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.

5 Fast Facts About Muhammad Ali

Kent Gavin/Getty Images
Kent Gavin/Getty Images

Muhammad Ali is one of the most important athletes and cultural figures in American history. Though he passed away in 2016, the heavyweight boxing champ was larger than life in and outside of the ring. The man who coined the phrase "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” won 37 knockout victories. Here are five more fast facts about Muhammad Ali, a.k.a. The Greatest.

1. Cassius Clay was named for a white abolitionist.

Muhammad Ali was born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr. and named after his father, who had in turn been named for a white abolitionist. The original Cassius Clay was a wealthy 19th-century planter and politician who not only published an anti-slavery newspaper, but also emancipated every slave he inherited from his father. Cassius Clay also served as a minister to Russia under President Abraham Lincoln.

2. Muhammad Ali's draft evasion case went to the Supreme Court.

In the early 1960s, Clay converted to Islam, joined the Nation of Islam, and took the name Muhammad Ali. According to his religious beliefs, Ali refused to serve in the Vietnam War when he was drafted in April 1967. He was arrested and stripped of his boxing license and heavyweight title. On June 20, 1967, he was convicted of draft evasion and banned from fighting while he remained free on appeal. His case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which unanimously overturned his conviction in 1971.

3. He received a replacement gold medal.

At the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, Ali won the gold medal for boxing in the light heavyweight division. But, as he wrote in his 1975 autobiography, The Greatest: My Own Story (edited by Toni Morrison!), he supposedly threw his medal into the Ohio River in frustration over the racism he still experienced in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. Some historians dispute this story and suggest that Ali just lost the medal. Either way, he was given a replacement when he lit the Olympic cauldron at the opening ceremonies of the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.

4. Muhammad Ali was an actual superhero.

In 1978, DC Comics published Superman vs. Muhammad Ali—an oversize comic in which Muhammad Ali defeats Superman and saves the world. In real life, Ali did save a man from suicide. In 1981, a man threatened to jump from the ninth story of a building in L.A.’s Miracle Mile neighborhood. Ali’s friend Howard Bingham witnessed the unfolding drama and called the boxer, who lived nearby. Ali rushed into the building and successfully talked the man down from the ledge.

5. Muhammad Ali starred in a Broadway show.

In Oscar Brown, Jr.'s 1969 musical adaptation of Joseph Dolan Tuotti's play Big Time Buck White, Ali played a militant black intellectual who speaks at a political meeting. The play ran for only five nights at the George Abbot Theatre in New York. His Playbill bio reported that Ali "is now appealing his five-year prison conviction and $10,000 fine for refusing to enter the armed services on religious grounds. The Big Time Buck White role that he has accepted is much like the life he lives off stage in reality.”

Can Watching the Super Bowl Give You a Heart Attack?

iStock.com/skynesher
iStock.com/skynesher

With the clock nearing zero, the 2006 divisional round playoff between the Indianapolis Colts and the Pittsburgh Steelers looked to be over: It was the fourth quarter, with one minute and 20 seconds left, and the score was 21-18. Pittsburgh held the lead and, by all appearances, was about to score again.

Pittsburgh's offense lined up on the Indianapolis 2-yard line and handed the ball to future Hall of Fame running back Jerome Bettis, a cannonball of a man who famously went by the nickname "The Bus." Nearly everybody assumed Bettis would pound the ball through the goal line. Instead, Colts linebacker Gary Brackett forced a fumble. The Colts picked up the ball and nearly ran it back for a touchdown. For Steelers fans, it was a sudden and heartbreaking turn of events. Literally.

Watching from a bar, a diehard Steelers fan named Terry O'Neill watched the ball tumble to the ground and suddenly felt a pain in his chest. Luckily, two firefighters in the crowd helped resuscitate him.

"My heart just quit beating completely," O'Neill later told the South Pittsburgh Reporter. "For all intents and purposes, I died."

Research indicates he wasn't the first. Watching a high-stakes game could actually kill you.

A 2002 study in The BMJ, which focused on the health of English soccer fans, found that a "myocardial infarction can be triggered by emotional upset, such as watching your football team lose an important match." A 2008 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine followed the World Cup-watching habits of German soccer fans and found that watching a stressful game more than doubled viewers' chances of experiencing a cardiovascular event. A similar result was found when other researchers looked at cardiovascular deaths in the Netherlands after the country's soccer team lost the European soccer championships on a penalty shootout in 1996.

In 2011, a study published in Clinical Cardiology looked at the Super Bowl specifically and found that deaths increased after the big game in the losing city, finding an "absolute increase in all cause mortality" in people over the age of 65. The researchers argued:

"Acute risk factors usually involve some form of stress—physical, emotional, or both—that increase the sympathetic nervous system and releases catecholamines. The subsequent increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and ventricular contractility increase oxygen demand and may change the shear stress of blood against an atherosclerotic plaque, contributing to plaque fracture."

This particular study, however, has received some criticism. It only looked at mortality statistics for the 1980 and the 1984 Super Bowls, a relatively small sample. Some researchers said the study went too far in implying that the Super Bowl caused death, considering that the viewer's behavior and health history (and not the events of the game itself) could have been responsible. Super Bowl Sunday, after all, is a day filled with fatty fried foods and copious amounts of alcohol—all possible risk factors for a cardiovascular event.

As Gregg Fonarow, director of the Cardiomyopathy Center at UCLA, tells LiveScience, "It may be other behaviors associated with important sporting events rather than the stress of watching the home team lose that may explain these associations." Additionally, pre-existing conditions could be a huge contributing factor. (This was the case for our fateful Steelers fan.)

Study limitations aside, becoming invested in the outcome of a sporting match is undeniably stressful on the heart. A recent (though small) study out of Canada surveyed the heart rates of hockey fans during games, revealing "a mean increase of 92 per cent among the 20 test subjects, rising from an average rate of 60 to 114 beats per minute," according to the Montreal Gazette. In other words, people sitting and watching TV had heart rates equivalent to people undergoing mild exercise. Their heart rates only got higher when they watched games in person.

Of course, you don't have to do a study to learn that close games can cause a diehard fan's heart to pound—just go and ask one. And if they mutter, "This team is going to kill me!," kindly suggest that they step away from the TV before it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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