5 People Who Turned Awful Disabilities Into Superpowers

#2. Clayton "Pegleg" Bates


One of the first black men to ever appear on the Ed Sullivan Show.

The Condition:

At the age of 12, Bates was working in a cotton gin mill when his left leg got caught and munched in a conveyor belt. The amputation that followed occurred right on his own dinner table, leaving him without a left leg for the rest of his life, and presumably "just not that hungry" whenever mom put supper on the table.

On the bright side, his uncle carved him up a wooden peg leg... made from a tree branch struck by lightning and presumably blessed by leprechauns.

How It Was An Advantage:

Bates had started dancing at the age of five. Because he's better at life than you, losing a whole leg and replacing it with a tree branch did nothing but encourage him to get better. Hating the pity that came his way, he resolved to become the best goddamn tap dancer the world had ever seen. He relearned the steps, incorporating the deep wooden tone of his peg to contrast with the high-pitch of a metal tap shoe on his other foot.

It wasn't just a novelty. Tap dancing is half dancing and half percussion, and Bates's wooden leg gave him a bass drum while everyone else was dancing around on two snares. This enabled him to completely reinvent the popular dances of his time.

"It's just not fair!" -Everyone trying to compete with this guy.

He also used the peg to perform high flying acrobatics and balancing moves during performances that make us embarrassed to even walk on two legs.

If you can't watch the video, let us assure you: Everything on two legs gets served at 1:20 and again at around 1:40.

After beginning his professional career at the age of 15--less than three years after the kitchen table incident--he continued dancing to great acclaim well into his 60s. As mentioned above, he was the first black dancer to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show, at a time when it was controversial to confirm that black people existed in the media. But it wasn't controversial after he did his thing: He went on to appear on the show 21 freaking times. He was also the first black performer to tour the Tivoli circuit in Australia. He then became a hit on Broadway, toured Europe seven times and opened up his own hugely successful country club-resort in the 1960s.

All of that success enabled him to rack up a fortune, and purchase more than a dozen peg legs.

None of which needed a gun to own our sorry asses.

#1. Mordecai "Three-Finger" Brown


An early 20th Century pitcher.

The Condition:

While using a feed chopper on his farm, Brown slipped, inadvertently shoving his hand into the blades. His index finger was pretty much chopped clean off, and the rest weren't much better. Fortunately, a competent doctor managed to repair and save every finger but the index. Unfortunately, during the healing process, Brown accidentally fell and broke the bones in his hand some more. Even worse, he didn't tell anyone about it, either because he was embarrassed by his clumsiness, or because the pain hardly seemed notable when compared with the feed chopper incident. Regardless, the bones didn't set correctly.

"GAAAHHH, OH GOD MAKE IT STOP! I...I mean, yes, I do take this man to be my husband."

How It's An Advantage:

As a boy, Brown had spent the part of his childhood that didn't involve horrific mind blanking pain throwing stones at holes in his barn. Over time, he got pretty good at it. With his hand beyond destroyed, he took up the hobby again, this time probably out of anger at the entire institution of farming, and found that he was no longer good at it. He was amazing.

By an insane stroke of luck or possibly--because he was a Jedi and this had been the plan all along--when he threw a baseball with his mangled hand it came off with a bizarre spin, which, if you're not a baseball fan, is kind of useful. His curve ball, for example, was rated "most devastating" by Ty Cobb, a man who still holds the record for highest career batting average and who just might be the greatest baseball player to have ever lived.

Also, he once beat up a guy with missing fingers, so you know... he wasn't just being nice.

Players had a hell of a time connecting with Brown's pitches, hitting grounders if they were lucky, and little else. He had a huge part in two World Series' championships for the Cubs, winning five games in the first. Before the second one, Brown won the pennant by competing and beating his rival, and contender for unofficial title as best pitcher in the league, Christy Mathewson, who was only slightly behind Brown career-wise.

Because of his stupid fingers.

By the end of his career, 239 games had been won, 1375 batters had been struck out and an ERA of 2.06 had been achieved, making "Three-Finger" the third best pitcher in the history of baseball. Oh, and he was a pretty decent batter, which is also incredibly rare for awesome pitchers. The Baseball Hall of Fame inducted Brown in 1949, a year after his death, adding one final honor to cap off an amazing life and proving that farm related accidents are a lottery you can win. If you're a Jedi.

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For more awesome people with disabilities, check out 7 People From Around the World With Real Mutant Superpowers. Or learn about some popes that could wreck your shit, in The 5 Biggest Badass Popes.

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