I Never Smoked Astroturf

Tug McGraw? Joe Namath? Charles Edward Greene? Bill Lee? Fictional?

Dear Quote Investigator: I laughed out loud when I read the answer given by Major League Baseball star Tug McGraw when he was asked whether he preferred grass or Astroturf:

I dunno. I never smoked any Astroturf.

This quote appeared in a newspaper article last year listing the most bizarre quotes in sport [BQI]. But when I searched online I found that some websites claim Joe Namath, the great football quarterback, said it. Did Namath or McGraw really say this? Maybe it was made up and added to McGraw’s other wacky sayings?

Quote Investigator: There is strong evidence that McGraw did utter a version of this quip when he played for the Mets. An article in The Times of San Mateo, California on April 30, 1974 contains an interview with McGraw in which he repeats the saying and indicates that he spoke the words on television the previous day [TMA]:

Back in the Mets’ locker room, McGraw laughed and said that he might get in trouble for something he said as a guest on a San Francisco TV talk show the day before. “A young boy called up and asked me if I preferred grass or astroturf,” chuckled Tug. “And I told him that I had never smoked astroturf. I guess that I shouldn’t have said that.”

“But I think that is part of why baseball isn’t as popular today as it used to be before World War II. People don’t look at players as human beings like they used to.”

The phrasing used by McGraw for this initial version of the quip is not very clear and concise. Unsurprisingly, it was altered in subsequent reportage. QI has not seen video footage of the TV talk show, so he does not know what McGraw said on camera.

The saying has also been ascribed to other sports figures such as football quarterback: Joe Namath (Broadway Joe Namath), football defensive tackle: Charles Edward Greene (Mean Joe Greene), and baseball pitcher: Bill Lee (Bill Spaceman Lee). But these attributions appeared in later years and may be imitative and/or apocryphal.

Here are additional select citations in chronological order.

Continue reading I Never Smoked Astroturf

Part Went for Liquor, Part for Women, Rest Spent Foolishly

Channing Pollock? George Raft? Tug McGraw? Stan Bowles? George Best?

Dear Quote Investigator: George Raft was my favorite film star from the Golden Age of Hollywood. He often played gangsters and was memorable in “Some Like it Hot”. Raft was known for his high income in Tinseltown and for his wild profligacy. The quotation that interests me appeared in his obituary in 1980 [RFT80]:

Raft … made, and squandered, about $10 million in his movie career, and later joked: “Part of the loot went for gambling, part for horses and part for women. The rest I spent foolishly.”

Did Raft really say this or is it part of his legend?

Quote Investigator: Yes, QI thinks Raft did say it, but he probably was not the first person to do so.

This exact quote appears in a profile of Raft written when he was 71 years old for Parade, the mass circulation Sunday newspaper magazine, dated 1966 October 23 [RFT66]. Raft says he purchased a racehorse for the star Betty Grable.

There is more evidence that Raft did utter the quip contained in an autobiographical book by Joe Franklin the host of a long-running talk show. Franklin says that Raft told him a close variant of the quote that includes alcohol [RFT95]:

George Raft told me on my show that he spent all of the $10 million he made on women, horses, gambling, and whiskey – and the rest he spent foolishly.

Interestingly, the full-text databases of today reveal that this joke has a large number of variations. For example: the money is spent on wine, whiskey, booze, liquor, women, horses, gambling, the finest duds, and three mustache curlers. The spendthrift is identified as George Raft, a hobo, a marine, a cat skinner, or a sailor.

Continue reading Part Went for Liquor, Part for Women, Rest Spent Foolishly

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