“Not only is there no god, but try getting a plumber on weekends.” — Woody Allen
“I do not think you can name many great inventions that have been made by married men.”–Nicola Tesla
I can name at least three. Golf, poker and selective hearing. OK, I can’t prove the first two, but I shouldn’t need to prove the last one. :-P
“What most people don’t understand is that UFOs are on a cosmic tourist route. That’s why they’re always seen in Arizona, Scotland, and New Mexico. Another thing to consider is that all three of those destinations are good places to play golf. So there’s possibly some connection between aliens and golf.”–Alice Cooper
Does Alice Cooper have inside information? Maybe he is an alien?
Anyway, if you watched any of this past weekend’s U.S. Open golf championship, it’s worth considering that Chambers Bay was designed for aliens. Or maybe by aliens.
“I believe we exist in a multiverse of universes.”–Michio Kaku
“I’m astounded by people who want to ‘know’ the universe when it’s hard enough to find your way around Chinatown.”–Woody Allen
Per my usual modus operandi, I revere both those that try to understand the universe, and those that poke fun at them. JBS Haldane famously said that the universe is not only stranger than we imagine, it’s stranger than we can imagine. I’ll try to make some more sense of the whole “multiverse” idea in Millennium Conjecture #6, though I can’t say how soon that will appear in this particular universe. I’m still trying to find my way out of Chinatown.
Note: This story originally ran on this blog 3 years ago. With today’s NY Daily News retrospective on the story, I am now up to 15 minutes and 55 seconds.
“In the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes.”–Andy Warhol
The date was May 4th, 1975. The place was Candlestick Park, San Fransisco. And the man of the hour was Bob Watson of the Houston Astros, who scored the 1 millionth run in major league baseball history. Watson beat Dave Concepcion of the Cincinnati Reds by four seconds in a race around the bases from opposite ends of the country. It was one of the most exciting early-in-the-season baseball moments ever.
To this day Watson’s name, and to a lesser extent Concepcion’s, is associated with that event in baseball history. But there was another name in the news that was connected to the story. He was a 24-year-old local sportscaster from Westport, CT who used a first generation, eighty dollar electronic calculator to research and originate the millionth run contest, thus scooping all the professional statisticians and baseball journalists. He went on a media tour to promote a “guess-the-player” contest sponsored by Tootsie Roll. His picture and name appeared in wire service stories, in Sport Magazine and in the New York Daily News. He appeared on television and spoke at press conferences alongside the likes of Stan Musial, Ralph Branca, Mel Allen and Bowie Kuhn. He had 15 minutes of Warholian fame. Then came oblivion.
The 24-year old whiz kid with the calculator was, of course, me.
I was exhilarated, excited and even euphoric; then it was over. And for thirty-something years the memory simply faded, almost to the point that it seemed to have happened to another person in
another lifetime. It became just another forgotten footnote in the deep and illustrious history of our national pastime. After awhile, I didn’t even care, so why should anybody else?
Then something funny happened. Straight out the blue, nearly four years ago, I received an email from Kansas City Star sportswriter Joe Posnanski.
“Are you the Mark Sackler who originated the millionth run?” he asked. “I’m writing a book about the 1975 Cincinnati Reds. I want to include it and the events involving Davey Concepcion as an interesting sidebar to the season’s story.”
The next year, The Machine, Posnanski’s book chronicling a great season by one of the best teams in the game’s history, appeared in bookstores with a chapter on the millionth run. After 34 years, somebody remembered. My sister joked that I was getting another 15 minutes of fame. My retort was that it was more like 30 seconds.
But then it happened again. A few months ago, a gentleman named Timothy Gregg contacted me on Facebook to make the same inquiry. Was I the millionth run originator? Gregg, also a former sportscaster and sports promoter, now a digital media producer, was co-authoring the memoirs of Houston Astros TV commentator Bill Brown. Of course, there would be a chapter on the millionth run in that book as well. This time not from the Reds point of view, but the Astros. This book–My Baseball Journey—was just recently published. So fifteen minutes of fame is now fifteen minutes and forty-five seconds. And counting…
Note: This post runs concurrently on The Blog of Funny Names
“Baseball players are smarter than football players. How often have you seen a baseball team penalized for too many men on the field?”–Jim Boutan
I don’t know if baseball players are smarter than football players. But I do know that, in recent years, football players certainly have had a leg up on baseball players in one respect: funny names. One need only look at the previous two editions of Funniest Name in the NFL Draft to realize this. Not only were the 2013 poll winner Barkevious Mingo, 2014 poll winner Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix and 2014 runner-up Jadaveon Clowney over the top funnynames, but all three of them were high first round picks. Clowney was actually last year’s overall number one.
But this brings us to a dilemma. It is well known that, in any professional sport, some years produce deep draft crops, some not so much so. I don’t know about athletic talent, but this year’s funny name draft class is just not as over-the-top all-star as the past two years. And the likely first round is totally devoid of candidates. That said, the field is wide open and full of lower round candidates whose names look like an explosion in a Lithuanian newsprint factory. Be careful pronouncing some of these, your tongue and lips might cramp.
Without further ado, here are this year’s nominees, peppered with quotes that prove that Yogi Berra has nothing on the pundits of pigskin.
Jay Ajayi, RB, Oregon State–He was overshadowed by the potent offense of cross state rival Oregon, known for the passing and scrambling of QB Marcus Mariota–but Ajayi is one of the top running backs in this year’s field and a likely second round pick. Note that if you drop the vowels at the beginning and end of his last name, he could give perennial Minor League Baseball Moniker Madness also-ran Jose Jose a run for his money as best repetitive name in sports. Anyway, I don’t know if he’ll win the funny name poll, but he has the funniest hair, hands down. Likely draft position: 2nd round.
“Nobody in football should be called a genius. A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein.”–Joe Theismann
Obum Gwacham, Defenseive End, Oregon State–What’s worse than being a running back on a team overshadowed by a cross-state prolific passing-based offense? Being a defender on that team. But while Gwachum will likely go in the late rounds of this year’s draft, he’s my early even money favorite to win the funny named poll. He was born in Nigeria, and considering he’s not the only one of his countrymen in the running, maybe there was an explosion in a Nigerian Scrabble® factory. By the way, his name, in the native tongue, means “son of god.” If he can walk on wet Astroturf, I wouldn’t bet against him. Likely draft position: round 6 or 7.
“People say I’ll be drafted in the first round–maybe higher.”–Craig Heyward
Owamagbe Odighizuwa, Defensive End, UCLA–The second of three Nigerians in the field, I don’t recommend trying to say this name too quickly. You could hyperventilate and pass out. Hey, I just nominate them, I don’t pronounce them. I pity the TV commentators who will have to do so. Maybe they will just call him “O O” and they could even give him a double zero Jersey number, like Jim Otto. Likely draft position: 2nd round.
“I want to rush for 1,000 or 1,500 yards, whichever comes first.”–George Rogers
Hroniss Grasu–Center, Oregon–First things first. That’s three candidates so far from Oregon, and all of the first four from the Pac-12. Grasu might be a center, but the country is clearly off-center in funny-named players this year. For geographical origin diversity, Grasu is of Romanian decent. His parents emigrated from Romania to Los Angeles in 1982 and opened Greco’s Roman Pizza on Hollywood Boulevard, which is still in business today. Romanian New York pizza? Only in L.A. Likely draft position: round 3.
“I have two secret weapons: my legs, my arms and my brain.”–Michael Vick
Ali Marpet–Center, Hobart College–While we’re going for geographical diversity, let’s also throw in ethnic and academic variety as well. As an economics major at Division III Hobart, Marpet seemed more likely headed to Wall Street than the NFL. Then the scouts noticed him and the rest, as they say, will soon be history. Marpet was named to the Jewish Sports Review’s 2013 All-America Team. Likely draft position: 2nd or 3rd round.
“If defensive linemen’s I.Q.’s were five points lower, they’d be geraniums.”–Russ Francis
Xzavier Dickson–Outside Linebacker, Alabama–It’s hard not to include any Xaviers in any funny name accounting. Dickson is borderline to even be picked in the draft at all this year, but hey, we had two Xavier’s in last year’s poll–I just had to continue the tradition. But that spelling: Xzavier!!? No, that’s not a typo–well, not here, but maybe on his birth certificate. I just couldn’t resist including this one–though maybe he’s more suited for The Blog of Oddly Spelled Names. Likely draft posit: Round 7, or undrafted free agent.
That does it for the ballot nominees. Among the also-rans eligible for write-in are Jaquishi Tartt, SS, Samford; Jeremiah Poutasi, OG, Utah; Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon (another Oregon player of Nigerian descent!); Deiontrez Mount, OLB, Louisville; and Kaleb Eulls, DT, Mississippi State.
Perhaps it’s not as rich a crowd as in the previous two years, but they are still worthy of note. The draft begins tomorrow night, but our voting opens now. The balloting closes at noon EDT, one week from today–results will be reported in next weeks Funny Names in the News. Vote as often as you like, but don’t forget the words of Joseph Stalin: “The people who cast the votes don’t decide an election, the people who count the votes do.” Mwah-ha-ha.
Note: this post appeared recently under a different title on The Blog of Funny Names
“Those are my principles. If you don’t like them, I have others.”–Groucho Marx
Julius Henry “Groucho” Marx (October 2, 1890 – August 19, 1977) was not only one of the funniest men to ever live, he also played some of the funniest named characters in American movie history. It’s also notable (at least to me) that he is the “ridiculous” part of the inspiration in the name of this blog (The Millennium Conjectures: A blog of the Ridiculous and Sublime). And by the way, the “sublime” half of the inspiration is one Mohandas K. Gandhi (October 2, 1869-January 30, 1948). The point? Well, take a close look and you will see one similarity. They share the same birthday, October 2, which just happens to be my birthday–if many years later.
But I digress. While Groucho’s name may only be somewhat funny, many of the character names he played in a slew of classic Marx Brothers movies were over the top funny. Here are just a few of them, in chronological order.
Professor Quincy Adams Wagstaff (Horsefeathers, 1932)
” I married your mother because I wanted children. Imagine my disappointment when you arrived. “–Groucho Marx in Horsefeathers.
While Groucho’s first truly iconic role was that of Captain Jeffrey Spaulding in 1930’s Animal Crackers, Wagstaff was his first funny-named character. But believe me, in that department he was just getting started.
Rufus T. Firefly (Duck Soup, 1933)
“Go, and never darken my towels again.”–Groucho Marx in Duck Soup.
While originally opening to mixed reviews, perhaps due to its then already dated World War I era political satire, Duck Soup has since become regarded as a classic and comedic masterpiece and was named to the American Film Institute’s list of the top 100 films of the 20th century. One critic said “love the comedy and ignore the plot.” No kidding. Caring about the plot of a Marx Brothers movie is like caring about the frame on a Picasso.
Otis P. Driftwood (A Night at the Opera, 1935)
“And now, on with the opera. Let joy be unconfined. Let there be dancing in the streets, drinking in the saloons, and necking in the parlor.”–Groucho Marx in A Night at the Opera
Another classic which was also named to AFI’s top 100 American Films of the 20th century. It just happens to also include what I consider the funniest scene of slapstick comedy ever made. (See below).
I’d laugh even harder, but the last cruise I went on, my own cabin was about that size.
Dr. Hugo Z. Hackenbush (A Day at the Races, 1937)
“I have a confession to make. I’m a horse doctor. But marry me and I’ll never look at another horse.”–Groucho Marx in A Day at the Races
As suggested by the quote above, Groucho plays a veterinarian of dubious skills in this flick. I always think of the character name as being Dr. Quackenbush. And as my wife happens to be a veterinarian, I laugh doubly hard. Hey, if I can laugh at myself, I can laugh at my wife, too.
J. Cheever Loophole (At the Circus. 1939)
“I bet your father spent the first year of your life throwing rocks at the stork.” Groucho Marx in At the Circus
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that, with that name, Groucho’s character in this one was a lawyer. It wasn’t the best of the Marx Brothers’ movies, but produced one of the most iconic musical numbers from their oeuvre, Lydia the Tattooed Lady.
That’s just a sampling, but if you don’t like these, well, he has others!
“There are three things you can do in a baseball game. You can win, you can lose, or it can rain.”–Casey Stengel
Unfortunately, there is a fourth thing that can happen. It can snow. And as that is exactly what it is currently doing outside my window right now, I thought I’d get a head start on this coming Sunday’s Major League Baseball opener and give spring some encouragement. Stay warm and dry, my friends.
“Perfect numbers like perfect men are very rare.”–Rene Descartes
“It’s clearly a budget. It’s got a lot of numbers in it.”–George W. Bush
It seems that perfect presidents are even rarer than perfect men or perfect numbers. And that goes doubly for perfect web sites, as that “W” quote above came from the inaptly named brainyquote.com. So what better entity to dedicate a day to than the most famous of imperfect numbers, π. On this Pi Day of the century (3/14/15) have yourself a slice of your favorite. I’m in Florida at the moment, so that would definitely be Key Lime.
Winter Chill Rerun: Time for Something Warm…
Originally posted on The Millennium Conjectures™:
“I am two with nature.”–Woody Allen
René Magritte’s message is rather unambiguous. An image of a “thing” is not the thing itself. But don’t worry, I’m not headed toward a heavy ontological discussion here. I have a simple question which, believe it or not, my overly opinionated philosophical mind has virtually no idea how to answer. Maybe one of you out there can help.
I love nature photography. Flowers, birds, wildlife, oceans, lakes, clouds, mountains, landscapes–you name it, I like looking at these images and they are my favorite to photograph. Good grief, I’ve even photographed mud puddles and insects. And yet I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, what one would call a nature lover. I hate gardening and yard work. I won’t even mow my own lawn as…
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