Once again, courtesy of the good people at Listverse, I’ve found the fodder for another one of my patented comparisons. People hung the nickname “The Freak” on Tim Lincecum, but he really isn’t a “freak” so much as he is an oddity. The author of the piece which I’m using for comparative purposes uses the word “freak;” I just think it is a bit to broad for my purposes. That may sound like so many mule muffins, but the fact remains that list has a corresponding one drawn strictly from the world of sports.
10) The Hilton Sisters – Violet and Daisy Hilton
Not Paris and Nicky – although they are a different sort of freak – these sisters were twins. Conjoined, to be exact. They shared a common blood and nervous system, which means they truly felt all the same pain. They were sold as slaves by their impecunious mother to a midwife, who greedily took advantage of their misfortune; while they sang, danced, played instruments in circus sideshows, their veritable slave-owner kept all their earnings and forbade them from socializing. Eventually a lawyer helped them escape their proverbial shackles and even reacquire the money they were swindled out of. They went on to do movies (including 1932’s Freaks) and earned as much as $5000 at the height of their showbiz careers.
Equivalent Sports Oddity: Harvey and Horace Grant
The twin bespectacled forwards patrolled the paint of the NBA for a big part of the 80s and 90s. The Grants both were respected defensive rebounders and reliable third or fourth scoring options throughout their careers. Horace was drafted 10th overall by the Chicago Bulls and was named NBA All-Defensive team on four occasions. He also teamed with Michael Jordan for three of his four championships. Meanwhile, Harvey had three seasons (1990-1993) where he averaged 18 or more points per game, but he never got the credit for his defensive presence that he was due.
9) The Wild Men of Borneo
These “wild men” were actually a twin pair of mentally-retarded midgets, for which there’d be no hope of employment if not for those ever-gawking circus-goers providing seemingly limitless opportunity (at least back in 1852). They were bought from their mother at the age of 26 by a man named Lyman Warner, and were taught their routine by P.T. Barnum, an act which included acrobatics, dancing, speaking in “their native language” (actually gibberish), and reciting poems in English. Enslaved in the Warner family for three generations, they kept on performing for almost fifty years – steady occupation, to say the least.
Equivalent Sports Oddity: Manute Bol and Muggsy Bogues
Mutt and Jeff of the NBA…or perhaps you prefer the Odd Couple. For one season in 1987-88, theWashington Bullets paired the 7’7″ Manute Bol with the 5’3″ Muggsy Bogues. At the time, the union of the tallest and shortest players in the league combined for 2,764 minutes played, 569 points, and three magazine covers.
8 ) The Puppet-Woman: Lucia Zarate
Born as more of a “finger puppet,” at a weight of 8 ounces and a height of 7 inches, Zarate weighed less than a cat as an adult. She is the smallest recorded human being on Earth, a fact that had no trouble drawing a big crowd at the circus. When she came to America – she was born in Mexico in 1864 – at the age of 12, she was the highest paid dwarf at the time (at $20/hour). Sadly, she died at the age of 26 when her train got stopped in the Rocky Mountains during a snowstorm.
Equivalent Sports Oddity: Spud Webb
It’s no accident that in a world of gigantism, acromegaly, and other disorders that cause people to grow to gargantuan proportions, a list of sporting oddities would be flush with basketball player. But Spud Webb was certainly no giant, and he’s the second roundballer to make this list for not being a walking skyscraper. At 5’7″, Webb remains the shortest man to ever win the NBA Slam Dunk competition.
7) The Texas Giant: Jack Earle
Earle had a condition called acromegalic gigantism, the clinical term for what a circus – such as the Ringling Brothers or Barnum and Bailey – would label simply “a giant.” He traveled with both of the aforementioned for 14 years, longer than his original one-year contract. He also appeared in movies, like Jack and the Beanstalk (guess who he played). While it’s not easy for a “freak” to find normal work, Earle did just that, showing what he was capable of beyond the exploitation of his appearance: he was a salesmen for a wine company, eventually becoming their PR rep, as well as a sculptor, painter, and poet (published in a 1950 book called “Long Shadows”).
Equivalent Sports Oddity: Gheorghe Muresan
The Romanian giant towered over the other trees in the NBA with his imposing 7’7”, 300 pound presence. His height was the result of a pituitary disorder, but it also allowed him to play in the NBA from 1993-2000. During that time, Muresan averaged 9.8 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game while maintaining a 57% field goal percentage. However, due to nagging injuries, Muresan never played a complete season.
Quasimodo is not fictional. Not entirely anyway. Appearing in Victor Hugo’s ultimate tale about being a victim of pure disposition, the eponymous Hunchback of Notre Dame may have been inspired by an actual hunchback who lived in Notre Dame. A British researcher found a memoir excerpt that told of a “humpbacked stone carver” that worked in a cathedral Hugo was very much involved with. Speculation is that he must have come across this rather antisocial individual, given the workers level of involvement on government-commissioned projects. Nicknamed “Le Bossu,” it’s not hard to see how this individual could have led to some fanciful speculations in Hugo’s fertile mind, as this was also about the time he was penning the novel (c.1831).
Here’s is the one time in this entire piece where I will use the work “freak.” Let’s face it, Alexander Karelin defined the word “freak.” He collected nicknames like “The Experiment” because the conventional wisdom was that he wasn’t human, rather he was the result of some sort of Soviet gene-splicing experiment to make another Ivan Drago type athletic machine.
That all really was just a colorful way of saying Karelin was one of the most feared athletes ever because he was geniunely the toughest son-of-a-bitch in his sport.
Karelin won gold medals as super heavyweight Greco-Roman wrestler at the 1988, 1992, and 1996 Olympic Games. He went undefeated in international competition from 1987 to 2000. He was so dominating that didn’t give up a single point in the last six years of that 13-year undefeated streak.
Karelin was 6’4 and wrestled at 289 pounds. His signature move was aptly named the “Karelin Lift,” where he would take a 300-pound opponent through a reverse lift and slam them into the mat in a manner more reminiscent of the WWE than the Olympics. He managed this through super-Herculean strength which Karelin always attributed to his extreme training regimen.
Karelin was said to power clean and press over 420 pounds. His morning routine consisted of drinking a half a gallon of milk, then running through the Siberian forest for two hours through thigh-deep snow. It is rumored Karelin once carried a refrigerator loaded to twice his bodyweight up eight flights of stairs.
5) The Mule-Faced Woman: Grace McDaniels
Not a pleasant thing to be nicknamed, this women was born with a facial deformity that rendered her simply unpleasant to look at (what some might call ugly… or mule-faced). She was actually billed as “the ugliest woman in the world” as if that were an achievement worth aspiring to. In spite of her physical appearance, she was actually a nice person, and was married with child (who didn’t inherit the deformity, but became a problem drinker and criminal – which is to say, more of a social outcast than her).
Equivalent Sports Oddity: Don Mossi
Don Mossi was a major league pitcher from 1954 to 1965. A lefty who specialized in control, Mossi’s strikeout-to-walk ratio was regularly amongst the league leaders; in fact, he led the league in this category in 1961. Mossi retired with a career ERA of 3.43, 101 wins, and 50 saves. He also retired as one of the biggest mule-faces in league history.
4) Jo-Jo, the Dog-Faced Boy: Fedor Jeftichew
This dog-boy actually had a canine-like father as well. The dad, Adrian, was a bitter drunk, and ran from his village and into the woods one day, living in the feral manner a stray dog might. He himself faced mockery and ample shunning, and performed in sideshows to make money (billed as the son of a bear and a peasant woman). After he conceived a child, equally as hairy, they toured together until Adrian ended up dying a drunken death. The boy, however, went on to continue performing faithfully – under P.T. Barnum’s top hat – just as a trained dog might, barking and growling on command. In actuality, he wasn’t a dog-child, obviously, he had a condition called hypertrichosis; and more than just barking, he could speak English, Russian, and German (making him essentially quadrilingual).
Equivalent Sports Oddity: Kimbo Slice
I’m not really sure what Kimbo Slice is; he might be a boxer, he might be an MMA fighter, or he might be a new century version of Mr. T who put his gold in his mouth rather than around his neck. Either way, that beard is just not human.
3) Julia Pastrana
This indigenous Mexican woman’s memory is literally preserved, as she – following her death in 1860 – was stuffed and put on display the very way she had been while alive. Also born with hypertrichosis, her features were more characteristic of a gorilla than a dog; her nose and ears were especially large, her face was covered with hair, and she had a double pair of teeth which pronounced her mouth as such. She had a husband named Theodor Lent – who had originally purchased her and taught her to be a performer – and eventually a child of the same affliction, who died after three days. She died five days after that (complications from birth), and her exploitative husband had both her and the baby mummified and placed in a glass cabinet. Lent went on to marry another woman with a similar condition, and was later admitted to a mental hospital.
Equivalent Sports Oddity: Caster Semenya
Semenya was one of the original topics of discussion on this blog when the whole is “She a he?” thing broke out in 2009. Much like Julia Pastrana was not a gorilla despite her resemblance to one, Semenya is not a dude even though “Dude Looks Like a Lady.”
2) Schlitzie: Simon Metz
“Pinheads” were an especially big draw in the circus sideshows, and Schlitzie was one of them. Having a condition called microcephalus, his cranium was incredibly underdeveloped and sat like a baby’s head on the shoulders of a grown man. Schlitzie, as far as his brain was concerned anyway, was three. Nonetheless, he sang and danced, could count to 10, and starred in the movie Freaks at the physical age of 40. Also, if you’ve ever read the comic strip Zippy the Pinhead in the Sunday funnies, you can see where the inspiration comes from.
Equivalent Sports Oddity: Nikolai Valuev
Shaving with the ax is a nice touch, but since I’m not an anthropologist, I don’t know if Zinjanthropus Man was capable of using tools. I understand microcephalus in a medical condition, where the Zinjanthropan simply hasn’t evolved yet, but with their complete lack of cranial space, neither of them would have a place to put a brain even if you gave them one.
Thankfully, Valuev didn’ t need brains; he came with plenty of braun at seven feet and 300 pounds. That came in handy as a heavyweight boxer known for simply crusing opponents with his mastodon-like size.
The real problem with Valuev With the 1980s movie was really which likeness to use for his analogy. There’s the aforementioned “pinhead” reeference, which would have been covered nicely by the old National Lampoon cartoon character Zippy the Pinhead. There’s also the Sloth, Baby Ruth eating monster from the classic ’80s movie The Goonies. Then, there’s good, ol’ Zinny the Caveman. So many choices…
1) The Human Caterpillar: Prince Randian
No, not a Human Centipede; this was a real person, although no less startling while dressed in that sleeveless sock outfit. Just a head and a torso, this P.T. Barnum attraction was capable enough as a quadriplegic that he could light a cigarette with just his mouth – not to mention the fact that he had a wife and kids (none of which shared his affliction). He shows up in the movie Freaks, and performs the aforementioned cigarette “trick” – although its hardly a trick when you have no other limbs to rely on.
Equivalent Sports Oddity: Bobby Martin
Bobby Martin was born with a rare affliction called Caudal Regression Syndrome, which means his body just stops at the pelvis. Forget the fact he lacks legs; he’s got a full, complete share of awesome. First of all, he’s a better football player than a lot of guys with legs. This video shows some of the most amazing stuff I’ve ever seen. Not only does he have dreams of playing in the National Football League (NFL), but look at the :45 second mark in the video when he talks about being a ladies’ man. He’s got a son to prove his prowess wit hthe fairer sex. He was also the homecoming king in high school. Once, officilas tried to bar him from a game as there was an obscure rule that all players were required to wear shoes. Martin tied a pair of shoes around his waist, and that rule has since been changed.