History books offer fun facts about sports

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the Chicago White Stockings that played in 1870 became the White Sox. That team eventually became the Chicago Cubs. The team that moved to Chicago in 1900 took the name White Stockings and later became the White Sox. The story has been updated to reflect the correct information.


Brazilian soccer icon Pele celebrates winning the World Cup in 1970. Thirteen years later, the cup was stolen, and it has not been found. (Associated Press)

With all the snow this winter, I spent a lot of time indoors reading my collection of sports books. I think books are more fun than television or video games. Here’s some amazing sports stuff I learned from my books:

●The original World Cup trophy was permanently awarded to Brazil after that country won its third World Cup soccer championship in 1970. The trophy was stolen in 1983 and has never been recovered.

●The current trophy was created for the 1974 World Cup and weighs about 20 pounds.

●Because the Winter Olympics didn’t begin until 1924, the first men’s and women’s individual and pairs figure skating Olympic championships, in 1908, were conducted during the Summer Olympics in London.

●Some sports that were once in the Summer Olympics are no longer part of the Games: tug-of-war, motorboating, rope climbing, cricket, croquet, rugby and one-handed weightlifting.

●The flip turn in swimming was invented by backstroker Adolph Kiefer and his coach, Julian “Tex” Robertson, while Kiefer was training for the 1936 Olympics.

●Speaking of swimming, National Basketball Association superstar Tim Duncan was a top swimmer in Saint Croix in the Virgin Islands until he was 13, when a hurricane destroyed the pool where he swam. Then Duncan started playing basketball.

●Most National Football League games are played on Sunday because in the early days of the NFL, most players did not make much money. They had to work regular jobs during the week and could play only on the weekends. The NFL did not play on Saturday because that’s the day college games were played. In the early days of the NFL, college games were much more popular than pro games.

●The first pro baseball teams to go south for spring training were the Cincinnati Red Stockings (now Reds) and the Chicago White Stockings (now Cubs). The teams traveled to New Orleans in 1870.

●Left-handed pitchers in baseball are called southpaws because early baseball stadiums were built so the batter was facing east. That way, the sun would not be in the batter’s eyes. (Remember, in the early days, baseball was played only during the day.) When the pitcher stood on the mound, his left arm was facing south.

●Tennis balls are covered with felt, a material that makes them fuzzy. The fuzziness slows the ball down and makes it easier to control.

●The dimples on a golf ball make the ball fly farther because there is less drag — or pull in the opposite direction to its motion — on a dimpled golf ball than a smooth golf ball.

●Shots in ice hockey travel at speeds up to 100 miles an hour.

Bowen writes the sports opinion column for KidsPost. He is the author of 18 sports books for kids that combine sports fiction and sports history. His latest book is “Perfect Game.”

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