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Here are some sports facts that might surprise you

Jeff Birchfield • Dec 24, 2019 at 9:36 AM

Certain sports figures are given near mythical status, which often makes it hard to distinguish fact from fiction.

When we hear certain names, we remember the greatness and believe they have to rank No. 1 or at least in the top 2-3 in this major category. Surely, this legend dominated, this one was champion for a long time or another was named MVP during a historic season.

With college sports, we often see the name brands and assume they must have accomplished this, or in the case of a mid-major program, think how rare it is to pull off the upset.

We believe this coach won a national championship or another one, considered a genius in the pros, could win a Super Bowl no matter who his quarterback is. Following is a list of sports facts that might surprise you.

AUTO RACING


Dale Earnhardt led the NASCAR Cup Series in wins only two times during his career.

You know the legend, “The Intimidator,” the “Man in Black,” the driver who will do anything to win a race, often associated with the quote, “Second place is the first loser.”

Earnhardt’s greatest quality was actually his consistency, which led to seven NASCAR championships. His 76 wins rank eighth on the all-time list, and his only seasons of leading the tour in victories were 1987 and 1990.

Richard Petty holds the record for most years leading the series in victories. It happened seven times during a 13-year stretch from 1963-75. Petty, who holds the record for 200 career wins, led the series by himself in 1963, 1967, 1970, 1971 and 1975. He tied David Pearson for most wins in 1968 and Cale Yarborough in 1974. 

Darrell Waltrip and Jeff Gordon led the series in wins six different seasons. Waltrip’s dominance came over a decade (1979, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1989).  Waltrip, an 84-time Cup Series winner, tied Bobby Allison in 1983 and Rusty Wallace in 1989.

Gordon, a 93-time NASCAR winner, led the series in wins six times during a seven-year stretch from 1995-2001. No driver tied him for the top spot any of those seasons. Tony Stewart broke up Gordon’s monopoly with a series-leading six wins in 2000.

BOXING

Wladimir Klitschko has the longest reign of any heavyweight boxing champion.

It’s not Joe Louis, Jack Dempsey, Muhammad Ali or the other great names associated with the heavyweight title.

The Ukrainian heavyweight held the title for 4,383 days, over 12 years, over two different title reigns. Neither Mike Tyson nor Rocky Marciano rank in the top 10 of longest reigns. Klitschko also holds the record for most opponents beaten, 23, one more than 22 for Louis.

Louis, the “Brown Bomber,” still holds the record for title fight wins 27-25 over Klitschko with Ali ranked third with 22 championship wins. Klitschko’s brother, Vitali, is tied with Lennox Lewis for fifth on the list with 15 title fight wins. 

COLLEGE BASKETBALL

East Tennessee State has wins over half the programs currently in the Southeastern Conference.

With the Bucs’ recent win over LSU, it was the seventh SEC school that ETSU has beaten over its history. ETSU has four wins over Ole Miss and three each over South Carolina and Mississippi State. The Bucs have won twice against Tennessee and Georgia and once over LSU and Arkansas.

East Tennessee State now has a 17-56 record against SEC teams. The Bucs’ last victory against a SEC team prior to the LSU game was against Mississippi State, 67-65, three seasons ago.

The SEC team that ETSU has the worst record (0-8) against is Vanderbilt, while the Bucs have gone 0-5 against both Florida and Kentucky. They’ve gone 0-3 against Alabama and lost their only matchup against Auburn. They’ve never played newer SEC members Missouri and Texas A&M.

In addition, the Bucs have wins over the following ACC schools: Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, NC State, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest. Highlights include Skeeter Swift scoring 20 points to lead the Bucs to a 71-63 win at No. 9 Duke in December 1968, nine months after ETSU beat Dave Cowens-led Florida State in the NCAA tournament.

The first marquee win of the Steve Forbes-era came in November 2015, when ETSU beat Georgia Tech 69-68 in Atlanta on Ge’Lawn Guyn’s 3-point shot with one second left on the clock.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Michigan has never won a coaches poll national championship.

Looked at as one of the marquee brands in college football, the University of Michigan owns the record for all-time wins (962) with a program dating back to 1879.

They claim 11 national championships and officially have two Associated Press titles (1948, 1997). The coaches poll dates back to 1950. The Wolverines were named AP national champs in 1997 after beating Washington State 21-16 in the Rose Bowl. However, the coaches picked Nebraska, which beat a Peyton Manning-quarterbacked Tennessee team 42-17 in the Orange Bowl, as their champions.

The Vols, who claim six national titles, were coaches poll champions in 1951 and 1998, the same years they were recognized by the Associated Press.

Legendary Michigan coach Bo Schembechler never won the AP or coaches national championship despite winning 194 games and 13 Big 10 championships. The closest he came was the 1985 season when the Wolverines defeated Nebraska 27-23 in the Fiesta Bowl and finished No. 2 to Oklahoma in both polls.

The Sooners, who were No. 3 entering New Year’s Day, beat No. 1 Penn State in the Orange Bowl and later crowned national champions. Miami, which was No. 2 heading into the final day, lost 35-7 to Tennessee in the Sugar Bowl.

MLB

Ted Williams, the last man to hit .400 over a major league season in 1941, didn’t win his league MVP that year

The Boston Red Sox slugger led the majors with 37 home runs, 135 runs scored, 147 walks and a .553 on-base percentage. His 1.287 on-base plus slugging percentage was best since Babe Ruth’s in 1923 and not surpassed until Barry Bonds’ 2002 season.

The man who beat Williams out for the American League MVP award was the New York Yankees’ Joe DiMaggio, who captured the nation’s attention with his 56-game hit streak. DiMaggio finished behind Williams with 30 home runs and a .357 batting average. DiMaggio held the edge over Williams in doubles (43-33), triples (11-3) and total bases (348-338). Team success played a big part of the award as the Yankees won their ninth World Series, while the Red Sox won 84 games that season.

Williams finished runner-up for MVP the next season to another Yankee, Joe Gordon, before winning his first of his two MVP awards in 1946 after he returned from military service. DiMaggio won three MVP awards, including 1947, a year when Williams bested him in every major statistical category.

NBA

Neither Larry Bird nor Magic Johnson rank in the top 30 on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.

Those two players dominated the 1980s with five championships for Johnson’s Lakers and three for Bird’s Celtics. Their compelling rivalry is often credited for making the NBA the nation’s second most popular sports league. Yet, neither is among the leading scorers. Bird currently ranks 34th on the list, behind other Celtics legends  Paul Pierce, John Havlicek, Kevin Garnett and most surprisingly Bird’s teammate Robert Parish.

Johnson is 81st on the all-time list, while his teammate Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is first, and a Lakers star from a later era, Kobe Bryant, ranks third. For those curious, Karl Malone of the Utah Jazz, who played one season with the Lakers, is second on the list.

Bill Russell, considered the greatest champion in NBA history, is only 152nd on the scoring list. Of course, the Celtics legendary big man was more known as a defensive specialist.

NFL

Bill Belichick has a losing record, 51-65, as head coach without Tom Brady at quarterback.

It’s the often debated question of who deserves more credit for the Patriots’ six Super Bowl victories and nine AFC championships since 2001. Brady detractors call him a system quarterback and point to Matt Cassell going 11-5 in 2009 as New England’s starter. 

Also consider, the first part of Belichick’s career was spent at Cleveland, where very few coaches in the modern era have enjoyed success. The Browns made just one playoff appearance and went 36-44 in Belichick’s five seasons. This came despite having Nick Saban as defensive coordinator for four of those seasons.

Belichick, ranked as the greatest NFL coach of all-time by Athlon Sports earlier his year, won two Super Bowls as defensive coordinator on Bill Parcells’ New York Giants teams prior to becoming a head coach. Still, the numbers would seem to indicate Brady and Belichick are at a minimum equal to the Patriots’ success.

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