Christmas Eve and the Power of Baseball

The cliffhanger trivia question from my last post:

Q: Name the only team in four professional sports (MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL) to win the championship every time it has qualified for postseason play.

The answer:

A: The Florida Marlins (great job Matt A. for texting me the answer within minutes of posting)

Here’s another:

Q: Theoretically, what is the minimum number of pitches that must be thrown in a regulation, nine-inning Major League baseball game in order for a pitcher to be credited with a Complete Game?

A: 25 (A visiting team pitcher must have every batter his the first pitch. One batter hits a HR and the others all make an out. The visiting team then bats in the top of the ninth and loses 1-0. The visiting team pitcher throws 8 innings, loses 1-0 and gets a Complete Game.)

About 2 weeks ago our school had a fund-raising event at Barnes and Noble. We ran into one of Jack’s best friends and his family. The grandfather was there.

“Hi there, I’m Dick. I know who you are.”

“What?” I asked.

“I read your blog. Love the thing. Think that minor league project with your son is terrific. Ok, here’s this: Name all the World Series managers who have never lost a single World Series game.”

“Oh – OK, hang on. Terry Francona…Ozzie Guilllan.” I was immediately intrigued. Baseball is a language and I could tell I had come across a true master. I couldn’t come up with the other managers.

“Lou Pinella with Reds in 1990 and then Hank Bauer with Orioles 1966. I got all kinds of these crazy things. How about this: Name the last team…Oop!”

The whole time I was talking to Dick, he seemed cagey. You’d think the police were after him. And in mid trivia question he’d seen something that scared him, let out a whoop, and then bolted without saying goodbye or anything.

I thought it was a bit strange, but mostly I was struck by the fact that I actually had my first fan. Holy crap! I assume anyone who reads this blog are reading it because they know me. I’d never met Dick, but there he was reading my blog and all kinds of excited to talk baseball. I never had a fan before; it was awesome.

So Christmas Eve, Jack’s friend’s family invited us over Christmas Eve for drinks. We wandered over there around 4:00 and found it was them, their family, and us. It was actually quite touching to be invited into this. There was good wine, good food, and best of all…Dick.

“Hey there, nice to see ya, how ya doin? Hey here’s this:”

Q: Name the first black pitcher in the Major Leagues.

“OK…how about this:”

Q: Name the last teams in the NL & AL to integrate African American players?

“I got lots of these. In fact I got them for ya’. I typed ‘em…oh boy!”

Then he darted away again like he’d just heard the building was on fire. Once more I didn’t know what had happened. I sorta shrugged it off and got into a different conversation. But 20 minutes later, Dick was back. This time we got into it about who we thought was the best athlete of all time. Jack has been drafting this list up and sending me barrages of texts with his revisions.

“Babe Ruth,” Dick declared. “He could pitch and then he hit too. Nobody was like him.”

He kept up on this subject for a bit, until once again Dick disappeared in the blink of an eye. I was beginning to think that this guy was actually a superhero. He would hear someone in South Jersey calling for help using his super hearing, duck out, change into his costume, fly off and save them, then fly back and rejoin the party as a mild-mannered baseball fan.

Over the course of the night he kept this up. He was like a boxer – he’d move in quick, stick me with trivia questions, and then duck back out. Finally late in the night I figured it out. We were debating who the best basketball player of all time was, when he stopped mid-sentence.

“All right, all right, I’ll stop. I somtimes talk so much, I get carried away.”

Dick had obviously been scolded for bad behavior. He had been told by his wife, daughter, someone – that he was not allowed to pin someone down and talk about baseball trivia. I’ve been given instructions like this before. Try and talk to people at this party. Don’t just find a place to sit by the food and ignore everyone. Keep your clothes on. I think Dick had gotten a permanent Don’t talk too much about baseball.

The best part came as we were leaving. Dick snuck over to me and handed me 15 typed pages.

“I spent today typing these up. Thought you could maybe use ‘em on your blog, I don’t know!”

Dick had typed pages and pages of baseball trivia questions.

“Wow – that’s super!” I told him. “Can you email them to me?”

“Ah…Uh…that’s not really not specialty. Printing out stuff, emailing it. I’m not that good at that.”

Poor Dick had literally typed the pages. He could not email them; this was the only copy.

Q: The first 9 MLB players to win back-to-back MVPs played the nine different positions. Name them.

Q: Name the last (maybe only) team to have 4 20-game winning pitchers in the same year.

We had a tremendous Christmas. Idyllic, in fact. On Christmas Eve not one, but two, different friends invited us to family gatherings. Christmas Day the boys woke up at 4AM but were forbidden to wake us until 7. At 6:50 they finally resorted to re-setting Alex’s clock ahead 10 minutes and then charged into our room. Then that night we went out with close family friends for our traditional Chinese dinner in Philly.

As for Dick, I hereby indemnify him from any baseball talking restrictions his family has placed on him when it comes to talking to me. Just print this out and show it to your family as proof. Or email it to them. Either way, you should be fine.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, everyone. Each day is one day closer to the 2014 World Series and the end of the dark period where the Red Sox are the reigning champs.

Answer key:

A: Dan Blankhead, 1947 Dodgers.

A: NL: Phillies (John Kennedy-1957) & AL: Red Sox (Pumpsie Green-1959).

A: 1B Jimmy Foxx (’32, ’33), P Hal Newhouser (’44,’ 45), C Yogi Berra (’54, ’55), OF Mickey Mantle (’56, ’57), SS Ernie Banks (’58, ’59), OF Roger Maris (’60, ’61), 2B Joe Morgan (’75, ’76), 3B Mike Schmidt (’80, ’81), OF Dale Murphy (’82, ’83).

A: 1971 Orioles (Dave McNally 21-5, Pat Dobson 20-8, Mike Cuellar 20-9, Jim Palmer 20-9).

10 thoughts on “Christmas Eve and the Power of Baseball

  1. You have more fans than you know. My son and I live in Hilton Head, SC and we read every one of your blogs. They are awesome – keep them coming and Happy new Year – Go Yankees!!!

  2. I appreciate your kind words; but I didn’t want to monopolize your time on Christmas Eve. I tried to leave you alone as much as possible, so as not to be too obnoxious.

    Over the years I’ve always loved trivia of all sorts especially baseball, college basketball,and 50s & 60s Rock & Roll. Years ago, while working in northern New Jersey, I’d go back & forth with several colleagues on sports trivia. Somewhere along the way I decided to write them down. It’s harder now to stump people what with the computers on phones, etc. But here’s another:

    Five MLB players, each of which, with at least 500 career Home Runs, hit all his career Home Runs with the same team. Name the players & the teams.

    I will give the answer after your next blog (or in a few days)

    Dick (known to Max Kolo and his friends as “Bumps”)

  3. Somehow I deleted your newest “In Transition” so here is the answer to the 500 or more all HRs for same team question: Mickey Mantle; Ted Williams; Ernie Banks; Mike Schmidt & Mel Ott. (people guess Harmon Killebrew but, at the end of his career, he hit 14 HR for Kansas City)

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