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Rehashing MLB Tall Tales

Major League Baseball is known for its Tall Tales. Here are some of my favorite MLB stories.

This week, reports are coming out that NBC’s Brian Williams has been telling a lie for over a decade. According to Williams, he was in a helicopter that was shot down in Iraq in 2003, a story he has told several times in the years since. According to, well, everyone now, that story doesn’t add up. Eventually, Williams was forced to admit he may be mistaken, and that he was actually on the helicopter behind the one that was shot down. Queue political debates everywhere. I promise, that’s not why I’m here though.

The story got me thinking about baseball, because everything makes me think about baseball. Williams told a tall-tale and was caught in a bit of a lie; an embellishment, really. So it got me thinking; no sport has more tall tales than Major League Baseball. Baseball has stories ranging from hilarious to downright irresponsible that add to the sport’s lore. These stories include both on- and off-the-field situations, ranging from “probably true” to “almost certainly not true,” but they all add to the legend of the game. Much like people are upset with Williams, I, too, would be upset if these stories ever came out as false. So, in the spirit of tall tales, I figured I’d re-hash some of my favorite stories from the history of MLB, because I really don’t need much provocation to talk about these.

Dock Ellis’ LSD-Fueled No-Hitter

I’m starting with my favorite story ever. If you don’t know it, don’t worry; I have a treat for you at the end of this entry. Long-story short, Pittsburgh’s Dock Ellis threw a no-hitter on Friday, June 12, 1970. This wasn’t your average no-hitter though; Ellis walked eight men and relied on a couple huge defensive plays to preserve it. Oh, he was also tripping balls.

Dock Ellis AP

Photo: AP

According to Ellis himself, he took a hit of LSD around noon, thinking it was Thursday. By the time he realized it was actually Friday, and therefore his turn in the rotation, it was too late. Ellis has said in interviews since that he couldn’t feel the ball in his hand, could barely see his catcher 60 feet away, and struggled with the ball growing and shrinking in his glove. He basically tossed a no-no in Wonderland. If you ever need to know what MLB, and sports in general, were like in the ‘70s, this story should really be the only thing you need. Then again, don’t take it from me. Take it from Dock himself, in my favorite YouTube video ever created. If you haven’t seen this before, you are welcome.

Wade Boggs Drinks A Million Beers on Cross-Country Flight

Wade Boggs was one of the best hitters in MLB history, blah blah blah. Don’t care. He was, far more importantly, the best beer-drinker ever (excluding those whose last names were “the Giant”). A common story about Boggs and his beer-drinking acumen; he once drank 64 Miller Lites over the course of a cross-country flight.

MLB: Wade Boggs

Wade Boggs: Hall-of-Fame player, Hall-of-Fame drinker

On a flight from New York to the West coast, Boggs polished off 64 cold ones according to, well, everyone. Let’s say that’s a six-hour flight, we’re talking 10 beers an hour, or one every six minutes for six hours. At a playing weight listed as 190 lbs., that puts Boggs’ BAC at 1.268. That’s impossible, it just is. The limit is 0.08, putting Boggs at about 16 times the legal limit. WADE BOGGS WAS DRUNK ENOUGH FOR THE ENTIRE STARTING LINEUP AND ROTATION.

While I want to say there’s just no chance this is a true story, two things help his case. One, this story is pretty much pop culture now; everyone has heard it. Two, Bogg’s beer-flight for the ages was used as a plot point on a recent episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. According to star Charlie Day, Boggs told him during the course of filming that he once drank 107 beers in a single day. One hundred and seven. In a day. Boggs’ drinking, while embellished, is clearly legendary. I’m choosing to believe the 64-in-a-flight story, because the world is a better place when this is true. Speaking of drinking…

David Wells Throws a Perfect Game While Hungover

I have zero doubts to the veracity of this story. One look at David Wells, and you know this is a dude who was hungover most days. So, chances are, May 17, 1998 was no different. That day, Wells retired all 27 Twins he faced, tossing the 13th perfect game in modern MLB history at Yankee Stadium. He also felt like crap, apparently. In his own words, he was “half-drunk” and had a “skull-rattling headache.”

David Wells AP

I mean…just look at the guy. Photo: AP

According to various reports of varying believability, Wells spent the night before partying with the cast of Saturday Night Live, then pitched the game of his life while sweating profusely and fighting the urge to vomit. When he was done, he went and partied some more. Again, one look at the guy tells me this almost has to be true. The ‘90s were weird.

Babe Ruth Called Shot

I almost didn’t include this, but today is the guy’s birthday, so I’ll give it a shout-out. For one thing, this doesn’t include drugs or booze, so all in all it’s pretty boring. Second, it’s the most-told tall tale in MLB – perhaps sports – history. We all know the story. During Game Three of the 1932 World Series at Wrigley Stadium, Babe Ruth pointed to centerfield and proceeded to hit the ball over the fence, just like he said he would. This picture seems to confirm the stories, case closed:

Ruth Called Shot

Certainly looks like he’s pointing at…something

Well, not so much. That super-grainy picture is hardly conclusive, and even if he is pointing, god knows where or who he was pointing at. Some witnesses say he definitely pointed. Some say he definitely didn’t. The event has its own Wikipedia entry, for God’s sake.

I like to think Ruth pointed. The guy is a legend. Plain and simple, he’s a legend. And legends do legendary things, and taking abuse from fans and opposing players all game, then calling your shot and hitting it is the most legendary thing you can do. And, as Ruth himself once said:

That was really him, right?

*****

Baseball, perhaps more than any sport, lives on its legends. Maybe it’s the longevity of the sport, the fact that it has spanned so many time periods. Maybe it’s because baseball players have typically been more accessible to fans and media, and thus these stories are more likely to get out. Either way, it’s stories like these that make baseball great, and get people excited for the game even in the slowest month of the year. I just hope, unlike Williams’ story, they’re all true.





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