3Winning a Baseball Game by Running the Bases Backward
Well, if accidentally scoring on your own goal is an elementary school mistake, running the bases backward in baseball is the kind of thing most of us grow out of in kindergarten. If your knowledge of numbers has advanced to the point where the Count from Sesame Street has nothing more to teach you, then you can grasp the concept of stealing bases. If you're on first, steal second. On second, steal third. On third, steal home. Baseball has a lot of complicated parts, but the base numbering system isn't one of them.
In fact, running the bases out of order is not only counterproductive, but illegal. However, there was no rule against it in 1908, so the Detroit Tigers gave it a shot.
Apparently Wrong-Way Ronnie had a better understanding of the game than we gave him credit for as kids.
The Tigers' Germany Schaefer was on first base, with his teammate Davy Jones on third. Back then, a common strategy for such a situation was for the runner on first to steal second, forcing the catcher to throw the ball to get him out. Successful or not, this gave the guy on third ample opportunity to steal home and score a run -- basically, the guy stealing second is just creating a diversion for the guy on third. But when Schaefer and Jones tried it, the catcher simply held the ball, allowing Schaefer to advance to second while keeping Jones at third. Even by 1908, somebody had figured out that it's not worth giving up a run just to keep some asshole off second base.
Also figured out by 1908: how to make a stunning baseball card.
At this point, Schaefer turned to Jones and yelled, "Let's try it again!" With that, he ran backward and stole first base (successfully, since that act probably isn't even covered in baseball's how-to manual). Now that they were on first and third again, Schaefer turned right around to steal second. Again. But this time it worked; the catcher, flustered by the two men making a mockery of his sport, mindlessly lobbed the ball to center field, allowing Jones to steal home and win the game.
Presumably he then turned around and retook third.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, they weren't allowed to perform an encore of this goofy act, as Major League Baseball banned backward base running exactly one day later. They did so using the angriest language that the writer of an impartial rulebook could possibly muster: "Any runner is out when, after he has acquired legal possession of a base, he runs the bases in reverse order for the purpose of confusing the defense or making a travesty of the game."
2Winning an Auto Race by Shutting Off Your Engine
The rules of auto racing are, on the surface, simpler than those of any other sport: go fast. That's pretty much it. Also, don't turn right unless your goal is to end your life in the most SportsCenter-ready way imaginable. As long as you keep turning left and keep going faster and faster, you'll win. And few were faster than Ned Jarrett. During the 1965 Southern 500, Jarrett managed to not only defeat but obliterate his competition, earning the largest margin of victory in NASCAR history. And he did it by shutting off his engine. Over and over again.
James Woodson/Photodisc/Getty Images
It's a technique anyone who's ever owned an '86 El Camino can endorse.
This all started because Ford, the company hired to build the race cars, sucked at its job. They decided to experiment with some brand-new radiators that year but didn't bother to test them before the race (because other than overheating and/or exploding at the worst possible moment, what's the worst that could possibly happen?). Sure enough, the new radiators had a problem with track debris (such as bits of tire) getting stuck in them, causing them to overheat.
Man up, Ford; it's just a little road grit.
Forced to either face flaming doom or slow down and attempt to cool off their engines, the drivers chose to slow down. Again, even a non-fan can see how this would impede a NASCAR race somewhat.
Jarrett, however, opted for another, more ridiculous strategy: shut that shit down. Basically, as he headed into the turns, instead of just decelerating/braking, he turned off his engine completely. This cooled down his engine by roughly 25 degrees, and then when he came out of the turn he just cranked it up again and headed down the straightaway under power. He actually kept his foot on the gas pedal the whole time the engine was off (meaning gasoline was still flowing into the engine, just not combusting), which meant he got a huge backfire every time he turned the engine back on. The crowd probably thought he was doing a drive-by shooting.
Nothing says "drive-by" like proper safety gear.
So, by sheer virtue of not having his car melt down like the rest of the racers, Jarrett won hands down, 19 miles ahead of his nearest competitor. All by violating what probably has to be Rule #1 in race car driving school.