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

Tony Duffy, Allsport, Getty Images
Tony Duffy, Allsport, Getty Images

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

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

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

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!”

6 Times the Olympics Have Been Postponed or Canceled

Sander van Ginkel, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0
Sander van Ginkel, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0

The 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo have been officially postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan agreed to push the start date back to 2021 after Canada, Australia, and other countries announced they would not send athletes to the Summer Games this July.

The Summer Olympics is the biggest sporting event in the world, typically bringing more than 10,000 athletes from dozens of countries together every four years, The New York Times reports.

It's extremely rare for the Summer or Winter Olympics to be postponed or canceled. Since 1896, when the modern Olympic Games began, it has happened only six times—and it usually requires a war.

The Olympic Games were canceled during World War I and World War II. The 1940 Summer Games, scheduled to take place in Tokyo, were postponed due to war and moved to Helsinki, Finland, where they were later canceled altogether. The current coronavirus pandemic marks the first time the competition has ever been temporarily postponed for a reason other than war. Here's the full list.

  1. 1916 Summer Olympics // Berlin, Germany
  1. 1940 Summer Olympics // Tokyo, Japan and Helsinki, Finland
  1. 1940 Winter Olympics // Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
  1. 1944 Summer Olympics // London, United Kingdom
  1. 1944 Winter Olympics // Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy
  1. 2020 Summer Olympics // Tokyo, Japan

6 Surprising Ways Baseball Actually Favors Lefties

Left-handed pitcher Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers during game five of the National League Division Series in 2019.
Left-handed pitcher Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers during game five of the National League Division Series in 2019.
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

If you grew up playing baseball, tee-ball, softball, or any other derivative of America’s favorite pastime, you might be familiar with certain positions left-handed people are unofficially prohibited from playing—you’ll hardly ever see a left-handed shortstop or third baseman, for example, because they’d be facing the wrong direction for any throws to the right side of the field. However, there are plenty of other parts of the game that are equally important as efficiently making outs at first or second base, and some of them can even favor lefties. Read on to find out how left-handed batters, pitchers, and more have an edge against their right-handed competitors below.

1. Left-handed pitchers have a better view of first base.

Since a left-handed pitcher faces first base when he’s gearing up to pitch, he can easily see if a first base runner is leading off (i.e. taking a few steps off the bag, with the intention to steal second base). This makes for some pretty spectacular fake-outs where a pitcher will feign throwing a pitch and instead flip it to the first baseman, who can tag the runner out before he can get a foot (or finger) back on the bag.

2. Left-handed batters are closer to first base.

Left-handed batters are simply standing a little closer to first base than right-handed batters. As former MLB player Doug Bernier explained for Pro Baseball Insider, an extra step or so can be the difference between getting thrown out at first base or making it safely there, especially if it’s an infield hit. That said, not everyone agrees the slightly shorter distance to first base is enough to give left-handed batters an advantage on infield hits in general. In a 2007 article for The Hardball Times, John Walsh argued that since lefties hit more ground balls into the right half of the infield—giving first and second basemen a shorter distance to cover to make the out at first—their one-step head start isn’t statistically significant overall.

3. Left-handed batters’ momentum is already carrying them in the direction of first base.

Even if a shorter distance to first base isn’t enough to give a left-handed batter the edge on every occasion, he also has the laws of physics on his side. When a lefty swings, the momentum of the bat is moving to the right—i.e. toward first base—so he gets to run in the same direction he’s already moving. Righties, on the other hand, swing toward third base and have to break the momentum to sprint in the opposite direction. Dr. David A. Peters, a professor of engineering at Washington University in St. Louis (and baseball aficionado), calculated that lefties’ momentum means they’re able to travel to first base about one-sixth of a second faster than righties.

4. Left-handed first basemen are facing the right direction to throw the ball to another infielder.

If the ball is hit to a left-handed first baseman, he’s already in the ideal position—with his right foot closest to his target—to throw it just about anywhere else in the infield. This is especially helpful when there’s an opportunity to make an out at second or third base, which he’d usually prioritize over the first base out. A right-handed first baseman, on the other hand, might have to pivot as much as 180 degrees to get his left foot where it needs to be to throw it to another infielder.

5. Left-handed batters perform better against right-handed pitchers, which are more abundant.

In baseball, it’s generally agreed that batters fare better when hitting against opposite-handed (OH) pitchers, so much so that coaches sometimes stack their batting lineups with lefties when they know a righty will be pitching, and vice versa. “With the dominance of right-handed pitchers in the game,” Dan Peterson writes for gameSense Sports, “the left-handed hitter comes to the plate with a built-in advantage.” The advantage itself has to do with the direction of the pitches.

“With a right-handed release to a right-handed batter, the ball seems to be coming right at him,” Peterson explains. “The same pitch coming from the opposite side provides a better view across the body.”

6. Right field is shorter than left field in some parks.

detroit tigers comerica park aerial view
An aerial view of the Detroit Tigers' Comerica Park.
NASA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

When professional baseball stadiums first started cropping up in the late 19th century, there wasn’t a league-wide set of dimensions to standardize their size and shape (in fact, for the most part, there still isn’t). Since the majority of batters were right-handed—and, as such, more likely to hit the ball into left field—some stadiums featured left fields that were significantly deeper than their right fields. Take Philadelphia’s Columbia Park II, which opened in 1901 with a 340-foot left field and a 280-foot right field. Those short right fields meant left-handed batters would have an easier time hitting home runs. While most modern stadiums have quite literally evened the playing field with more symmetrical dimensions, some of them still have discrepancies; the right field foul pole at the Detroit Tigers’ Comerica Park, for example, is a whole 15 feet closer to home plate than its left field foul pole.

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