Strange But True: Double Trouble

One of the most difficult issues in sports is deciding who is an amateur and who is a professional. The team from Berlin (later renamed Kitchener), Ontario, found this out, much to its sorrow.

In the early 1900’s, the Berlin team was the best club in the Ontario Hockey Association, a senior amateur league. Hockey was as rough then as it is today, and one season a player named Jimmy McGinnis suffered several fractured ribs. Since he was an amateur, McGinnis had a paying job, other than hockey. But when he was injured, he couldn’t work. The Berlin team generously agreed to pay his wages of $25 a week until he recovered.

Much later, at the end of the season, Berlin win the Western section of the Senior Series, and met the Toronto St. Georges in the series finals. Berlin won the first game, 6-1, on St. George’s ice, and seemed certain to repeat in the next game.

At this point, the story of Jimmy McGinnis leaked out. He had received $50 to cover the loss of his wages while he was in the hospital. But this was amateur hockey. No one was supposed to be paid. St. George protested to the league officials, claiming that McGinnis was now a professional. The Ontario Hockey Association upheld the protest and ruled that Berlin had to drop McGinnis from the team and replay the first game of the final series, which Berlin had won so easily.

The Berlin team went on strike. Team members flatly refused the play that game all over again. So, in front of a large home crowd, the St. George center faced off against himself. Another St. George player got the puck and shot it into an empty net. The Berlin players watched angrily from the bench. The referee stopped the game and awarded St. George the game by a score of 9-0. Nobody on the Berlin team had even made a move.

The fans were not very happy over this turn of events. They wanted some hockey. Something had to be done quickly. The teams had a brief conference, and agreed to play against each other for a purse of $100. It would be an exhibition game, nothing more. The charged-up Berlin team proceeded to beat St. George soundly.

Now the officials of the Ontario Hockey Association stepped in again. This time they decided the $100 purse had made the whole Berlin team professional. Unless the money was returned, the team would be disqualified from amateur hockey. If they refused, the Berlin Intermediates, a sister team, would also be suspended.

The money was returned. But because of their sit-down strike, the Berlin seniors lost the Senior Series. They had lost because the team was generous enough to pay an injured player. And they almost got thrown out of the league because they beat the team that had won the series without opposition.

In 1968, Tommy Moore of Hagerstown, Maryland, became the youngest golf player ever to score a hole-in-one. It happened on the 145-yard fourth hole at the Woodbrier Golf Course in Martinsburg, West Virginia. At the time Tommy was exactly six years, one month, one week old.

Later in the year he did it again!

From Strange But True Sports Stories by Howard Liss. Illustrations by Joe Mathieu.

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When you can walk its length, and leave no trace, you will have learned.

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