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

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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New Plant-Based Coating Can Keep Your Avocados Fresh for Twice as Long
Apeel
Apeel

Thanks to a food technology startup called Apeel Sciences, eating fresh avocados will soon be a lot easier. The Bill Gates–backed company has developed a coating designed to keep avocados fresh for up to twice as long as traditional fruit, Bloomberg reports, and these long-lasting avocados will soon be available at 100 grocery stores across the Midwestern U.S. Thirty or so of the grocery stores involved in the limited rollout of the Apeel avocado will be Costcos, so feel free to buy in bulk.

Getting an avocado to a U.S. grocery store is more complicated than it sounds; the majority of avocados sold in the U.S. come from California or Mexico, making it tricky to get fruit to the Midwest or New England at just the right moment in an avocado’s life cycle.

Apeel’s coating is made of plant material—lipids and glycerolipids derived from peels, seeds, and pulp—that acts as an extra layer of protective peel on the fruit, keeping water in and oxygen out, and thus reducing spoilage. (Oxidation is the reason that your sliced avocados and apples brown after they’ve been exposed to the air for a while.) The tasteless coating comes in a powder that fruit producers mix with water and then dip their fruit into.

A side-by-side comparison of a coated and uncoated avocado after 30 days, with the uncoated avocado looking spoiled and the coated one looking fresh
Apeel

According to Apeel, coating a piece of produce in this way can keep it fresh for two to three times longer than normal without any sort of refrigeration of preservatives. This not only allows consumers a few more days to make use of their produce before it goes bad, reducing food waste, but can allow producers to ship their goods to farther-away markets without refrigeration.

Avocados are the first of Apeel's fruits to make it to market, but there are plans to debut other Apeel-coated produce varieties in the future. The company has tested its technology on apples, artichokes, mangos, and several other fruits and vegetables.

[h/t Bloomberg]

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The Curious Origins of 16 Common Phrases
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Our favorite basketball writer is ESPN's Zach Lowe. On his podcast, the conversation often takes detours into the origins of certain phrases. We compiled a list from Zach and added a few of our own, then sent them to language expert Arika Okrent. Where do these expressions come from anyway?

1. BY THE SAME TOKEN

Bus token? Game token? What kind of token is involved here? Token is a very old word, referring to something that’s a symbol or sign of something else. It could be a pat on the back as a token, or sign, of friendship, or a marked piece of lead that could be exchanged for money. It came to mean a fact or piece of evidence that could be used as proof. “By the same token” first meant, basically “those things you used to prove that can also be used to prove this.” It was later weakened into the expression that just says “these two things are somehow associated.”

2. GET ON A SOAPBOX

1944: A woman standing on a soapbox speaking into a mic
Express/Express/Getty Images

The soapbox that people mount when they “get on a soapbox” is actually a soap box, or rather, one of the big crates that used to hold shipments of soap in the late 1800s. Would-be motivators of crowds would use them to stand on as makeshift podiums to make proclamations, speeches, or sales pitches. The soap box then became a metaphor for spontaneous speech making or getting on a roll about a favorite topic.

3. TOMFOOLERY

The notion of Tom fool goes a long way. It was the term for a foolish person as long ago as the Middle Ages (Thomas fatuus in Latin). Much in the way the names in the expression Tom, Dick, and Harry are used to mean “some generic guys,” Tom fool was the generic fool, with the added implication that he was a particularly absurd one. So the word tomfoolery suggested an incidence of foolishness that went a bit beyond mere foolery.

4. GO BANANAS

chimp eating banana
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The expression “go bananas” is slang, and the origin is a bit harder to pin down. It became popular in the 1950s, around the same time as “go ape,” so there may have been some association between apes, bananas, and crazy behavior. Also, banana is just a funny-sounding word. In the 1920s people said “banana oil!” to mean “nonsense!”

5. RUN OF THE MILL

If something is run of the mill, it’s average, ordinary, nothing special. But what does it have to do with milling? It most likely originally referred to a run from a textile mill. It’s the stuff that’s just been manufactured, before it’s been decorated or embellished. There were related phrases like “run of the mine,” for chunks of coal that hadn’t been sorted by size yet, and “run of the kiln,” for bricks as they came out without being sorted for quality yet.

6. READ THE RIOT ACT

The Law's Delay: Reading The Riot Act 1820
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

When you read someone the riot act you give a stern warning, but what is it that you would you have been reading? The Riot Act was a British law passed in 1714 to prevent riots. It went into effect only when read aloud by an official. If too many people were gathering and looking ready for trouble, an officer would let them know that if they didn’t disperse, they would face punishment.

7. HANDS DOWN

Hands down comes from horse racing, where, if you’re way ahead of everyone else, you can relax your grip on the reins and let your hands down. When you win hands down, you win easily.

8. SILVER LINING

The silver lining is the optimistic part of what might otherwise be gloomy. The expression can be traced back directly to a line from Milton about a dark cloud revealing a silver lining, or halo of bright sun behind the gloom. The idea became part of literature and part of the culture, giving us the proverb “every cloud has a silver lining” in the mid-1800s.

9. HAVE YOUR WORK CUT OUT

The expression “you’ve got your work cut out for you” comes from tailoring. To do a big sewing job, all the pieces of fabric are cut out before they get sewn together. It seems like if your work has been cut for you, it should make job easier, but we don’t use the expression that way. The image is more that your task is well defined and ready to be tackled, but all the difficult parts are yours to get to. That big pile of cut-outs isn’t going to sew itself together!

10. THROUGH THE GRAPEVINE

A grapevine is a system of twisty tendrils going from cluster to cluster. The communication grapevine was first mentioned in 1850s, the telegraph era. Where the telegraph was a straight line of communication from one person to another, the “grapevine telegraph” was a message passed from person to person, with some likely twists along the way.

11. THE WHOLE SHEBANG

The earliest uses of shebang were during the Civil War era, referring to a hut, shed, or cluster of bushes where you’re staying. Some officers wrote home about “running the shebang,” meaning the encampment. The origin of the word is obscure, but because it also applied to a tavern or drinking place, it may go back to the Irish word shebeen for a ramshackle drinking establishment.

12. PUSH THE ENVELOPE

Pushing the envelope belongs to the modern era of the airplane. The “flight envelope” is a term from aeronautics meaning the boundary or limit of performance of a flight object. The envelope can be described in terms of mathematical curves based on things like speed, thrust, and atmosphere. You push it as far as you can in order to discover what the limits are. Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff brought the expression into wider use.

13. CAN’T HOLD A CANDLE

We say someone can’t hold a candle to someone else when their skills don’t even come close to being as good. In other words, that person isn’t even good enough to hold up a candle so that a talented person can see what they’re doing in order to work. Holding the candle to light a workspace would have been the job of an assistant, so it’s a way of saying not even fit to be the assistant, much less the artist.

14. THE ACID TEST

Most acids dissolve other metals much more quickly than gold, so using acid on a metallic substance became a way for gold prospectors to see if it contained gold. If you pass the acid test, you didn’t dissolve—you’re the real thing.

15. GO HAYWIRE

What kind of wire is haywire? Just what it says—a wire for baling hay. In addition to tying up bundles, haywire was used to fix and hold things together in a makeshift way, so a dumpy, patched-up place came to be referred to as “a hay-wire outfit.” It then became a term for any kind of malfunctioning thing. The fact that the wire itself got easily tangled when unspooled contributed to the “messed up” sense of the word.

16. CALLED ON THE CARPET

Carpet used to mean a thick cloth that could be placed in a range of places: on the floor, on the bed, on a table. The floor carpet is the one we use most now, so the image most people associate with this phrase is one where a servant or employee is called from plainer, carpetless room to the fancier, carpeted part of the house. But it actually goes back to the tablecloth meaning. When there was an issue up for discussion by some kind of official council it was “on the carpet.”

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