Friday, March 24, 2006

The Road to Cooperstown

From "Play's the Thing," Woodstock Times, March 16, 2006:
So you think you know baseball? If you can answer these questions correctly, you just might make it to the Hall of Fame. Start with the Little League and advance through the ranks to the minors, the majors and, if you've really got what it takes, the World Series. Get the bonus question right, and you may get a call from Cooperstown!

Like Ulysses on his twenty-year journey from home to distant outposts and home again, beware of pitfalls — a midseason trade from a pennant contender to a cellar-dwelling club; that ground ball rolling between your legs; that ill-fated attempt to steal. But even if you're getting splinters in your seat from weeks of bench-warming, one swing of the bat may be all that stands between you and triumph. So ... let's set off for first base.

1. The great American institution started by Abner Doubleday was:
The Civil War. Go to 22.
Baseball. Go to 18.

2. Fans surely benefited from the practice, but an umpire's realm is confined to the field of play. See 25.

3. Which President of the United States played professional baseball?
Dwight D. Eisenhower. Go to 12.
Harry S. Truman. Go to 20.

4. You may have been thinking of a scenario like this: three singles load the bases. The runner on third is caught attempting to steal home. Then, another runner attempts to steal; he is caught, too. Two more singles reload the bases before the third out. Good guess, but not good enough. See 54.

5. Number 1 is a skinny number, a little number, but a wrong number. See 60.

6. Right. Although Stockton, California continues to stake a claim to being the poet's inspiration for Mudville, creator Ernest Lawrence Thayer insisted from the poem's debut in 1888 that Mudville and Casey had no counterparts in real life. Literary sensibilities like yours will be a big plus for the college nine. Go to 61.

7. Which of these rookie prospects signed with a big league organization for the bigger bonus?
Mickey Mantle. Go to 62.
Mario Cuomo. Go to 52.

8. Incredibly early, but true. Only eleven months after Thomas Edison created the incandescent bulb, teams representing two Boston department stores — Jordan Marsh and R.H. White — played a nine-inning night game at Nantasket Beach, concluding in a 16-16 tie. Your first big-league paycheck is in your locker; party on. Go to 48.

9. Here is a little-known lyric from one of baseball's best-loved ballads: “Katie Casey was baseball mad,/ Had the fever and had it bad.” Which one?
Casey at the Bat. Go to 56.
Take Me Out to the Ball Game. Go to 28.

10. Amazing but true! The architects of this “Eighth Wonder of the World” planted natural grass, believing that the sun shining through the glass panels of baseball's first enclosed stadium would provide plenty of light for grass to grow. It did — but the players could not see fly balls against the glare. So, the panels were painted over to protect life and limb ... but then the grass died. To the rescue (and to the continued muttering of fans) came Monsanto Corporation's synthetic Astroturf, installed for the following season. High fives — you've just been signed to a pro contract! Go to 7.

11. A screwball is:
A “reverse curveball” that breaks in the same direction as the throwing arm of the pitcher. Go to 36.
A floating pitch with little if any rotation and an extremely erratic movement. Go to 47.

12. Ike played a season of pro ball before he went to West Point and later played minor-league ball in the Kansas State League under the assumed name of Wilson. In later years he wrote: “A friend of mine and I went fishing and as we sat there in the warmth of a summer afternoon on a river bank we talked about what we wanted to do when we grew up. I told him I wanted to be a real major league baseball player, a genuine professional like Honus Wagner. My friend said that he'd like to be President of the United States. Neither of us got our wish.” You get yours on Opening Day of your next season — playing centerfield and batting leadoff. Go to 45.

13. On April 25, 1901, the Detroit Tigers took the home field in their first game as a major league club in the new American League. Falling steadily behind to the visiting Milwaukee club, the Tigers entered the final frame trailing 13-4. Improbably, they scored ten runs to win their very first game, by a score of 14-13. Perhaps even more improbably, not even a month later, Cleveland duplicated the feat against Washington, also winning 14-13. Nothing like it had ever been done since ... until your club lost the first three games of the World Series and overcame a ten-run deficit in the final inning of Game Seven! (You, of course, capped the rally with a grand-slam homer, Homer.) Now try your hand at the bonus question at the end ... no matter how well (or otherwise) you've done up till now, you may get that call to Cooperstown after all.

14. Wear a scarlet “A,” for your answer is amiss. See 39.

15. The Great Depression slashed attendance throughout baseball by one-third. But the woebegone Browns of 1935 drew only 80,922 paying customers all season long, an 89 percent decline from their peak in the prior decade. But are you depressed? Nah. You got a hit in your first big-league at bat! Go to 31.

16. Maybe Hollywood's Andy Hardy gave rise to Joe Hardy, hero of Damn Yankees, but not to the hero of Casey Stengel's Yankees. See 32.

17. How many times have opposing pitchers in a game each thrown a no-hitter through nine innings?
Once. Go to 49.
Never. Go to 29.

18. Shame on you. You probably believe in Santa Claus, too. Try No. 1 again.

19. Who was the first African American to play major league baseball?
Jackie Robinson. Go to 42.
Moses Fleetwood Walker. Go to 38.

20. No. The pride of Hannibal, Mo., loved baseball and played it as a boy, but his eyesight wasn't good enough to allow him to compete ... so he served as umpire! See 12.

21. When the St. Louis Browns' showman owner Bill Veeck signed a 3’7” man named Eddie Gaedel to his team, what number did little Gaedel wear when he came to bat in a 1951 game against Detroit?
"1." Go to 5.
"1/8." Go to 60.

22. Yes indeed. Doubleday ordered the first shot in response to the Confederate assault on Fort Sumter. There is no credible evidence that he had anything to do with baseball, or that it was “invented” in Cooperstown, New York. Congratulations on your proper skepticism. Go to 27.

23. Lynn played Salem under the lights in ’27, but the correct answer dates back far earlier. See 8.

24. Baseball players first wore gathered pants, or knickers, in the 1860s because:
Players could run faster than in trousers. Go to 40.
Players could show off their manly calves and display colorful stockings. Go to 50.

25. True, as baseball lore has it ... although some scholars dispute this. William Ellsworth Hoy was known to one and all, with the directness and insensitivity that characterized the age, as “Dummy.” The 5’4” outfielder was a deaf-mute who, despite his impairment, played with distinction in the major leagues for fourteen seasons. Born in 1862, he threw out the first ball of Game 3 of the World Series in 1961! Let that be a model to you, callow rookie. Go to 11.

26. Logical and true. When a headline writer informs us that Gilhooley has notched his 14th victory or the Mariners have scored three on Chapman's homer, he is unknowingly memorializing one of the most ancient aspects of the national pastime. And for your extraordinary perspicacity and dogged sleuthing, you are hereby proclaimed a baseball archaeologist extraordinaire and entitled to a trip to Cooperstown. At the ticket window, mention that you have completed this Odyssey Around the Bases, pay the full admission charge, and you will surely be granted entrance to the hallowed Hall of Fame.

27. Which has the greater diameter?
The bat. Go to 44.
The ball. Go to 34.

28. “Katie Casey was baseball mad,
Had the fever and had it bad.
Just to root for the hometown crew,
Ev'ry sou, Katie blew.
On a Saturday, her young beau
Called to see if she'd like to go,
To see a show but Miss Kate said, ‘No,
I'll tell you what you can do...’”

The rest you clearly know. On to the varsity nine! Go to 33.

29. O ye of little faith! See 49.

30. Alas, no. But even if you tripped on this puzzler, it still ain’t over. See 13.

31. In the nineteenth century, home plate umpires began using hand signals in addition to shouting out balls and strikes so that:
Fans in the distant stands could keep track of the count. Go to 2.
A deaf batter could keep track of the count. Go to 25.

32. Yup. And Mickey Mantle has often breathed a sigh of relief that his dad gave him Cochrane's nickname instead of his given name ... Gordon. You have just gone 4-for-4 in the final game of the season, with a pair of dingers; your appreciative teammates have given you a nickname — Homer. Go to 3.

33. When mighty Casey struck out, there was no joy in:
Melville. Go to 58.
Mudville. Go to 6.

34. Your eye is keen. The maximum width of the bat is 2.75 inches, while the maximum diameter of the ball is 2.95 inches--a difference of only 2/10 of an inch. You're not in Little League any longer. Go to 9.

35. On Opening Day 1993, the Colorado Rockies made their debut at Mile High Stadium before 80,227 fans. Add 695 and get the St. Louis Browns' 1935 attendance for:
A homestand (20 games). Go to 57.
A full season (at that time, 77 home games). Go to 15.

36. Yes. Generally employed to fade away from batters rather than drift in toward them, a screwball thrown by righthanders like Christy Mathewson would be employed against lefthanded batters, while a lefthander like Carl Hubbell or Tug McGraw would use the pitch against righthanded batters. In your freshman efforts, are you finding the screwball no easier to hit than to define? Go to 53.

37. No. It's a trick question, sure, but who said we couldn't have some fun just like you? See 51.

38. Right. Jackie Robinson broke the big-league color line in 1947, the first time within the memory of almost everyone in baseball. But in 1884, Walker played for Toledo when it was a major league franchise. The majors are not far away for you, either. Go to 21.

39. Yes ... though Leaves of Grass was not a position paper on the evils of Astroturf. Whitman was a reporter for the Brooklyn Eagle, covering the exploits of that city's famed Atlantic Base Ball Club in the mid-1850s. As early as 1846 he reported in the Eagle: “In our sun-down perambulations of late, through the outer parts of Brooklyn, we have observed several parties of youngsters playing ‘base,’ a certain game of ball....” A Whitman you're not, but the hometown paper assigns you a ghostwriter and gives you a daily column. Go to 24.

40. This is the conventional explanation, but it defies logic: simply reflect on how players today stretch their leggings almost to their shoetops. See 50.

41. Who has the highest lifetime batting average in baseball history of men who played in at least 500 games?
Ty Cobb. Go to 37.
Mike Stanton. Go to 51.

42. Half right, and thus wrong. See 38.

43. Close, but no cigar. The original rules did require that 21 runs be scored for a victory (the nine-inning rule came later), but that's beside the point. See 26.

44. Look again. See 34.

45. Henry Chadwick, the game's most prominent early writer, began covering the game around 1856. Which of these masters of American literature preceded him as a baseball reporter?
Nathaniel Hawthorne. Go to 14.
Walt Whitman. Go to 39.

46. Reasonable guess, but you're one year too early. See 10.

47. This would describe a knuckleball pretty well. See 36.

48. When Mickey Mantle was born in 1951, his father named him in honor of his own boyhood hero. Which one?
Mickey Rooney. Go to 16.
Mickey Cochrane. Go to 32.

49. Each time a pitcher takes the mound to start a big-league game, he has roughly a one-in-a-thousand chance of throwing a no-hitter. Accordingly, the odds against a double no-hit game are two in a million, but it has happened. On May 2, 1917, Fred Toney of the Cincinnati Reds and Hippo Vaughn of the Chicago Cubs matched no-hitters until the tenth inning, when the unfortunate Vaughn allowed two hits and lost the game. You are luckier — a late-season call-up gets you off those bush-league buses. Go to 35.

50. Harry Wright, manager of the pioneer professional team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings, was determined to make his new business pay. Like other promoters before and since, he put a dollar sign on the muscle. It's midseason, you're hitting .380, you've got a fan club ... all's right with the world. Go to 55.

51. Schoolboys know that Ty Cobb batted .366 over his long career to earn his plaque in the Hall of Fame. But relief pitcher Mike Stanton hit .400 (8 hits in 20 at bats), through the end of the 2005 season. (With his next hitless at bat, however, he will slip below the .397 mark of Terry Forster — 31 hits in 78 at bats.) But you knew that, because as your team breezed to its spot in the World Series, you've had plenty of time to study. Go to 59.

52. The former governor of New York, an outfielder for St. John's University, was given a signing bonus of $2,000, a lot of money in 1951. At the end of his first year in the Pittsburgh Pirates chain, he was beaned; thereafter politics looked good to him. Mickey Mantle got $1,100. He went to the Hall of Fame. Maybe you will too. Go to 19.

53. Major League Baseball's first night game was played in Cincinnati in 1935. But when was the first nocturnal attempt to play the national pastime?
1927. Go to 23.
1880. Go to 8.

54. Right. It can happen like this: three singles load the bases. Then the next batter lines a ball that hits a baserunner, producing an out for the team. However, according to the rules, a hit is credited to the batter, who goes to first base. Each of the next two batters produces the same outcome (a single and an out). The season is nearing its end, your club is about to clinch the flag, and you're a legitimate candidate for MVP. Go to 41.

55. What is the maximum number of base hits a team can register in an inning without scoring a run?
Five. Go to 4.
Six. Go to 54.

56. Like Casey, you have taken Strike One. See 28.

57. An average turnout of 4,000 per game would have been cause for rejoicing in St. Louis. See 15.

58. “Call me Casey” is not the opening line of Moby Dick. See 6.

59. It ain’t over ’til it’s over, neither in life nor in that more serious matter, baseball. The greatest single-game comeback — the most runs scored in the bottom of the ninth to win a game — was:
Nine. Go to 30.
Ten. Go to 13.

60. Correct. And the outcome was equally ludicrous. The Detroit pitcher, Bob Cain, almost fell off the mound from laughing and walked Gaedel on four pitches — all of them high! You're hitting .300 and the big club has its eye on you. Go to 17.

61. What kind of grass was installed in Houston's Astrodome when it opened for play in April 1965?
Natural. Go to 10.
Artificial. Go to 46.

62. You would think so, wouldn't you? But scouts make mistakes. See 52.

BONUS. The reason we say that we “keep score” in baseball is:
The earliest rules required a score of runs (a score = 20) for a victory. Go to 43.
The tally keeper notched (scored) a stick with his knife, one for each run. Go to 26.

--John Thorn


Anonymous Adam said...

Very fun. I would quibble that it starts getting easier as a result of realizing that, for almost every question, what appears to be the least likely answer tends to be correct. There should be a few questions that go the other way, to add to the challenge.

4:33 PM  

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