first Fighting Irish player to make the All America team, but his life was tragically cut short when he contracted pneumonia and died in 1920 at just 25 years old. Gipp allegedly caught the illness that ended his life while sleeping on Washington Hall's steps one evening; soon after his death, students started hearing strange noises throughout the building. Papers would rustle under doors late at night, and horns would mysteriously sound with no apparent source.

By 1925, there were reports of Gipp riding a white horse up the same steps, and Gipp's spectral legend started to grow. Others have claimed Gipp materializes on Washington Hall's dramatic stages and set rooms. If it's truly the ghost of Gipp stalking around the building, he has a fresh reason to be upset; last November his body was exhumed and stripped of a femur to settle a long-standing paternity suit.

5. Frontier Field

Frontier Field was built in Rochester in 1996. It's currently the home to the Rochester Red Wings of baseball's International League. It's also home to a whole slew of ghosts. According to a 2005 report aired by ESPN, construction of the stadium unearthed some human bones, and soon stadium workers suspected that the grounds might be haunted.

In 2004, these suspicious employees brought in a team of ghost experts from Rochester Paranormal to have a look at the stadium. The investigators claimed that they encountered a number of ghosts of people who had previously lived in the area, some of whom were ecstatic that their old haunts had been converted into something as much fun as a baseball stadium. Research director J. Burkhart also took several photographs during the investigation that showed floating heads, smoky entities, and other paranormal activity. Given their experiences at the stadium, Rochester Paranormal concluded that the stadium was definitely haunted, making Frontier Field the world's first "officially" haunted stadium.

Ethan Trex grew up idolizing Vince Coleman, and he kind of still does. Ethan co-writes Straight Cash, Homey, the Internet's undisputed top source for pictures of people in Ryan Leaf jerseys.

7 Tips for Winning an Arm Wrestling Match

iStock
iStock

Geoff Hale was playing Division II college baseball in Kansas City, Missouri, when he sat down and started flipping through the channels on his TV. There—probably on TBS—was Over the Top, the 1987 arm wrestling melodrama starring Sylvester Stallone as Lincoln Hawke, a truck driver who aspires to win his estranged son’s affections. And to do that, he has to win a national arm wrestling tournament. Obviously.

Neither the worst nor the best of Stallone’s efforts, Over the Top made Hale recall his high school years and how the fringe sport had satisfied his athletic interests, which weren't being met by baseball. “I had never lost a match,” Hale tells Mental Floss of his arm wrestling prowess. “The movie reminded me that I was good at it.”

That was 13 years ago. Now a professional competitor known as the Haleraiser, the full-time petroleum geologist has won several major titles. While you may not have the constitution for the surprisingly traumatic sport (more on that later), you might still want to handle yourself in the event of a spontaneous match breaking out. We asked Hale for some tips on what to do when you’re confronted with the opportunity to achieve a modest amount of glory while arm-grappling on a beer-stained table. This is what he told us.

1. KNOW THAT SIZE DOESN'T MATTER.

A child uses books to help in arm-wrestling an adult
iStock

Well, it does. But really only if your opponent knows what they’re doing. Otherwise, having a bowling pin for a forearm isn’t anything to be wary about. If anything, your densely-built foe may have a false sense of confidence. “Everyone has arm-wrestled since they were a kid and thinks they know what it is,” Hale says. “It looks easy, but there’s actually a very complex set of movements. It’s good to check your ego at the door.”

2. PRETEND YOU’RE PART OF THE TABLE.

A man offers to arm wrestle from behind a table
iStock

When you square up with your opposition to lock hands—thumb digging into the fleshy part, fingers wrapped around the back—don’t lean over the table with your butt in the air. And don’t make the common mistake of sitting down for a match, either. “It limits you from a technique standpoint,” Hale says, and could even open you up to injury.

Instead, you want to plant the foot that matches your dominant hand under the table with your hip touching the edge. With your free hand, grip the edge or push down on the top for stability. “Pretend like you’re part of the table,” Hale says. That way, you’ll be able to recruit your shoulders, triceps, and biceps into the competition.

3. REMEMBER TO BREATHE.

Two men engage in an arm wrestling match
iStock

If you’re turning the color of a lobster, you’re probably holding in your breath. “Don’t,” Hale says. Remember to continue taking in air through your nose. There’s no benefit to treating the match like a diving expedition. The lack of oxygen will just tire your muscles out faster.

4. BEAT THE HAND, NOT THE ARM.

Two hands appear in close-up during an arm wrestling contest
iStock

There are three basic techniques in arm wrestling, according to Hale: the shoulder press, the hook, and the top roll. The shoulder press recruits the shoulder right behind the arm, pushing the opposing appendage down as if you were performing a triceps pressdown. The hook is more complex, varying pressure from all sides and incorporating pulling motions to bend the wrist backward. For the best chance of winning, opt for the top roll, which involves sliding your hand up your opponent’s so your grip is attacking the top portion nearest the fingers. That way, he or she is recruiting fewer major muscle groups to resist. “When you beat the hand, the arm follows,” Hale says. Because this is more strategy than strength, you might wind up toppling some formidable-looking opponents.

5. IN A STALEMATE, WAIT FOR AN OPENING.

A man and woman engage in an arm wrestling contest
iStock

While lots of arm wrestling matches end quickly, others become a battle of attrition. When you find yourself locked up in the middle of the table, wait for your opponent to relax. They almost always will. “In a neutral position, it’s good to stay static, keeping your body and arm locked up,” Hale says. “You’re just waiting for your opponent to make a mistake.” The moment you feel their arm lose tension, attack.

6. TRY SCREAMING.

A woman screams while winning an arm wrestling contest
iStock

Arm wrestlers play all kinds of psychological games, and while some might be immune to trash talk, it’s likely your rival will be influenced by some selective insults. “You can make someone lose their focus easily,” Hale says. “In a stalemate, you can give them a hard time, tell them they’re not strong. It’s intimidating to be out of breath and to see someone just talking.”

7. WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS, GO SECOND.

A man struggles while losing an arm wrestling contest
iStock

Arm wrestling exacts a heavy toll on winners and losers alike: The prolonged muscle contractions can easily fatigue people not used to the exertion. If you fear a loss from a bigger, stronger opponent, conspire to have them wrestle someone else first, then take advantage of their fatigue.

If all goes well, you might want to consider pursuing the sport on more competitive levels—but you probably shouldn’t. “It takes a toll on the body,” Hale says. “I’ve got tendonitis and don’t compete as much as I used to. On the amateur level, it’s common to see arm breaks, usually the humerus [upper arm] bone. The body was not really made for arm wrestling.”

Does the University of Florida Still Make Money Off Gatorade?

George Frey, Getty Images
George Frey, Getty Images

In September 1965, 10 freshmen players on the University of Florida's Gators football team agreed to let the school's kidney disease specialist, Robert Cade, assess their hydration levels during practices. He took urine samples. He interviewed athletes. He asked to take their rectal temperature during games.

The players agreed to all but the last request. In analyzing his results, Cade discovered that the wilting heat, coupled with a lack of hydration, resulted in subjects who were very low on electrolytes like sodium and potassium, sometimes losing six to nine pounds of water per practice session—with some footballers having anecdotes of 15 to 20 pounds lost during games. Cade felt that players suffered from low blood volume and low blood sugar. Many, in fact, were being hospitalized after overexerting themselves without drinking enough water, traditionally seen as a way of building toughness in players. Those who remained on field were surely not playing up to their potential.

Cade mixed water, sugar, salt, and lemon juice, then ordered them to drink the solution to keep their bodies in balance. By 1967, the Gators were all consuming "Gatorade," and incidences of heat stroke fell sharply. The Gators secured a 9-2 record in 1966; the team became renowned for their renewed energy during the second half, and ignited a transformation in sports science. Decades later and backed by a massive promotional machine, Gatorade has permeated both professional sports and amateur athletics alike, replenishing electrolytes lost during physical activity. Roughly 632 million cases were sold in 2013 alone.

With the sports drink having been born on the Gators's playing field and invented by a University of Florida employee, it's not hard to see why both Cade's estate (he died in 2007) and the school get a percentage of royalties from sales, an agreement that's still in place today. But if they had their way, the university would be getting all of it.

A University of Florida coach is soaked in Gatorade by his players after a win
Donald Miralle, Getty Images

After Cade and his co-researchers finalized Gatorade’s formula, Cade approached the school's head of sponsored research to see if they wanted to come to an arrangement over the rights to the drink (Cade wanted $10,000) and determine if they wanted to try and sell it to a national distributor. According to Cade, University of Florida (UF) officials weren't interested, so he struck a deal with beverage maker Stokely Van-Camp in 1967.

Stokely's offer was for Cade and his cohorts—now known as the Gatorade Trust—to receive a $25,000 cash payment, a $5000 bonus, and a five-cent royalty on each gallon of Gatorade sold. When UF realized that they had been shortsighted in assessing the brand's mass market appeal—and that they were missing out on profits—they allegedly told Cade that the drink belonged to them.

"Go to hell," Cade responded, a statement that kicked off several years of litigation.

While Cade was a university employee, funds for his work actually came from the government—specifically, the Department of Health. He also managed to avoid signing an agreement solidifying his inventions as school property. For these reasons, and because both sides anticipated an endless and costly legal jiu-jitsu match in their futures, the two accepted a federal ruling in 1972. The Gatorade Trust would continue to receive their royalties, and the school would take 20 percent of the disbursement.

Initially, that meant one cent for every gallon of Gatorade sold, a fraction of the five cents owed to the Trust. In September 1973, following the first full year of the agreement, UF made $115,296 in royalties and earmarked the funds for kidney research and marine science.

Gatorade cups are shown stacked in a locker room
J. Meric, Getty Images

That's a considerable sum, but it's nothing compared to what poured out in the decades to come. When Stokely Van-Camp was purchased by Quaker Oats in 1983, they kicked off a heavy promotional campaign that highlighted Gatorade in commercials and sponsored teams. Coaches began getting doused with jugs full of Gatorade following big victories. When PepsiCo bought Quaker for $13.4 billion in 2000, they leveraged their marketing muscle to further engender the brand.

Consequently, both the Gatorade Trust and UF have profited immensely. As of 2015, the Trust had earned well over $1 billion in royalties, with 20 percent, or about $281 million, going to UF. The five-cent per gallon formula has been replaced by a percentage: between 1.9 percent and 3.6 percent depending on how much Gatorade is sold annually, according to ESPN's Darren Rovell, with the University taking a fifth of that. The funds have been invested in the school's Genetics Institute, the Whitney Marine Laboratory in St. Augustine, and to help disperse seed money for grants.

The school naturally has an affinity for the stuff, but that can occasionally come into conflict with other marketing deals. In 2016, the University of Florida’s women's basketball team played in the NCAA Tournament, which was sponsored by Powerade, a competing sports drink made by Coca-Cola. As a compromise, the players dumped their Gatorade into Powerade bottles and cups. The beverage born on campus—one that's netted them nearly $300 million to date—always comes first.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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