OK, now that Uncle Herb’s half in the bag on the Christmas eggnog, it’s time to look forward to taking money off your know-it-all baseball fan-friends or co-workers. You know the type – they’ll remind you cheerfully as you come in out of the sleet next month that “pitchers and catchers report in 29 days.”
Strike back with these absolute money-makers, and remember: your victim should not be allowed near a computer. Number Five is included to lull him or her into a false sense of accomplishment:
5) Give the MLB record for hits in a nine-inning game, the player or players who hold the record, and at least the year or years the record was established/tied.
4) Who holds the record for the fastest pitch ever thrown in a professional game?
3) Give the only truly unassailable record on the Major League books.
2) Give the most lopsided victory in professional baseball history.
1) Name the three players who hit grand slams in their first MLB at-bats.
5 – most hits in a standard game: Quite a few will get this one half right – 7 hits – Rennie Stennett, Pirates (9/16/75); nobody will say that this feat tied the record set by Wilbert Robinson of the old (N.L.) Baltimore Orioles (6/10/1892). 5a) Should your victim really be sharp and get both, hit her with this: Give a concise argument that this record is actually two separate records very different in kind. Answer? Before 1901 the game was arguably not played in the “modern” way. The foul strike rule was established that year.
4 – fastest pitch in competition: No one. Major League Baseball doesn’t recognize radar gun readings. A frequently given answer here is Nolan Ryan, who was clocked at 100.9 mph by The Guinness Book of World Records in a game in 1974. 4a) According to legend, Steve Dalkowski, who pitched only at the minor-league level in the Orioles organization in the 50’s and 60’s, threw between 105 and 115 mph, depending on your source. Pat Gillick, Bobby Cox and Earl Weaver all agreed, though, that the 5’11”, 170-pound Dalkowski threw harder than anybody they’d ever seen.
3 – the unbeatable record: No, this really isn’t subjective, except in a strictly definitional sense (i.e., no one can predict the future, but most would bet that sun will not turn into bean dip by tomorrow). Stephen Jay Gould famously argued that, mathematically speaking, the only record in baseball history that should not have ever been established was Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak, but I’d guess Gould never gave much thought to a couple of friendly scorers’ decisions. Moreover, anybody who does not give Cy Young’s 827 pitching decisions (511-316) as the only truly unassailable record has been hit in the head with a two by four. The second place record also belongs to Young – 749 complete games. 3a) Should your victim actually be thinking, try this one on him: Give Young’s real name. (Denton True Young.)
2 – worst blowout: This one’s sort of unfair, but so what? That sleet was really cold, right? On June 15, 1902, in a D-level, Texas League game, the Corsicana Oil Citys [sic] pounded the Texarkana Casketmakers (honest), 51-3. 2a) How close was the closest point on the outfield fence at that game in Ennis, Texas? (140 feet away.)
1 – grand slams, 1st AB’s: In reverse chronological order: Kevin Kouzmanoff, Indians (9/2/06, v. Texas); Jeremy Hermida, Marlins (8/31/05, v. St Louis); Bill Duggleby, Phillies (4/21/1898, v. New York). 1a and b) Which of these players was a pitcher? Which of them hit the first pitch? (a – Duggleby; b – Kouzmanoff.)
“Bill Duggleby: April 21, 1898,” “Corsicana Oil Citys vs. Texarkana Casketmakers: June 15, 1902,” and “Phillies vs. Beaneaters: April 19, 1900.” Baseball’s Greatest Games. Minnetonka, MN: Major League Insiders Club, 2008. 14, 19 & 90.
“Cy Young.” baseball-reference.com. 25 December 2009.
Entegart, Pete. “The Wild One.” sportsillustrated.cnn.com. 30 June 2003.