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Friday Five: Folk tales

1932:

1932: "THE CALLED SHOT"
Oct. 1, 1932 - World Series Game 3

In Ruth's tenth and final World Series appearance, he made perhaps his most indellible mark on baseball culture. According to legend, Ruth pointed to the left field bleachers at Wrigley Field before launching a home run to that very spot in a 7-5 Yankees win. Historians have debated the veracity of this incident; some say Ruth (shown above crossing home plate after the home run in question) was pointing at the Cubs' pitcher, not the stands. Whether it's true or not, it sure makes for a great story. Photo Credit: Baseballlibrary.com

The Yankees play the Cubs at Wrigley Field today, making this one a natural: What are your five favorite legends in baseball history? Here are mine:

1) Babe Ruth's called shot

Didn't see this one live, of course. I wonder how many people who attended that game - 1932 World Series Game 3, at Wrigley - are still with us?

If you don't know the specifics, here they are. I love how well they fit the Babe's profile, his bravado and his super-human athletic skills.

Alas, it seems that most baseball historians now believe that the Babe didn't actually call his shot. But as Ernest Hemingway once wrote, isn't it pretty to think so?

2) The Curse of the Billy Goat

Sure, it makes sense that the Cubs have the most folklore surrounding them. They have the most misery to explain away. 

Here's the backstory to this one. Given that the Cubs haven't so much as appeared in a World Series since 1945, and given the memorable NLCS collapses of 1984 and 2003, you can't blame some folks if they buy into this one a little.

3) Curt Schilling's bloody sock

This one is a little different, in that there's a conspiracy theory behind what I think is the truth. I believe that Schilling, in pitching 2004 ALCS Game 6 and 2004 World Series Game 2, actually bled, due to the extraordinary surgical procedure he underwent in order to take the mound those days. (See the photo here)

The alternate theory, which Gary Thorne actually reported (and subsequently recanted) as fact during a 2005 Red Sox-Orioles broadcast, is that Schilling used paint - or even better, ketchup - to create the image of his suffering.

There's a reason this theory has gained so much traction; Schilling is a highly unpopular spotlight hog. But no, I'm not buying it. It's a fun one, though.

4) Cal Ripken Jr. and Kevin Costner

I wasn't sure that this one was officially "out there," but it turns out that both Ripken and Costner have publicly addressed this (and denied it).

The rumor, which I heard as gospel when I was a young Yankees beat writer in the late '90s, stated that an Orioles home game in 1997 was postponed not due to the advertised "power failure," but rather because Ripken was too upset to play - the result of, um, finding Costner, um, in his home.

This Snopes.com post, however, shoots down the notion with a good amount of evidence.

5) Cool Papa Bell

These are more one-liners than actual folk tales, but they're so funny, let's include them.

As you can see in this Wikipedia entry, of all places, Satchel Paige used to say that Bell - a Negro League star and Hall of Fame member - was so fast that he could turn out a light switch and then be under the covers before it was dark. There's apparently an actual backstory to that in which a hotel room had faulty wiring, explaining the delay.

Paige also offered the joke that Bell hit a screaming line drive up the middle...that hit Bell in the rear end as he slid into second base.

Great stuff, all of it, and I'll certainly be thinking of Ruth's called shot today as I watch Yankees-Cubs (on TV. Derek Jeter's injury means I'm staying home for Father's Day weekend).

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