David Bruce: Be a Work of Art — Illnesses and Injuries, Language

Illnesses and Injuries

• Major league umpire Bill Klem wore an inside chest protector, which afforded less protection than an outside chest protector, although Mr. Klem maintained that umpires could avoid injury by weaving with the ball. Even so, he once had his collarbone broken while umpiring. It healed, but it left a hole that you could stick your finger in. Later, fellow umpire Jocko Conlan had his collarbone broken while working a game. Mr. Klem told him, “You’ve got to weave.” Mr. Conlan had roomed with Mr. Klem, and so he knew where the hole left by Mr. Klem’s broken collarbone was located. He stuck his finger in the hole and said, “How did you get that?” Mr. Klem replied, “I didn’t weave either, that day.”

• During Prohibition, medicinal alcohol was still legal. Workers in the Chrysler plant near Highland Park, Michigan, used to go to a certain doctor and tell him that they were suffering from “shaky nerves.” The doctor knew exactly what would calm their nerves — he would immediately write out a prescription for a pint of whiskey. A drugstore located one floor below the doctor’s office filled the prescription.

• Strange, unusual, and true: A career in opera can end quickly. French mezzo Simone Berriaux once choked on a peppercorn while eating a beefsteak. Although she coughed repeatedly, she could not dislodge the peppercorn from beside her vocal cords. The next morning a surgeon removed the peppercorn, but it had damaged her vocal cords so badly that she was forced to retire from opera.

• While umpiring a Pittsburgh Pirates game, Ken Burkhart saw a woman fan being carried out on a stretcher, so he asked the Pirates third-base coach, “What happened to her?” The third-base coach replied, “You called one right, and she fainted.”


• After Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, it was sent to the Continental Congress to be debated. Members of the Congress made many suggestions concerning changes they wanted made to the wording. Benjamin Franklin could see that Mr. Jefferson did not like many of the suggested changes, although he sat quietly, so Mr. Franklin told a story about a hatter named John Thompson, who decided to open a store and sell hats. Mr. Thompson wrote down his idea for a sign he wanted to have made, but he asked his friends to look over the wording first to ensure that it was suitable. The wording said: “John Thompson, Hatter, makes and sells hats for ready money.” In addition, Mr. Thompson drew a picture of a hat. The first friend suggested that the word “Hatter” be deleted, because the sign already said “makes and sells hats.” The next friend suggested deleting “makes and,” because as long as the hats were well made, no one would care who made them. Another friend suggested deleting “for ready money,” since in those days before credit cards, people customarily paid cash. Yet another friend suggested deleting “sells hats,” since no one expected him to give away the hats. After all these suggestions were taken into account, the only things that remained to the sign were the name “John Thompson” and the picture of a hat. After hearing and laughing at the story, the delegates of the Continental Congress became satisfied with many fewer changes to the Declaration of Independence than they had proposed.

• Thomas E. Dewey got into trouble early during his Presidential campaign against Harry Truman. On a cross-country journey by train, Mr. Dewey criticized the train engineer for leaving a station late. This caused much bad publicity for him, and New York Times reporter James Reston ended his article about the incident with “… and the train pulled off with a jerk.”

• Winston Churchill was a master of the English language, winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953. Once he ran into a person who refused to end a sentence with a preposition, despite the unnatural sentences that resulted from his devotion to this rule. Sir Winston told the person, “This is English up with which I will not put.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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