Five bizarre bans: fairground attractions, baseball no-hopers and national anthems
Four jockeys were handed suspensions ranging from six months to an eye-watering 12 years this week. That got us thinking – what are the weirdest and most bizarre bans we’ve ever seen? Here’s five we came up with.
1. Baseball legend Willie Mays banned for some post-career part-time jobbing
Baseball has had its fair share of banning scandals. This is a sport, after all, which gave the world big-game match-fixing (more below) long before the Italians had even thought of it (more below on that too).
But the one which befell one of the all-time greats Willie Mays in 1983 was head-scratchingly strange. Mays (pictured top left, with Barack Obama) was, and remains, a living legend of the game. He was selected for the All-Star game in 19 straight seasons. He won 12 Gold Gloves awards in 12 successive years, making him the best outfielder in Major League Baseball between 1957 and ’68. He has a plaza in San Francisco named after him. One of his catches has a whole Wikipedia page dedicated to it, named simply The Catch.
And yet, Mays found himself on the outside looking in for a couple of years after incurring the wrath of then MLB Commissioner Bowie Kuhn for ... getting jobs as greeters and autograph signers at a casino in Atlantic City. Killjoy Kuhn reckoned that a casino was no place for baseball Hall of Famers to be, so he banned Mays – even though he was long retired and not involved in baseball in any capacity. Understandably, the ban was overturned two years later and Mays could go back to being an untarnished living legned.
2. No bumping in the bumping cars
If you’re a big kid at heart, you probably still go and take part every year, inflicting humiliation and no little jarring pain on children by smashing them sideways in the fairground bumping cars. But if you’re in England and you’re a Butlins stalwart, it seems that your fun is at an end – even if you’re still a child and unable to generate the psychological venom and physical acceleration required to send some poor unfortunate skidding across the rubber track.
Because they’ve banned bumping in the bumping cars, insisting that as they’re really called dodgems, you should be dodging people instead. Which sounds like great fun altogether.
Anyway, here’s the BBC Radio 5 Live report from earlier this year:
3. The American school that banned the American national anthem
This was the story about Goshen College in Indiana which broke just last month. It turns out that peace-loving board of directors were so put out by the rip-‘em-up lyrics of The Star Spangled Banner that he decided to ban anyone from singing it.
And not content with preventing the words from being uttered within the college grounds, they then went one step further and banned the music itself, so that not even an instrumental version of the US national anthem could be played by anyone associated with Goshen College.
The reason? Goshen College is proudly Mennonite, which is devoted to anti-militaristic living. The Mennonites even excommunicated any of their number who signed up for the American military during World War II. Presumably because they repeatedly sung “The Star Spangled Banner” with great gusto.
4. Paolo Rossi and Totonero
In 1980, Paolo Rossi was one of the most promising young strikers in Italy. He had scored 39 Serie A goals in 58 games for Vicenza, prompting a move to established top flight club Perugia where he continued his good form with 13 goals in his first season at the club.
Then came the moment that Rossi’s career threatened to go into a tailspin. He became embroiled in the Totonero match-fixing scandal, in which seven clubs were found guilty. Chief perpetrators were Milan and Lazio, who were demoted to Serie B as a result, while Rossi’s Perugia were deducted five points for the following Serie A season. A three-year suspension was imposed on Rossi for his part in the scandal. Somewhat bizarrely, though, in the game that Rossi was accused of conspiring to fix, he scored two goals in a 2-2 draw with Avellino. Maybe he was just so good that he had to work hard on limiting his influence to two goals. Or, more likely, maybe it was just that Perugia and Avellino, and a number of players within the clubs, had agreed to play out a draw for nefarious purposes.
The Rossi ban was subsequently reduced on appeal to two years, allowing him to return to action in time for the 1982 World Cup, when he won the Golden Boot and helped Italy to glory. For his part, Paolo Rossi has always protested his innocence, and one of those who got him in the shit more than 30 years ago recently admitted that the allegations were fabricated. Nice one.
5. The baseball no-hoper who wanted in
The so-called Black Sox Scandal of 1919 is arguably the greatest scandal in the history of sport. Several of the best players of their generation, including Eddie Cicotte, Lefty Williams and “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, representing the franchise which had won the World Series in 1917, conspired to intentionally lose the best-of-nine 1919 World Series to the Cincinnati Reds.
The sting was pulled off with the backing of professional gamblers and gangster types, but after persistent rumours a grand jury was called in 1920 to investigate – after which eight players were found guilty.
One of the eight, the one who makes it into our list of bizarre bans, was Fred McMullin. McMullin was effectively a nobody. He was never going to get enough game-time to influence a result – he recorded just two plate appearances during the eight games of the series. So why was he involved at all? Well, because he just happened to overhear the big hitters talking about their dirty little plan, and pledged that he would spill the beans to their elders if they didn’t let him have a piece of the pie.
McMullin was banned for life, never picked up a bat in anger again and died 32 years later at the age of 61.