|You can't handle the truth!|
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Finally, after 14 years, Pete Rose has admitted he deserved the honor we gave him last year when we first unveiled this list: he topped the biggest lies in sports history, for fibbing to friends, fans, and foes about betting on baseball.
That's a long time to raft the river of denial, which is why he's still No. 1, at least in our book -- uh, no pun intended.
1. Pete Rose: "I never bet on baseball"
2. Steinbrenner: "I'll stick to building ships"
3. Avery Brundage: Nazis don't discriminate, embody "spirit of
Brundage shamelessly said, "I have not heard of anything to indicate discrimination of any race or religion" in Germany. He warned that "certain Jews must now understand that they cannot use these Games as a weapon in their boycott against the Nazis," alleged a conspiracy of Communists and Jews to organize a boycott and, even after the Games, said the Nazi showcase had contributed to "international peace and harmony."
In the meantime, the Nazis were already building (and filling) concentration camps, prohibiting Jews from competing in sports (two token Jews were named to the Olympic team), planning to use the 1936 Games as an elaborate display of Aryan superiority, and plotting their takeover of Europe.
Avery Brundage: dupe or liar? Both, and an anti-Semite, too: in an apparent effort to please the Nazis, who'd already been humiliated by Jesse Owens and Co. in the prestigious track and field events, he dropped Jews Sam Stoller and Marty Glickman from the 400-meter relay team.
4. Bill Clements: "We're cleaning up the program"
After the NCAA blasted SMU with the "death penalty," Clements blamed the NCAA. "I am convinced in my mind they knew exactly what I was talking about," he said, implying that the NCAA should have read between the lines of his incomplete account during questioning. "This wasn't like an inaugural day," Clements added. "There wasn't a Bible present."
Clements said he told the NCAA, "'We are cleaning up the program.' So that is an absolute true statement. We were cleaning up the program. And I defy you or anyone else to ever give a quote wherein I ever said this program is now clean."
In April 1985, Clements told the NCAA, "We will not tolerate any misbehavior whatsoever in the future." That, said NCAA enforcement director David Berst, was also clearly a lie.
"If he's typical of people who are in charge at the highest level, then there really isn't any hope for integrity in collegiate athletics," added Berst.
5. Danny Almonte's father: "He's 12"
And he was: Almonte had two birth certificates, and his father was charged in his home country, the Dominican Republic, for falsifying a birth certificate. Almonte was 14.
6. George O'Leary: I have a master's degree from NYU and three varsity
letters in football
All of this information had been supplied by O'Leary, lies originally told to Syracuse University for its 1980 media guide.
O'Leary's fake bio couldn't make it past the glare of the national media attention following his appointment, and he resigned just five days after he was hired. But he continued to evade, saying that his assertions had been "misstatements" made "many years ago" that had "resurfaced," when in fact he'd allowed his false credentials to be published throughout his career at Syracuse, with the San Diego Chargers, and then at Georgia Tech.
7. Wilt Chamberlain: I had sex with "twenty thousand different ladies"
Chamberlain later kind of, sort of, backed off his claim, after many people expressed doubt (and after he was criticized for promiscuity in the wake of the announcement that Magic Johnson had HIV). "You do some things for effect, you understand?" he told SI. "And I knew damn well this was going to have some effect. My gardener went to get some feed for his horses in some small town, 300 miles from L.A., and he heard two old ladies talking: 'Did you hear that Wilt Chamberlain's seen 20,000 women?'"
In other words, Wilt told some tall tales. Joel Achenbach, writing about Chamberlain's 1991 book tour: "He also said yesterday, in discussing how hectic his book tour has been, that he had been interviewed Wednesday by about 36 TV stations, 20 radio stations and six or seven print journalists. The truth is something a bit more modest: nine interviews total, according to his publicist."
8. Tim Johnson: "I saw combat in 'Nam"
Johnson first denied charges that he lied, but finally admitted it after it was discovered he'd never served in Vietnam (he was a reservist who did his six-year stint stateside). He also admitted that he'd never been an All-America basketball player in high school, as his official bio indicated.
Toronto fired the former Brewers and Jays infielder (.223 lifetime average) after it became clear he'd been telling tales for decades. "This has been something that's been bothering me for 28 years," Johnson said.
The Mexico City Devil Rays hired Johnson soon after he left the Jays. One agent asked, [Has he been] "telling his players he fought at the Alamo?"
9. David Wells: I was "half-drunk" when I pitched a perfect game
10. Peter Ueberroth on collusion: "You can't get 26 owners to agree on
But the jig didn't work. Some charged baseball's owners with colluding to hold down salaries -- a clear violation of the collective bargaining agreement -- as early as 1985. Ueberroth denied anything of the sort, saying, "You can't get 26 owners to agree on anything."
Eventually, the owners were found guilty of collusion. Was it Ueberroth's idea? "Who are the other candidates?" said one AL GM. "I don't think you'd have seen the financial restraint of the last two years without his presence. He's been a pretty central figure."
Total cost to owners for proven collusion between 1985-1988: $280 million.
Also receiving votes
Steinbrenner's account: Two drunk men get into the elevator, recognize who he is, call New Yorkers "animals," and the Yankees "chokers." One hits George on the head with a bottle. George throws three punches, flooring them both: "I clocked them. There are two guys in this town looking for their teeth and two guys who will probably sue me."
The Yankee owner continues to insist that the above incident happened. But there were no witnesses. No charges filed. No lawsuits. Lots of disbelievers.
But one admirer. ''I don't think he was in any kind of scuffle," Maple Leafs owner Harold Ballard said in 1982, ''but as soon as I read about it, I said, 'Great! That's exactly what I'd do -- get me a bottle of ketchup and a few teeth from a dental supply place and rev up my team.'"
"He's out playing golf"
This particular lie isn't one of the biggest in sports, but we're sure it's just the tip of the lies-to-the-wives iceberg.
By the way, Nan's response? She shrugged her shoulders and said, "Maybe he was."
Bud Selig: Baseball lost $232 million in 2001
Forbes magazine came up with a different figure: MLB had a $75 million profit in 2001. "Baseball as an industry is in strong financial shape," said Forbes senior editor Mike Ozanian.
Was Selig, who was under oath, lying? Well, perhaps not in the most narrow sense of the term. Explained U. of Chicago economist Allen Sanderson, "There are an enormous number of ways in which a reasonably competent attorney and a good accountant can get in a room and through perfectly legal, ethical ways, make these teams seem unprofitable."
Al Martin: I played football at USC
"It's not about the money"