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Bruce Jenner, John Wayne and a Newborn Baby: 18 Curious Draft Picks

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It's a guarantee that in this year's NFL Draft, a future Hall of Famer will be selected after someone who never plays a down in the league. What we can say with equal certainty (well, almost) is that no team will try to draft a newborn baby, select a Hollywood movie star, scout from the back of a trading card, pick a Nutri-Systems doctor/poker buddy or even a barefoot kicker at the top of the first round.

On occasion, teams have gone to great lengths to get it right and failed. Other times, long ago, there were so many rounds in the draft and so few serious candidates.

A look back at some highlights from pro sports drafts gone by:

1. Bruce Jenner

The Kansas City Kings picked Olympic decathlete champion Bruce Jenner 139th in the 1977 NBA draft. Jenner never played basketball beyond high school and -- as ESPN.com points out -- is regrettably remembered for sinking a basket in the "YMCA" sequence of the film flop Can't Stop the Music in 1980.

2. Carl Lewis

The Chicago Bulls picked the great Olympic sprint and long jump champion Carl Lewis in the 10th round of the 1984 NBA draft. For some reason, Bulls' fans prefer to remember 1984 as the year their team picked Michael Jordan No. 3 overall, one spot behind Portland's choice of 7-1 center Sam Bowie. In Portland, they remember it but refuse to talk about it.

3. Dave Winfield

While Lewis was also drafted in the 12th round by the Dallas Cowboys, Dave Winfield is the only athlete ever drafted by four leagues -- the NFL, NBA, ABA and Major League Baseball. Drafted fourth overall by the San Diego Padres, Winfield chose wisely and is in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

4. A baby

Atlanta Hawks GM Pat Williams and his wife had their first son on draft day 1974. To celebrate the event, Williams drafted the boy in the 10th round that night. The NBA voided the selection.

5. A pharmacist

Philadelphia Sixers owner Harold Katz amused himself in the 10th round of the 1983 draft by selecting 49-year-old Norman Horvitz from the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy. Many have since debated whether Horvitz was a poker pal of Katz's or a doctor with his Nutri-Systems company. Or both.

And now you know why the draft was shortened from seven rounds to three to two.

6. Russell Erxleben

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The woeful New Orleans Saints picked barefoot kicker/punter Russell Erxleben No. 11 in 1979. It's one thing to take a kicker that high -- no team ever has -- but two picks later the San Diego Chargers picked great tight end Kellen Winslow. Erxleben kicked four field goals in his NFL career.

7. Trading card favorites

To get a read on the NBA expansion draft class in 1970-71, Cleveland Cavaliers coach Bill Fitch gave assistant coach Jim Lessig $20 to buy bubble-gum trading cards. Yep. They studied the player bios on the back to help them in their assessments.

"We laid them all out on Bill's living room floor," Lessig told the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

For that but mostly for other reasons, the Cavaliers lost their first 15 games that year, won one and then promptly lost 12 more.

8. Bobby Garrett

The Cleveland Browns made Stanford All-American quarterback Bobby Garrett the first overall pick in the 1954 draft. A few weeks into training camp, Browns coach Paul Brown curiously traded him to Green Bay.

Turns out Garrett had a severe stuttering problem -- not conducive to calling plays in the huddle.

"We had to crack him on the back so he could spit out the play," former Packers fullback Fred Cone told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

Garrett played only nine games in the NFL.

9. David McDaniels

In 1968, the Cowboys chose David McDaniels in part for his outstanding time in the 40. When he was unable time and again to match his speedy effort, the Cowboys did some investigating and determined McDaniels had run 38 yards instead of 40.

So they traded him to Philly.

For Hall of Fame tight end Mike Ditka.

"I don't think the Eagles ever asked about his time, and we sure didn't tell them," Dan Reeves told Michael Knisley of The Sporting News in 1985. "We knew they were looking for a wide receiver. It was after that that Gil Brandt made sure the scouts measured off the full 40 yards."

10. Ricky Williams

As head coach of the New Orleans Saints, Ditka traded his entire 1999 draft for Texas running back Ricky Williams. And his first and third picks in the 2000 draft, too, apparently just to show he meant it.

Williams and Ditka appeared on the cover of ESPN The Magazine dressed as a bride and groom under the headline: "For Better or For Worse." Guess which one it was. Hint: neither lasted in New Orleans.

11. Bill Bene

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The Los Angeles Dodgers drafted righthander Bill Bene No. 5 in 1988. Was he wild? You could say that. One batter couldn't though.

At one point, Class A Bakersfield took Bene out of the rotation after he walked 29 in 13 innings. According to Sports Illustrated, coaches thought Bene would benefit from pitching simulated games. He hit the first batter he faced.

Plan B: Dress a plastic mannequin in Dodger blue and prop it up in the bullpen, so Bene could pitch without anyone getting hurt.

SI reports "Bene took to the idea -- drawing a mustache on the doll and dubbing it Harold. He even started getting the ball over the plate."

Not so much. Bene struck out 502 in 516 innings in his minor league career. He walked 543.

12. Art Schlichter

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The Colts picked Ohio State quarterback Art Schlichter No. 4 overall in 1982. That clipboard he carried on the sideline as a backup? He wasn't charting plays. That's how Schlichter, a notorious compulsive gambler as everyone learned over and over again, kept track of games he'd bet on. Between 1994 and 2006, Schlichter spent time in 44 different jails and prisons. He is under investigation for fraud in an alleged sports ticket scheme.

13. Eli Herring

BYU offensive tackle Eli Herring told NFL teams in 1995 not to bother drafting him. He had no intention of playing in the league because Sunday is a holy day for devout Mormons. The renegade Raiders -- now, there's a surprise -- went against the grain and picked him anyway. Herring didn't play.

14. Cal Rossi

UCLA halfback Cal Rossi was the ninth overall pick of the Washington Redskins in 1946. Except he was only a junior and ineligible to play in the league. Having wasted that pick, the Skins drafted him again in 1947. Glitch No. 2: Rossi never had any intentions of playing in the NFL.

15. Norm Michael

Norm Michael was the 18th round selection of the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1944 NFL draft, a fact he learned 57 years later when he happened to be reading a list of drafted Syracuse players throughout the school's history.

16. No one

The Vikings blew their seventh overall pick in 2003 because they let their 15-minute allotment expire. Jacksonville and Carolina got their picks in at No. 7 and No. 8, respectively, before the Vikings snapped out of it.

17. John Wayne

The Atlanta Falcons selected John Wayne in the 17th round of the 1972 draft. According to ESPN.com, NFL Films showed coach Norm Van Brocklin yelling to his staff, "Do we want the roughest, toughest s.o.b. in the draft?!"

Pete Rozelle, apparently no fan of True Grit, disallowed the pick.

18. A fictional player

This last story was told by Adam Raymond in the March-April issue of mental_floss magazine:

Like many hockey players drafted in the 11th round of the 1974 NHL Draft, Taro Tsujimoto never actually made it to the big time. But unlike the other players drafted with him, Tsujimoto didn’t exist.

His name is in the record books because of Punch Imlach, the former general manager of the Buffalo Sabres. Imlach was so fed up with tedious late rounds of the draft that he decided to poke some fun at the league. He pulled a Japanese name from the local phone book and made up an imaginary team. Then, he simply told NHL President Clarence Campbell that his draft pick was Taro Tsujimoto of the Tokyo Katanas. Sure, no one had ever heard of Tsujimoto, but that didn’t stop the NHL from making the selection official.

Several weeks later, Imlach revealed his prank, but Sabres fans didn’t care. For years after the draft, Buffalo crowds would break into chants, demanding “We want Taro!”

All images courtesy of Getty Images unless otherwise stated. 

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Paw Enforcement: A History of McGruff the Crime Dog
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Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Jack Keil, executive creative director of the Dancer Fitzgerald Sample ad agency, was stuck in a Kansas City airport at three in the morning when he started thinking about Smokey Bear. Smokey was the furred face of forest fire prevention, an amiable creature who cautioned against the hazards of unattended campfires or errant cigarette butts. Everyone, it seemed, knew Smokey and heeded his words.

In 1979, Keil’s agency had been tasked with coming up with a campaign for the recently-instituted National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC), a nonprofit organization looking to educate the public about crime prevention. If Keil could create a Smokey for their mission, he figured he would have a hit. He considered an elephant who could stamp out crime, or a rabbit who was hopping mad about illegal activity.

A dog seemed to fit. Dogs bit things, and the NCPC was looking to take a bite out of crime. Keil sketched a dog reminiscent of Snoopy with a Keystone Cop-style hat.

Back at the agency, people loved the idea but hated the dog. In a week’s time, the cartoon animal would morph into McGruff, the world-weary detective who has raised awareness about everything from kidnapping to drug abuse. While he no longer looked like Snoopy, he was about to become just as famous.

In 1979, the public service advertising nonprofit the Ad Council held a meeting to discuss American paranoia. Crime was a hot button issue, with sensational reports about drugs, home invasions, and murders taking up the covers of major media outlets like Newsweek and TIME. Surveys reported that citizens were concerned about crime rates and neighborhood safety. Respondents felt helpless to do anything, since more law enforcement meant increased taxes.

To combat public perception, the Ad Council wanted to commit to an advertising campaign that would act as a preventive measure. Crime could not be stopped, but the feeling was that it could be dented with more informed communities. Maybe a clean park would be less inviting to criminals; people might need to be reminded to lock their doors.

What people did not need was a lecture. So the council enlisted Dancer Fitzgerald Sample to organize a campaign that promoted awareness in the most gentle way possible. Keil's colleagues weighed in on his dog idea; someone suggested that the canine be modeled after J. Edgar Hoover, another saw a Superman-esque dog that would fly in to interrupt crime. Sherry Nemmers and Ray Krivascy offered an alternative take: a dog wearing a trench coat and smoking a cigar, modeled in part after Peter Falk’s performance as the rumpled TV detective Columbo.

Keil had designs on getting Falk to voice the animated character, but the actor’s methodical delivery wasn’t suited to 30-second commercials, so Keil did it himself. His scratchy voice lent an authoritarian tone, but wasn't over-the-top.

The agency ran a contest on the back of cereal boxes to name the dog. “Sherlock Bones” was the most common submission, but "McGruff"—which was suggested by a New Orleans police officer—won out.

Armed with a look, a voice, and a name, Nemmers arranged for a series of ads to run in the fall of 1980. In the spots, McGruff was superimposed over scenes of a burglary and children wary of being kidnapped by men in weather-beaten cars. He advised people to call the police if they spotted something suspicious—like strangers taking off with the neighbor’s television or sofa—and to keep their doors locked. He sat at a piano and sang “users are losers” in reference to drug-abusing adolescents. (The cigar had been scrapped.)

Most importantly, the NCPC—which had taken over responsibility for McGruff's message—wanted the ads to have what the industry dubbed “fulfillment.” At the end, McGruff would advise viewers to write to a post office box for a booklet on how to prevent crime in their neck of the woods.

A lot of people did just that. More than 30,000 booklets went out during the first few months the ads aired. McGruff’s laconic presence was beginning to take off.

By 1988, an estimated 99 percent of children ages six to 12 recognized McGruff, putting him in Ronald McDonald territory. He appeared on the ABC series Webster, in parades, and in thousands of personal appearances around the country, typically with a local police officer under the suit. (The appearances were not without danger: Some dogs apparently didn't like McGruff and could get aggressive at the sight of him.)

As McGruff aged into the 1990s, his appearances grew more sporadic. The NCPC began targeting guns and drugs and wasn’t sure the cartoon dog was a good fit, so his appearances were limited to the end of some ad spots. By the 2000s, law enforcement cutbacks meant fewer cops in costume, and a reduced awareness of the crime-fighting canine. When Keil retired, an Iowa cop named Steve Parker took over McGruff's voice duties.

McGruff is still in action today, aiding in the NCPC’s efforts to raise awareness of elder abuse, internet crimes, and identity theft. The organization estimates that more than 4000 McGruffs are in circulation, though at least one of them failed to live up to the mantle. In 2014, a McGruff performer named John Morales pled guilty to possession of more than 1000 marijuana plants and a grenade launcher. He’s serving 16 years in prison.

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Watch a Panda Caretaker Cuddle With Baby Pandas While Dressed Up Like a Panda
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Some people wear suits to work—but at one Chinese nature reserve, a handful of lucky employees get to wear panda suits.

As Travel + Leisure reports, the People's Daily released a video in July of animal caretakers cuddling with baby pandas at the Wolong National Nature Reserve in China's Sichuan Province. The keepers dress in fuzzy black-and-white costumes—a sartorial choice that's equal parts adorable and imperative to the pandas' future success in the wild.

Researchers raise the pandas in captivity with the goal of eventually releasing them into their natural habitat. But according to The Atlantic, human attachment can hamper the pandas' survival chances, plus it can be stressful for the bears to interact with people. To keep the animals calm while acclimating them to forest life, the caretakers disguise their humanness with costumes, and even mask their smell by smearing the suits with panda urine and feces. Meanwhile, other keepers sometimes conceal themselves by dressing up as trees.

Below, you can watch the camouflaged panda caretakers as they cuddle baby pandas:

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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