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15 Sets of Athletic Twins

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There may be plenty of sibling athletes, but it's twice as nice for these 15 pairs of twins from the world of sports.

1. Mike and Marlin McKeever

The University of Southern California's football team recruited the McKeever twins—Mike and Marlin—in the late 1950s in the hope that their toughness would help revitalize the program. With Marlin playing defensive end (among other positions) and Mike at guard, the brothers became the first twins to earn All-American status and even made the cover of Sports Illustrated (which called them "the twin holy terrors of Los Angeles' Mount Carmel High School"). Mike would suffer a head injury that derailed his shot at the pros, but Marlin was selected in the first round of the NFL draft and spent 13 years in the league. Off the field, the twins also delved into acting, playing the Siamese cyclops twins in The Three Stooges Meet Hercules.

2. Paul and Morgan Hamm

The Hamm twins were big hits for the U.S. gymnastics team at the 2004 Summer Olympics, with Paul winning the gold medal in the all-around and both brothers helping the U.S. team to a silver medal finish. The two took some time off after the 2004 games, and ultimately did not compete in 2008. But there's also a persistent question about the brothers: nobody's clear on whether they're actually fraternal or identical twins. Slate's Josh Levin broke down the mystery in 2004.

3. Alvin and Calvin Harrison

In the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Alvin and Calvin became the first twins to win gold medals on the same relay team, running the first (Alvin) and third (Calvin) legs of the United States' 4x400 meter team. Unfortunately, things went south after that. Both brothers were accused of using banned substances, and their gold medals were eventually stripped when a teammate copped to doping. Alvin accepted a four-year suspension and transferred his allegiance to the Dominican Republic, where he competed after his ban ended. But Calvin poured his life savings into fighting the doping charge before losing his job as a personal trainer in the recession, and ended up homeless in San Diego.

4. Rich and Ron Sutter

Rich and Ron are just two members of the prolific Sutter family, which sent six brothers to the NHL (a seventh had a tryout, but opted out of the sport). Ron was the highest drafted of the six, going fourth overall to the Philadelphia Flyers in 1982, while Rich went 10th overall to the Pittsburgh Penguins. The two ended up as teammates on the Flyers for three seasons, then spent three more campaigns together with the St. Louis Blues. The hockey gene seems to have carried on—two Sutter men in the next generation have played in the NHL, a third was drafted, and two more are in the Western Hockey League.

5. Jose and Ozzie Canseco

Jose Canseco was one of the best hitters of all time, hitting 462 home runs in a career that included an MVP season and four Silver Slugger awards. Of course, steroids may have had something to do with that—he owned up to using them in 2005 and has since stated that many major leaguers use performance-enhancing drugs. People won't accuse his twin brother Ozzie of using steroids—he played just 24 games in the major leagues (including one spell with his brother in Oakland) and never hit a single home run. Now Ozzie manages the Edinburg Roadrunners in the United League.

6. The Steben Twins

Karyne and Sarah Steben have built long careers as gymnasts and entertainers, working for 17 years in Cirque du Soleil and even playing a pair of conjoined twins on HBO's Carnivale. Their specialty is the trapeze, where they innovated the feet-to-feet catching technique. They've credited their twin connection with helping them on the trapeze, saying that it actually helps them understand each other and get in sync.

7. Henrik and Daniel Sedin

Before entering the 1999 NHL draft, the Sedin twins looked for ways to end up on the same team. Why were they so bent on staying together? As Vancouver Canucks scout Thomas Gradin said, "They're good enough to play with anyone, but separately their capacity might decrease by 10 or 15 percent." The Canucks were able to make a series of trades to end up with the second and third overall picks that netted them both twins, who have already led the team to a pair of Stanley Cup appearances.

8. Coco and Kelly Miller

The twin basketball stars were standouts at the University of Georgia, even jointly winning the James E. Sullivan Award in 1999 for the nation's top amateur athlete—the first time the award went to multiple recipients. After graduating with biology degrees, the Miller sisters landed in the WNBA, with Kelly going to the Charlotte Sting and Coco joining the Washington Mystics. They've bounced around teams, even spending time as teammates with the Atlanta Dream in 2010.

9. The Usos

The Samoan brothers Jimmy and Jey Uso made their WWE debut with their manager Tamina in 2010, attacking the Hart Dynasty, and haven't let up since. They're far from the only twin team on the WWE circuit, which includes pairings like the Bella Twins, Kent and Keith Cole, The Headhunters, and Gymini.

10. Hiromi and Takami Ominami

Japanese twin runners Hiromi and Takami Ominami have each won a handful of races, each placing first in a pair of marathons. But perhaps their most interesting record is their status as the fastest marathoning sisters of all time.

11. Rex and Rob Ryan

The twin sons of legendary NFL coach and defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan have found success in the family business. Rex is the head coach of the New York Jets, while Rob is currently the defensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints. The two have squared off a number of times, but Rex holds the clear upper hand, with his teams winning all five matchups against Rob's defense (most recently on Nov. 3 when the Jets scored a 26-20 upset of the Saints). Rex even successfully trolled his brother by dressing up like him before a 2010 game between the Jets and Rob's Cleveland Browns.

12. Bob and Mike Bryan

As mirror twins (one is right-handed, the other left), tennis's Bryan brothers are an unusual doubles team. That may be a factor in their unprecedented success: they've won more games, tournaments, and Grand Slams than any other doubles pairing, and have held the top spot in the world doubles rankings for 344 weeks. As children, they were actually barred from ever playing each other in competitive matches and if they were ever paired up in a tournament bracket, their parents had them alternate forfeits.

13. Heather and Heidi Burge

The Burge twins—both 6'5"—made waves at the University of Virginia by leading the team to three straight Final Four appearances between 1990 and 1992. The two then went on to play in the WNBA, Heidi for the Los Angeles Sparks and the Washington Mystics and Heather for a year with the Sacramento Monarchs. The twins' life story was celebrated in the Disney Channel movie Double Teamed, which erroneously shows the two facing off against each other in the WNBA. In truth, they were never in the league at the same time.

14. Ronde and Tiki Barber

After successful stints at the University of Virginia, running back Tiki Barber and cornerback Ronde Barber were each selected in the 1997 NFL Draft. Tiki would become the New York Giants' all-time rushing leader over a 10-year career, while Ronde became an all-pro defensive back and, among other accomplishments, the only NFL player in history with at least 40 interceptions and 20 sacks. Since retiring, the two have co-authored eight children's books and have entered the media world. Ronde is an analyst with Fox Sports 1, while TIki's eclectic TV career has included a stint on Today.

15. Herbert and Wilfred Baddeley

As doubles partners, Herbert and Wilfred Baddeley made an intimidating pair on the tennis court. They won the Wimbledon doubles championship four times between 1891 and 1896. Wilfred also won three singles championships at Wimbledon before both brothers retired from the sport to focus on legal careers.

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Pop Culture
The Time a Wrestling Fan Tried to Shoot Bobby Heenan in the Ring
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For a man who didn't wrestle much, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan wound up becoming more famous than a lot of the men flexing in the squared circle. The onscreen manager of several notable grapplers, including André the Giant and “Ravishing” Rick Rude, Heenan died on Sunday at the age of 73. His passing has led to several tributes recalling his memorable moments, from dressing up in a weasel suit to hosting a short-lived talk show on TNT.

While Heenan’s “heel” persona was considered great entertainment, there was a night back in 1975 when he did his job a little too well. As a result, an irate fan tried to assassinate him in the ring.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Heenan was appearing at the International Amphitheater in Chicago as part of the now-defunct AWA wrestling promotion when his performance began to grate on the nerves of an unnamed attendee seated on the floor. Eyewitnesses described the man as friendly up until wrestlers Verne Gagne and Nick Bockwinkel started their bout with Heenan at ringside in Bockwinkel’s corner.

“Get Heenan out of there,” the fan screamed, possibly concerned his character would interfere in a fair contest. Heenan, known as “Pretty Boy” at the time, began to distract the referee, awarding an advantage to his wrestler. When the official began waving his arms to signal Heenan to stop interrupting, the fan apparently took it as the match being over and awarded in Bockwinkel’s favor. He drew a gun and began firing.

The man got off two shots, hitting three bystanders with one bullet and two more with the other before running out of the arena. (No fatalities were reported.) Security swarmed the scene, getting medical attention for the injured and escorting both Heenan and the wrestlers to the back.

According to Heenan, the shooter was never identified by anyone, and he was brazen enough to continue attending wrestling cards at the arena. ("Chicago really took that 'no snitching' thing to heart back then," according to Uproxx.)

Heenan went on to spend another 30 years in the business getting yelled at and hit with chairs, but was never again forced to dodge a bullet.

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History
Hans Schmidt, the "Nazi" Wrestler Who Incited Riots
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Waiting inside the locker room of the Pioneer Memorial Stadium, The Des Moines Register reporter Walter Shotwell thought he had found a clever way to discredit a visiting professional wrestler named Hans Schmidt. Just a few days prior, on August 1, 1953, Schmidt had been seen on national television barking into a microphone using a thick German accent. He dismissed the concept of sportsmanship and vowed to “win ze title and take it back to Germany vere it belongs.”

In the years following World War II, a German nationalist was not likely to be cheered on anywhere in the United States, but the vitriol Schmidt encouraged was unlike anything pro wrestling had ever seen. Schmidt had fans practically frothing at the mouth, stabbing him with hairpins, waving cigarette lighters in his face, and vandalizing his car. Fearing for his safety, police would often have to escort him through angry mobs. It didn’t really seem to matter whether Schmidt was truly anti-American or just playing a role. Either one seemed egregious.

Shotwell suspected the latter. During his interview with Schmidt, he handed him a newspaper clipping and asked him to read it out loud in German. Schmidt refused, saying that Shotwell wouldn’t understand him. Looking at it closely, Schmidt could see it quoted residents of Munich, where he claimed to hail from, who said they had never heard of any Hans Schmidt.

Shotwell pushed it a little further, until Schmidt made it clear he wasn’t going to continue to play along. Had he admitted the truth—that he was not an actual Nazi, but a French-Canadian named Guy Larose—then he likely would have missed out on a career that would eventually make him one of the highest-paid and most reviled athletes in the world.

Courtesy of Dave Drason Burzynski

If pretending to be an enemy of the state was his destiny, then Larose was born at the right time. He was 24 in 1949, the year he decided to become a pro wrestler; his dream of joining the Royal Canadian Mounted Police had ended while he was still in training after the police and several RCMP students tried to enforce an alcohol ban on a nearby Native community and had their vehicles pummeled with baseball bats.

Eager to exploit his six-foot-four, 240-pound frame, Larose turned to wrestling. In Michigan and across Canada, he was able to book contests but found that neither his persona nor his real name was drawing a crowd.

Arriving in Boston in 1951, Larose met wrestling promoter Paul Bowser, who took one look at the stern-faced wrestler and declared that he should adopt a Nazi persona. Larose wouldn’t be the first—Kurt Von Poppenheim had already devised a similar gimmick—but he’d have an opportunity to do it on television.

At the time, ring sports like boxing and wrestling were ideal for the burgeoning medium. Cheap to produce, they could easily fill programming schedules on networks like the DuMont Television Network, a onetime rival to CBS, NBC, and a burgeoning ABC that aired grappling contests from Chicago. Although Larose—now Schmidt—had been stirring up attention prior, it was his August 1953 appearance and interview with Chicago Cubs announcer Jack Brickhouse that drew more disdain than usual.

After declaring “Germany has been good to me” and claiming that he believed there was no place for sportsmanship in wrestling, Schmidt was cut off by Brickhouse. With the emotional wounds of World War II still fresh, his appearance had struck a nerve. DuMont, Brickhouse would later recall, received more than 5000 angry letters from viewers who were disgusted by Schmidt. At least one viewer recommended he be deported.

Larose, however, exercised some restraint. The word “Nazi” was rarely tossed around, and he never goosestepped or carried a swastika with him. The implication of his allegiance seemed to be more than enough to stir the crowd into a frenzy, especially when he would remain seated during the National Anthem or turn his back at the sight of the American flag. He had been a motorcycle dispatcher during the war, he told journalists, and was once shot down while in a plane.

Although those details weren’t true, on many nights Larose may have felt as though he was in a war zone. Walking to the ring, he’d often be jabbed by women using their hairpins, or by men trying to singe him with their cigarettes. During matches, his “cheating”—using chairs to brain opponents, or kicking them in the groin—would draw crowds toward the ring in an effort to start a riot. At one engagement in Milwaukee, the ensuing chaos led to a brief ban on pro wrestling in the arena.

When the journalist Shotwell asked him what kind of car he drove, he hesitated. “A Lincoln,” he said. “I don’t want to describe it any more than that. I don’t want it wrecked.” He often came out of arenas to find ice picks in his tires.

Whatever argument existed about the good taste of Larose’s performance, there was no question it was lucrative. People who wished to see him get beaten in programs against the likes of Verne Gagne or Lou Thesz filled arenas. Once, special guest referee Joe Louis decked him in a staged climax. There was some kind of catharsis in watching Larose get pummeled.

Photo (C) by Brian Bukantis, www.wrestleprints.com

According to pro wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer, who inducted the Schmidt character into the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame in 2012, Larose made roughly $1 million in his 20-year career, which wound to a close in the mid-1970s. Other “foreign menaces” like Nikolai Volkoff and the Iron Sheik were coming in, diversifying wrestling’s villain culture.

The kind of loathing he had drawn from the crowd remained rare in wrestling, which hates its heels but usually doesn’t attempt to stab them or burn them with fire. It wasn’t until Sergeant Slaughter turned away from his patriotism and became an Iraqi sympathizer in the early '90s that emotions got a bit too heated for entertainment’s sake. The WWE (then WWF) was forced to assign security to Slaughter’s family until the act was dropped.

By that point, Larose had long been out of the spotlight, having returned home to Quebec. He died in 2012 at the age of 87, his status as one of the most infamous performers of the 20th century having been largely forgotten. Never once did he admit during his prime that he was from Canada.

“Of course I’m from Germany,” he told Shotwell. “Do you think I’d go on television and say things that weren’t true?”

Additional Sources: Mad Dogs, Midgets, and Screw Jobs: The Untold Story of How Montreal Shaped Wrestling; The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Heels.

Unless otherwise credited, all photos (C) Dave Drason Burzynski from the book This Saturday Night: Return to the Cobo, available at Wrestleprints.com. Used with permission.

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