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Getty Images

7 Athletes Who Went Directly To Jail

Getty Images
Getty Images

It's been a rough week for former NFL players on the judicial circuit. O.J. Simpson couldn't beat a robbery and kidnapping charge and now faces life in prison. Former first-round bust running back Lawrence Phillips got slapped with a 10-year prison sentence following his own checkered career on the wrong side of the law. These sentences may come as a surprise to cynical fans who think there's no way a famous athlete could end up in prison, but sports figures serving hard time isn't exactly uncommon. Here are seven who did not pass go, did not collect their $200, and went directly to jail.

1. Craig MacTavish

As an NHL player, MacTavish was a solid center who enjoyed a long career that spanned from 1979 to 1997. He even won four Stanley Cups. However, he missed the entire 1984-85 season because he was incarcerated. MacTavish had been driving drunk on January 25, 1984, when he was in a wreck that killed a 26-year-old woman. MacTavish was found guilty of vehicular homicide and spent a year in jail before resuming his career. He's currently the head coach of the Edmonton Oilers.

2. Rae Carruth

Perhaps the most infamous of all NFL players, Rae Carruth's career as a wide receiver for the Carolina Panthers actually got off to a promising start. During his rookie season in 1997, he caught 44 passes, including four touchdowns, and made the NFL's all-rookie squad. In 1999, though, everything unraveled for him. His pregnant girlfriend was caught in a drive-by shooting. Despite four shots being fired in the car, she managed to call 911 and describe Carruth's role in the assault. The receiver apparently blocked her car while a shooter in a separate car fired the shots. Carruth posted $3 million bail, but after his girlfriend died, he took off. He was eventually found in Tennessee, hiding in the trunk of a car with a huge pile of cash, some snacks, and a bottle to hold his urine. He's currently serving no less than 18 years, 11 months in prison following a conviction for conspiracy to commit first-degree murder.

3. Ugueth Urbina

Baseball fans remember Urbina as a solid right-handed reliever with a nice fastball/slider combo that helped the Florida Marlins win the World Series in 2003. Fans of Venezuelan jurisprudence remember Urbina as the man behind a horrific assault. Urbina was convicted of attempted murder in 2007 following an incident in which he allegedly attacked five workers on his Venezuelan farm with a machete and then tried to douse them in gasoline. Urbina maintains that he was asleep during the attack and that he is innocent. Nevertheless, he received convictions for attempted murder, illegal deprivation of liberty, and violating a Venezuelan law that prohibits taking justice into your own hands. He's serving a 14-year prison term.

4. Mike Danton

Lowly players have been known to run afoul of the law, too. Take Mike Danton, a fairly low-level NHL center who played for the New Jersey Devils and St. Louis Blues. Danton racked up 141 penalty minutes during the 2003-04 season, but off the ice he didn't do his own dirty work. When he wanted his agent, David Frost, dead in 2004, he didn't want to get his own hands dirty. Instead, he tried to hire a hitman to do the job for him. Unfortunately for Danton, his "hitman" was actually a police dispatcher. Danton pled guilty to conspiracy to commit murder and is currently serving a 90-month term in federal prison.

5. Denny McLain

Denny McLain's career as a Major League pitcher was brilliant. He won two Cy Young awards, an American League MVP award, and a World Series ring during a career that ran from 1963 to 1972. He's still mentioned on baseball broadcasts as the last man to win 30 games in a season. McLain wasn't quite a masterful off the field, though. He had a penchant for gambling, which led him to make underworld connections and even run his own bookmaking operation. These troubles eventually led to the end of his baseball career, at which point McLain veered further afoul of the law. He worked for a Florida financial services company with rumored Mob ties, which led to a 1985 conviction for racketeering, extortion, and drug trafficking. He spent a couple of years in jail on that charge, and then bought a Michigan meat-processing plant in 1994. Two years later the plant went bankrupt, and McLain and his partner were charged with looting $12.5 million from the company's pension fund. McLain spent six years in federal prison for the theft and was released in 2003.

6. Darryl Henley

Darryl Henley was enjoying a nice career as a starting cornerback for the Los Angeles Rams until 1995, when he was convicted for cocaine trafficking. He received a 20-year sentence for those charges, which quickly ended his NFL career. He made things worse for himself by then attempting to hire a hitman to murder his ex-girlfriend—a former Rams cheerleader and a witness in the trial—and the judge. His sentence then ballooned to 41 years, and he won't be eligible for parole until he's 65 years old. To his credit, Henley has realized the error of his ways and now runs a website and charity to try to help other athletes from falling victim to the same forces that brought him down.

7. Don King

Don King may be known for his trademark fright-wig hair and his inimitable diction, but before he became boxing's most powerful promoter, he served time. In fact, he killed two different men before his rise to fame. The first case was judged justifiable homicide; King shot a man who had attempted to rob the illegal bookmaking joint he ran. The second killing, though, occurred when King beat to death an employee who owed him money. King was convicted of second-degree murder for this killing, but the charges were later reduced to manslaughter. He ended up spending around four years in jail for the killing.

Ethan Trex co-writes Straight Cash, Homey, the Internet's undisputed top source for pictures of people in Ryan Leaf jerseys. He is aware of both Mike Tyson and Michael Vick and their troubles with the law.

See also...

A Brief History of Stadium Naming Rights
*
How Sports Owners Made Their Money
*
10 Bizarre Athlete Superstitions
*
7 Famous Athletes Who Now Sell Food
*
The Bud Bowl: A Definitive History
*
Quiz: Mr. Burns' Softball All-Stars

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General Mills
10 Winning Facts about Wheaties
General Mills
General Mills

Famous for its vivid orange boxes featuring star athletes and its classic "breakfast of champions" tagline, Wheaties might be the only cereal that's better known for its packaging than its taste. The whole wheat cereal has been around since the 1920s, becoming an icon not just of the breakfast aisle, but the sports and advertising worlds, too. Here are 10 winning facts about it.

1. IT WAS INVENTED BY ACCIDENT.

The Washburn Crosby Company wasn't initially in the cereal business. At the time, the Minnesota-based company—which became General Mills in 1928—primarily sold flour. But in 1921, the story goes, a dietitian in Minneapolis spilled bran gruel on a hot stove. The bran hardened into crispy, delicious flakes, and a new cereal was born. In 1924, the Washburn Crosby Company began selling a version of the flakes as a boxed cereal it called Washburn's Gold Medal Whole Wheat Flakes. A year later, after a company-wide contest, the company changed the name to Wheaties.

2. ITS JINGLE FEATURED A SINGING UNDERTAKER AND A COURT BAILIFF.

Wheaties sales were slow at first, but the Washburn Crosby Company already had a built-in advertising platform: It owned the Minneapolis radio station WCCO. Starting on December 24, 1926, the station began airing a jingle for the cereal sung by a barbershop quartet called the Wheaties Quartet. The foursome sang "Have You Tried Wheaties" live over the radio every week, earning $15 (about $200 today) per performance. In addition to their weekly singing gig, the men of the Wheaties Quartet all also had day jobs: One was an undertaker, one was a court bailiff, one worked in the grain industry, and one worked in printing. The ad campaign eventually went national, helping boost Wheaties sales across the country and becoming an advertising legend.

3. WHEATIES HAS BEEN TIED TO SPORTS SINCE ALMOST THE BEGINNING.

Carl Lewis signs a Wheaties box with his image on it for a young boy.
Track and field Olympic medalist Carl Lewis
Stephen Chernin, Getty Images

Wheaties has aligned itself with the sports world since its early days. In 1927, Wheaties bought ad space at Minneapolis's Nicollet Park, home to a minor league baseball team called the Millers, and in 1933, the cereal brand started sponsoring the team's game-day radio broadcasts on WCCO. Eventually, Wheaties baseball broadcasts expanded to 95 different radio stations, covering teams all over the country and further cementing its association with the sport. Since then, generations of endorsements from athletes of all stripes have helped sell consumers on the idea that eating Wheaties can make them strong and successful just like their favorite players. The branding association has been so successful that appearing on a Wheaties box has itself become a symbol of athletic achievement.

4. WHEATIES HELPED KICK-START RONALD REAGAN'S ACTING CAREER.

In the 1930s, a young sports broadcaster named Ronald Reagan was working at a radio station in Des Moines, Iowa, narrating Wheaties-sponsored Chicago Cubs and White Sox games. As part of this job, Reagan went to California to visit the Cubs' spring training camp in 1937. While he was there, he also did a screen test at Warner Bros. The studio ended up offering him a seven-year contract, and later that year, he appeared in his first starring role as a radio commentator in Love Is On The Air.

5. ATHLETES' PHOTOS DIDN'T ALWAYS APPEAR ON THE FRONT OF BOXES.

Three Wheaties boxes featuring Michael Phelps
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

Although a Wheaties box wouldn't seem complete without an athlete's photo on it today, the cereal didn't always feature athletes front and center. In the early years, the boxes had photos of athletes like baseball legend Lou Gehrig (the first celebrity to be featured, in 1934) on the back or side panels of boxes. Athletes didn't start to appear on the front of the box until 1958, when the cereal featured Olympic pole vaulter Bob Richards.

6. THE FIRST WOMAN ON A WHEATIES BOX WAS A PILOT.

Former Track and Field Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersey stands with a poster of her new Wheaties box after it was unveiled in 2004.
Former Track and Field Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersey stands with a poster of her new Wheaties box after it was unveiled in 2004.
Stephen Chernin, Getty Images

Olympic gymnast Mary Lou Retton became the first woman to appear on the front of a Wheaties box in 1984, but women did appear elsewhere on the box in the brand's early years. The first was pioneering aviator and stunt pilot Elinor Smith. Smith, whose picture graced the back of the box in 1934, set numerous world aviation records for endurance and altitude in the 1920s and 1930s.

7. IT USED TO HAVE A MASCOT.

Though we now associate Wheaties with athletes rather than an animal mascot, the cereal did have the latter during the 1950s. In an attempt to appeal to children, Wheaties adopted a puppet lion named Champy (short for "Champion") as the brand's mascot. Champy and his puppet friends sang about the benefits of Wheaties in commercials that ran during The Mickey Mouse Club, and kids could order their own Champy hand puppets for 50 cents (less than $5 today) if they mailed in Wheaties box tops.

8. MICHAEL JORDAN IS THE WHEATIES KING.

Of all the athletes who have graced the cover of a Wheaties box, basketball superstar Michael Jordan takes the cake for most appearances. He's been featured on the box 18 times, both alone and with the Chicago Bulls. He also served as a spokesperson for the cereal, appearing in numerous Wheaties commercials in the '80s and '90s.

9. FANS ONCE GOT THE CHANCE TO PICK A WHEATIES STAR.

MMA star Anthony Pettis on the front of a Wheaties box.
Mike Mozart, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

The public hasn't often gotten a chance to weigh in on who will appear on the Wheaties box. But in 2014, Wheaties customers got to decide for the first time which athlete would be featured nationally. Called the Wheaties NEXT Challenge, the contest allowed people to vote for the next Wheaties Champion by logging their workouts on an app platform called MapMyFitness. Every workout of 30 minutes or more counted as one vote. Participants could choose between Paralympic sprinter Blake Leeper, motocross rider Ryan Dungey, mixed-martial-artist Anthony Pettis, lacrosse player Rob Pannell, or soccer player Christen Press. Pettis won, becoming the first MMA fighter to appear on the box in early 2015.

10. THERE WERE SEVERAL SPINOFFS THAT DIDN'T CATCH ON.

Three different Wheaties boxes featuring Tiger Woods sitting together on a table
Tiger Woods's Wheaties covers, 1998
Getty Images

Faced with declining sales, Wheaties introduced several spinoff cereals during the 1990s and early 2000s, including Honey Frosted Wheaties, Crispy Wheaties 'n Raisins, and Wheaties Energy Crunch. None of them sold very well, and they were all discontinued after a few years. The brand kept trying to expand its offerings, though. In 2009, General Mills introduced Wheaties Fuel, a version of the cereal it claimed was more tailored to men's dietary needs. Wheaties Fuel had more vitamin E and—unlike the original—no folic acid, which is commonly associated with women's prenatal supplements. Men didn't love Wheaties Fuel, though, and it was eventually discontinued too. Now, only the original "breakfast of champions" remains.

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TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX
The Sandlot Is Returning to Theaters for Its 25th Anniversary
TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX
TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX

Few films from the 1990s have grown in stature over the years like The Sandlot. Though it gained respectable reviews and box office receipts when it was released in April 1993, the movie's standing in pop culture has since ballooned into cult classic territory, and you can still find merchandise and even clothing lines dedicated to it today.

Now you can revisit the adventures of Smalls, Ham, Squints, and The Beast on the big screen when Fathom Events and Twentieth Century Fox, in association with Island World, bring The Sandlot back to theaters for its 25th anniversary. The event will be held in 400 theaters across the U.S. on July 22 at 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m., and Tuesday, July 24 at 2:00 p.m and 7:00 p.m. (all times local).

Each screening will come complete with a preview of a new documentary detailing the making of the movie, so if you wanted to know even more about how this coming-of-age baseball classic came to be, now’s your chance.

For more information about ticket availability in your area, head to the Fathom Events website. And if you want to dive into some more trivia about the movie—including the fact that it was filmed in only 42 days—we’ve got you covered.

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