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Nashville Scene The Roaring 20th

Superlatives you won't read anywhere else

By Randy Horick

DECEMBER 20, 1999:  If you're not sick of the ubiquitous best-of-the-century lists yet, you can't say you haven't had your chance. Here's one final installment of our century's superlatives that you're not likely to find on other, more respectable lists.

Top Players Immortalized by Association With Someone Else's Famous Play

1. Vic Wertz, the Cleveland slugger robbed of an extra-base hit when rookie Willie Mays made a jaw-dropping, over-the-shoulder-catch in the 1954 World Series.

2. Al Downing, the hapless Dodger pitcher who yielded Hank Aaron's 715th homer.

3. Craig Ehlo, the Cleveland Cavaliers' guard whose most famous highlight shows his outstretched hand in the face of a leaping Michael Jordan as MJ buried a buzzer-beating, playoff-winning shot.

4. Michael Downs, the DB for the Dallas Cowboys who will be eternally victimized in the famous photo of Dwight Lewis' championship-winning, fingertip grab that came to be known simply as "The Catch."

Top Sideline Meltdowns

1. After grabbing an interception and streaking down the sideline, Florida State's "Neon" Deion Sanders caught the eye of Auburn coach Pat Dye and pointed tauntingly at his own groin. Assistant coaches had to restrain the red-faced Dye from running onto the field after Sanders.

2. 1954 Cotton Bowl: As Rice's Dickie Maegle raced down the sideline for yet another long scoring run, a frustrated Alabama benchwarmer came onto the field and tackled him. Rice was awarded a TD and won 28-6.

3. 1978 Gator Bowl: Ohio State's deranged coach, Woody Hayes, surpassed even his own standard for fanatical intensity when he attacked the Clemson linebacker who had just intercepted a pass and snuffed out the Buckeyes' last hope.

4. Reacting to perceived poor play by the offense, Houston Oilers' defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan hurled punches at offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride.

Most Scintillating but Little-Known Baseball Quotes

1. "That feller runs splendid but he needs help at the plate, which coming from the country chasing rabbits all winter give him strong legs, although he broke one falling out of a tree, which shows you can't tell, and when a curve ball comes he waves at it and if pitchers don't throw curves you have no pitching staff, so how is a manager going to know whether to tell boys to fall out of trees and break legs so he can run fast even if he can't hit a curve ball?"--Casey Stengel

2. "Swing hard in case you hit something."--Joe Garagiola

3. "The fine was greater than I expectorated."--Texas Rangers' manager Frank Lucchese, after the American League monetarily penalized him for spitting in the direction of an umpire

4. "Rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for U.S. Steel."--Bill Veeck

5. "Sure, I believe in rules. If there weren't any rules, how could you break them?"--Leo Durocher, who also coined the phrase "Nice guys finish last"

Best Mean-Spirited but Cool Stunts by Ballplayers

1. Just to rattle his most hated rival, Ty Cobb once lined a succession of hard foul balls straight into the New York Yankees' dugout, scattering players with each new shot and nearly provoking a melee.

2. To silence a loud, persistent heckler near their bench in Philadelphia, the Boston Celtics designed a play that called for Bob Cousy to duck when Bill Russell hurled a bullet pass at him. The pass smacked the fan squarely in the chest, and he had to be helped from the arena.

Top Mean-Spirited but Cool Stunts by a College Band

1. During its show at halftime of a game against Oklahoma, the unruly Stanford band formed a giant phallic symbol as a salute to Sooners' coach Barry Switzer.

2. At halftime of a game against Texas A&M, the Rice M.O.B. (Marching Owl Band) formed a fire hydrant in mock tribute to the Aggies' collie mascot, Reveille. After the game, the A&M Corps of Cadets rioted and blocked the band from leaving Rice Stadium.

Babe Ruth Feats That Will Probably Never Be Surpassed

1. Thirteen scoreless innings during his first World Series pitching appearance, with the Red Sox in 1916.

2. Four porterhouse steaks, eight hot dogs, and eight soft drinks. One afternoon at Coney Island.

3. Once dangled his manager, Yankee boss Miller Huggins, from a moving train.

4. Most sacrifice bunts (10 in 1926) by a player with more than 45 home runs. (Mark McGwire, by contrast, hasn't recorded a sacrifice bunt in the past five years.)

5. Hung over from the night before, Ruth ran into a palm tree while chasing a fly ball during a spring training game and knocked himself out cold.

Top Expressions Popularized by SportsCenter Announcers

1. "Rumblin, fumblin, stumblin!" (Chris Berman, riffing Keith Jackson to describe sloppy or inept play)

2. "Boo-yeah!" (Stuart Scott, as an all-purpose exclamation point)

3. "Dare I say, en fuego?" (Dan Patrick, describing a player on a hot streak)

4. "Just call him straight butta, cause he's on a roll." (Scott, see No. 3 above)

5. "Get at me, dog!" (Scott, loosely translated as "See if you can stop this!")

6. "It's deep, and I don't think it's playable." (Keith Olbermann, describing a home run)

7. "Your puny ballparks are too small to contain my gargantuan blasts! Bring the finest meats and cheeses for all my teammates!" (Kenny Mayne, hypothesizing the reaction of a player who has just hit a home run)

8. "He's da bus driver, 'cause he's takin' 'em ALL to school!" (Scott, often reserved for Michael Jordan or Allen Iverson)

9. "He's listed as day-to-day, but then again, aren't we all?" (Patrick)

10. "I'm not a player; I just crush a lot." (Scott, borrowing from rapper Big Pun to describe a hard-hit baseball or emphatic dunk)

Best Screen Performances by a Professional Athlete

1. Alex Karras, whose "Mongo" in Blazing Saddles was best remembered for punching out a horse and achieving a new standard for cinematic flatulence.

2. Randall "Tex" Cobb as the crazed biker in Raising Arizona.

3. Jim Brown in 100 Rifles, just because he was Jim Brown and Racquel Welch was Racquel Welch.

4. John Matuszak, who had to ratchet down his energy level to portay a lunatic lineman in North Dallas Forty.

5. Ray Allen as Jesus the basketball superstar in He Got Game.

Best Nicknames That Need Explanation

1. William "Refrigerator" Perry, Chicago Bears (dubbed "Biscuit" by a teammate, as in "one biscuit shy of 350").

2. Don "Full Pack" Stanhouse, Baltimore Orioles--so christened by Orioles manager Earl Weaver for the number of cigarettes Weaver smoked whenever Stanhouse pitched.

3. Ron "Boot" Brewer, one of the famed "Triplets of Arkansas basketball"--"when he was a boy," explained teammate Sidney Moncrief, "his head was shaped like a boot."

4. Pascual "I-285" Perez, named for the Atlanta loop he circled for hours trying to find the ballpark.

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