CLOSE

19 Unusual Sports Injuries (Including 'Too Much GameBoy')

Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Ryan Dempster just hit the disabled list with a fractured big right toe he suffered while trying to hurdle the dugout railing to go celebrate a Cubs win. While the news that Dempster could miss a month of action might cause Cubs fans to wonder if they really are cursed, Dempster's hardly the first athlete to sustain a weird injury. Here are a few highlights from the injury reports of days gone by.

1. Sacramento Kings small forward Lionel Simmons missed two games in his rookie season (1991) because he had tendonitis in his right wrist and forearm from playing too much GameBoy.

2. In 1994, journeyman knuckleballer Steve Sparks missed out on a chance to make his first big-league roster when he dislocated his shoulder during spring training with the Milwaukee Brewers. He tried to rip a phone book while imitating a group of motivational speakers who had visited the team.

3. NHL goalie Glenn Healy enjoyed a long career, and he also enjoyed playing the bagpipes. While playing for the Maple Leafs in 2000, Healy needed stitches after slicing himself while repairing an antique set of pipes.

4. Point guard Muggsy Bogues once missed the second half of a game after he became dizzy from inhaling ointment fumes while receiving treatment for a sore muscle at halftime.

5. Hall of Fame offensive tackle Turk Edwards suffered a career-ending injury in 1940 during the pregame coin toss.

When Edwards turned to return to the Washington Redskins' sideline, he caught his cleats on the turf, which wrecked his fragile knee and forced him into retirement.

wade-boggs6. Hall of Fame third baseman Wade Boggs once missed seven games after straining his back while trying to pull on his trademark cowboy boots. (In all fairness, it's probably tough with all of that chicken grease on your fingers.)

7. After scoring a goal in 2004, Servette midfielder Paulo Diogo decided to celebrate by jumping into the crowd. His wedding ring had other plans, though, and caught on a fence. The force ripped off the top of Diogo's finger, and to add insult to injury, the refs booked him for excessive celebration.

8. Actually, it might just be a good idea to take off all of your rings when you hit the field or court. Atlanta Braves closer Cecil Upshaw missed the entire 1970 season when his ring got caught on an awning as he tried to demonstrate his slam dunk technique.

9. Boston Red Sox pitcher Clarence Blethen didn't have a long career, but he did have a fine set of false teeth. According to legend, Blethen liked to carry his false teeth in his back pocket when he played, which was a decent enough plan until he had to make a takeout slide at second to break up a double play during the 1923 season. When Blethen slid, his false chompers supposedly bit him on the rear, which led to a bloody mess that forced him out of the game.

10. At some point during the 1975 or 1976 season, Mets reliever Ken Sanders had so much trouble seeing through the glare coming off of a glass partition behind home plate at Shea Stadium, he didn't realize his catcher had tossed the ball back to him. The ball conked Sanders right in the face, breaking his nose and cheek.

11. Journeyman reliever Greg A. Harris once missed two starts for the Rangers after he inflamed his elbow by spending an entire game flicking sunflower seeds at a friend who was sitting nearby.

12. One more reason to pay attention to your pharmacist: Brazilian soccer star Ramalho once missed three days of action because he was bedridden after taking a suppository orally.

13. Norwegian defender Svein Grondalen went for a jog as part of his training for an international match during the 1970s"¦and ran headlong into a moose. The injury forced him to withdraw from the match.

14. Can't believe this one hasn't happened to Prince Fielder yet: Atlanta first baseman Ryan Klesko missed several games in 1999 after straining his back while picking up his lunch tray.

15. Pitcher Tom Glavine suffered from food poisoning during the 1992 season; his symptoms were so bad that he broke a rib while vomiting.

jose-cardenal16. Chicago Cubs outfielder Jose Cardenal missed a game in 1974 because his eyelid was "stuck open," which prevented him from blinking. Although he eventually overcame this ailment, it didn't help Cardenal's reputation as a player who liked to use suspicious injuries to get out of games; two seasons earlier he had missed a game because crickets in his hotel room had kept him up all night, leaving him exhausted.

17. Pitching great Nolan Ryan once missed a start after he was allegedly bitten by a coyote.

18. In May 2002 Baltimore Orioles left fielder Marty Cordova fell asleep in a tanning bed and got a wicked sunburn on his face. His doctor ordered him to stay out of direct sunlight, which meant Cordova had to hide out in the clubhouse during day games until his face healed.

19. Stuttgart Kickers soccer player Sascha Bender once suffered a facial injury after being punched. The assailant, teammate Christian Okpala, said Bender "permanently provoked me by farting all the time."

Obviously, these are just a few of the greatest weird injuries. We left out some commonly cited examples, like Bill Gramatica's painful field goal celebration and Gus Frerotte's ill-conceived head butt. Share your favorites in the comments.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Brett Deering/Getty Images
arrow
Big Questions
Who Was Heisman and Why Does He Have a Trophy?
Brett Deering/Getty Images
Brett Deering/Getty Images

On Saturday night, one of three finalists will be named this year's Heisman Trophy winner. But before anyone brings home the hardware, let’s answer a few questions about John Heisman and his famous award.

Who Exactly Was John Heisman?

© Bettmann/CORBIS

His name is mostly associated with the trophy now, but Heisman (right) was a player, coach, and hugely successful innovator in the early days of football. After playing for Brown and then Penn as a collegian from 1887 to 1891, Heisman became a coach at a series of schools that included Oberlin, Buchtel, Auburn, Clemson, Penn, Washington & Jefferson, Rice, and, most notably, Georgia Tech.

For What Football Innovations Does Heisman Get Credit?

Just some little trivial stuff like snapping the ball. Centers originally placed the ball on the ground and rolled it back to their quarterbacks, who would scoop it up and make plays. When Heisman was coaching at Buchtel (which later became the University of Akron), though, he had a 6’4” QB named Harry Clark. Clark was so tall that picking the ball up off the ground was wildly inefficient, so Heisman invented the center snap as an easy way to get the ball in Clark’s hands. Heisman also innovated the use of pulling guards for running plays and the infamous hidden-ball trick.

Any Other Shenanigans on Heisman’s Resume?

You bet. When Heisman found a way to gain an edge, he jumped on it no matter how ridiculous it seemed. When Heisman was coaching at Clemson in 1902, his team traveled to Atlanta for a game against Georgia Tech. Although Heisman was known for being a rather gruff disciplinarian, the Clemson team immediately started partying upon their arrival.

When Georgia Tech’s players and fans heard that the entire Clemson squad had spent the night before the game carousing, they prepared to coast to an easy win. When the game started, though, Clemson roared out of the gate en route to a 44-5 stomping.

How did Clemson crush Tech when by all rights they should have been ridiculously hungover? The “team” that everyone had seen partying the night before wasn’t really Heisman’s Clemson squad at all. He had sent his junior varsity players to Atlanta the night before to serve as drunken decoys, then quietly slipped his varsity team in on a morning train right before the game.

What Kind of Coach Was He?

Heisman worked as an actor in community stock theater during the summer – he consistently received rotten reviews – and allegedly spoke in a brusque, yet bizarrely ostentatious manner. Georgia Tech’s website relates a story of one of Heisman’s speeches he would break out on the first day of practice while describing a football: "What is this? It is a prolate spheroid, an elongated sphere - in which the outer leather casing is drawn tightly over a somewhat smaller rubber tubing. Better to have died as a small boy than to fumble this football."

How Did His Name Get on the Trophy?

After leaving his head-coaching job at Rice in 1927, Heisman became the athletic director at New York’s Downtown Athletic Club. In 1935 the club began awarding the Downtown Athletic Club Trophy to the nation’s top college football star. (Chicago’s Jay Berwanger won the first trophy.) Heisman died of pneumonia the following fall before the second trophy could be awarded, and the club voted to rename the prize the Heisman Memorial Trophy Award.

Did He Ever Really Throw that Iconic Stiff Arm?

© Bettmann/CORBIS

Possibly, but Heisman didn’t have the ball in his hands all that much. Even though he was a fairly small guy at just 5’8” and 158 pounds, he played as a lineman throughout his college career.

The famous “Heisman pose” is actually based on Ed Smith, a former NYU running back who modeled for the trophy’s sculptor in 1934. Interestingly, Smith went years without knowing that he’d modeled for the famous trophy. His sculptor buddy Frank Eliscu had just needed a football player to model for a project, and Smith volunteered.

Smith figured Eliscu was just doing some little personal sculpture and remained totally oblivious to his spot in football history for the next 48 years until a documentary filmmaker called Smith to interview him about the Heisman in 1982. Smith initially had no idea what the guy was talking about, but he eventually remembered his modeling days. In 1985, the Downtown Athletic Club gave Smith his own copy of the Heisman, and in 1986 he even received recognition on the televised ceremony. He looked at the four finalists – Vinny Testaverde won that year – and quipped, "Whoever wins the award, I feel sorry for you, because you're going to be looking at my ugly face for a long time." [Pictured Above: Auburn's Bo Jackson in 1985.]

What’s a Heisman Trophy Worth on the Open Market?

Quite a bit. A number of Heisman winners have eventually sold their hardware, and the trophies fetch quite a bit of loot. O.J. Simpson got $230,000 for his, and several others have gone for six-figure prices. The most expensive trophy that’s changed hands was Minnesota back Bruce Smith’s 1941 award; it fetched $395,240.

How Did Steve Spurrier Change the Process?

SEC fans are going to be floored by this one, but the Ol’ Ball Coach did something really classy when he won the Heisman in 1966. Instead of taking the trophy for himself, Spurrier gave it to the University of Florida so the school could display it and let the student body enjoy it. Florida’s student government thought Spurrier’s generosity was so classy that they paid for a replica for Spurrier so he’d get to have his own trophy, too. Since then both the school and the player have received copies of the trophy.

So Heisman Must Have Been the World’s Greatest Sportsman, Right?

Well, not really. Heisman was on the victorious side of possibly the most gratuitously run-up score in sports history. In 1916 tiny Cumberland College canceled its football program and disbanded its squad, but it had previously signed a contract to travel to Atlanta to play Heisman’s Georgia Tech team. If Cumberland didn’t show up, they had to pay Georgia Tech a $3,000 penalty, which was quite a bit of cash in 1916.

Rather than forfeiting the money, Cumberland scraped together a team of 16 scrubs and went to take their walloping from Heisman’s boys. For reasons that still aren’t totally clear – some say it was to avenge an earlier baseball loss to Cumberland, while others claim Heisman wanted to make a statement about the absurdity of the old system of using total points scored to determine the national champion – the legendary coach showed Cumberland’s ragtag band no mercy. Tech went up 63-0 in the first quarter, but Heisman kept attacking until the final score was 222-0. There are tons of hilarious stats from the game, but the funniest is Georgia Tech rushing for 1,620 yards while Cumberland only squeaked out negative-96 yards on 27 carries.

This article originally appeared in 2010.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Al Bello/Getty Images
arrow
#TBT
Thin Ice: The Bizarre Boxing Career of Tonya Harding
Al Bello/Getty Images
Al Bello/Getty Images

In 2004, the Chicago Tribune asked Tonya Harding about the strangest business offer she had received after her skating career came to an abrupt end in the mid-1990s. “I guess to skate topless,” she answered. In 1994, the two-time former Olympian became infamous for her ex-husband’s attempt to break the leg of rival Nancy Kerrigan. Although Harding denied any knowledge of or involvement in the plan—which ended with Kerrigan suffering a bruised leg and Harding being banned from the U.S. Figure Skating organization, ending her competitive pursuits—she became a running punchline in the media for her attempts to exploit that notoriety. There was a sex tape (which her equally disgraced former husband, Jeff Gillooly, taped on their wedding night), offers to wrestle professionally, attempts to launch careers in both music and acting, and other means of paying bills.

Though she did not accept the offer to perform semi-nude, she did embark on a new career that many observers found just as lurid and sensational: For a two-year period, Tonya Harding was a professional boxer.

Tonya Harding rises from the canvas during a boxing match
Al Bello/Getty Images

Following the attack on Kerrigan and the subsequent police investigation, Harding pled guilty to conspiracy to hinder prosecution, received three years’ probation, and was levied a $160,000 fine. (Gillooly and his conspirators served time.) Ostracized from skating and with limited opportunities, Harding first tried to enter the music scene with her band, the Golden Blades.

When that didn’t work—they were booed off stage in Portland, Oregon, Harding’s hometown—she disappeared from the public eye, offering skating lessons in Oregon before resurfacing on a March 2002 Fox network broadcast titled Celebrity Boxing. Using heavily padded gloves and outsized headgear, performers like Vanilla Ice and Todd Bridges pummeled one another on the undercard. In the main event, Harding used her physicality to batter and bruise Paula Jones, the woman who had accused then-president Bill Clinton of sexual harassment.

This was apparently the boost of confidence Harding needed. “I thought it was fun knocking somebody else on their butt,” she told the Tribune. Boxing, she said, could be an opportunity to embrace her self-appointed title as “America’s Bad Girl.”

Harding looked up a boxing promoter in Portland named Paul Brown and signed a four-year contract that would pay her between $10,000 and $15,000 per bout. The 5-foot, 1-inch Harding quickly grew in stature, moving to 123 pounds from her 105-pound skating weight. Following her win against Jones, Brown booked her a fight against up-and-coming boxer Samantha Browning in a four-round bout in Los Angeles in February 2003. The fight was said to be sloppy, with both women displaying their limited experience. Ultimately, Browning won a split decision.

Harding rebounded that spring, winning three fights in a row. Against Emily Gosa in Lincoln City, Oregon, she was roundly booed upon entering the arena. “The entire fight barely rose above the level of a drunken street brawl,” The Independent reported.

Of course, few spectators were there to see Harding put on a boxing clinic. They wanted to watch a vilified sports figure suffer some kind of public retribution for her role in the attack on Kerrigan. Following her brief winning streak, Harding was pummeled by Melissa Yanas in August 2003, losing barely a minute into the first round of a fight that took place in the parking lot of a Dallas strip club. In June 2004, she was stopped a second time against 22-year-old nursing student Amy Johnson; the Edmonton, Alberta, crowd cheered as Harding was left bloodied. Harding later told the press that Johnson, a native Canuck, had been given 26 seconds to get up after Harding knocked her down when the rules mandated only 10, which she saw as a display of national favoritism.

Harding had good reason to be upset. The Johnson fight was pivotal, as a win could have meant a fight on pay-per-view against Serbian-born boxer Jelena Mrdjenovich for a $600,000 purse. That bout never materialized.

Tonya Harding signs head shots on a table
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

There was more than just lack of experience working against Harding in her newfound career. Having been a longtime smoker, she suffered from asthma. The condition plagued her skating career; in boxing, where lapses in cardiovascular conditioning can get you hurt, it became a serious problem. Although Harding competed again—this time emerging victorious in a fight against pro wrestler Brittany Drake in an exhibition bout in Essington, Pennsylvania, in January 2005—it would end up being her last contest. Suffering from pneumonia and struggling with weight gain caused by corticosteroids prescribed for treatment, she halted her training.

In an epilogue fit for Harding’s frequently bizarre escapades, there was remote potential for one last bout. In 2011, dot-com entrepreneur Alki David offered Harding $100,000 to step back into the ring, with another $100,000 going to her proposed opponent. Had it happened, it probably would have gone down as one of the biggest sideshows of the past century. Unfortunately for Harding, Nancy Kerrigan never responded to the offer.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios