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Top 20 Bizarre Incidents in Sports History

Normal is boring. Being weird is much more interesting. And the people who comprise this list may justifiably be called a lot of things, but they can never be called dull or dreary. They are the brightly odd colors on the vivid spectrum of life. And they will certainly not be forgotten any time soon. From Dennis Rodman’s wedding dress to Pedro Martinez tossing aside an elderly man to Ron Artest going into the stands, these events are seared into the public consciousness.

Webster’s Dictionary defines bizarre as: “strikingly out of the ordinary; odd, extravagant, or eccentric in style or mode; or involving sensational contrasts or incongruities.” Eccentric, sensational, odd- these are just mere words that attempt to describe these incredible events from the realm of sports. Some involved long-standing feuds between bitter rivals (Piazza v. Clemens or Harding v. Kerrigan) and some were two creatures whose fates simply intertwined at exactly the wrong moment (Randy Johnson v. Dove or Manu Ginobli v. Bat).

This list is supposed attempted to be light-hearted and humorous, but some of these events do not have happy endings. Bizarre events involve things that have gone slightly awry and amiss. Diehard animal crusaders will not be pleased. Anyone in a marching band may find himself or herself offended. And fans of certain lunatic sports interlopers will be none to be pleased. But for everyone else, sit back and enjoy the hilarious antics and peculiar tales of the world of sports.

A few years back, a friend of mine had a memorable summer tryst with a beautifully odd creative writing student. She always told him that normal was boring and its better to be a little off. She was right.

20 Dennis Oddman & The Dictator

via luggageonline.com

19 A Bird’s Eye View

You never want to get hit with a Randy Johnson fastball and one poor creature discovered this the hard way. On March 24th, 2001 in the 7th inning of a spring training game against San Francisco, Johnson struck a dove, killing it instantly. The play was ruled as a “no pitch”, even though the bizarre incident is not covered by the MLB’s official rules.

18 Batman

17 Batman Part II: Gladiators Edition

The Yankees versus the Mets: a Subway Series that hearkened back to the epic rivalries of the 1940s & 50s. It was the first game since Clemens had beaned Piazza in the head and, as Piazza writes, “the boroughs were bloodthirsty… they wanted a cage fight…[But] I sincerely believed that, with all the hype surrounding the showdown, Clemens wouldn’t dare throw at me again.”

When Piazza’s bat exploded, Clemens picked it up and threw with vigour towards his nemesis. He would later state he thought it was the ball. Piazza writes that he held back because “… there had been so much public clamoring to see Clemens and me go mano-a-mano, such a loathsome display of bloodlust… It had evolved into a gladiator mentality. It's my job to feed the mob? I had no interest in being the people's puppet. Never did.”

16 Bobby Knight vs. Chair

15 “The Play”

“They get it back now to the 30, they're down to the 20... Oh, the band is out on the field!”

14 Height Advantage

via armscontrolwonk.com

Eddie Gaedel (3-foot-7) became the shortest player to ever participate in a major league game. Eddie, who wore the number 1/8 (just in case he forgot his value in this charade) made only one plate appearance in his entire career, was walked on four consecutive pitches and was replaced by a pinch runner on first base.

He was given stern instructions by owner Bill Veeck not to swing at a single pitch. "I'm going to be up on the roof with a high-powered rifle watching every move you make. If you so much as look as if you're going to swing, I'm going to shoot you dead.” Veeck claims he took out a one million dollar life insurance policy, just in case.

13 Leon Lettdown

12 Balls to the Walls

Talk about going to the extra mile. Rodney McCray of the Vancouver Canadians smashed his way into the record books in one of the most memorable baseball moments in history. On May 27th, 1991, McCray ran through the right field wall after initially making the catch. Perhaps, most embarrassingly, he dropped the ball. McCray was good-natured about the play, eventually being honoured with his very own ‘Bobblefence Night’.

11 R.I.P. Chuck Hughes

AP Photo/Jim Mone

10 Martinez vs. Zimmer

9 Royalty Loyalty (Gamboa)

via brianmortensen.com

On September 19th, 2002 Kansas City Royals’ first base coach Tom Gamboa fell victim to a brazen, unprovoked attack by a violent father and son duo. The father and son eventually plead guilty and were sentenced to probation and, unsurprisingly, failed to keep themselves out of jail for very long. Gamboa suffered permanent hearing damage from the attack. "I felt like a football team had hit me from behind. Next thing I knew, I'm on the ground trying to defend myself. It just happened so fast."

8 Mike Tyson gets an Earful

7 “Lunatic on the Track”

6 Lucky Day at the Track

AP Photo/Harry Cabluck

In July of 1933, Art Rooney Sr. paid the $2,500 NFL franchise fee, but his son Art Rooney Jr. kept the franchise alive after two impossibly lucky days at the track.

The details are somewhat sketchy, but according to Junior’s self-published autobiography:

“AJR picked as many as eleven straight winners in that two-day spree and won an indeterminate amount of money which may have totaled upwards of $380,000. Roy Blount, in his book about the Steelers and the Rooneys, said it was ‘probably the greatest individual performance in the history of American horse-playing.’ Nobody since has disagreed.”

5 Tonya Harding’s Meltdown

via rollingstone.com

In the weeks leading up to the 1994 Olympics, an anonymous attacker assaulted the much beloved Nancy Kerrigan. The assailant was later identified as a hit man hired by Tonya Harding’s husband Jeff Gillooly. It was never proven that Harding knew anything about the attack, in the same way that Nixon never knew anything about the Watergate break-in, though she eventually received a lifetime ban after interfering in the investigation and prosecution of the attack.

“The Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan story played out like a Lifetime movie, and members of both the print and broadcast media ate it up like tabloid candy," wrote Emma Gray of the Huffington Post. "It had a catfight element that we love so much, and a class-war theme (even though Kerrigan also came from a working-class family).

4 Ballsy Celebrations

3 Dock LSD

Just say no to drugs, kids. Dock Ellis didn’t quite take this to heart and on June 12th, 1970 pulled off the most improbable no-hitter in MLB history, pitching while high on LSD after losing track of time during a weekend bender. Ellis claims he was so high that he couldn’t see which batter he was facing; just whether they were batting left or right. “I didn’t know if I was facing Hank Aaron, Willie Mays or Mickey Mantle. I was just out there throwing a baseball and having a great time.”

2 The Fan Man

Riddick Bowe versus Evander Holyfield (a magnet for strangeness) in 1993 was supposed to be about revenge. Bowe had taken Holyfield’s crown and Evander wanted it back. But this fight was overshadowed by an, ahem, overblown incident involving a man and his fan.

James “The Fan Man” Miller parachuted into the ring during round 7, delaying the fight and leaving Miller severely bruised and battered after Holyfield’s entourage and fans beat him to a pulp. Miller joked afterwards, "It was a heavyweight fight, and I was the only guy who got knocked out."

1 The Fans in the Stands

Ron Artest (sorry Metta World Peace) may laugh it off now, but the Pacers-Pistons brawl of 2004 was undoubtedly the ugliest moment in NBA history. It eventually resulted in nine players being suspended a total of 149 games and cost them a combined $11 million in lost salary. But it cost the NBA its dignity. More so, it cost Detroit Pistons’ fans whatever remained of their self-respect.

Jemele Hill wrote in a column for ESPN.com: “As embarrassing as it was, the fight brought some fascinating issues to the surface, including the declining relationships between fans and players and, of course, the racial tensions created by a nearly all-black league being marketed, covered and consumed by a mostly white media and fan base.”

Perhaps part of this tension is that basketball players, unlike football and hockey players, can’t hide behind a helmet and, thus, are more recognizable and under the public spotlight. In the years following, both the NBA and its teams would completely overhaul their security protocols and reform the guidelines pertaining to alcohol sales.

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Top 20 Bizarre Incidents in Sports History