Abebe Bikila was some unknown guy from Ethiopia, a country in Africa. He was about to run in the Olympic Games against 68 of the world’s best marathon runners. The 25-mile course lay over Rome’s rough cobblestone streets. Everyone knew the race would be tough.
But when Abebe lined up for the start–he wasn’t wearing any shoes!
Soon, though, the crowd’s laughter turned into cheers. Abebe was winning! The crowd offered him water as he passed by, but Abebe refused. Even after running 25 miles, he wasn’t thirsty.
Abebe won the gold medal that day. He won by 25 seconds. He won the gold again in 1964. This time he wore shoes–and won by a whopping 4 minutes!
One hundred and eighteen years ago, baseball gloves were for babies. No baseball player would dare wear one. If you couldn’t catch the ball barehanded, then you shouldn’t be playing in the first place!
But in 1875, Charles Waitt of Boston decided to change the tradition. Charles played first base. He had to catch fast throws all the time. Charles was getting pretty tired of red, swollen hands.
So he began to wear a glove every single game. But he didn’t want the fans to get mad. So Charles tricked them. The crowd couldn’t see it because the glove was the same color as his skin!
One Down, One Million to Go
The year 1975 was good for baseball. The sport had turned ninety-nine years old. And on May 4, Bob Watson scored a home run.
But what’s so important about one home run? Well, nobody thought much about it at the time. Bob Watson scored a run — big deal.
But after the game, Bob found out that his run was the one-millionth run scored in the history of the big leagues!
The Seiko Time Corporation, which likes to predict things, says that home-run number two million will be scored in June 2042. Keep a close watch–you’ll be about fifty years old!
Take One, Pass It On
Pope John Paul II visited Des Moines, Iowa, in 1979. More than 350,000 people showed up to see him. For safety, no vehicles were allowed near him–no planes, trains, or automobiles.
Yet only an hour later, a Des Moines newspaper put out a special edition on the Pope. The newspaper was filled with photographs taken that very day.
But wait! All their photographers were stuck in the crowd. They couldn’t move, they couldn’t drive–no vehicles, remember?
So how did the film from their cameras get back to the newspaper office? Well, some clever person at the newspaper had hired relay runners. Ten members of the Ankeny High School cross-country team, in fact!
The young runners carried a bundle that contained 241 rolls of film. They passed it from person to person, just like in a relay race. Two miles away, a helicopter picked up the film–and flew it straight to the newspaper!
Being a football kicker is a tough job. Once he is on the field, a kicker has only two choices. He can kick the ball to the other team, or, if he’s close to the goal, he can try to score three points. He does this by kicking the ball through the goal posts.
Many years ago, a guy named Charley Brickley played football for Harvard University. Charley was a kicker. A really, really good kicker. In fact, in 1913, Charley beat Yale’s team all by himself; 15-5.
He kicked five field goals that day–and was the only player on his team to score!
Everybody knows how to do the “high five.” You raise your hand up in the air, and somebody else slaps it. That’s how athletes tell each other, “Good job!”
It’s a lot more fun than patting someone on the shoulder, that’s for sure. But do you know who started this odd practice?
Sports historians think it was Derek Smith. He played basketball for the University of Louisville in 1980. Derek helped his team win the college championship.
You can bet Derek did a lot of “high-fiving” that year!