Speed, strength, power, quickness. Sports are biased in favor of people who possess those attributes — and our sports Halls of Fame are full of these athletic specimens.
But what about our sporting heroes who are slow, short, uncoordinated and ugly? Don't they deserve some recognition, too?
It's time we have a Scrappy Athlete Hall of Fame. Here is the first induction class …
The lil’ fella is the patron saint of this list, the Sultan of Scrap. Just look at him. He’s 3’2”. He needs a nine-step running start to shot-put the ball from second to first. He’s got a career OPS of .704. When GM offered him a free car for winning the World Series MVP in 2006, he asked for a Little Tykes Cozy Coupe. He is, by darn near anyone’s estimation, not particularly good at baseball. Doesn’t matter, though. He’s got the sort of scrappiness you can build a dream — or at least a lazy, 500-word, newspaper sports column — on. Because if a noodle-armed gnome can somehow win a World Series MVP, truly anything can happen in sports.
How’s this for a scraptacular resume? Skiles once got into a fistfight with a young Shaq when they were teammates on the Magic. He won the NBA’s Most Improved Player award in 1991, and nothing’s quite as scrappy as being publicly told, “You used to really suck, but your hard work and perseverance have raised you to the level of ‘merely crappy.’ Have a trophy, little guy!”
Skiles’ scrappiness didn’t stop when his playing career ended, either. As a head coach he has compiled a 361-335 career record thanks to his variation of the Triangle Offense, which requires three players to be incredibly scrappy at all times.
Iverson is perhaps the ultimate paradox when it comes to scrappiness. He was supremely talented at hoops, yet he still managed to be scrappy. At first glance, this situation makes no sense. I mean, there are reports Iverson didn't like to practice. We talkin' bout practice!
Good players usually don’t need to be scrappy and determined; they’re justgoodand have always been good. Most superstars are way too talented and lazy to have the requisite grit and scrap to work hard. Iverson was the exception, though. From his downright masochistic willingness to take punishment to his admirable determination to commit his own crimes and not pawn them off to associates and hangers-on, Iverson was the definition of the scrappy star.
Even Saint David Eckstein would probably give up the game if he lost a finger in a farm machinery accident – try not to get any ideas, Padres fans – but Hall of Fame pitcher Brown managed to use the nub of his severed index finger to put an otherworldly amount of spin on his pitches. Not only did Brown’s scrappy perseverance turn into an inspirational story, it also provided a clear path to the Majors for future generations of pitchers. Can’t throw the breaking ball? Break out the malt liquor and fire up the band saw! Super-agent Scott Boras will be on the phone within five minutes.
Canada is America’s scrappy next-door neighbor, and there’s nobody they love more in Canada than this little guy. The vertically challenged QB won three Grey Cup championships while playing in the CFL and found his way into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame even though he’s an American citizen. Sure, he may have once lost his NFL starting job to Rob Johnson, but Flutie had a scrappy skill no one can take away: the ability to dropkick an extra point when Bill Belichick was running up the score in a game. Scrappiness shows no mercy!
You don’t have to be little to be a scrapper, but it helps. If you’re tall, though, you’d better be willing to wear comically nerdy glasses and a dubious mustache. Rambis’ scrappy willingness to sacrifice his body for rebounds and hustle plays made him the fan-favorite heart of the '80s Lakers dynasty even though he had a mug straight off of a “Do Not Allow This Man to Go Near Your Children” flyer. Rambo never averaged more than 11 points a game or played 30 minutes a night, but you always knew you could count on him to clean up the offensive glass and be the recipient of Kevin McHale’s clotheslines. He also almost single-handedly inspired basketball players to wear longer shorts, and that's an intangible that can't be ignored. Just like his leg hair and milky inner thighs.
You may not know Stanky’s name, but he irritated the hell out of opposing baseball teams throughout the 1940s and 50s. Giants manager Leo Durocher once said of Stanky, “He can't hit, can't run, can't field. He's no nice guy… all the little SOB can do is win.”
Stanky, who was nicknamed “the Brat,” was famous for two things: taking walks and inventing “the Stanky Maneuver.” While it might sound like a nightmarish sex act — and maybe it was in the Stanky bedroom — the Stanky Maneuver was actually a clever little bit of scrapping. Instead of standing motionless while playing the field at second base, Stanky would jump up and down and wave his arms to distract the batter. What an annoying asshole. And, therefore, what a scrapper. If only Chase Utley would try something like that, he might finally become a great player.
How scrappy was Phil Garner? His nickname was Scrap Iron, for God’s sake. His mustache alone was worth 2.3 Eckstein units on the International Scrappiness Scale. The first team he managed, the 1992 Brewers, was maybe the scrappiest squad ever assembled; it was the first team to ever have all nine starters steal double-digit bases. Sure, some of them had no business running – Greg Vaughn got caught 15 times while only racking up 15 swipes – but you can’t put a price on the scrappy value of a stolen base. Unless, that is, you want to sit down and do 10 minutes’ worth of simple math, and who’s got time for that?
When the 5’6” Ruettiger took the field as a walk-on for Notre Dame, he was a heartwarming little scrapper who managed to record a sack on the final play of his senior season. At the time, the story was an inspiring one, but today someone with Ruettiger’s size, speed, and motor would probably be Notre Dame’s best defensive player. The feature film based on his life story still reminds us of two important truths: first, that with a little scrappiness, anything is possible. Second, Sean Astin wasn’t always this fat.
Give Boykins credit. Despite standing just 5’5” he’s managed to scratch out a decade-long NBA career. Some analysts attribute Boykins’ longevity to his ability to travel as checked baggage, saving his team big-time cash on airfares. When the Wizards lost guards Javaris Crittenton and Gilbert Arenas to gun-related suspensions last year, guess who replaced them: the never-armed Boykins. Who needs to pack heat when you can just headbutt foes in the groin?
Don’t listen to stat nerds who tell you that you win baseball games by scoring more runs than the opposing team. Not even close. You win baseball games by running into walls at full speed. It may not show up on the scoreboard, but every time you make a face-first dive into an outfield wall, your team gains 4,000 scrappiness points. Some players might try to help their teams by hitting for power, getting on base, and playing the field for 150+ games each season. Only Rowand knows that the truly gritty path to victory involves spending weeks at a time on the DL while some fourth outfielder is promoted to your starting job.
When Nagurski was playing college ball for Minnesota in 1928, he played games while suffering cracked vertebrae. He protected his mangled spine with a corset. A corset! Corsets are fine and dandy if you’re an overweight Victorian widow who’s trying to disguise her dumpy figure in an effort to lure in a young, naïve lover, but to protect your broken back? That’s insane. And insanely scrappy.
Oh, what's that? You think corsets aren't manly and therefore not scrappy? There are three answers to that: 1) Look at Bronko Nagurski; 2) His name is Bronko; 3) With a K!
Any other stupid comments?
This is an actual sentence from Rizzuto’s Wikipedia page: “The slick fielding Rizzuto is also regarded as one of the best bunters in baseball history.” Boy, that little guy couldn’t hit, but nobody was better at giving outs away than the Scooter! Despite being only 5’6” Rizzuto scrapped his way into the Hall of Fame by virtue of his defense and having the singular talent of playing on a Yankees team with Yogi Berra, Joe DiMaggio, and other all-time-greats who could do the little things like hit and pitch. Rizzuto’s career OPS+ of 93 shows that he was a below-average hitter, but holy cow, was he ever determined!
Do you even watch sports?
White people. Many of them undersized. Routinely playing through horrific injuries. There was no room to put every NHL player on a list of 15, so we had to induct the entire league.