CLOSE
Original image

Keep on Truckin': 15 Stories of Life After Sports

Original image

Boxing great Sugar Ray Leonard retired in 1982. Then again in 1984. Enough, he said once more in 1987. And 1991. And finally in 1997.

Long before quarterback Brett Favre made retirement an annual and reversible rite, Leonard demonstrated that on the subject of possibly hanging it up for good and starting a new career he felt strongly both ways.

Jobs during his time away from the ring included HBO commentator and founder of the Sugar Ray Leonard television network. Don't remember it? There's a reason for that.

In an interview for ESPN's SportsCentury, Leonard's ex-wife Juanita said Leonard was clearly conflicted, that "still today, down inside, it's Ray Leonard. But Sugar Ray Leonard won't let him out."

Athlete retirements are the ultimate mixed bag. Some get arrested. Many get elected to political office. Some thrive. Some crash. More than a few live the credo once espoused by soccer great George Best, who said, "I spent a lot of money on booze, (women) and fast cars. The rest I just squandered."

In a March 2009 Sports Illustrated article, writer Pablo Torre cited a startling statistic; that two years after retirement 78 percent of former NFL players have gone bankrupt or are under financial stress due to joblessness, bad investments or divorce.

Here's a look at 15 sports retirement tales -- happy and otherwise.

1. Mookie Wilson

Wilson hit the ball that famously went through Boston Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner's legs in the 1986 World Series.

Wilson, who's currently the New York Mets' first base coach, also worked as a truck driver in the southern states since 1999. He denies he thinks of the Buckner play every time he drives through a tunnel.

Are there more interesting second careers? Yes. But how many truckers played in a World Series? (Also: I like the name "Mookie.")

2. Barry Sanders

The anti-Brett Favre and Sugar Ray Leonard, Sanders was one of the all-time greats who walked away unexpectedly and never came back.

His exit was much like that of the great Jim Brown, but at least Brown walked away from football into the Hollywood embrace of Bo Derek. Sanders announced his retirement from the Detroit Lions in 1999 by faxing a letter.

Not to the Lions. To his hometown newspaper, the Wichita Eagle.

It would be years before Sanders admitted he was tired of all the losing in Detroit and was upset with management over some personnel moves.

Sanders had to pay back the Lions $5.5 million in contract bonuses. He lives in West Bloomfield, Michigan, and is married to a local news anchor.

3. George Foreman

One of the 25 greatest boxers of all time, according to Ring Magazine's 2002 rankings.

He'd rank even higher as a pitchman. One of his post-boxing career business ventures was a deal with Salton, Inc., which markets the George Foreman Lean Man Fat-Reducing Grilling Machine.

The 1999 deal Foreman struck is one of the biggest athlete endorsement deals in history. He reportedly netted $4.5 million a month from his cut of the profits. Then Salton paid him a flat $137 million to use his name.

Foreman has 10 children. His five sons are all named George. So, apparently, he spends most of his family time in retirement saying, "No, not you."

4. Manute Bol

If there were an award for advancing humanitarian causes during a second career, Bol would win it. Unfortunately, he'd win it posthumously.

The 7-foot-7 Bol died of kidney failure in June 2010 at age 47. During his remarkable life, he established the Ring True Foundation to raise money for Sudan, his homeland.

The way he did it was unique in some cases. He raised money by fighting William "The Refrigerator" Perry in a celebrity bout, and by participating in a horse race.

Yep. As a jockey.

5. Richard Petty

Being The King is a full-time job for the icon of stock car racing. Good thing. With so many former athletes ending up in politics, Petty unintentionally bucked the trend.

He ran as the Republican nominee for North Carolina's Secretary of State in the mid-90s. Petty was considered a sure thing but lost the election, perhaps due to what some observers considered less than all-out campaigning.

"If I had known I wasn't going to win, I wouldn't have run," said Petty.

In 2006, he was cast as "The King" in Pixar's animated film Cars.

6. Jesse Ventura

Ventura was known as "The Body" when he starred as a pro wrestler. Born James George Vanos, he ran for mayor of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, in 1990. I sat in his living room for a story that year when he was showing up for city council meetings dressed in black leather and carrying his motorcycle helmet under his arm.

Little did anyone know he'd become the 38th governor of Minnesota in 1998 and inspire the nickname "The Governing Body" and a bumper sticker: "My governor can beat up your governor."

Most recently, Ventura taught a study group at Harvard on third-party politics. As an occasional political commentator, the former member of the Navy's Underwater Demolition Team was known as a strong voice against waterboarding, calling it torture.

"[Waterboarding] is drowning," he once said. "It gives you the complete sensation that you are drowning...I'll put it to you this way, you give me a water board, Dick Cheney and one hour, and I'll have him confess to the Sharon Tate murders."

7. Tonya Harding

Did I say some athletes crash? I meant crash and burn. After winning the 1991 U.S. Figure Skating Championship, her stock plummeted in 1994 when members of her camp (including ex-husband Jeff Gillooly) attacked her biggest rival, Nancy Kerrigan, at the 1994 championships.

She sold a pornographic "Wedding Video" to a tabloid, worked briefly as a pro wrestling manager, launched a boxing career (3-3 lifetime) and became a regular contributor to TruTv's The Smoking Gun Presents World's Dumbest...

Oh yeah. Almost forgot. She appeared in the 1996 movie Breakaway in which she played the girlfriend of a criminal.

You know what they call that? Not acting.

8. Dick Ambrose

Never heard of him? He played linebacker for the Cleveland Browns from 1976-83, got his law degree and now serves as a judge in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas in Northeast Ohio

Most recently he's served as the presiding judge in the notorious Anthony Sowell serial murder trial in Cleveland. Sowell was found guilty on 83 charges, including the murder of 11 female victims discovered at his house in 2009.

During the trial, a witness turned to Ambrose and said, "Do you mind if I call you Bam-Bam?"

Bam-Bam was Ambrose's nickname as a NFL player, proving an athlete can become even more successful and respected in a second career but never really leave the first one behind.

9. Mike Tyson

If Tonya Harding crashed and burned, Tyson combusted. His fall is well chronicled. Where is he now?

In March of this year, he started a reality series for Animal Planet called Taking on Tyson. It's about his passion for racing homing pigeons. In fact, the story goes that his first fight as a kid came after a bully ripped the head off one of his beloved pigeons.

Thankfully, there have been no re-enactments.

Wrote Dan Snierson for Inside TV, "If you've always dreamed of a reality series involving Mike Tyson and pigeons, well, you have weird dreams."

10. Mark Vlasic

A little-used quarterback during his six years in the NFL with San Diego, Tampa Bay and Kansas City, Vlasic has done well in the world of finance as the Director of RSM McGladrey's Wealth Management in Kansas City.

He's on this list for being smart enough to see he'd need a real job, for getting his real estate license as a player and because I'm a soft touch for quotes like this:

"Other than on your pickle jar, I was not a household name (as a NFL player)."

11. Jack McDowell

Former Cy Young Award winner with the Chicago White Sox. Became famous in New York for flipping off Yankees fans during a 1995 game. Did I mention he was playing for the Yankees at the time?

Played guitar for the band Stickfigure during his baseball career and has kept at it.

In 2008, became part of a musical group called "The Baseball Project." That venture led to the album: "Volume 1: Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails" that included a tribute song to McDowell called "The Yankee Flipper."

To date, no Volume 2.

12. Matt White

White's career record pitching for three Major League Baseball teams was 0-3. The salary he commanded was modest and not the reason that during the last few years of his career his teammates called him Mr. Billionaire.

His story is not quite Jed Clampett's story, but close. In 2003, White purchased 50 acres of mountain real estate in Cummington, Massachusetts, from his aunt. She used the $50,000 to enter a nursing home.

Turns out the land was solid Goshen stone, estimated to be about 400 million years old and worth around $2.5 billion, minus extraction costs. He started a small extraction operation. In 2009 he put the land on the market.

13. Lenny Dykstra

His nickname was "Nails" as a player for the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets. In 2008, he launched a jet charter company and magazine geared toward pro athletes.

In 2009, his net worth was estimated at $58 million.

By 2010, he was bankrupt and living in his car and hotel lobbies.

Latest update: On June 13, 2011, he appeared in Federal bankruptcy court to plead not guilty to twenty-five charges including grand theft. He was represented by a public defender.

14. Jack Clark

At one point the former San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals slugger owned 18 luxury cars including a $700,000 Ferrari and a Rolls Royce. According to his bankruptcy filings in 1992, he was paying on 17 car notes.

Clark got back on his feet in the 1990s. In 2009 the Cardinals hired him as a color commentator and he worked with young players in the Prospect League.

But not before he fractured six ribs and suffered near fatal injuries in a motorcycle accident while serving as the Los Angeles Dodgers hitting coach.

During the worst of his financial woes, he lost his $2.4 million home and a business.

Good guess. A drag-racing business.

15. Scottie Pippen

Pippen, who starred with Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls, considered a comeback as recently as 2007 because he needed the money. He declared bankruptcy and sued his former law firm claiming it lost $27 million of his money through poor investments.

At one point he was selling his a lakeside home that was said to feature the world's "largest residential aquarium."

At the heart of the $27 million suit was a dispute over a $4.5 million private jet he purchased in 2001. Turns out it was a lemon.

Pippen "won" a $2 million settlement. And the distinction of being named by The Business Pundit to No. 8 on the list of "25 Rich Athletes Who Went Broke." Not to mention this list.

Bud Shaw is a columnist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer who has also written for the Philadelphia Daily News, San Diego Union-Tribune, Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The National. You can read his Plain Dealer columns at Cleveland.com, and read all his mental_floss articles here.

Original image
Mabel Livingstone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
arrow
entertainment
12 Surprising Facts About Bela Lugosi
Original image
Mabel Livingstone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

On October 20, 1882—135 years ago today—one of the world's most gifted performers was born. In his heyday, Bela Lugosi was hailed as the undisputed king of horror. Eighty-five years after he first donned a vampire’s cape, Lugosi's take on Count Dracula is still widely hailed as the definitive portrayal of the legendary fiend. But who was the man behind the monster?

1. HE WORKED WITH THE NATIONAL THEATER OF HUNGARY.

To the chagrin of his biographers, the details concerning Bela Lugosi’s youth have been clouded in mystery. (In a 1929 interview, he straight-up admitted “for purposes of simplification, I have always thought it better to tell [lies] about the early years of my life.”) That said, we do know that he was born as Béla Ferenc Dezső Blaskó on October 20, 1882 in Lugoj, Hungary (now part of Romania). We also know that his professional stage debut came at some point in either 1901 or 1902. By 1903, Lugosi had begun to find steady work with traveling theater companies, through which he took part in operas, operettas, and stage plays. In 1913, Lugosi caught a major break when the most prestigious performing arts venue in his native country—the Budapest-based National Theater of Hungary—cast him in no less than 34 shows. Most of the characters that he played there were small Shakespearean roles such as Rosencrantz in Hamlet and Sir Walter Herbert in Richard III.

2. HE FOUGHT IN WORLD WAR I.

The so-called war to end all wars put Lugosi’s dramatic aspirations on hold. Although being a member of the National Theater exempted him from military service, he voluntarily enlisted in the Austro-Hungarian Army in 1914. Over the next year and a half, he fought against Russian forces as a lieutenant with the 43rd Royal Hungarian Infantry. While serving in the Carpathian mountains, Lugosi was wounded on three separate occasions. Upon healing from his injuries, he left the armed forces in 1916 and gratefully resumed his work with the National Theater.

3. WHEN HE MADE HIS BROADWAY DEBUT, LUGOSI BARELY KNEW ANY ENGLISH.

In December 1920, Lugosi boarded a cargo boat and emigrated to the United States. Two years later, audiences on the Great White Way got their first look at this charismatic stage veteran. Lugosi was cast as Fernando—a suave, Latin lover—in the 1922 Broadway stage play The Red Poppy. At the time, his grasp of the English language was practically nonexistent. Undaunted, Lugosi went over all of his lines with a tutor. Although he couldn’t comprehend their meaning, the actor managed to memorize and phonetically reproduce every single syllable that he was supposed to deliver on stage.

4. UNIVERSAL DIDN’T WANT TO CAST HIM AS COUNT DRACULA.

The year 1927 saw Bela Lugosi sink his teeth into the role of a lifetime. A play based on the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker had opened in London in 1924. Sensing its potential, Horace Liveright, an American producer, decided to create an U.S. version of the show. Over the summer of 1927, Lugosi was cast as the blood-sucking Count Dracula. For him, the part represented a real challenge. In Lugosi’s own words, “It was a complete change from the usual romantic characters I was playing, but it was a success.” It certainly was. Enhanced by his presence, the American Dracula remained on Broadway for a full year, then spent two years touring the country.

Impressed by its box office prowess, Universal decided to adapt the show into a major motion picture in 1930. Horror fans might be surprised to learn that when the studio began the process of casting this movie’s vampiric villain, Lugosi was not their first choice. At the time, Lugosi was still a relative unknown, which made director Tod Browning more than a little hesitant to offer him the job. A number of established actors were all considered before the man who’d played Dracula on Broadway was tapped to immortalize his biting performance on film.

5. MOST OF HIS DRACULA-RELATED FAN MAIL CAME FROM WOMEN.

The recent Twilight phenomenon is not without historical precedent. Lugosi estimated that, while he was playing the Count on Broadway, more than 97 percent of the fan letters he received were penned by female admirers. A 1932 Universal press book quotes him as saying, “When I was on the stage in Dracula, my audiences were composed mostly of women.” Moreover, Lugosi contended that most of the men who’d attended his show had merely been dragged there by female companions.   

6. HE TURNED DOWN THE ROLE OF FRANKENSTEIN’S MONSTER.

Released in 1931, Dracula quickly became one of the year's biggest hits for Universal (some film historians even argue that the movie single-handedly rescued the ailing studio from bankruptcy). Furthermore, its astronomical success transformed Lugosi into a household name for the first time in his career. Regrettably for him, though, he’d soon miss the chance to star in another smash. Pleased by Dracula’s box office showing, Universal green-lit a new cinematic adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Lugosi seemed like the natural choice to play the monster, but because the poor brute had few lines and would be caked in layers of thick makeup, the actor rejected the job offer. As far as Lugosi was concerned, the character was better suited for some “half-wit extra” than a serious actor. Once the superstar tossed Frankenstein aside, the part was given to a little-known actor named Boris Karloff.

Moviegoers eventually did get to see Lugosi play the bolt-necked corpse in the 1943 cult classic Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. According to some sources, he strongly detested the guttural scream that the script forced him to emit at regular intervals. “That yell is the worst thing about the part. You feel like a big jerk every time you do it!” Lugosi allegedly complained.

7. LUGOSI’S RELATIONSHIP WITH BORIS KARLOFF WAS MORE CORDIAL THAN IT’S USUALLY MADE OUT TO BE.

It’s often reported that the two horror icons were embittered rivals. In reality, however, Karloff and Lugosi seemed to have harbored some mutual respect—and perhaps even affection for one another. The dynamic duo co-starred in five films together, the first of which was 1934’s The Black Cat; Karloff claimed that, on set, Lugosi was “Suspicious of tricks, fearful of what he regarded as scene stealing. Later on, when he realized I didn’t go in for such nonsense, we became friends.” During one of their later collaborations, Lugosi told the press “we laughed over my sad mistake and his good fortune as Frankenstein is concerned.”

That being said, Lugosi probably didn’t appreciate the fact that in every single film which featured both actors, Karloff got top billing. Also, he once privately remarked, “If it hadn’t been for Boris Karloff, I could have had a corner on the horror market.”

8. HE LOVED SOCCER.

In 1935, Lugosi was named Honorary President of the Los Angeles Soccer League. An avid fan, he was regularly seen at Loyola Stadium, where he’d occasionally kick off the first ball during games held there. Also, on top of donating funds to certain Hungarian teams, Lugosi helped finance the Los Angeles Magyar soccer club. When the team won a state championship in 1935, one newspaper wrote that the players were “headed back to Dracula’s castle with the state cup.” [PDF]

9. HE WAS A HARDCORE STAMP COLLECTOR.

Lugosi's fourth wife, Lillian Arch, claimed that Lugosi maintained a collection of more than 150,000 stamps. Once, on a 1944 trip to Boston, he told the press that he intended to visit all 18 of the city's resident philately dealers. “Stamp collecting,” Lugosi declared, “is a hobby which may cost you as much as 10 percent of your investment. You can always sell your stamps with not more than a 10 percent loss. Sometimes, you can even make money.” Fittingly enough, the image of Lugosi’s iconic Dracula appeared on a commemorative stamp issued by the post office in 1997.

10. LUGOSI ALMOST DIDN’T APPEAR IN ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN—BECAUSE THE STUDIO THOUGHT HE WAS DEAD.

The role of Count Dracula in this 1948 blockbuster was nearly given to Ian Keith—who was considered for the same role in the 1931 Dracula movie. Being a good sport, Lugosi helped promote the horror-comedy by making a special guest appearance on The Abbott and Costello Show. While playing himself in one memorable sketch, the famed actor claimed to eat rattlesnake burgers for dinner and “shrouded wheat” for breakfast.

11. A CHIROPRACTOR FILLED IN FOR HIM IN PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE.

Toward the end of his life, Lugosi worked on three ultra-low-budget science fiction pictures with Ed Wood, a man who’s been posthumously embraced as the worst director of all time. In the 1953 transvestite picture Glen or Glenda?, Lugosi plays a cryptic narrator who offers such random and unsolicited bits of advice as “Beware of the big, green dragon who sits on your doorstep.” Then came 1955’s Bride of the Monster, in which Lugosi played a mad scientist who ends up doing battle with a (suspiciously limp) giant octopus.

Before long, Wood had cooked up around half a dozen concepts for new films, all starring Lugosi. At some point in the spring of 1956, the director shot some quick footage of the actor wandering around a suburban neighborhood, clad in a baggy cloak. This proved to be the last time that the star would ever appear on film. Lugosi died of a heart attack on August 16, 1956;  he was 73 years old.

Three years after Lugosi's passing, this footage was spliced into a cult classic that Wood came to regard as his “pride and joy.” Plan 9 From Outer Space tells the twisted tale of extraterrestrial environmentalists who turn newly-deceased human beings into murderous zombies. Since Lugosi could obviously no longer play his character, Wood hired a stand-in for some additional scenes. Unfortunately, the man who was given this job—California chiropractor Tom Mason—was several inches taller than Lugosi. In an attempt to hide the height difference, Wood instructed Mason to constantly hunch over. Also, Mason always kept his face hidden behind a cloak.

12. HE WAS BURIED IN HIS DRACULA CAPE.

Although Lugosi resented the years of typecasting that followed his breakout performance in Dracula, he asked to be laid to rest wearing the Count’s signature garment. Lugosi was buried under a simple tombstone at California's Holy Cross Cemetery.

Original image
iStock
arrow
Live Smarter
How to Carve a Pumpkin—And Not Injure Yourself in the Process
Original image
iStock

Wielding a sharp knife with slippery hands around open flames and nearby children doesn't sound like the best idea—but that's exactly what millions of Halloween celebrations entail. While pumpkin carving is a fun tradition, it can also bring the risk of serious hand injuries. According to the American Society for Surgery of the Hand (ASSH), some wounds sustained from pumpkin misadventure can result in surgery and months of rehabilitation.

Fortunately, there are easy ways to minimize trauma. Both ASSH and CTV News have compiled safety tips for pumpkin carvers intended to reduce the chances of a trip to the emergency room.

First, it's recommended that carvers tackle their design with knives made specifically for carving. Kitchen knives are sharp and provide a poor grip when trying to puncture tough pumpkin skin: Pumpkin carving knives have slip-resistant handles and aren't quite as sharp, while kitchen knives can get wedged in, requiring force to pull them out.

Carvers should also keep the pumpkin intact while carving, cleaning out the insides later. Why? Once a pumpkin has been gutted, you’re likely to stick your free hand inside to brace it, opening yourself up to an inadvertent stab from your knife hand. When you do open it up, it's better to cut from the bottom: That way, the pumpkin can be lowered over a light source rather than risk a burn dropping one in from the top.

Most importantly, parents would be wise to never let their kids assist in carving without supervision, and should always work in a brightly-lit area. Adults should handle the knife, while children can draw patterns and scoop out innards. According to Consumer Reports, kids ages 10 to 14 tend to suffer the most Halloween-related accidents, so keeping carving duties to ages 14 and above is a safe bet.

If all else fails and your carving has gone awry, have a first aid kit handy and apply pressure to any wound to staunch bleeding. With some common sense, however, it's unlikely your Halloween celebration will turn into a blood sacrifice.

[h/t CTV News]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios