JV Random Shots


Long Ago Sports Trivia And A Couple of Tidbits

By John Ventola

Sports history and athletes that helped make it has always fascinated me. While everyone recognizes Michael Jordan as an all-time basketball great, Babe Ruth as a baseball icon, and Peyton Manning as a great football quarterback, I always tried to take notice of the team role players that helped the great athletes achieve their stardom. These support guys, often overlooked, play key roles in the sports trivia arena. I can remember sitting around with fellow journalism students years ago and playing challenging sports trivia games. Regular trivia was exciting, but guys who would go on to cover sports and write for the Times-Picayune, The Morning Advocate, and the Knoxville Sentinel would take the sports version to a whole new level. Many a sandwich, beer, and coffee were enjoyed as we all strove to come up with the stumper. Long before cell phones, and before the internet, the answers had to reside within one’s sports memory bank. On the spot sports knowledge.

In JV Random Shots, I plan to periodically come up with some little known sports facts that people may find interesting. Hope you enjoy. And do not hesitate getting in a sports trivia match over a few drinks. Caution should be used. No betting. There are a few walking sports almanacs in our midst.

Who was the last LSU player to wear No. 20 at LSU—before Billy Cannon? Joe May,


Cannon won ’59 Heisman

who was a running back at LSU in the mid-‘50s and would go on to become the Tigers’ track coach in the late ‘60s. Cannon’s jersey number was retired after his great career when he won the 1959 Heisman Trophy following his senior season.

Reggie Jackson hit three home runs in one game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1977 World Series. Who was the first guy to congratulate him after each home run? Hall of Fame Manager Bobby Cox, who was New York Yankees manager Billy Martin’s first base coach, had the honor. A mediocre player who had his career curtailed by injury, Cox would go on to manage Toronto and Atlanta, leading the Braves to consistent success for years. Cox was elected to the Hall of Fame this year.

Who were the two Heisman Trophy winners before, 1958, and after, 1960, Billy Cannon? They both played for a service academy. Running back Pete Dawkins, Army, won the prestigious award the year before Cannon, and halfback Joe Bellino of Navy won the year afterward.

Notre Dame defeated Alabama to win the 1973 National Championship on New Year’s Eve night in New Orleans. Leading late in the game and backed up near their own goal line, the Irish gambled and had quarterback Tom Clements pass out of his end zone to

Notre Dame Won 1973 National Championship

Notre Dame Won 1973 National Championship

complete a key first down to a tight end named who? Most people think of ND’s All-American Dave Casper, who starred then for the Irish and went on to a stellar pro career. But it was seldom used sophomore tight end Robin Weber who made the clutch catch and sealed the victory.


Why is it college athletes on the cusp of large expectations for their senior season find it necessary to seek out ways to add on to their off field persona? The Manti Te’o fiasco of 2012 was hard to explain much less understand. However, his imaginary sick girlfriend stories warmed the soul and greased the printing machines. A solid football player, not a great one, Te’o may have been duped, but the Football Writer’s of America almost had the word “Stupid” etched into their foreheads. Te’o finished second in the Heisman Trophy balloting and should not have even been in the top five based on performance. He rode the Irish’s perfect regular season and the university’s high speed sports information blitzes to almost steal college football’s top award. Now we have another well thought of athlete, Josh Shaw of USC, come up with a blatant lie to explain how he got two high ankle sprains. He told school officials he injured his ankles by jumping from a balcony to a concrete area below when he saw his-non-swimming nephew struggling in a pool. He said he was able to get into the pool and save the nephew. Great story, Media gobbled it up. After all, captain of the USC Trojans, speaker at the May commencement ceremony at the school where he graduated (he woud have played as a graduate student since he had one year of eligibility remaining), Shaw was the epitome of a man of Troy. Trouble came when folks started reporting that Shaw may have not received his injuries the way he claimed. He has been suspended from the USC team and police are reporting an investigation of a-suspicious occurrence at his girlfriend’s off campus apartment.

Again, we have to remember these young athletes are often unprepared for the real world and use to people accepting what they say without questioning. Coaches, universities, friends, and fans need to hold these guys responsible for all of their actions, both on and off the field. Te’o and Shaw both admitted they fabricated the stories. But only when others came forward with information to the contrary.

Nick Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide has been dominate in college football since he got settled in Tuscaloosa. I say this despite Bama’s current two game losing streak (the Auburn FG return and a bowl game that did not have the squad’s full attention). Saban’s teams feature big, fast athletes. Why do so few go on to do well in the NFL? Could Saban’s stern practices and his reach for team perfection be burning out players?

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