The REAL Story Behind 8 Legendary Baseball Myths

bucky dent 1978 playoff home run

Photo: AP

The history of baseball is filled with incredible tales of heroic feats and tragic twists of fate.Unfortunately, not all of those amazing stories happened quite the way that everyone thinks they did.

Sometimes people get their facts confused, misremember the details, or simply choose to believe the legend because it makes for a better story.

So what’s the truth behind these hallowed baseball memories?

Shoeless Joe Jackson Threw The 1919 World Series

MYTH: One of the best hitters in the history of baseball conspired with 7 of his teammates and nefarious gangsters to throw the 1919 World Series.

WHAT REALLY HAPPENED: Jackson admitted to taking $5,000 as part of a plot to tank the Series, but later claimed he tried to give the money back and even attempted to get himself benched, to no avail.

Commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis disagreed, banning Jackson from baseball for life. But do the facts of the case back up his story?

Jackson hit .375 and led his team in RBI during the 8-game series.

Some have argued that Jackson carefully avoiding getting hits when it mattered, having his best moments when it would not effect the outcome, but statisticians have come to his defence, claiming that his hitting couldn't possibly be the work of a man hoping to lose.

Wally Pipp Lost His Job To Lou Gehrig Because Of A Headache

MYTH: On June 2, 1925, long-time New York Yankee first baseman Wally Pipp had a headache. He asked for the day off, so his manager replaced him with little used reserve Lou Gehrig ... who kept the job for the next 14 years, setting the record for consecutive games played.

WHAT REALLY HAPPENED: The first mention of Pipp's headache came in the 1930s, right around the time that Gehrig retired. Baseball historians, in an attempt to correct the record and bolster Pipp's reputation as a solid hitter, pointed out that Pipp's 'headache' was actually a fractured skull, suffered after being beaned in the head during batting practice that day.

That became the more widely known story. And it is true that Pipp was hit by a baseball and missed more than a month of the 1925 season. (He was nearly killed and spent weeks in the hospital.)

However, the beaning happened one month after Gehrig's streak started, on July 2. A healthy Pipp was benched in June, along with five other Yankee starters in an attempt to shake up the lineup. Pipp was used sporadically for the remainder of the season (both before and after the beaning), but never started another game for the Yankees.

(He did have a fine season for Cincinnati in 1926.)

MYTH: With 2 strikes against him the 5th inning of a tied World Series game, an angry Babe Ruth pointed his finger toward the centerfield bleachers.

He promptly hit the next pitch into those centerfield bleachers, breaking a 2-2 tie.

WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED: A grainy, black and white image of Ruth pointing his finger ... somewhere ... seems to indicate that some gesture was made before that epic home run.

However, the idea that Ruth 'called his shot' doesn't really stand up to scrutiny. The Babe was more likely pointing toward the Chicago Cubs dugout, as he was trading verbal jabs with the bench players for most of the game.

Ruth never claimed that he intended to predict a home run, but he certainly didn't do anything to dispel the myth, one of many surrounding his rather sizable legend.

Pete Rose Ended Ray Fosse's Career At The 1970 All-Star Game

MYTH: In a meaningless exhibition game, 'Charlie Hustle' dove into Cleveland catcher Ray Fosse, dislocating the backstop's shoulder and effectively ending the career of a promising young franchise player.

WHAT REALLY HAPPENED: Yes, Fosse was hurt on the play at the plate, but he never went on the disabled list and played in 42 games in the second half of the season. (Rose himself missed three games with a bruised knee.)

Fosse also went to the All-Star Game again the next season and won his second Gold Glove. His average and power began to tail off the next two years, but he was still a full-time starter for three full seasons after the original hit.

The real blow to his career came in 1974, when Fosse (then with the Oakland A's) tried to break up a clubhouse fight between Reggie Jackson and teammate Billy North. Fosse suffered a broken neck in the altercation and missed the rest of that season. He never recovered and was out of baseball by 1977.

Carlton Fisk Saves The Red Sox In The 1975 World Series

MYTH: Carlton Fisk's 12th-inning dinger off the left field foul pole saves the Red Sox season and becomes a defining moment in franchise history.

WHAT REALLY HAPPENED: First of all, the Red Sox lost the 1975 World Series in 7 games, so all Fisk did was delay the inevitable. Second, he was the leadoff hitter in a tie game, so even a strikeout would not have cost Boston the series.

Third, and most important, it was not even the biggest home run of that game. With the Red Sox trailing by three runs in the bottom of the 8th inning, Bernie Carbo hit a two-out, pinch-hit home run that tied the game and forced extra innings, allowing for Fisk's heroics.

True, it didn't come with the iconic image of Fisk waving the ball fair, but as far as clutch hits go, none was bigger than Carbo's.

Bucky Dent Destroyed The Boston Red Sox' Season In 1978

MYTH: In a one-game playoff for the AL East pennant at Fenway Park, light-hitting second baseman shortstop Bucky Dent blasts a three-run homer over the Green Monster, breaking the hearts of Red Sox fans everywhere.

WHAT REALLY HAPPENED: Dent's home run (after replacing his broken bat with a 'special' one from teammate Mickey Rivers) was a shocking turning point in the decisive game -- but it was hardly a back breaker.

The home run (only the fifth hit by Dent all year) turned a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 Yankee lead, but it happened in the top of the 7th inning. The Red Sox had three more opportunities to rally and managed to score 2 runs in the bottom of the 8th.

Unfortunately, Boston's relievers gave up another run in the 7th after Dent's home run... then surrendered a final round-tripper in the top of the 8th to the more reliable slugger, Reggie Jackson.

They also had two runners on in the 9th inning, before Yankee closer Goose Gossage shut the door.

So it was actually Jackson's dinger that made the difference in the 5-4 game, yet Dent has borne the brunt of New England anger for more than 30 years.

Bill Buckner Cost The Red Sox Another World Series in 1986

MYTH: In the bottom of the 10th inning during Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, Red Sox first baseman Buckner lets a routine grounder roll right though his legs, ending Boston's hopes for a championship.

WHAT REALLY HAPPENED: The Red Sox did choke away a 2-run lead in the bottom of the 10th inning, but Game 6 was blown long before Buckner's unfortunate error.

With two outs already on the board in the 10th, the Red Sox relievers gave up 3 consecutive hits, threw a wild pitch, missed a sure pickoff play at second, then allowed a slow dribbler down the line to beat them. (Even if Buckner had fielded it cleanly, some have doubted whether the slow-footed pitcher Bob Stanley could have even beaten hitter Mookie Wilson to first base.)

Even if Buckner makes the play, the lead was already gone and there was no guarantee they'd come back to win in the 11th. Then after all that, Boston had a 3-0 lead two nights later in Game 7, but let that one get away too. The collapse was a true team effort.

Steve Bartman Cost The Chicago Cubs A Trip To The World Series in 2003

MYTH: Five outs away from their first World Series in nearly 60 years, a lone Chicago Cubs fan reaches over the railing and interferes with a routine pop-up, costing the Cubs a vital out and triggering yet another Wrigley collapse.

WHAT REALLY HAPPENED: Steve Bartman did what any baseball fan would do (including what most of those sitting around him failed to do) ... catch a foul ball.

The interference play did not change the situation the Cubs found themselves in, but Bartman somehow took the blame for all eight runs that followed that botched pop up, plus we assume, the wild pitch, two walks, and the error by Alex Gonzalez that could have ended the inning with a double play.

Ever after all that, the Cubs still had a chance to win Game 7 (at home) and failed. Steve Bartman didn't beat the Cubs. The Cubs did.

Unfortunately, Tiger's current life is not a myth.

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