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Weird Baseball Facts and Trivia
Strange but True Baseball Stories

This page contains some of the weirdest "strange but true" baseball stories. Here you can discover the answers to trivia questions like: "Why was it necessary to put a man on the moon in order for a weak-hitting pitcher to finally hit a home run?" Or how about: "Which first baseman was such a notoriously terrible fielder that 30,000 fans once gave him a standing ovation for catching a stray hotdog wrapper?" Or how about this one: "Which teammate of Babe Ruth was a better pitcher AND his equal as a hitter, with virtually identical statistics in their mutual breakout season of 1918?" Did Babe Ruth have an identical twin, a doppelganger? As we are about to see, baseball is a wonderfully weird game ...

by Michael R. Burch

Foul Play!

On August 17, 1957, future hall-of-fame centerfielder Richie Ashburn of the Philadelphia Phillies hit spectator Alice Roth with a foul ball, breaking her nose. As Roth was being carted off the field on a stretcher, Ashburn hit her with another foul ball, breaking a bone in her knee. The odds of a fan being hit by a baseball are 300,000 to one. The odds of the same fan being hit twice during the same at-bat, and breaking bones both times, are beyond astronomical.

Bob Feller once hit his mother with a hard foul ball. Again, what are the odds? Especially since Feller was a pitcher and unlikely to make hard contact in the first place!

Ted Williams once flipped his bat in anger after a strikeout and in horror watched it strike his landlady, who was sitting in a seat he had provided for her!

They said Ted Williams couldn't hit to left, but he could with the proper motivation. During an early-season game in 1942 a fan in the left field stands was heckling Williams for not enlisting after Pearl Harbor. Williams proceeded to slam foul balls into the fan's area, trying to hit him or shut him up!

Fowl Play: Why Baseball is for the Birds!

Dave Winfield, a hall-of-fame outfielder playing for the Yankees in 1983, was arrested for killing a seagull with a thrown ball. The cop who arrested him and fans who witnessed the event claimed that Winfield hit the bird deliberately. But Yankees manager Billy Martin questioned whether Winfield possessed the necessary accuracy: "Cruelty to animals? That's the first time he hit the cut-off man all year!"

On March 24, 2001, during the seventh inning of a spring training game between the Diamondback and Giants, a wayward dove flew into a Randy Johnson heater and literally exploded into a shower of white feathers. Unfortunately, the small symbol of peace did not survive. The event can be viewed on YouTube, and there is a picture of Jeff Kent holding the nude corpse like a tiny plucked turkey.

Bob Ferguson had one of baseball's more unusual nicknames: "Death to Flying Things." But as far as I can tell, it was because of his ability to spear balls out of the sky, not for killing our feathered friends!

Robin Roberts threw a perfect game on May 13, 1954 ... 27 batters up, 27 batters retired with no hits, walks, errors, or baserunners of any kind. But he still gave up a run. How did our plucky Robin pull off such a miracle? By starting a batter too late. He gave up a home run to the leadoff hitter, then threw a perfect game. And it wasn't exactly a fluke, because Roberts held the record for most home runs given up by a pitcher for nearly 50 years. That record was only broken recently by Jamie Moyer, who had to serve up gopher balls till age 49 in order to claim the not-so-coveted prize!

What's even lighter than a high-flyin' bird? A butterfly. And Stu Miller, a lightweight at only 165 pounds, was called the Butterfly Man. But Stu was a pretty good pitcher and he managed to make his first and only all-star team at age 33 in 1961 ... only to be blown off the mound by a gust of wind in famously breezy Candlestick Park! Talk about a "butterfly effect" because that would be the only balk of his career!

Another hall-of-fame outfielder with accuracy issues was also "for the birds." Goose Goslin made playing left field an adventure. When Clark Griffith scouted Goslin, one fly ball hit him in the head and another barely missed his noggin. Shades of Jose Canseco, who once headed a fly ball into the stands for the world's most unusual homer! But Goslin hit three homers that day and Griffith decided to take a chance on the young slugger. Goslin was called "Goose" due to the ungainly way he flapped his arms around while pursuing fly balls (that is, when not dodging or heading them). Goslin's throwing arm was powerful but similarly erratic. After bringing up Goose from the minors, the Washington Senators were forced to trade for a young Joe Cronin because their starting shortstop was "exhausted" and had "begun to lose weight rapidly in the summer heat" from running around retrieving Goslin's wayward throws!

But please give the Goose a break, because it is highly unusual for a great hitter to also be a great defender. According to Fangraphs, only four of the top 100 defensive players had a wRC+ of 125 or higher: Honus Wagner (the #49 defender), Willie Mays (#64), Johnny Bench (#77) and Mike Schmidt (#89). There are your real two-way superstars. But what if we consider pitchers the prime defenders? Then we can add Babe Ruth as a two-way superstar. Ruth had one of the best pitching seasons of all time in 1916, when he won 23 games with nine shutouts and a miniscule 1.75 ERA. That year he out-dueled the great Walter Johnson, going 3-1 against the Big Train. In one of the greatest pitcher duels of all time, Ruth pitched a 13-inning shutout, besting Johnson in a 1-0 victory. In the World Series that year, Ruth pitched a still-record 14 innings in a 2-1 win. I think Ruth has a valid claim to be the best two-way player of all time. Baseball's greatest hitter could have been its greatest pitcher if he had stuck to the mound.

However, the Bambino was not the only former pitcher to win an AL batting title. Let's allow Goose Goslin to explain in his own words: "It was 1920 and I was twenty years old. Well, it turned out that professional ball [Class C Sally League] was a little different from sandlot ball. Around here I used to be quite a pitcher. That's what I thought, anyway. Used to strike 'em out one after the other. But down there it seemed like the harder I threw the ball the harder they hit it." Goslin switched to left field, which is where Clark Griffith saw him playing dodge ball and not always succeeding. But the Goose could hit. In 1928, the converted pitcher had a chance to win the AL batting title. He and Heinie Manush were both hitting .378 and happened to be playing against each other in the final game of the season. (More baseball weirdness, because the Babe won his only AL batting title with a .378 average!) It all came down to Goslin's last at-bat. He was ahead by a fraction. If he didn't make an out, the coveted batting title would be his! Goose's manager gave him the option of not going to the plate. But a teammate, Joe Judge, judged that people would call Goslin yellow if he took the easy way out. So the Goose decided to risk hitting. Almost immediately, the pitcher had two strikes on him. Then Goslin had a brainstorm: he'd get the umpire to throw him out of the game! No official at-bat and the batting title was his! So the Goose called umpire Bill Guthrie every name in the book, stomped on his toes, and pushed him. But his goose was cooked because Guthrie knew what he was up to and refused to oblige. According to Goslin's retelling of the tale, he got a lucky hit and won the batting title "fair and square" (sorta, if failing to succeed at cheating is "fair").

Joe Medwick was a star outfielder for the Saint Louis Cardinals. He was nicknamed "Ducky" and "Ducky Wucky" because the muscular Medwick appeared to waddle when he ran. Medwick became the only major leaguer ever ejected from a game for his own safety, after being pelted with fruits and vegetables following a hard slide in the 1934 World Series. When asked about the flying veggies, Medwick said: "I knew why they threw them. What I don't understand is why they brought them to the ballpark in the first place." When he met Pope Pius XII, Medwick introduced himself as a peer: "Your Holiness, I'm Joe Medwick. I, too, used to be a Cardinal!"

Most of baseball's famous fowls were of the grounded ostrich variety: muscular and fast for their size. But one was, indeed, an eagle-eyed high flier. The great Ted Williams was a fighter pilot who set records for hits, shooting from wingovers, zooms and barrel rolls. He still holds the student gunnery records for reflexes, coordination and reaction times, according to Major League Baseball. When he joined the Navy, his physical revealed that he had 20-10 vision. With such superior eyesight, reflexes, reaction times and coordination, it's no wonder pitchers couldn't get him out. Williams has the all-time highest on-base percentage at .482 and for most of his career was essentially getting on base every other at-bat.

More Strange But True Baseball Stories

A young boy named Tim Smith had Tug McGraw's baseball card taped to his bedroom wall. One day he found his birth certificate and learned that Tug McGraw was his father. The boy then changed his last name. He grew up to become country music superstar Tim McGraw. (As a bonus, he got to marry Faith Hill!)

In 1978, during a match between Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles, a fan suffered a heart attack. His life was saved by a baseball player, George "Doc" Medich.

Fenway Park is, to my knowledge, the only ballpark to have been given an exorcism, as desperate Red Sox fans attempted to reverse the dreaded Curse of the Bambino. The curse had lasted 85 years, from 1918 to 2003, until Bruce Springsteen announced that he was performing an exorcism during a concert at Fenway Park in September 2003. The exorcism was reported by Jack Curry in the New York Times. Red Sox management were aware of the exorcism and apparently approved. Charles Steinberg, a Red Sox executive, recalled: ''He said, 'We're going to conduct an exorcism' ... [so] we're saying we had an exorcism here.''' Within a year the Red Sox reversed the curse in an improbable manner when they become the first and only major league team to win a seven-game postseason series after losing the first three games. And they did it against the Yankees, no less. The Red Sox went on to win the 2004 World Series and the curse was officially ended when Cardinals shortstop Edgar Renteria made last out wearing Ruth's number three uniform number.

On July 17, 1914, the New York Giants and Pittsburgh Pirates were engaged in a marathon 21-inning game. Having scored two runs to break a 1-1 tie, the Giants took the field hoping to end the drawn-out affair. The skies were dark and threatening. Giants outfielder Red Murray camped under a fly ball that would finally end the game! But after making the catch, Murray was struck by a bolt of lightning which rendered him unconscious. (He apparently hung on to the ball.)

The NFL GOAT was almost a minor league catcher. Tom Brady was selected by the Montreal Expos in the 18th round of the 1995 MLB draft. Brady apparently was seriously considering the offer because he went on a road trip with some of the Expos. The idea was that the high schooler would be encouraged to focus on baseball rather than pursue a more dangerous sport at the University of Michigan. But one of the players, F.P. Santangelo, asked Tom Terrific: "Why in the world would you make $800 a month [and] play in front of 100 people in the minor leagues, riding buses for ten hours, when you can play in front of 100,000 people at (Michigan’s) Big House on Saturday?"

George Brett once hit a game-losing home run! How is that even possible? Brett's apparent game-winning two-run homer against the Yankees with his Royals trailing 4-3 with one on and two outs in the top of the ninth inning in a road game on July 24, 1983 was reversed during the famous "pine tar" incident. Brett was declared the last out for having too much resin on his bat, so he managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Since the home team Yankees didn't have to bat in the bottom of the ninth with the lead, Brett's homer was the last out. The game was appealed and the ruling overturned, but at the time it seemed Brett had implausibly hit a game-losing homer!

Dick Stuart, first baseman for the Pittsburgh Pirates, led the league in errors a record seven years in a row, from 1958 through 1964. Stuart was renowned for his atrocious fielding and earned the nicknames "Dr. Strangeglove," "Stonefingers," and "The Man with the Iron Glove." His license plate was E3. His 29 errors at first base in 1963 remain the major-league record for the position. One night in Pittsburgh, 30,000 fans gave him a standing ovation for catching a hotdog wrapper on the fly.

Cecil Fielder and Prince Fielder were father and son. They both played major league baseball and both finished with exactly 319 home runs. What are the odds? They are also the only father-son pair to both have 50 homers in a single season. Such 50-homer seasons are very rare in modern baseball. In fact Cecil broke a 13-year drought when he hit 51 home runs in 1990. We then have to go back to George Foster in 1977, then to Willie Mays in 1965. So for 25 years there were only two players to hit 50 homers, then Cecil Fielder and his son both did it. Again, what are the odds?

Ted Williams led the majors in WAR for a decade, from 1939 to 1948. "Ted Williams was a great baseball player, so what's weird about that," I'm sure you're asking. Well, Ted Williams missed three full seasons during World War II, fighting for his country!

Was Chino Cadahia a prophet, appointed by the baseball gods to be their oracle? And of course the baseball gods are never wrong! In the summer of 1988, Cadahia gave the nickname "Pudge'' to Ivan Rodriguez, who was at that time a scrawny 165-pound catcher. Cadahia says he doesn't know why he came up with the nickname for the then-non-pudgy Rodriguez. The baseball gods move in mysterious ways, their wonders to perform. "He wasn't a pudgy guy at all," Cadahia said. "It just seemed to fit." Of course there was another catcher nicknamed "Pudge" in the great Carlton Fisk. But Fisk was a giant at 6'3" and over 200 pounds, compared to the 5'7" lightweight Rodriguez at age 16. Later, Pudge Junior would add two more inches and fill out to 195 pounds. But Fisk still towered over him. However, oddly, they turned out to be twins. They were both catchers. They are both in the Hall of Fame. They are number one and two in MLB games played at catcher. And they share nearly identical career stats: 68.5 WAR, 4.4 WAR per 162 games, .798 OPS, 1330 RBI, 127 steals, give or take a hair. Blessed be the name of the baseball gods!

Rube Waddell may have been the most eccentric baseball player of all time. He was famous (or infamous) for leaving the mound during games to chase fire engines. Hall of Fame manager Connie Mack recalled, "He always wore a red undershirt, so that when the fire bell rang he could pull off his coat, thus exposing his crimson credentials, and gallop off to the blaze." Rube would be late for games because he stopped to pet dogs and kittens, or because he was distracted by shiny objects. He once missed a start because he stopped to play marbles with kids outside the stadium. He would do cartwheels back to the dugout after striking out the side. Rube spent money so rashly on women and booze that the Athletics paid him in dollar bills, hoping they'd last longer. He drank so much that sportswriters dubbed him a "sousepaw." When he ran out of cash, Rube would bartend to earn more drinking money. He claimed not to be able to remember how many women he'd married and was accused by one of his wives of bigamy. He wrestled alligators and was once bitten by a lion! He had a clause in his contract that forbade him to eat Animal Crackers in bed, because the crumbs kept his roommate awake. Rube Waddell was born on Friday the 13th and died, no joke, on April Fool's Day in a sanitarium in Texas. But he was a great pitcher. Waddell led the AL in strikeouts for six consecutive seasons, setting a major league mark of 349 in 1904 that stood for the next 61 years. And that still remains the record for an AL lefthander, more than a century later. Waddell was the unchallenged strikeout king of the 1900s, leading the AL in strikeouts per nine innings for seven consecutive seasons, from 1902 to 1908. Connie Mack called Waddell "the atom bomb of baseball long before the atom bomb was discovered" and said "He had more stuff than any pitcher I ever saw. He had everything but a sense of responsibility."

In an interesting synchronicity, Roger Maris hit 61 home runs in ’61. Curiously, Maris’s 61st home run came in his 161st game of the 1961 season. Maris hit his record-breaking homer in the season-ending game, before 23,154 wildly cheering fans. Well, except for the ones who didn’t want to see Babe Ruth’s most cherished record broken! Baseball is a game of numbers and fans of baseball numerology may find the following of interest: There is a curious repetition of the numbers 6 and 1 in Maris’s stats that year, especially considering that the 19 in 1961 is a sort of “mirror image” or “flipped image” of 61: 1961, 161 games, 61 homers, 16 doubles, 167 OPS+, 16 GDPs. And of course the numbers one and six add up to seven, so there are seven lucky sevens in the stats above. Was it written in the stars, ordained by the baseball gods, perhaps?

Babe Ruth is credited with the invention of the modern baseball bat. He was the first player to order a bat with a knob on the end of the handle. Louisville Slugger produced the custom-made bat with which he hit a record 29 home runs in 1919. His previous season high had been 11. After his career was over, the Sultan of Swat revealed that he put his pinky finger on the knob to enable his famous follow-through.

Speaking of Louisville Sluggers, how did the name originate? Known as the "Louisville Slugger" for his impressive power, Pete Browning was the first player to purchase bats from the company and they adopted the name to capitalize on his fame. But alas, Browning was one of the worst fielders in major league baseball history. He did, however, have an excuse because he regularly played drunk! Browning could apparently hit drunk, as his career batting average of .341 is one of the highest on record. He was reported to have said: "I can't hit the ball until I hit the bottle!" Browning was also known as "The Gladiator," although sources differ as to whether the nickname applied to his struggles with ownership, the press, his drinking problem, or those elusive fly balls! When Browning signed with the Pittsburg franchise, he helped give it the nickname "Pirates" when other teams claimed it was an act of "piracy" for Pittsburg to sign free agents (a revolutionary idea at the time).  

Speaking of free agents, Pete Rose became the first superstar free agent of the modern era when he signed a $3.2 million contract with the Phillies in 1978. The crazy thing is that Rose was 38 at the time, so it was quite a gamble. However, the gamble paid off as the elderly Rose hit .331 and led the NL in OBP while accumulating 208 hits, 40 doubles and a career-high 20 steals. The gamble paid even bigger dividends in 1980, when Rose led the Phillies to the first World Series championship in the franchise's 97-year history. Rose led the NL in doubles at age 39, hits at age 40, and games played (162) at age 41. Talk about never taking a day off! He was a four-time all-star for the Phillies. At age 43, returning to the Reds as baseball's last player-manager, Rose hit .365 with a 147 OPS+ in 107 at-bats. At age 44, Rose was an all-star for the 17th time, getting on base 202 times in only 501 plate appearances, for an effective .403 OBP, and he also went 8-1 on steals. Rose had the most hits in MLB history after age forty, with 732. Truly remarkable! But how did Rose get the catchy nickname "Charlie Hustle"? It was most definitely NOT a compliment. Mickey Mantle called Rose a "sissy" for hitting so many singles and was mocking him for running to first base on walks when he called him "Charlie Hustle." But Rose had the last laugh, as he finished with 1,241 more total bases than the Mick. As a matter of fact, Rose ended up with only 41 fewer career total bases than the Sultan of Swat himself, Babe Ruth. Rose had more total bases than Lou Gehrig, Mel Ott, Jimmie Foxx and Reggie Jackson. Furthermore, Rose had more than a thousand total bases more than Mantle, Rogers Hornsby, Ernie Banks and Mike Schmidt. And he had more than two thousand total bases more than Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, Johnny Mize, Johnny Bench and Yogi Berra. Yes, all those singles and doubles really did add up, over time.

Should Pete Rose be in the Baseball Hall of Fame?

Pete Rose played Detroit Tigers star Ty Cobb in Babe Ruth, a 1991 made-for-television movie. Of course it was Rose who broke Cobb's record for hits.

When Reds owner Marge Schott was kicked out of major league baseball for making racist comments, Rose semi-defended her by saying, "It's not that she doesn't like one group of people. She just doesn't like anybody."

"Take Me Out to the Ballgame" is baseball's unofficial anthem, traditionally sung during the "seventh inning stretch" at ballparks far and wide. The song was written in 1908 by Jack Norworth and Albert von Tilzer, neither of whom had never been to a baseball game!

Yogi Berra was behind the plate when Don Larsen threw his perfect game in the 1956 World Series, and he caught two no-hitters by Allie Reynolds in 1951. But those were the exceptions to the rule. For instance, take the game where Whitey Ford was pitching against the White Sox after a night on the town with Mickey Mantle and Billy Martin: first pitch, a single to Nellie Fox; second pitch, a single to Luis Aparicio; third pitch, he hits Minnie Minoso; fourth pitch, a grand slam to Ted Kluszewski! Out to the mound comes manager Casey Stengel and he asks Yogi, "What kind of stuff has Whitey got?" Yogi replies, "How the hell do I know? I haven't caught one yet!"

Jose Canseco was a notoriously poor defensive outfielder. But in 1993 he exceeded all negative expectations when he turned a long fly ball by Cleveland's Carlos Martinez into a home run by "heading" it into the stands.

Twenty-six years later, on June 16, 2019, Albert Almora Jr. also "headed" a home run, but in reverse. Cody Bellinger's legitimate home run hit a tarped section of seats and the tarp acted like a trampoline, boomeranging the ball back into the field of play. Almora had already turned around and the ball hit him in the back of the head, surprising the hell of out him, but fortunately inflicting no permanent damage.

Babe Ruth was subjected to racist epithets because of his dark complexion, big lips and wide nose. During a 1922 World Series game at the Polo Grounds, a Giants bench warmer shouted racial slurs "in a voice loud enough to be heard on the other side of the Harlem River, where construction on Yankee Stadium was under way." The famous "called shot" home run in the 1932 World Series came after Ruth was jeered mercilessly about his ancestry by the Cubs bench and crowd. Ruth was called "the big baboon" behind his back and stories of his prodigious appetites—whether for food, sex, or fun—smacked of racial stereotyping. To his credit, the Babe defied racist baseball commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis by participating in barnstorming exhibition tours with Negro Leaguers who deeply appreciated the respect he paid them and the extra money he helped them earn with his box office appeal. Julia Ruth Stevens is on the record saying her father was blackballed from managing because he would have lobbied to bring in black players.

Was there a second curse of the Bambino? The Red Sox had the opportunity to sign Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays for pennies on the dollar. The mind boggles at the idea of them playing on the same team with Ted Williams! But owner Tom Yawkey wanted to keep his team lily-white. (Robinson called Yawkey "one of the most bigoted guys in baseball.") Boston was the last MLB team to integrate, holding out until getting slapped with racial discrimination lawsuits in 1959. Robinson and Mays would lead teams with more tolerant owners to eternal glory, with the Babe nodding his approval from heaven.

Babe Ruth was the best left-handed pitcher of his era, and Red Sox manager Ed Barrow was understandably reluctant to tamper with success by letting him play in the field. But in 1918 when Barrow finally agreed to let the Bambino play on his non-pitching days, Ruth hit home runs in four consecutive games and the rest―as they say―is history.

So what's the big deal with Shohei Ohtani? Why is he being compared to the immortal Babe Ruth? Well, as a pitcher Ohtani has thrown a fastball clocked at 102.6 mph. That's Nolan Ryan and Noah Syndergaard territory. As a batter, Ohtani has produced a maximum exit velocity of 119 mph, and he once smashed a drive through the Tokyo Dome. Thus he also has rare power. And despite being 6-4 and weighing over 200 pounds, Ohtani has been clocked reaching first base in 3.8 seconds, which is Dee Gordon territory. Does this mean he'll be the next Babe Ruth? Of course not. But Ruth didn't throw 100-mph fastballs and he certainly didn't have that kind of speed. On paper, at least, Ohtani is an outlier, something we haven't seen before. Early in the 2021 season, Ohtani threw the AL’s hardest pitch and hit its hardest ball in the bottom half of the same inning. According to Anthony Bass, who played with Ohtani for the oddly-named Nippon Ham Fighters, he compares with Mike Trout and Bryce Harper as a hitter, while as a pitcher he compares with Max Scherzer! In 2018 Ohtani did something the Babe did exactly 100 years before, by playing regularly as a pitcher and hitter in the same season.

How's the experiment going? So far, so good. Two days after recording his first MLB win as a pitcher, Ohtani went 3-for-4 with a homer and three RBI. He became the first player since Babe Ruth to win a game, then homer in a start as a non-pitcher. Ohtani then hit dingers in his next two games, for three consecutive. Move over, Babe, there's a new Sultan of Swat! Only 711 more to go! Ohtani also became the first pitcher since Babe Ruth to start a game hitting cleanup. Then on April 4, 2021, the Big Oh became the first pitcher to bat second in a major league game since Jack Dunleavy in 1903. In that game, Showtime Ohtani threw the season's fastest pitch to that point, 101 mph, then hit a 450-foot homer that sounded like a cannon had been fired. A very loud cannon.

As I write this, a quarter of the way through the 2021 season, Shohei Ohtani leads the AL in Win Probability Added (2.0)—and that's without his pitching factored in! He ranks behind only Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in home runs and behind only Shane Bieber in strikeouts per nine innings (min. 30 innings pitched). With Mike Trout injured, Ohtani is the Angel's best hitter and their best pitcher. And he could possibly end up the AL's best hitter and its best pitcher. That's crazy!

So has there every been anyone since Ruth, to rival Ohtani? As a matter of fact, there is another two-way player of note: Wes Ferrell, the brother of hall-of-fame catcher Rick Ferrell. Wes had one of the least-known amazing seasons in 1935 when he was 25-14 as a pitcher and led the AL in wins, complete games and innings pitched. That year he also hit .347 with 32 RBI and a heady .960 OPS. But get this: his brother and battery mate Rick was an All-Star that year, but not Wes! And Wes finished second to Hank Greenberg in the MVP voting despite a massive edge in WAR: 10.6 to 7.7. Talk about no respect! But it gets even more ironic. There are some questionable members of the Baseball Hall of Fame, perhaps none more questionable than Rick Ferrell, who was not even the best player in his immediate family! Rick Ferrell finished his career with only 29.8 WAR, a .363 slugging percentage and a less-than-stellar OPS+ of 95. Wes Ferrell's 61.6 WAR vastly eclipsed his brother's. And according to baseball metrics, despite being a pitcher, Wes was the better hitter as well, with a .446 slugging percentage and OPS+ of 100! Did the same family have the worst player elected to the HOF and the best one not to make it?

Yogi Berra inspired the name of the famous cartoon character Yogi Bear. Their names became irretrievably linked, to the extent that when Yogi Berra died, the Associated Press announced the death of Yogi Bear to newspapers around the world! (Honest to God, no one can make these things up!) So how did Lawrence Peter Berra come to be called "Yogi" in the first place? Was he really a swami? No, but he used to sit cross-legged in the on-deck circle. One of his friends started calling him "Yogi" and the nickname stuck.

Ted Williams fractured his collarbone in the first game of spring training in 1954 ... after having flown 39 combat missions without injury in the Korean War!

Speaking of baseball and war, during WWII the US military created a grenade the size and weight of a baseball because "any young American man should be able to properly throw it."

"Germany" Schaefer modified his moniker to "Liberty" Schaefer after the United States declared war on Germany in 1917.

How fast was Nolan Ryan in his prime? Well, in his last season at age 46, having thrown more than 5,300 innings in the majors and struggling with ligament damage in his right arm, Ryan was still throwing 98 mph heaters! A pitch Ryan threw in 1974 at age 27, when corrected for radar gun placement, has been gauged at 108.5 mph. Ryan is the all-time leader in strikeouts, no-hitters and hits per nine innings (H/9) but rather incredibly never won a Cy Young award and only finished second once.

Who were the hardest pitchers of all time to hit, according to the H/9 stat? Nolan Ryan (#1), Clayton Kershaw (#2), Sandy Koufax (#3) and Sid Fernandez (#4). I must admit that El Sid caught me by surprise. The hefty lefty had an unorthodox delivery which made his pitches hard to pick up. Bill Wade, a scouting director, said Sid's release point was so low, it was "almost impossible to pick up." He also had a sweeping slow curve that would paralyze batters.

Dizzy Dean was one of baseball's most colorful characters, but he wasn't big on the Queen's English. As a baseball broadcaster, he would describe players who "slud into third" and "throwed the ball purty good." When a group of educators drafted a protest, criticizing his grammar and syntax, Ol' Diz cheerfully replied: "Syntax? Are they taxing that too?"

False advertising? Home Run Baker stood 5-11, weighed 170 pounds, and never hit more than 12 home runs in a season. He retired with 96 career homers, fewer than Pee Wee Reese, Minnie Minoso, Granny Hamner and Tillie Walker.

The home run king before Babe Ruth was Roger Connor. Have you ever wondered why the Giants are called the Giants? The team changed its name from the New York Gothams to the Giants because Connor stood 6-3 and weighed 220 pounds. The average man in the late 1800s stood 5-7 and weighed 140 pounds. So Connor would have seemed like a giant, towering over enemy baserunners at first base. Connor hit MLB's first grand slam and also hit the first ball out of the Polo Grounds (a feat so impressive Wall Street executives rewarded him with a $500 gold watch). Connor also invented the pop-up slide, which must have really scared the infield munchkins of his era!

Mickey Mantle called Pete Rose a sissy for hitting so many singles and mocked him for running to first base on walks. ("Charlie Hustle" was not originally a compliment.) But if running to first is unmanly, there's one player who made the Mick look less than macho. Adam Dunn pretty much eliminated running to first from his game entirely. Dunn was the King of the Three True Outcomes. He was the first MLB player to either hit a home run, strike out or walk in 50% of his plate appearances. Mantle, who had been the King in his era, has now faded into the distance at a mere 40% and to make matters worse, ended up with 1,241 fewer total bases than Charlie Hustle!

Wild Bill Donovan got his nickname by walking nine consecutive batters in the minors, not by partying. (That came later, when he could afford to binge.)

Dirty Jack Doyle lived up to his nickname when he jumped into the stands, slugged a heckler, and re-broke the hand he had broken just weeks before (in another fight, perhaps?). Doyle was arrested multiple times for attacking umpires and fans.

John Dillinger once played professional baseball, although he never made it to the majors. The young Johnny Dillinger was a star shortstop so quick he was nicknamed "Jackrabbit."

Cap Anson's Chicago White Stocking teams were so packed with "drunks and rowdies" that team owner Al Spalding hired detectives to monitor their partying!

Cap Anson was called "Pop" and when he left Chicago the team was called the "Orphans."

Pitcher Jim Abbott was born without a right hand, yet had a ten-season MLB career which included winning 18 games, finishing third in the Cy Young voting, and throwing a no-hitter for the New York Yankees vs. Cleveland in 1993.

Who was the worst fielder to win a Gold Glove? And not just one, but five? Derek Jeter has the worst Total Zone Runs allowed of any MLB player, ever, with a staggering -186 runs allowed. His career fielding percentage was only .976 and he had -9.4 dWAR.

Weird Baseball Trivia

What potential hall-of-fame first baseman beat out Payton Manning for starting quarterback with the Tennessee Vols, before a knee injury that ended his football career? Todd Helton, who slashed .316/.414/.539/.953 for his major league career, had an absolutely crazy college bio. He not only started ahead of Manning at quarterback, but he was also the school's best hitter and pitcher, ever. Helton holds the UT records for career home runs and RBI, and he also holds the record for saves in a season, with 12 in 1995, when he had a microscopic .89 ERA. Helton still holds the NCAA Division I record for consecutive scoreless innings with 47.

Name the pitcher with the best-ever winning percentage against the New York Yankees (minimum 20 decisions). Hint: the lefthander in question was a 20-game winner twice, with a lifetime .671 winning percentage and an utterly stellar career ERA that remains in the all-time top 20. So who was this superstar of the pitching mound? Give up? The superstar pitcher was Babe Ruth, who dominated the Yankees with a 17-5 record and .773 winning percentage while pitching for the Boston Red Sox! No wonder the Yankees wanted to get the Babe in pinstripes! They couldn't win otherwise! As the Baseball Roundtable put it: "Iconic and ironic!"


On July 12, 2019 we may have seen the most amazing and mysterious baseball game ever played. This was the game in which every Angel wore number 45 in honor of their lost teammate, Tyler Skaggs. In Mike Trout's first at-bat, he hit a 454-foot homer. That's 45 forwards and backwards! The Angels scored 7 runs in the first inning, the number of heavenly perfection. Tyler was 27, in his 7th season in the majors, and his record was 7-7. But that's just the beginning. In the Angels' first home game since Tyler passed away, pitchers Taylor Cole and Felix Pena threw a combined no-hitter. According to STATS, it was the first combined no-no in California since July 13, 1991, the day Tyler Skaggs was born. The Angels scored 13 runs, which might seem unlucky, but not so. In this case, 7 and 13 go together perfectly, because 7*13=91 and Tyler was born on 7/13/91. As Trout told reporters: "Tyler's birthday is 7/13. Tomorrow. They'd tell you to rewrite this script to make it more believable if you turned this in!" (And because the game started at 10pm EST, by the time it ended, it actually was Tyler's birthday for most of the world.) Tyler's mother Debbie threw out the first pitch, and it was a perfect strike. We all know how rare that is. Cole and Pena almost threw a perfect game, but faced 28 batters, one more than the minimum. A tiny flaw? No, because it was Tyler's 28th birthday. "This is all for him," Pena said in Spanish after the game. "I feel like we have an angel looking down on us." Did this wonderfully mysterious game just confirm that our departed loved ones are watching over us, and that all is well with them? Trout reflected everyone's amazement: "I'm speechless. This is the best way to honor him." Popular hashtags included #goosebumps #wow #45 #Skaggs#45 and #RIP45.

JOINED AT THE HIP, PART I: Mike Trout and Bryce Harper may be the Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays of their generation. And they seem to be inextricably linked, because the day Harper debuted in the majors, April 29, 2012, was the very day Trout was called up from Triple A, never to return. In 2012, they both played 139 games and were Rookie of the Year and all-stars in their respective leagues. They both became MVP in their age 22 seasons, the two youngest unanimous MVPs ever. In their best offensive seasons they shared a stratospheric 198 OPS+ (the best of their era to date). Was it all written in the "stars"?

Mike "King" Kelly was baseball's first larger-than-life superstar. He invented the hook slide, "cutting" bases, and the hit-and-run. His baserunning antics were so popular with the public that crowds shouted "Slide, Kelly, Slide!" to encourage him. The first "pop" hit for Edison Studios after Thomas Edison invented the phonograph was the song "Slide, Kelly, Slide." Kelly had the first baseball autobiography, Play Ball, and was the first player known to have signed autographs.

Lou Brock broke Sliding Billy Hamilton's record for career stolen bases with his 938th and last steal, at age 40. Hamilton's plaque at the Baseball Hall of Fame credits him with 937 steals, although the exact number remains in dispute. Hamilton claimed that steals had been stolen from him, writing in a 1937 letter to Sporting News: "I was and will be the greatest base stealer of all time. I stole over 100 bases on many years and if they ever re-count the record I will get my just reward." Hamilton is baseball's invisible immortal. He holds the record for steals in a game, with seven. He holds the record for runs in a season with an otherworldly 198, in only 132 games. He set another record by scoring in 24 consecutive games. He hit .344 for his career and had the fourth highest on-base percentage of all time, which coupled with his speed was lethal. He retired with the record for career walks and still holds the record for runs per game (1.06). He was a sprinter known for his daring leads and spectacular head-first and "fadeaway" slides. "I never saw a runner get a lead off first base like Billy," said Jack Carney. Sam Thompson, who played with both, claimed that Hamilton was "more daring and reckless" than Ty Cobb.

Roberto Clemente finished his career with exactly 3,000 hits. He got his last hit in his last official at-bat of the 1972 season, under mysterious circumstances. At the time only ten major leaguers had reached 3,000 hits, none of them Latinos, so it was "an event of incomparable magnitude" in baseball-mad Puerto Rico. Clemente was the "idol of the tropical island" and a Puerto Rican delegation once delivered 300,000 congratulatory signatures to a Roberto Clemente Night event in Pittsburgh. But were there foreshadowings of doom? According to Luis Rodriguez Mayoral, during 1972 spring training Clemente had a premonition and told him: "My 3,000th, I have to get it this season." Clemente died on the last day of the year, in a plane crash, while delivering humanitarian aid to Nicaraguan earthquake victims. (His older brother Luis had also died on the last day of the year, in 1954.) Will Grimsley reported that Roberto Jr. told his maternal grandfather: "Daddy is leaving for Nicaragua, but he's not coming back." Robertito also warned his grandmother three times, but "nobody was listening to a seven-year-old." Clemente's father said he saw the plane crash in a dream, with his son on it. According to Clemente's wife Vera: "In early November, around Election Day, Roberto woke up and said, 'I just had the strangest dream. I was sitting up in the clouds, watching my own funeral.'" Mayoral recalls another premonition: "There was a pregame ceremony on the day after his 3,000th hit ... I remember showing the picture to Pancho Coímbre, a great player in the Negro leagues and a favorite of Roberto's. Pancho took one look at the picture and said, 'Este hombre està muerto.' This man is dead. Three months later Pancho's premonition came true." 

Roberto Clemente was first in many important respects. He was the first Hispanic player to start in and win a World Series, to be named league MVP, to be named World Series MVP, to get 3,000 hits, and to be elected to the Hall of Fame. The HOF mandatory five-year waiting period was waived for Clemente and he was elected posthumously in 1973, the same year he received the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor.

No-Hit Wonders

Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series is the most famous pitching performance in baseball history. But it wasn't a perfect day for Larsen, because his wife filed for divorce just before the game started!

Did you know that Babe Ruth once threw a perfect game? Well, sorta. During a 1917 game against the Washington Senators, Ruth was the starting pitcher for the Boston Red Sox. Ruth walked the first batter on four pitches, argued vehemently with home plate umpire Brick Owens, slugged him, and got ejected. Ruth's replacement, Ernie Shore, promptly picked off the runner on first base, then retired the next 26 batters, finishing baseball's wildest and most improbable "perfect game." But if the keen-eyed Ruth was correct that the first batter shouldn't have been awarded first base, it really was a perfect game!

Virgil Trucks had a miserable 1952 season, going 5-19. On the brighter side, two of his wins were no-hitters!

Bumpus Jones threw a no-hitter in his first major league appearance, on the last day of the 1892 season. Unfortunately he couldn't recapture the magic and finished the next season (his last) with a 10.19 ERA.

Stolen Base Strangeness

How on earth did all-time stolen base leader Rickey Henderson miss three games due to frostbite, in August? (He fell asleep on an ice pack.)

Speaking of steals ... if Rickey Henderson was the best base-stealer of all time, who was the worst ever? Ironically, according to stolen base percentage, it was the greatest baseball player of all time, Babe Ruth! From 1920 to 1935 the Bambino stole 110 bases and was caught 117 times, for a "success" rate of .485 (the lowest for a player with at least 200 career attempts). But hold your horses, because there's another candidate for the worst base-stealer of all time, thanks to a metric called wSB. There was one player―and one player only―with a worse career wSB than Babe Ruth. So who was it? Well, we don't have to look very far. It was Lou Gehrig, who hit immediately behind Ruth for the Yankees!

Triple Play Tribulations

On July 17, 1990, the Twins entered the record books when they turned two triple plays yet somehow managed to lose the game! The next day the Twins set even more history when they and the Red Sox combined for the most double plays ever, a game the Twins also managed to lose.

Moon Shots and Spitballs

Gaylord Perry was a notoriously weak hitter. For seven major league seasons and over 300 plate appearances, he failed to hit a single dinger. San Francisco Giants manager Alvin Dark joked with reporters, saying: "They'll put a man on the moon before Gaylord Perry hits a home run!" Then on July 20, 1969, a matter of minutes after Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, Gaylord Perry hit his first major league home run! Was it written in the stars, perhaps?

But Gaylord Perry had nothing on Bartolo Colon, who hit his first-ever home run at 42 years, 349 days old! No major leaguer had ever waited until such an advanced age to hit his first four-bagger. "You could tell it was his first home run," quipped Jimmy Fallon, "because at each base, he stopped to ask directions to the next one." Unfamiliar territory indeed!

Colon was also the oldest major leaguer to earn his first walk, which he did at the ripe young age of 43! In 521 major league games, Colon managed to walk exactly once, raising his career OBP to a scintillating .095! In 316 career plate appearances, Colon has one walk and one home run ... but he is rapidly improving!

Speaking of "moon shots," Lefty Gomez helped baffled scientists identify one: "When Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon, he and all the space scientists were puzzled by an unidentifiable white object. I knew immediately what it was. That was a home-run ball hit off me in 1937 by Jimmie Foxx!" In 1937, Foxx hit a ball into the third deck of the left-field stands at Yankee Stadium, a very rare feat because of the distance and angle of the stands. Gomez was the pitcher that day, and when he was asked how far the ball traveled, he said, "I don't know, but I do know it took somebody 45 minutes to go up there and get it back!" The big fish tale apparently grew and grew until it reached lunar proportions.

Getting back to Gaylord Perry ... In a roundabout way he helped create the TV show Cheers. In 1971, Perry was traded for "Sudden" Sam McDowell, a flame-throwing pitcher who had been the 1970 Sporting News Player of the Year. After the trade, McDowell's career tanked, while Perry went on to win two Cy Young awards and make the Hall of Fame. McDowell later admitted that his "flameout" was due to alcohol and drug abuse. His life became the model for Ted Danson's party-boy character Sam Malone. So "cheers" to Gaylord Perry, but Sam McDowell still insists that he was better with the ladies than Sam Malone!

In his very first at-bat, future Hall of Fame knuckleballer Hoyt Wilhelm hit a home run. His career lasted 21 more years and 493 plate appearances, but he never hit another homer. Wilhelm is also unusual because he didn't debut as a rookie until he was 29 years old, but then played to age 49. He retired with 143 wins, 228 saves and a gaudy 2.52 ERA. Oh, and that one freakish homer to go with his career .088 batting average!

Okay, there is something very fishy about these knuckleballers and their solo career homers! In 1976, Joe Niekro hit his one and only MLB home run. But it seems "taterish" because the pitcher who served up the gopher ball was another knuckleballer ... his brother Phil!

Who were the last brothers to lead a league in wins? Who was the last pitcher to lead a league in wins and losses in the same season? It's those weird knuckleballers again! In 1979, Phil Niekro went 21-20 for the Atlanta Braves, leading the league in both wins and losses. The same year his brother Joe went 21-11 for the Houston Astros, tying Phil for the NL wins title!

Who is the best starting pitcher of all time according to the ERA+ statistic? ERA+ adjusts ERAs to account for differences in eras (please pardon the pun!). According to ERA+, Clayton Kershaw is the best starting pitcher of all time, with an astronomical 161. But here come those weird knuckleballers again, because Hoyt Wilhelm is tied with Walter Johnson for sixth place with an utterly stellar 147, comfortably ahead of immortals like Roger Clemens, Cy Young, Randy Johnson and Sandy Koufax.

The unlikely-named Toad Ramsey struck out 499 batters in 1886. (Ramsey has been credited with inventing the knuckleball and knuckle curve, so we can blame him for all the subsequent weirdness.) Whatever he was throwing, batters obviously had a hard time hitting it. But in the ultimate irony, the Unhittable Toad didn't even lead his league because Matt Kilroy set the all-time record with 513 strikeouts that year!

Here's a tricky question with a surprise answer. Walter Johnson is generally considered to be the greatest starting pitcher of all time. His career ERA was a miniscule 2.17. Clayton Kershaw's career ERA is currently 2.39. Which two starting pitchers in the Hall of Fame will Kershaw have to pass in order to catch the Big Train? Here's a hint: the first is Eddie Plank, with his brilliant 2.35 ERA. But who's the other? None other than Babe Ruth, with a glittering 2.28 ERA! And while Kershaw could conceivably catch the Bambino in the pitching stats, it seems safe to say that Kershaw won't challenge Ruth's batting stats anytime soon. Kershaw has a miniscule 6 OPS+ and one homer in ten seasons.

Okay, back to moon shots! Babe Ruth certainly knew how to go out with a bang. Make that a triple bang, because his last three hits were all home runs! Furthermore, his last home run was the first ever to leave Pittsburgh’s venerable Forbes Field and it remains the longest drive ever hit there (for all eternity now, since the park has since been replaced). It was 1935 and Ruth was playing for the Braves against the homestanding Pirates. In the first inning, batting against Red Lucas, Ruth lofted career home run number 712 into the right field stands. He hit another two-run blast, number 713, in the third inning off Guy Bush. In the fifth, Ruth hit a RBI single off Bush. With Bush still pitching, Ruth came up with the bases empty in the seventh. "By now the home crowd was solidly on the Bambino's side and rooted enthusiastically for more of his old magic." The Babe obliged by slamming home run number 714. This blast bettered the Babe's earlier efforts by "majestically clearing Forbes Field's right field roof—for the first time in the ballpark's 26-year history." Once again, Ruth had gone where no man had gone before. Two weeks later the Babe retired, but we can always remember him by that magnificent parting shot. (Someone will undoubtedly discover the ball on Venus or Mars one day!)

So who hit the longest "space shot" of all time? In 1953, Mickey Mantle hit a mammoth blast against Chuck Stobbs of the Senators, in Washington's Griffith Stadium. The Yankees' Arthur "Red" Patterson estimated its distance at 565 feet. He allegedly used a tape measure to determine the exact distance of the home run, giving birth to the term "tape-measure shot." Ironically, the 21-year-old Mantle was almost declared out because he put his head down to avoid "showing up" the pitcher and nearly passed Billy Martin on the basepaths (Mantle was very fast in his youth, as we are about to discover).

But wait a minute! Apparently, Mantle was just getting warmed up! He is said to have also hit home runs of 620, 630, 643, 650 and 656 feet. Beginning with the blast in Washington, Mantle "went on a tear of longball hitting the likes of which had never been seen." Long distance homers became a topic of animated conversation. During one game former Yankees catcher Bill Dickey was arguing that Babe Ruth and Jimmy Foxx had both hit balls farther than the Mick. But after Mantle hit one of his gargantuan blasts in that game, Dickey did a complete about-face: "Forget what I just said. I've never seen a ball hit that hard!"

Mantle said that the hardest ball he ever hit came on May 22, 1963 at Yankee Stadium. He was leading off in the bottom of the 11th, with the score tied 7-7. A's pitcher Bill Fischer tried to blow a fastball past him. Bad idea. Mantle stepped into the pitch with perfect timing, met the ball with the sweet spot of his bat, and hit it with everything he had (which was a lot of toned muscle.) The sound of the bat colliding with the ball has been likened to a cannon shot. The players on both benches jumped to their feet. Yogi Berra shouted, "That's it!" The ball rocketed toward the farthest confines of Yankee Stadium. The question was not whether it was a home run, but whether this was going to be the first ball ever hit out of Yankee Stadium. It had the height and distance. But would it clear the façade of the third deck in right-field? Even Mantle was mesmerized: "I usually didn't care how far the ball went so long as it was a home run. But this time I thought, 'This ball could go out of Yankee Stadium!'" The ball struck the façade mere inches from the top with such ferocity that it bounced all the way back to the infield. It was the closest a ball has ever come to going out of Yankee Stadium. Later, it was estimated that the ball would have traveled 734 feet if it hadn't hit the façade.

So it seems Mickey Mantle was the strongest of all baseball's power hitters. But who was the fastest? Incredibly, it may have been the strongman, because Mantle was allegedly timed going from home to first in 3.1 seconds. According to The Sporting News, when manager Casey Stengel saw Mantle work out, he said:  "My God, the boy runs faster than [Ty] Cobb."

In 1961, Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth's record for hitting the most home runs in a season, with 61. That's an interesting coincidence, because if we flip over the 19 in 1961, we have three matching 61's! Now here's a test of your baseball trivia powers. In 1961, Maris had 61 homers, 141 RBI, 366 total bases and slugged .620. That's one of the greatest power-hitting seasons in MLB history. So how many times was Maris walked intentionally that year? Hey, no cheating! If you scroll down past the REVENGE OF BASEBALL'S BEAN COUNTERS, you can find the answer. But please take an honest guess first! Here's are two clues: When Mark McGwire broke Maris's record in 1998, he had 28 intentional walks. When Barry Bonds broke McGwire's record in 2001, he had 35 intentional walks. If you come within 5 of the correct answer, you can declare yourself a winner!

THE REVENGE OF BASEBALL'S BEAN COUNTERS: We've been told that Pete Rose is a "special case" who can never enter the Baseball Hall of Fame. But it's no hall of angels! Ty Cobb beat his son with a whip, got into bloody fights with umpires, honed his spikes to intimidate opponents, jumped into the stands to attack a disabled heckler, and told Al Stump: "In 1912—and you can write this down—I killed a man in Detroit." Is gambling baseball's unforgiveable sin? If so, Cobb was accused of conspiring with Tris Speaker to fix a game in order to get his Tigers performance bonuses. Cobb and Speaker only avoided being banned for life by baseball commissioner Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis after Cobb threatened to expose how prevalent such "fixes" were at the time. Rogers Hornsby was sued by his bookie for not paying nearly $100,000 in losses, and was traded several times because of his out-of-control gambling. Dizzy Dean, another heavy gambler, was an unindicted co-conspirator in a mob case involving the notorious game-fixer Donald "Dice" Dawson. John McGraw was arrested for public gambling in 1904; his bookie was Arnold Rothstein of Black Sox infamy. The perpetually broke Rube Waddell was accused of taking a $17,000 bribe to sit out the 1905 World Series. (That was more than his annual salary.) Mickey Mantle was banned from baseball in 1983 for his association with gambling, but remains in the Hall of Fame. Leo Durocher was accused of "slimy underhand transactions" with gamblers. Bookies roamed Durocher's clubhouse; it was described as an "open sewer." Durocher's shady friends included Meyer Boston, Memphis Engelberg, Sleepout Louie, Cigar Charlie and the Dancer. And there are worse things than gambling. Cap Anson refused to play with blacks and helped perpetuate the color barrier. Anson, Cobb and Hornsby were accused of belonging to the KKK. Juan Marichal clubbed John Roseboro over the head with a bat, opening a gash that required 14 stitches. Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Paul Waner and Hack Wilson were notorious drinkers accused of playing under the influence of alcohol. (Casey Stengel called Waner "graceful" because he could slide without breaking the liquor bottle in his hip pocket.) Tim "Rock" Raines lived up to his nickname by stashing a cocaine rock in his uniform. (He would slide headfirst to avoid breaking it.) Ferguson Jenkins was arrested with cocaine in his luggage. Orlando Cepeda did time for smuggling 150 pounds of pot. Kirby Puckett, Roberto Alomar and Hornsby were accused of domestic abuse. How many steroid users will end up in the Hall of Fame? How many amphetamine users already belong, since Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Mike Schmidt and others have been linked to "greenies"? What did Pete Rose do to warrant eternal damnation, really? He bet on his own team, is that so terrible? Why not let him be where he belongs, with other stars who were judged strictly by their performance on the field!

Should Pete Rose be in the Baseball Hall of Fame?

TRIVIA ANSWER: In 1961, when Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth's record for hitting the most home runs in a season, he had ZERO intentional walks. How is that possible? Well, he had Mickey Mantle hitting behind him, and that year Mantle hit 54 homers and slugged .687 with an astronomical 206 OPS+. The numbers don't lie ... as great as Maris was in 1961, Mantle was even better! And opposing pitchers confirmed it by never intentionally walking Maris to get to Mantle.

More Amazing Pitchers

Was Sandy Koufax the greatest postseason starting pitcher of all time? He had a miniscule .95 ERA in the playoffs and World Series. But Koufax went 4-3 in the postseason, and there's another famous starting pitcher with a better ERA and record. Babe Ruth was 3-0 in the World Series, with an even-more-microscopic .87 ERA. The Babe had a World Series record 29 2/3 scoreless inning streak that stood for 43 years, and he still holds the record for the longest World Series complete game with 14 innings in 1916. Ruth drove in the winning run in that 2-1 victory. If Koufax had been able to hit like the Babe, he might have been undefeated too!

Ruth's success in the World Series was no fluke. He still ranks 15th for "unhittable-ness" in the regular season, based on hits given up per nine innings, ahead of legendary pitchers like Walter Johnson, Bob Gibson, Tom Seaver, Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens and that weird Rube Waddell dude who was so very strange and so very good.

But here's where things get really crazy. There is actually a hitter who ranks above Babe Ruth in the "unhittable-ness" category as a pitcher. Smoky Joe Wood was one of the best pitchers in baseball history, one notch above Babe Ruth in hits allowed per nine innings. He's also one notch above Ruth in all-time win percentage, where they rank 11th and 12th. In 1911 at age 21, Wood won 23 games, had a 2.02 ERA and led the AL with 7.5 strikeouts per nine innings. The following season Wood went 34-5 with a 1.91 ERA and ten shutouts, while tying Walter Johnson's record for consecutive wins with 16. Wood won three more games in the 1912 World Series, striking out 21 batters in 22 innings. In 1915 at age 25, he was 15-5 with a magnificent 1.49 ERA, but a series of injuries ended his career as a pitcher. Wood took a year off, came back as a hitter, and was a damn good one. His best years came at age 31, when he hit .366, and age 32, when he drove in 92 runs, then retired. So the two best-hitting pitchers of all time are right next to each other in the top 15 most unhittable rankings and the top 12 win-loss percentage rankings! But that's only the beginning of the craziness, because ...

Babe Ruth and Smoky Joe Wood were teammates on the 1915 Boston Red Sox! Both had their contracts sold to other teams by the owner, Harry Frazee. And they both had their "coming out" years as hitters in 1918, when Ruth played for the Red Sox and Wood played for the Cleveland Indians. That year their batting averages (.300/.296), total bases (176/170) and RBI (61/66) were nearly identical. As the Cheshire Cat said, "Curious and curiouser!" Were they identical twins, doppelgangers?

Speaking of doppelgangers, did Ruth have another? This doppelganger weighed 14 pounds at birth, was built like a fullback and actually played fullback, and also pitched and was a great hitter like Ruth. According to the wSB stat, Ruth was the second-worst volume base-stealer of all time and this player was the worst. The day after Ruth returned to the Yankees lineup from his near brush with death from "the bellyache heard round the world," this young teammate broke into the Yankee starting lineup. His name, of course, was Lou Gehrig and he started his streak of 2,130 consecutive games played that very same day! What are the odds?

But getting back to the original doppelganger ... In an interview Smoky Joe Wood was asked which part of baseball gave him more enjoyment. "Hitting is very nice," he said, "but it's much nicer to be like I was — practically among the best of them, pitching." Yup, when you start ahead of Walter Johnson, as Wood did in the very first all-star game in 1911, you are among the best of all time. The 1911 all-star game was organized as a benefit for the family of pitcher Adie Joss, who had died unexpectedly at age 31. The game featured a dozen baseball immortals: Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, Honus Wager, Eddie Collins, Nap Lajoie, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Home Run Baker, Sam Crawford, Bobby Wallace, Cy Young, Walter Johnson and Smoky Joe Wood. Never before had so much baseball talent taken the field for a game, and perhaps never again. And Smoky Joe was picked to start.

Smoky Joe described his pitching style thusly: "I threw so hard I thought my arm would fly right off my body." Harry Hooper told Lawrence S. Ritter, the author of The Glory of Their Times, "I've seen a lot of great pitching in my lifetime, but never anything to compare with him in 1912." Smoky Joe got his nickname because his fastball hissed like it was on fire. 

While it's true that as a hitter Smoky Joe didn't have Ruth's power, it's also true that as a pitcher Ruth didn't rack up K's the way Wood did. Perhaps we can simply leave it like this: they were two unhittable pitchers who just happened to be the two best hitting pitcher of modern times. Some people who saw them both pitch said Smoky Joe was faster than Walter Johnson. Hell, the Big Train said so himself!

Of course Babe Ruth has the all-time highest batting average for pitcher, at .344, right? Wrong! There is another pitcher-turned-outfielder who hit .349 for his career. Lefty O'Doul started his career as a pitcher, but at age 26 was 1-1 with a horrendous 5.43 ERA. He returned to the minors, spent several years learning to hit, then returned to the majors at age 31 to do serious damage to MLB pitchers. A year later, in 1929, he led the NL with a .398 average, 254 hits and a .465 OBP. His career batting average of .349 is second only to Ty Cobb, Shoeless Joe Jackson and Rogers Hornsby. But he only played full-time for five seasons, so his "counting" stats have kept him out of the Hall of Fame, so far.

So who was the best-hitting pitcher of modern times who actually stayed a pitcher? Probably the Big Train! Walter Johnson hit more homers than he allowed in four seasons (1910, 1915, 1916, 1919). In four other seasons he hit as many homers as opposing batters (1908, 1909, 1912, 1914). While his batting average, slugging percentage and OPS fall short of Smoky Joe, and of course Ruth, the Big Train leads full-time modern era pitchers in hits (547), total bases (795), extra base hits (159), and runs (234). And he had considerable power with 94 doubles, a rather amazing 41 triples, 24 homers, 255 RBI and 12.8 oWAR. Other good-hitting pitchers include Wes Ferrell (.280 batting average, .446 slugging percentage, 38 homers, 100 OPS+, 11.7 oWAR), Doc Crandall (.285, 120 OPS+), George Uhle (.289), Red Lucas (.281), Al Orth (.273), Don Newcombe (.271), Red Ruffing (.269, 36 homers, 273 RBI, 13.6 oWAR), Carl Mays (.268), George Mullin (.264), Ken Brett (.262), Mike Hampton (.246, the highest for a pitcher since 1960), Rick Ankiel (.240), and Bob Lemon (.232, 37 homers).

Speaking of good-hitting pitchers, if we consider players of yore, Albert Goodwill Spalding has the highest winning percentage among baseball pitchers (.795) and the highest batting average among players who were predominately pitchers (.313). How did Spalding win 80% of the games he pitched? Well, in addition to his 2.13 ERA, he averaged 164 runs and 133 RBI per 162 games! He was pretty much matching the other teams' offensive output by himself! Al Spalding retired at age 27 to found the A. G. Spalding sporting goods company. He was the first prominent baseball player to wear a glove: did he start the trend in order to sell gloves and reap the profits? He wrote the first set of official baseball rules; one of the official rules was that only Spalding baseballs could be used!

But the best-hitting pitcher of all time may have been baseball's first superstar: Jim Creighton. In 1862, he batted 1.000, getting hits in all 65 at-bats. He also threw baseball's first shutout. Creighton was paid "under the table" and was one of the very first professional baseball players. He died at age 21, after a game in which he hit four doubles and a home run. According to reports of his day, Creighton ruptured his bladder on the home run swing and died later of internal bleeding. For some time after his death other players were measured against his accomplishments, only to be dismissed with "he warn't no Creighton."

There is another candidate for best-hitting pitcher, although he converted in the low minors. Let's allow Goose Goslin to explain himself: "That was 1920 and I was twenty years old. Well, it turned out that professional ball [Class C Sally League] was a little different from sandlot ball. Around here I used to be quite a pitcher. That's what I thought, anyway. Used to strike 'em out one after the other. But down there it seemed like the harder I threw the ball the harder they hit it." Goslin switched to left field, where he had a hall-of-fame career, hitting .316 and slugging .500 while averaging 114 RBI per 162 games.

In 1928, the former pitcher had a chance to win the AL batting title. The Goose and Heinie Manush were both hitting .378 and happened to be playing against each other in the final game of the season. (Ironically, another former pitcher, Babe Ruth, won his only AL batting title with a .378 batting average.) It came down to the Goose's last at-bat. He was ahead by a fraction. If he didn't make an out, the coveted batting title would be his! Goose's manager, Bucky Harris, gave him the option of benching himself. But a teammate, Joe Judge, judged that people would call him yellow if he took the easy way out. So Goose decided to risk going to the plate. Immediately, the pitcher had two strikes on him. Then Goose had a brainstorm: he'd get the umpire to throw him out of the game! Goose called umpire Bill Guthrie every name in the book, stepped on his toes, and pushed him. But Guthrie knew what he was up to and refused to oblige him. According to Goose's telling of the tale, he got a very lucky hit and won the batting title.

And while he didn't have enough major league innings to qualify, George Sisler did go 5-6 as a pitcher, with a glittering 2.35 ERA in 111 innings. But Sisler was a great hitter who rarely pitched after age 23. He hit .400 twice and finished with a .340 career batting average and 2,812 hits.

Warren Spahn retired with 363 wins and exactly the same number of hits.

On July 27, 1930 Reds pitcher Ken Ash was brought into a game against the Cubs with two on and no outs. He delivered one pitch which resulted in a triple play. Ash was pinch-hit for in the bottom of the inning, and the Reds staged a rally to win the game 6-5. Thus Ash entered the history books as the only man to win a MLB game with a single pitch.

We all know that Nolan Ryan is the all-time strikeout king, but would be the hardest batter for him to strike out? Joe Sewell holds the all-time record for striking out least, on a percentage basis. He struck out only 114 times in 8,333 plate appearances, for a miniscule .014 strikeout ration. And he got better as he aged, striking out fewer than ten times his last nine years.

Jacob deGrom's lack of run support became historic in 2018. Toward the end of the season, he was about to become just the first qualified pitcher since 1937 to have more WAR than wins. While deGrom had a dazzling 1.71 ERA, his punchless New York Mets had an abysmal 12-17 record in games he started. Things got so bad that deGrom had to take matters into his own hands, driving in the only runs in two 2-1 losses to the Braves and Cubs. Shades of the Babe!

In 1972, the Philadelphia Phillies won only 59 games. But where would they have been without Steve Carlton, who won nearly half of them? Carlton won 27 games with a 1.97 ERA, 310 strikeouts and 30 complete games. 

Ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) reconstruction is now called Tommy John surgery, after its first famous recipient. How successful was the surgery? Well, Tommy John pitched in the majors for 26 years, with three 20-win seasons after the surgery (versus none before). With his 26th season, he tied the major league record for longevity.

So who later broke Tommy John's record? Nolan Ryan, who at age 40 was recommended to have Tommy John surgery by Dr. Frank Jobe, the surgeon who invented the procedure and performed it on its namesake. Ryan decided to pitch through the pain, continued to throw extreme heat, led the league in strikeouts for four consecutive years, and ended up playing 27 years. Ryan had more strikeouts in his forties than a number of Hall-of-Fame pitchers had in their entire careers, including Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown, Bob Lemmon and Dizzy Dean.

Gaylord Perry was widely known for doctoring baseballs throughout his career, which led former manager Gene Mauch to say: "He should be in the Hall of Fame with a tube of K-Y Jelly attached to his plaque." Despite his checkered reputation (or perhaps because of it), Perry finished his career with 314 wins, 3,534 strikeouts and a 3.11 ERA. Other famous (or infamous) spitballers include Preacher Roe (the Beech-Nut slider), Joe Niekro (caught red-handed on the mound with an emery board and sandpaper), Tommy John ("the elegant Rhett Butler of outlaws"), Jay Howell (pine tar) and Kenny Rogers (dirt). Perhaps the two "baddest" pitchers were Whitey Ford (who "cheated" by scuffing balls with his wedding ring) and squeaky-clean choirboy Orel Hershiser (who, true to his pristine image, used water!).

The spitball was outlawed in 1920, but it was "grandfathered" in for known spitballers who were active at the time. So who threw baseball's last legal spitball? Burleigh Grimes (slippery elm) on September 10, 1934. Ol' Stubblebeard, as Grimes was called, won 270 games and was pretty fair hitter (for a pitcher) with a career .248 average and 168 RBI.

DUBIOUS RECORDS, PART I: Steve Carlton is the undisputed King of the Balkers, with 90, which is double that of the second-place finisher, Bob Welch.

JOINED AT THE HIP, PART II: "Brothers in Arms"

In the 1934 World Series, the St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Detroit Tigers. Jerome "Dizzy" Dean and his kid brother Paul "Daffy" Dean won two games each, accounting for all four Cardinal wins.

Outfield Arms

Giancarlo Stanton was once hit by his own home run ball! Are we living in the Twilight Zone? It happened when Stanton crushed a homer high over Fenway's fabled Green Monster. A disgruntled fan threw the ball back into the field and it hit Stanton as he rounded second. BTW, the fan has been credited with having a much stronger, more accurate throwing arm than Red Sox outfielders Johnny Damon, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jim Rice, Hanley Ramirez, Manny Ramirez and Jose Tartabull.

Conversely, Glen Gorbous may have had the strongest throwing arm in baseball history. Gorbus played parts of three seasons for Reds and Phillies, recording 10 assists in only 70 games. While playing for the Omaha Redbirds of the American Association, Gorbous made two ridiculous throws. First, standing at home plate, he threw a ball over the center field wall, 410 feet away. Gorbous then launched a ball 445 feet, setting a world record that stands to this day.

In 1905 doctors wanted to amputate Tris Speaker's arm because it had been injured so badly in a football game. Speaker refused, worked out like a madman, then went on to set a still-standing MLB record for outfield assists with 449.

But the best outfield arm of all time probably belonged to Roberto Clemente, who was nicknamed "El Howitzer." As the immortal Vin Scully put it: "Clemente could field the ball in New York and throw out a guy in Pennsylvania."

A trio of brothers made history on September 15, 1963 by playing together in the outfield for the San Francisco Giants. They were Felipe, Jesus and Matty Alou.

Positional Surprises

C - Johnny Bench has been called the greatest offensive and defensive catcher of all time. But he was a pretty good base stealer too, going 24-2 from 1975 to 1976.
1B - Joey Votto's .426 OBP is the third highest of all time at his position; Ferris Fain at fourth with .424 is a much bigger surprise.
2B - Cupid Childs' .416 OBP is higher than that of Eddie Stanky, Jackie Robinson, Charlie Gehringer, Rod Carew and Joe Morgan.
SS - Mark Belanger's defense was almost as good as Ozzie Smith's, according to Fangraphs' DEF stat.
3B - Brooks Robinson had twice the Fangraphs DEF of Graig Nettles, Scott Rolen and Mike Schmidt.
RF - Larry Walker's .565 slugging percentage is higher than that of Stan Musial, Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, Mel Ott and Vladimir Guerrero.
CF - Andruw Jones' 278.8 DEF is more than 100 points higher than Willie Mays' 170.1, according to Fangraphs.
LF - Albert Belle's .564 slugging percentage is is higher than that of Ralph Kiner, Al Simmons, Willie Stargell and Shoeless Joe Jackson.
P - According to Fangraphs, the two best fielding pitchers of all time were teammates: Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine.


Only two players in the history of major league baseball have made the exclusive 30-30 Club five times. The first to do it was Bobby Bonds. Who was the second? His son, Barry Bonds! The power-speed genes obviously run in that family!

But now things get a bit eerie. Only two major league baseball players have made the 20-20 Club ten times. The first to do was Bobby Bonds, and the second was Barry Bonds. They both had their last 20-20 season at age 33. The next season they both dropped to 15 steals. Were they father and son, or doppelgangers?

In 1902 when William "Dummy" Hoy batted against pitcher Luther "Dummy" Taylor, it marking the first time in MLB history that two deaf players faced each other.

Carlos May made sure fans didn't forget his birthday, by wearing "May 17" on his uniform.

Effa Louise Manley (1897–1981) is the first and only woman inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. She was the co-owner and an executive of a Negro League franchise, the Newark Eagles.

There has been a player since Ted Williams to hit .400, after all! Wade Boggs had a stretch of 162 games from 6/9/1985 to 6/6/1986 where he batted .401. He had 257 hits in 641 at-bats with 12 HR, 92 RBI, 125 runs scored and 109 walks. He had a .489 OBP and slugged .541.

Ron Cey was called the "Penguin" because of his odd gait. According to Richard Shellhorn, the author of Balls and Stripes, Cey had tiny shin disease, which left his knees just four inches from his ankles. That makes Cey's accomplishments all the more impressive: six All-Star teams, a World Series MVP award, 316 homers, and 1,139 RBI. But his 24-29 record on stolen base attempts does suggest that Cey was handicapped in terms of speed.

Brooks Koepka won four major golf tournaments in the blink of an eye, but says his true love is baseball. He told Golf Digest: "If I could do it over again, I'd play baseball—100 percent, no doubt." And baseball is in his genes. He's the nephew of Dick Groat, an NL MVP and eight-time all-star shortstop for the Pittsburg Pirates. Groat is the only athlete to be elected to both the college baseball and basketball halls of fame. He was a two-time All-American at Duke in both sports. In 1952 he was the UPI and Helms national basketball player of the year, after averaging 25.2 points per game. Groat was the third overall pick in the 1952 NBA draft and played one NBA season, averaging 11.9 points per game, before deciding to concentrate on baseball. He never played a game in the minors, and finished third in the 1952 NL rookie of the year voting with a .284 batting average.


Caleb Joseph set a major league record for futility, by going 132 at-bats without an RBI in 2016.
Tony Mullane had the most wild pitches in MLB history, with 343.
But Mullane has a rival in the wildness category, since Gus Wehing holds the record for the most hit batters, with 277.
Nolan Ryan was either one of the wildest pitchers, or the most generous, since he served up a record 2,795 walks.
Jamie Moyer was generous in an even more charitable way, serving a record 522 home runs.
Ron Hunt holds the modern era record for being hit by a pitch, with 50 in 1971.
Hunt led the NF in HBPs for seven years in a row, from 1968-1974.
Hughie Jennings holds the all-time record with 51 HBPs in 1896.
Craig Biggio holds the career record for HBPs with 285.

Uniform Attire? The first official uniforms date back to the New York Knickerbockers in 1849. The uniforms included stylish straw hats.

MULTI-SPORT MADNESS: Kyler Murray is the first athlete to be a top ten pick in the MLB draft (#9) and NFL draft (#1). "Bullet" Bob Hayes is the only man with an Olympic gold medal and a Super Bowl ring. Bob Gibson won two Cy Young awards, nine Gold Gloves, and played with the Harlem Globetrotters. Wilt Chamberlain was the NBA's most dominant force, but he also starred in track & field, played for the Harlem Globetrotters, was a professional volleyball player, and co-starred in the movie Conan the Destroyer. Deion Sanders is the only player to hit a major league home run and score an NFL touchdown in the same week. He is also the only person to play in a World Series and a Super Bowl. Jackie Robinson lettered in baseball, basketball, football and track. He won the NCAA long jump crown and also broke baseball's color barrier! Jim Brown may have been the best football player of all time and the best lacrosse player of all time. He also lettered in basketball and track. Bo Jackson is the only player to be named to the NFL Pro Bowl and MLB All-Star game in the same year, and he also set two state high school records in track & field. Danny Ainge is the only athlete to be a high school All-American in baseball, basketball and football. Charlie Ward won the Heisman trophy, was a first-round NBA pick, and was also drafted by the Yankees. Cap Anson is in the Baseball Hall of Fame and was also a champion balkline billiards player and bowler. Dave Winfield was drafted by MLB, the NFL, the NBA, the ABA, and was invited to join the Harlem Globetrotters. Chuck Connors played for the Boston Celtics, the Brooklyn Dodgers and Chicago Cubs, and also starred in TV's The Rifleman! But who can top Jim Thorpe? He excelled in football, baseball, basketball and track & field, won Olympic gold medals in the Pentathlon and Decathlon, and even waltzed to an intercollegiate ballroom dancing championship! Well, perhaps Babe Didrikson Zaharias, who may have been the best female baseball player, softball player, basketball player, golfer and track athlete of her day. She won won two Olympic gold medals and one silver, to go with ten major LPGA titles. She was also an expert diver, roller-skater, billiardist and bowler. Hell, she won the 1932 AAU Track & Field Championships despite being the only member of her team, taking five out of eight events on her lonesome!

Frank Robinson won the AL triple crown in 1966. The following year Carl Yastrzemski won the AL triple crown. So it's not all that rare, right? Guess again, because it would be 45 years before Miguel Cabrera would win the next one, in 2012. And it's been 80 years and still counting since Joe Medwick won the last NL triple crown, in 1937!

Frank Robinson did more than "just" win the triple crown. He had his uniform, number 20, retired by three big league clubs: the Reds, Orioles and Indians. Robinson was the first player to win MVP awards in both leagues, and he remains the only one to do so. He became the first black manager in 1975 with the Cleveland Indians. He later broke the managerial color barrier in the NL as well. Robinson remains tenth on the all-time homer list, ahead of legendary sluggers like Mark McGwire, Harmon Killebrew, Reggie Jackson, Mike Schmidt, Mickey Mantle, Jimmie Foxx, Ted Williams, Mel Ott and Lou Gehrig. And on a team known for slugging, the fabled Big Red Machine, Robinson remains the all-time leader in slugging percentage (.554).

Only five players have won the "Holy Grail" of triple crowns, which is also known as the "Major League Triple Crown." That's when a player leads both leagues in batting average, home runs and RBI. The only players to win the Holy Grail were Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby, Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams and Mickey Mantle. It's been over half a century since Mantle last accomplished the feat, in 1956.

Bob Uecker was facetiously called "Mr. Baseball" by Johnny Carson. Uecker's eventual claims to fame were comedy and sportscasting, not athletics. In 1967 he hit .146, slugged .215 and led the NL in passed balls despite playing in only 59 games! Needless to say, he did not return for an encore. Uecker later quipped that baseball suppliers paid him NOT to endorse their products!

But was Bob Uecker the worst major league baseball player of all time? We've all heard the debates about the best player: Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Mickey Mantle, Honus Wagner, Ted Williams, Rogers Hornsby, Mike Trout, et al. But what about the worst player ever? Is there a clear-cut loser? Here are some possible candidates: Mario Mendoza established the "Mendoza Line" (a benchmark of failure for legions of weak-hitting infielders). Tommy Lasorda posted a 6.48 career ERA. "Marvelous" Marv Throneberry was the worst player on the worst MLB team of all time. Playing for the 1962 Mets, who lost 120 games, Throneberry set a record for lowest fielding percentage by a first baseman. He also blew his only career triple by missing both first and second base! Mike Potter somehow managed to bat .000 for his career (he did manage one walk for a career OBP of .042). Bill Bergen has been called the worst hitter in MLB history, batting .170 in more than 3,000 at-bats, with negative 13.5 career WAR. Charlie Comiskey has been called the worst manager, the worst owner and the worst player of all time. Comiskey was his own manager, so he would insert himself into the lineup even though "he couldn't swing the bat to save his life." Somehow Comiskey ended up in the Hall of Fame and has a ballpark named after him, despite his anemic 82 OPS+ and .293 OBP. But the worst major league player of all time is crystal-clear. He couldn't hit, field or throw a lick. In fact, he was such a terrible hitter that his manager forbade him to ever swing his bat under any circumstances! But ironically no pitcher could get him out and he retired with a perfect on-base percentage of 1.000, far better than the all-time OBP leaders. His name was Eddie Gaedel, and he was the Jackie Robinson of the height-challenged, standing just 3'-7". The diminutive Gaedel's autograph now sells for more than Babe Ruth's.

They say records are made to be broken, but probably not these records, which are listed in order of ascending unlikelihood:

Joe DiMaggio had a 56-game hitting streak in 1941. But Pete Rose came close, at 44 games, so the most famous record may be the most breakable.
The Chicago Cubs went 108 years without winning a World Series. But the Indians are working hard on this one!
Johnny Vander Meer threw back-to-back no-hitters in 1938. It could be done again, but who is going to throw a third consecutive no-hitter?
Hack Wilson drove in 191 runs in 1930. But Manny Ramirez did have 165 in 1999.
Pete Rose had a record 4,256 hits; to break it someone would have to average 213 hits for 20 years!
Nolan Ryan threw seven no-hitters and had 5,714 career strikeouts.
Chief Wilson hit 36 triples in 1912.
Barry Bonds (*) walked 232 times with 120 intentional walks in 1994. (The asterisk is for cheating with PEDs.)
Rickey Henderson stole 130 bases in 1982 and had 1,406 steals for his career.
Cal Ripken played in 2,632 consecutive games.
Hugh Duffy hit .440 in 1894.
Kid Nichols was the youngest pitcher to join the 300 wins club at age 30, by averaging 30 wins per year for a decade. 
Walter Johnson threw 110 shutouts. Modern comparisons: Clayton Kershaw (15), Justin Verlander (8), Max Scherzer (5). 
Cy Young finished his career with 511 wins and 749 complete games.
Jack Taylor pitched 202 consecutive games without being relieved once.
Charley "Old Hoss" Radbourn won 59 games in 1884. No modern pitcher will ever start 59 games!

Nearly a century later, Ruth still holds the career records for slugging percentage (.690), OPS (1.164), OPS+ (206), home run crowns (12), and multi-homer games (72). He earned his first home run crown as a pitcher, in just 95 games. He also holds single-season records for run (177), total bases (457) and extra-base hits (119). Ruth was the first player to get 20, 30, 40, 50, and eventually 60 home runs. Ruth's legacy includes, in addition to being baseball's greatest hitter, one of its greatest pitchers, and its most charismatic superstar, visiting thousands of children in hospitals and orphanages, barnstorming with black players and helping them gain exposure and make more money, and treating everyone as equals, whether rich or poor, black or white.

Babe Ruth trivia:

The term "Murderers' Row" was used in 1918 by a sportswriter to describe the first six Yankee hitters before Babe Ruth joined the team. 
The original "Murderers' Row" was Frank Gilhooley, Roger Peckinpaugh, Home Run Baker, Del Pratt, Wally Pipp and Ping Bodie.
Frank "Home Run" Baker never hit more than 12 homers in a single season, but led the AL four consecutive seasons, from 1911 to 1914.
When Ruth became a Yankee in 1920, he hit more homers (54) than Home Run Baker hit in his four home run title seasons combined (42).
Ruth's "called shot" homer in the 1932 World Series came after Cubs fans threw lemons at him and the jovial Babe threw them back.
The "called shot" homer was the longest in the history of Wrigley Field to that point. It capped Ruth's seventh and last world championship.
Ruth, always one for big moments, fittingly hit the first home run in the first All-Star game, in 1933, despite being 39 and past his prime.
How good was the Babe? Well, he pitched and won the last game of the 1933 season, and hit the game-winning homer, at age 39.
Ruth was one of the all-time great pitchers, with a winning percentage of .671 (9th) and a 2.28 ERA (16th); he just hit too good to sit.
In his last hurrah at age 40, the Sultan of Swat hit three homers on May 25, 1934. The last homer was the first ever to leave Forbes Field.
Ruth embraced Lou Gehrig after his famous farewell speech on July 4, 1939, ending a feud that had had them not speaking to each other.
Ruth has one more championship ring than Michael Jordan: "One for the thumb and one for the pinky."
In 1929, when asked whether he should be paid more than President Hoover, Ruth quipped, "Why not? I had a better year than he did!"

In 1968 Bob Gibson had an insane ERA of 1.12 and limited opposing batters to a miniscule .233 on-base percentage. In an interesting synchronicity, Gibson had a .233 OBP as a batter that year, so he turned the entire NL into weak-hitting pitchers.

Rick Wise threw a no-hitter against the fabled Big Red Machine on June 23, 1971. In the same game Wise also hit two homers, a feat no other MLB pitcher has ever achieved while throwing a no-no.

Was the greatest pitching duel in World Series history between two pitchers with oddly effeminate names? In the 1916 World Series, Sherry Smith gave up only one run in 13 innings. The opposing pitcher was Babe Ruth, who gave up a run in the first, but redeemed himself by driving in the tying run and pitching a shutout the rest of the way. The Red Sox made Ruth the winning pitcher by scratching out a second run in the bottom of the 14th inning.

Or was the greatest pitching duel in World Series history between two studly behemoths? As his nickname suggests, Hippo Vaughn was a monster for his era, standing 6-4 and weighing well over 200 pounds. He won the pitching triple crown in 1918, leading the NL in wins, ERA and strikeouts. But he was outdueled in the World Series by another behemoth: Babe Ruth, who stood 6-2 and weighed ... well, a lot, depending on how many hot dogs and alcoholic beverages he'd consumed that day. Ruth's weight has been estimated to have ranged from 215-255 pounds. Hall of Famer Harry Hooper, who played with Ruth on the Red Sox, said that two things set Ruth apart: he could hit a baseball farther than anyone else, and he could eat more than anyone else. But that Ruth fella was a helluva pitcher too, perhaps the best in World Series history. He shut out the Cubs and the Red Sox won 1-0.

By 1925, Babe Ruth had become so overweight and ill that he experienced "the bellyache heard 'round the world." At age 30, he didn't just seem to be washed up; he seemed to be dying. In fact, The London Evening News reported his death in an obituary which said that due to his portliness Ruth wore braces (suspenders) rather than a belt and this had "started the fashion for braces in the U.S." Canadian papers also announced the Babe's death. While Ruth wasn't dead, he seemed to be well on his way. The Bambino collapsed on a train and because he was so large, a hole had to be cut into the car before medics could extract him. He had three convulsive attacks while on the stretcher and it took six men to hold him down. Ruth did eventually recover, after missing much of the 1925 season. The day he returned to the lineup, a young teammate broke into the Yankee lineup. His name was Lou Gehrig and he started his streak of 2,130 consecutive games played that very same day. Ruth would go on to play at an ultra-high level till age 39, defying all the rules of "proper nutrition" and―seemingly―physics. He and Gehrig would become the most "offensive" duo in the history of major league baseball.

Babe Ruth was the greatest power hitter in World Series history, with 15 homers in 167 plate appearances (Mickey Mantle had 18, but it took him more than 100 additional plate appearances). But Ruth may have also been the best pitcher in World Series history, with a 3-0 record and a miniscule .87 ERA. He pitched 29 2/3 scoreless innings, a World Series record that would stand for 42 years.

Billy Herman had a real "knockout" introduction to major league baseball. It was kinda like the old Tony Orlando and Dawn song: "Knock Three Times." In his first big league at-bat, Herman knocked the ball into home plate. The plate knocked the ball back. The boomeranging ball then knocked Herman out, cold! But Herman recovered and went on to become a star second baseman and a member of the Hall of Fame. He still holds the NL record for put-outs by a second baseman and his .433 batting average in ten all-star games remains the NL's highest ever.

Hank Aaron spent 23 years chasing Babe Ruth's all-time home run record, breaking it in his forties. But how old was Ruth when he broke the home run record? Incredibly, Ruth broke the all-time home run record in just his third full season as a hitter, at age 26! Roger Connor held the previous record, with 138 home runs in 18 seasons, for an average of 7.7 homers per season. When Ruth started hitting 50+ home runs per season, it didn't take him long to make mincemeat of Connor's record. Ruth ended up with 576 more homers than Connor, the previous home run king.

When Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak ended in 1941, he immediately went on another 16-game spree. So Joltin' Joe had at least one hit in 72 of 73 games! Pete Rose had the second-longest hitting streak of the modern era, 44 games, in 1978. Since Rose's streak, no one has really come that close. Is the Yankee Clipper's record untouchable? Right now it certainly seems that way. But ironically the player who came closest to matching DiMaggio happened to also do it in 1941, and in the same league, no less! In 1941, Ted Williams had a streak of reaching base in 69 consecutive games. He hit .406 and that's the last time anyone crossed the magical .400 barrier for a complete season. 

How on earth did Harvey Haddix manage to lose the best-pitched game in the history of major league baseball? And how did a perfect game turn into an utter farce? Pitching for the Pirates against a loaded Braves lineup in 1959, Haddix threw 12 innings of perfect baseball: 36 batters up, 36 batters out. But then in the unlucky 13th an error, sacrifice and intentional walk to Hank Aaron brought Joe Adcock to the plate with a runner in scoring position. Adcock hit a Kafkaesque out-of-the-park "double" and the perfect game was lost 1-0, with the strangest of all possible endings when Adcock passed Aaron celebrating on the basepaths and their runs were negated. 

Hank Aaron, Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays were considered to be the three greatest outfielders of their day. They finished with virtually the same career slugging percentages: .555, .557 and .558 respectively. That's a difference of three thousandths of a whole number!

Twins: Double the Madness

The All-Time Home Run Rankings had some interesting joined-at-the-hip "twins" the last time I checked in August 2017 ...

Cecil Fielder and Prince Fielder (319) ... Father and son, they are also the only such duo to both hit 50 home runs in the big leagues!
Orlando Cepeda and Tony Perez (379) ... Cepeda and Perez were two of the first Hispanic players to become all-stars and make the Hall of Fame.
Frank Howard and Ryan Howard (382) ... They not only shared the same last name, but were very BIG for baseball players, in the 250 pound range.
Ernie Banks and Eddie Mathews (512) ... They finished 1-2 in the 1959 MVP voting, with Banks hitting 45 homers and Mathews hitting 46!
Willie McCovey and Frank Thomas (521) ... They were both around 6-5 with similar nicknames: Big Mac and Big Hurt.


Cincinnati Reds leftfielder George "the Destroyer" Foster was the last major league baseball player to hit 50 home runs prior to the steroid era. Foster hit 52 dingers in 1977, and many of them were tape measure shots, with two estimated at over 500 feet. From 1966 to 1990, or for a quarter century, Foster was the only player in either league to hit 50 or more home runs. Foster did it with natural muscle and bat speed. Does he remain the last baseball player to hit 50 homers honestly? Foster's physique was so impressive that teammate "Little Joe" Morgan said he was surpassed in baseball only by Willie Mays. (Interestingly, Mays had been the last MLB player to hit 50 home runs, when he also hit exactly 52, in 1965!) But Foster was taller and heavier than Mays. Pete Rose opined that Foster was "too strong to be playing baseball. He should be hunting bears with switches!" In fact, "The Destroyer" was so intimidating that his menacing ebony bat had its own nickname: "The Black Death"!

A struggling young rookie, with only 35 games at the Triple A level and none at Single A or Double A, went hitless in his first twelve major league at-bats and was probably on his way back to the minors, when in his thirteenth try, he hit a home run off hall-of-fame pitcher Warren Spahn. The great pitcher later ruefully observed, "I'll never forgive myself! We might have gotten rid of Willie forever if I'd only struck him out!" The struggling rookie was Willie Mays, who would go on to terrorize National League pitchers for the next 20 years!

Ironically, Willie Mays almost ended up playing on the same team as Warren Spahn, along with Hank Aaron and Eddie Matthews. What a great foursome that would have been! Mays had been scouted by the Braves when he was 15 years old, but the Giants scooped him up first. With the Say Hey Kid, the Braves might have absolutely dominated MLB with a lineup of (C) Del Crandall, (1B) Joe Adcock, (2B) Red Schoendienst, (SS) Johnny Logan, (3B) Eddie Matthews, (RF) Hank Aaron, (CF) Willie Mays, (LF) Wes Covington (P) Warren Spahn, (P) Lou Burdette, (P) Bob Buhl, and (P) Gene Conley. Opposing pitchers would have faced a truly fearsome series of slugging percentages with Mays (.557), Aaron (.555), Matthews (.509), Adcock (.485) and Covington (.466) in the same lineup.

How good is Albert Pujols, really? Now that he's slowed down a bit, it's easy to forget how radically excellent he was for so many years. But if we look at the top ten players of all time for homers, RBI and total bases, nearly all the players played for 22 or more years. Pujols cracked all three top tens in 17 years. If he keeps having "terrible" years (for him) with 25-30 homers and 100 RBI, he's going to end up close to the top in all three categories. That ain't good, that's effin' GREAT! But here's the crazy thing ... his teammate Mike Trout may obliterate all his records!

The top ten list of walks by batters in a season is dominated by the great sluggers: Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Barry Bonds, et al. But there is one very strange anomaly ... Eddie Yost. In 1956, Yost drew an amazing 151 walks while hitting a paltry .231 and slugging a measly .336. Pitchers obviously didn't fear Yost, who had only 11 homers and 53 RBI. But it was no fluke, as Yost is eleventh all-time with 1,614 walks, ahead of legendary sluggers like Stan Musial, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Jimmie Foxx, Harmon Killebrew, Lou Gehrig and Mike Schmidt. Yost was so proficient at drawing walks that he was nicknamed the "Walking Man." The Yankees tried to add Yost to their roster without success. Why? "Every time I look up, that feller is on base!" Casey Stengel explained. So how did he do it? Yost studied pitchers, knew the strike zone intimately, had a keen eye and great plate discipline, and would foul off pitches to keep at-bats alive. He once fouled off 20 pitches in two consecutive plate appearances. Yost worked hard to earn all those walks and retired with a higher on-base percentage than "get on base" artists like Rod Carew, Honus Wagner, Tony Gwynn and Wee Willie Keeler.

For a decade, from 1949 to 1958, Yogi Berra hit 257 home runs and struck out 250 times. Just in case that didn't sink in, let me repeat it a different way: Yogi Berra had more home runs than strikeouts for a freakin' decade! And to make matters worse (or better), he was a notorious bad-ball hitter! How the hell did he do it? In 1950, Berra hit 28 homers and had an insanely low 12 strikeouts. Most modern sluggers could strike out 12 times in a doubleheader!

But amazingly, Berra was not even the best player on his own team in this category. From 1937 to 1941, his teammate Joe DiMaggio averaged 34 home runs per season, but only 24 strikeouts.

In the early 1930's, someone protested that Babe Ruth was demanding more money than President Hoover made, for playing a game! The quick-witted Babe had the perfect retort for those Great Depression days: "I had a better year than he did."

The Bambino was the first baseball star to "go global." During World War II, Japanese soldiers would shout "To hell with Babe Ruth!" to annoy their American foes. But for awhile the Japanese people embraced the Bambino. After the 1934 season, the Sultan of Swat went on a barnstorming tour of Japan led by Connie Mack. Babe Ruth hit 14 home runs in 17 games against the Japanese all-stars, as Mack's team went undefeated. A bust of Ruth erected during that trip still stands outside Osaka's Koshien Stadium. (One wonders what they did with the statue during WWII!) Later the "Babe Ruth League" and the "Connie Mack League" would be named in the barnstormers' honor.

During WWII, American sentries would ferret out unwanted guests by asking baseball questions. Heaven help the infiltrator who didn't know that the proper response to "three" was "strikes" or that "Brooklyn" required "Dodgers"!

Some of the greatest baseball players sacrificed their prime years to serve in the American military: Joe DiMaggio, Stan Musial and Willie Mays, just to name a few. Ted Williams was John Glenn's wingman during the Korean War (there is an account later on this page of how the future astronaut saved Williams' life after his fighter was hit by enemy fire and burst into flames).

When Mark McGwire became the first MLB player to hit 70 home runs in a single season in 1998, he set another record by also being the first player with enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title to hit more home runs than singles. McGwire repeated the feat in 1999, when he hit 65 home runs and only 58 singles. When Barry Bonds set the new single-season home run mark of 73 in 2001, he became the second player in this category with only 49 singles. Apparently hitting 65 or more homers doesn't leave much time for rinky-dink singles!

Mike Trout likes to celebrate his birthdays with home runs. In four of his six full seasons, Trout has hit a home run on his birthday. On his 26th birthday, Trout celebrated with yet another home run and his 1,000th hit. "Every time Mike does something, you just shake your head," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "For us to experience a player of his magnitude, doing so many things at such a young age, it's exciting. Hopefully we'll get a chance to see it for a long time." How good is Mike Trout, really? Well, he is one of just four players to record six seasons of at least 160 OPS+ before their age 26 season. The others in this ultra-elite group are Jimmie Foxx, Ty Cobb and  Babe Ruth! And Trout's career OPS+ is sixth of all time, smack dab between Rogers Hornsby and Mickey Mantle. That is "crazy good" and Trout is apparently still getting better in 2017.

Here are ten things you may not know about Babe Ruth: (1) He was apparently born for baseball: as a boy in Baltimore, he lived on the site of what later became Oriole Stadium in Camden Yards. (2) He was apparently also born to drink, as he lived above a saloon his father owned! (3) Ruth was drinking before he turned eight, and was sent to a reform school as incorrigible. (4) Ruth was destined to be a shirtmaker, before he signed with his hometown Orioles (then a minor league team) at age nineteen. (5) The Orioles were struggling financially and quickly sold Ruth's contract to the Red Sox. On his first day in Boston, Ruth allegedly met the girl he would marry and won the first game he pitched. (6) Ruth quickly became a star pitcher with the lowest ERA (2.19) and highest winning percentage (.659) among AL lefties. (7) Ruth posted a 0.87 ERA in three World Series starts and his record of 29 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings in the Fall Classic stood from 1918 until Whitey Ford broke it in 1961. (8) Ruth hit his first major league home run against his future team, the Yankees. When Ruth demanded a raise in 1919, his contract was sold to the Yankees for $100,000 and a $300,000 loan secured by Fenway Park. This sale apparently ushered in the "Curse of the Bambino," as the Red Sox would fail to win a single World Series while the Yankees were winning twenty from 1920-1964. (9) Babe Ruth hit the first home run in Yankee Stadium, the "house that Ruth built" and which was built to favor his bat. How many home runs would Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron have hit, if someone had built stadiums to suit them, one wonders? (10) Babe Ruth played himself in four movies, including Pride of the Yankees (for which he lost 40 pounds to play his younger self).

The most earthshaking trade in baseball history didn't happen and may have prevented fans in two major cities from going insane! In 1947 the Red Sox and Yankees had a verbal agreement to trade Ted Williams for Joe DiMaggio. What a conundrum it would have been, for Yankee fans to cheer "Mr. Boston Red Sox" while Bostonians were cheering for the "Yankee Clipper" ... the mind boggles! But the trade didn't happen because Tom Yawkey, the owner of the Red Sox, wanted Yogi Berra to be included, but Larry MacPhail, the general manager of the Yankees, refused. Thus the tenuous sanity of Red Sox and Yankee fans was preserved!

Todd Helton had a hall-of-fame baseball career, but did you know that he once started at quarterback for the Tennessee Volunteers? Unfortunately for Helton, his understudy was a freshman named Peyton Manning, and Helton soon retired his football cleats. Ironically, the two ended up playing in Denver at the end of their careers: Helton for the Colorado Rockies and Manning for the Denver Broncos. But Helton was not the only Tennessee quarterback to do double duty. Alan Cockrell was the first true freshman quarterback to start for the Vols, but he was even better at baseball and skipped his senior year after being drafted in the first round (#9 overall) by the San Francisco Giants. Are we in the Twilight Zone, because Cockerall also ended his career in Denver, with the Colorado Rockies! But we're not done yet. Condredge Holloway was an even higher draft pick (#4 overall) by the Montreal Expos as a 16-year-old shorstop. But his mother wanted him to go to college and refused to sign the contract. So Holloway went to Tennessee and became the first African-American to start at quarterback in the SEC. He was also Tennessee's first black baseball player. Holloway hit .353 for his college career, was an All-American in 1975, and still owns UT's longest hitting streak at 27 games. Perhaps UT's best quarterback before Manning, Holloway ended his career with the best interception-to-attempt ratio in school history and was even better as a scrambler. Alabama's immortal coach Paul “Bear” Bryant said Holloway “has more moves and is harder to get hold of than any back I ever saw.” Holloway was All-SEC at quarterback in 1973 and is the only UT student-athlete named to all-century squads in both baseball and football. And despite his mother's efforts, he ended up in Canada ... as star quarterback in the Canadian Football League, where he was MVP in 1982. He is now a member of the CFL Hall of Fame. But perhaps the most unusual story belongs to Mike Smithson, a 6-8 basketball star who only played one year of high school baseball. He was a member of the famous "Ernie & Bernie Show" teams that featured All-Americans Ernie Grunfeld and Bernard King. One day UT baseball coach Bill Wright saw Smithson playing catch, asked him to try out for the freshman baseball team, and he went on to have an eight-year career as a pitcher in the majors, twice winning 15 games.

No, the Cardinals were not named after birds or exalted priests. In 1899 a woman in the stands gushed about the players' uniforms containing a "lovely shade of cardinal." St. Louis Republic reporter Willie McHale overheard her and included her remark in his column the next day. The rest, as they say, is history. But then shouldn't it be "cardinal" singular?

Cap Anson was (and probably still is) the greatest player in Chicago Cubs history. Anson was so good and so popular that the team was called Cap's Colts during his tenure. But of course he couldn't play forever. After Anson retired, a feeling of dread descended, and the team was being called the Chicago Orphans and even the Remnants. A more positive name was needed, fast! Fortunately someone came up with the name Chicago Cubs, although no one is sure exactly who thought it up first. Was it because it was time for the younger players to learn to fend for themselves, apart from their elders? If so, Anson probably inspired the new team name. To show how few home runs were being hit in baseball's early days, Anson had 18 seasons with two or fewer homers, and yet he is fourth on the all-time RBI list, one spot ahead of the all-time home run leader, Barry Bonds.

Did you know that the Pittsburg team claimed to be "Innocents" before they admitted to being "Pirates"? The franchise began its operations in Allegheny City. Thus from 1882-1889 the team was called the Pittsburg Alleghenys. Then in 1892, a new ownership group signed second baseman Lou Bierbauer away from the Philadelphia Athletics (a legal move, since the A's hadn't put Bierbauer on their reserved list). Still, Philly was irate and filed an official complaint, calling their rivals "piratical." The Alleghenys strongly maintained that they had done nothing wrong, and for the 1890 season the team adopted the nickname "Innocents." But after the league ruled in Pittsburgh's favor, the new owners were so pleased that they decided to rename the team the Pirates for the 1891 season (although the name wouldn't appear on Pittsburgh jerseys until 1911).

Have you ever wondered why the Atlanta franchise is called the Braves? The team started as the Boston Beaneaters in 1897. In 1907 the Dove brothers bought the team and changed its name to the Boston Doves! (No egos involved there, were're sure!) In 1911 there was another change of ownership and the team became the Boston Rustlers (perhaps referring to the famous "tea party"). In 1912, the team was renamed the Boston Braves for a very odd reason. One of the partners in the Braves was James Gaffney. He had political ties with the Tammany Hall regime. Politicians affiliated with Tammany Hall were often referred to as "braves" because Tammany was named after a Delaware Indian chief. But Tammany Hall was in New York, not Boston!

When did the New York Yankees get that name, and why? When the Baltimore Orioles moved to New York in 1903, they were seen as invaders: the New York Evening Journal actually picked Invaders as the nickname for the Big Apple's new team. But the most common nickname among fans was the Highlanders, because the team's stadium was built on a hill. The press sometimes referred to the team as the Americans, since they were in the American league and the Giants were in the National League. But then New York Press editor Jim Price called the team the Yanks in 1904, simply trying to make a headline fit. The name Yankees was pretty much official by 1913.

Have you ever wondered why the Los Angeles team is called the Dodgers? Here's the long, very strange trip the franchise took ... The team starts off as the Brooklyn Grays in 1883. Almost immediately, in 1884, the team changes its name to the Brooklyn Atlantics, which sorta makes sense (but for the first and only time!). On that team the star pitcher, Adonis Terry, lost 35 games. Just as quickly, in 1885 the team changes its name back to the Grays. Adonis is now an outfielder, hitting a not-so-robust .170. A new pitcher, Phenomenal Smith is less than phenomenal with a 12.38 ERA. But at least their names are entertaining! In 1888 several players get married around the same time, and the team changes its name to the Brooklyn Bridegrooms. Do they realize that getting married is supposed to be a once-in-a-lifetime thing? Apparently not when they tie the knot! Adonis is now pitching again. In 1889 the Bridegrooms win the American Association, led by Oyster Burns and Pop Corkhill, but they lose the World Series to their cross-town foes, the New York Giants. Drat! Curses! Foiled again! (And a pattern of futility may be emerging.) In 1890 the Bridegrooms join the National League and immediately win the pennant, led by 128 RBI from the Oyster. But alas the World Series is a 3-3-1 sister-kissing tie with the Louisville Colonels. There are, however, more entertaining names: Lady Baldwin and Patsy Donovan. Adonis is nowplaying the outfield and pitching! In 1891 the team shortens its name to the Grooms. More entertaining names appear on the bench: Con Daily, Bones Ely, Dude Esterbrook. But perhaps Adonis should stick to the outfield; he's 6-16 with a 4.22 ERA. In 1896 it's back to the Bridegrooms, with Candy LaChance. But by 1899 the franchise is again knee-deep in mediocrity, and it's time to change the team's name again. Someone very optimistic chooses the name Brooklyn Superbas! And it works, sorta. Led by Wee Willie Keeler, who sounds like a character from Rumpelstiltskin, the Superbas win the NL! But alas there is no World Series that year. Foiled again! By 1911, there have been a number of dismal seasons, and it's time for another name change. This time it's the Brooklyn Trolley Dodgers (now we finally understand the source of the term "dodgers"). By 1913 it's simply the Dodgers. But never count on this franchise to leave things well enough alone! In 1914, Wilbert Robinson takes over as manager, and everyone is so awed they change the team's name to the Brooklyn Robins! Once again the name change works wonderfully well, sorta. In 1916 the Robins win the NL pennant, but lose to Babe Ruth (then a pitcher) and the Boston Red Sox. Foiled again! But at least there are more entertaining names: Sherry Smith and Bunny Fabrique (my personal favorite). After Robinson retires, it's back to the Dodgers in 1932. In 1941, the Dodgers again win the pennant only to again lose the World Series. Pee Wee Reese sounds like the second coming of Wee Willie Keeler. In 1947, Jackie Robinson breaks the color barrier and the Dodgers win the pennant, but the team's record of futility remains intact as they lose to their crosstown foes the Yankees in the World Series. But at least they have Spider Jorgensen playing third! In 1949, the Dodgers lose to the Yankees again. Ditto in 1952 and 1953. The Dodgers are now 0-7 in the World Series. By now they're not just thinking about changing their name; they're thinking about changing ends of the continent! Then in 1955, the Brooklyn Dodgers finally win the World Series, defeating the hated Yankees. And it only took them 72 years to do it! But in 1956, it's back to normal as they lose to the Yankees in the World Series, with Don Larsen throwing the only perfect game in World Series history. Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley decides that enough is enough, and he moves the franchise far away to Los Angeles, where the Dodgers have lived up to their now-permanent name by dodging both the Yankees and the city of New York ever since!

The oddest baseball franchise names include the Cleveland Spiders, the Chicago Orphans, the Columbus Solons, the Kansas City Cowboys, the Brooklyn Superbas, and the Saint Louis Perfectos.

Babe Ruth wore a chilled cabbage leaf under his cap to stay cool! He would change it every two innings. Did he get hungry and eat some bad cabbage, with terrible repercussions? Ruth missed much of the 1925 season with "the bellyache heard 'round the world." That year he was very un-Ruthian, with only 25 home runs and 67 RBI. But he did recover, and two years later he hit 60 home runs, setting the most famous record until ...

In 1961, Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth's record for hitting the most home runs in a season (61, with the famous asterisk). But did you know that Maris's teammate, pitcher Whitey Ford broke the Babe's record for pitching 29 2/3 consecutive  scoreless innings in a World Series the same year? When asked how it felt to have thrown 33 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings, beating the Babe's other record, Ford responded, "It was a bad year for the Babe."

Yogi Berra was the Yoda of baseball. Here's an example of his yogi-ish wisdom: "Little League baseball is a very good thing because it keeps the parents off the streets." Unfortunately, far too many Little League parents surrender to the Dark Side of the Force!

Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia made an error for the first time in 114 games, on July 19, 2017. Pedroia's errorless streak was the longest by a second baseman in Red Sox history, and the longest by any second baseman since Darwin Barney went 141 games between errors back in 2012. So who hit the ball that led to Pedroia's error? Yep, we're in the Twilight Zone. It was Darwin Barney.

Tim "Rock" Raines allegedly lived up to his nickname by sliding head-first to avoid breaking the cocaine vials he carried in his back pocket.

Dock Ellis says that he threw his no-hitter on June 12, 1970 while under the influence of LSD. What a long, strange trip his career must have been! Here's an account of Ellis's not-so-perfect game: "In his drugged-out stupor, he took some more [LSD] on the day of the game and had to be reminded by his friend's girlfriend he had to be in San Diego to pitch that night. Ellis, who said he couldn't even feel the ball or see the catcher clearly, got some great fielding and walked eight batters en route to the unlikely no-no. Here is an excerpt of his take on that wild night:  'I remember hitting a couple of batters, and the bases were loaded two or three times. The ball was small sometimes, the ball was large sometimes, sometimes I saw the catcher, sometimes I didn't. Sometimes, I tried to stare the hitter down and throw while I was looking at him. I chewed my gum until it turned to powder. I started having a crazy idea in the fourth inning that Richard Nixon was the home plate umpire, and once I thought I was pitching a baseball to Jimi Hendrix, who to me was holding a guitar and swinging it over the plate."

On the other hand, Sandy Koufax, the "Left Arm of God," made hitters see things. Koufax led the NL in ERA for five consecutive years and finished with a glittering career ERA of 2.76. So how was he in the postseason? Even more godlike! Koufax's World Series ERA was a ridiculously low 0.95. He was named the World Series MVP twice: in 1963 and 1965 (when his ERA was an even more ridiculous 0.38).

When Nolan Ryan was a young, flame-throwing pitcher, he could only throw around five innings before developing painful blisters on the fingers of his pitching hand. The cure? Although he didn't eat the pickles, Ryan would soak his fingers in pickle brine! Teammates joked that Ryan used so much pickle juice that he would be named MVP by the Pickle Packers of America! Does Ryan owe his strikeout record and all those no-hitters to lowly cucumbers and vinegar?

Bob Lemon was the opening day center fielder for the Cleveland Indians in 1946. On April 30th of that year, Lemon's "daring catch" and strong throw "doubling a man off second base" were key in preserving a Bob Feller no-hitter. But two future hall-of-famers, catcher Bill Dickey and shortstop/manager Lou Boudreau, took note of that strong arm and persuaded Lemon to become a pitcher. It proved to be a very wise decision, as Lemon hit only .232 for his career. Two years later, in 1948, it was Lemon throwing the no-hitter. He went on to win 207 games and join Dickey and Boudreau in the Hall of Fame! (And that .232 average, which would have been woeful for an outfielder, was pretty sporty for a pitcher!)

Larry Doby was Major League Baseball's second black player and the first in the American League. Doby entered the majors in July of 1947 — just three months after Jackie Robinson. He faced the same hostile racist climate that Robinson faced, and he also managed to excel. (Doby made seven straight all-star games from 1949 to 1955 and finished second in the 1954 MVP voting with 32 homers and 126 RBI.) But Robinson received all the eternal glory, while Doby has been largely forgotten. On the brighter side, Doby was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Tony Lazzeri was a member of the "Murderers' Row" Yankees teams that included Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Lazzeri was an epileptic who managed to hide his condition from the public for his entire career. Lazzeri participated in five world championships with the Yankees and finished his career with an .846 OPS that ranks ninth all-time among second basemen. 

In 1936, Joltin' Joe DiMaggio set a New York Yankees record for home runs by a rookie, with 29. Eighty-one years later, Aaron Judge broke the Yankee Clipper's record, hitting his 30th home run before the All-Star break!

Joe DiMaggio still holds two major league records, however. One is the longest hitting streak of all time, 56 games. His other big "record" is having the most famous marriage in baseball history, to Marilyn Monroe, of course.

Dom DiMaggio was more than just Joe DiMaggio's kid brother. He was a seven-time all-star who scored 110 or more runs six times. Of course it didn't hurt to have Ted Williams hitting behind him!

Bert Campaneris was a skinny little shortstop, and a damn good one. A six-time all-star, he still holds the Athletics' franchise records for at-bats and hits, and he led the AL in steals six times. But at 160 pounds he was definitely not a power hitter ... except for three completely inexplicable power surges. In his first MLB game, Campaneris hit two home runs (only one five players in baseball history to accomplish that remarkable feat!). Then in 1970 he―again inexplicably―went on a rampage (at least for him) hitting 22 homers. If we subtract that one very odd game and that one very odd season, Campaneris averaged fewer than three home runs per year for his 19 seasons. Then in 1973, after returning to his normal non-powerful ways and hitting just four homers in 671 at-bats, Campaneris went on a postseason power tear and hit three homers, outslugging his teammate and World Series MVP, "Mr. October" Reggie Jackson! What was the source of that mysterious power? If Campaneris could bottle and sell it, he'd be richer than Bill Gates!

Besides his inexplicable home run sprees, "Campy" Campaneris will be remembered for two other oddities. He was the first ballplayer (to our knowledge) to be introduced to fans on the back of a donkey (one of the weirder brainstorms of A's owner Charles O. Finley). And Campaneris was the first major league player to play all nine positions in a single game, which he did on September 8, 1965, as part of a special promotion. Campaneris even threw ambidextrously when he took the mound! 

Speaking of Reggie Jackson, was he really "Mr. October"? Well, yes and no. Yes, he did rise to the occasion a number of times and his postseason stats are impressive. But there are other "Mr. Octobers" whose stats are even more impressive. Sluggers like Jackson are supposed to drive in runs, so I did a quick check on RBI per plate appearance. Reggie Jackson averaged .151 RBI per plate appearance in the postseason, which would work out to 98 RBI for a season with 650 plate appearances. Jackson's career RBI percentage was .149, and he probably averaged around 98 RBI per season in his prime, so really he was pretty much doing what he normally did. In any case, here are eleven players who out-Octobered the much-lauded Mr. October: Lou Gehrig (.233), Charlie Keller (.228), Hank Aaron (.216), Babe Ruth (.198), Home Run Baker (.186), Paul Molitor (.167), David Ortiz (.165), Albert Pujols (.162), Shane Victorino (.162), Jim Edmonds (.160), David Freese (.153). If we're going to give props to players for raising their games, perhaps they should go to Victorino, Edmonds and Freese. The others are all Hall-of-Famers, with one possible exception. "King Kong" Keller was well on his way to the Hall of Fame, but lost time due to military service during WWII, then suffered a severely ruptured disk at age 30 and was never the same again. But his career OPS+ of 152 ranks ahead of legends like Honus Wagner, Nap Lajoie, Eddie Collins, Cap Anson, Willie McCovey, Mike Schmidt, Willie Stargell, Jim Thome, Albert Belle, David Ortiz, Alex Rogriguez and, yes, Reggie Jackson. Even so, Keller did raise his postseason game from around a 100-RBI pace to a 150-RBI pace. And who knows ... perhaps the veterans committee will do the right thing and induct him into the HOF.

The Red Sox were one of the most successful baseball franchises, winning the first-ever World Series and quickly racking up five world championships. But then in the 1919-1920 offseason, the Red Sox sold the greatest baseball player of all time, Babe Ruth, to the rival New York Yankees. Why? The most common explanation is that Red Sox owner Harry Frazee needed the money to finance the Broadway musical No, No Nanette. In any case, the baseball gods were apparently not amused, and it would be 86 years before the Red Sox finally escaped "the curse of the Bambino" and won another World Series.

Jimmie Foxx hit 60 home runs in 1932 and would have tied Babe Ruth's longstanding record, except that two of his home runs were "called back" by rainouts. Foxx was called "The Beast" and Lefty Gomez opined that Foxx had "muscles in his hair." Foxx, who resembled Ruth in appearance, out-did him in versatility. Like Ruth, Foxx pitched (1.52 career ERA) and played outfield. But Foxx was also an All-Star at catcher, first and third. He even played one game at short! Hall-of-Fame catcher Rick Ferrell said of Foxx's ability behind the plate: "If it wasn't for [Mickey] Cochrane, Foxx would have developed into a great catcher. He was the greatest all-around athlete I ever saw play Major League Baseball." But with one of the all-time-great catchers on his team, Foxx had to change positions in order to play full-time.

When we think of runs, we think of speed. But the catchers who scored the most career runs, Carlton Fisk and Ivan Rodriguez, were both nicknamed Pudge! The catcher who ranks third in runs, Yogi Berra, was no speed demon either. He stole 30 bases in 19 seasons, and was thrown out nearly half the time. So who was the fastest catcher ever? Probably Craig Biggio, who broke in as a catcher and played the position for four years before switching to second base. Biggio stole 414 bases during his career, led the NL in steals in 1994, and had a high mark of 50 steals in 1998. Even at age 39, Biggio was still an above-average base stealer, going 11-1. But if we include part-time catchers, in 1887 Arlie Latham played catcher in two games and stole 129 bases! Latham had 742 steals for his career, but only played catcher in a handful of games over six seasons. So we should probably give the laurel to Biggio. He and Jason Kendall are the only catchers in MLB history to lead off more than ten games in a single season. But if we're talking about players who were almost exclusively catchers, Kendall is our man. He stole 20 or more bases three times, 10 or more bases nine times, and even stole 12 bases in his last season at age 36, shades of Biggio!

Johnny Bench was one of the most powerful catchers of all time, clubbing 45 home runs at age 22, then 40 more at age 24, and winning two MVP awards before he turned 25. Bench finished his career with the record for home runs by a catcher and still holds the Reds franchise record for homers and RBI regardless of position. But Bench was also a remarkably good base-stealer in his prime, going a perfect 11-0 in 1975 and 13-2 in 1976, for a two year success rate of 92.3%. Oh, and he also won ten consecutive Gold Gloves! Furthermore, Bench was one of the first catchers to adopt the hinged catcher's glove and catch one-handed, so he was something of a baseball pioneer too. As Reds manager Sparky Anderson once put it, "I don't want to embarrass any other catcher by comparing him to Johnny Bench!" Nor should we.

So who was the worst basestealing catcher of all time? "Feet of Stone" Russ Nixon played 12 seasons and 2,504 games. He was thrown out trying to steal 7 times without a single success.

Ty Cobb won the triple crown in 1909 by leading the American League in batting average, home runs and RBI. But he never hit a ball out of the park. All nine home runs he hit that year were inside the park. Cobb remains the only home run champion who failed to hit at least one home run over the fence. What are baseball's records that will probably never be broken? (1) Cobb's all-inside-the-park home run crown is an absolute lock, of course, as are his 12 batting titles in 13 years. (2) Rickey Henderson leading the NL in steals at age 39. (3) Shoeless Joe Jackson hitting .400 as a rookie. (4) Jackson also holds the record for the highest batting average in his last season, with .382! (5) Rogers Hornsby averaged .402 for a five-year stretch from 1921-1925, while also averaging 29 homers per year.

Pete Rose broke Ty Cobb's all-time hits record, then played Cobb in a 1991 movie about Babe Ruth. (No, Rose did not win an Oscar for his cameo!) For a player to break Rose's hit record, he would have to average 213 hits for 20 years. The closest modern player to Rose in hits is Hank Aaron. In his last season at age 42, Aaron had 62 hits. To catch Rose at that pace, he would have had to play nine more seasons, to age 50. So it seems unlikely that anyone will break Rose's record anytime soon.

Robinson Cano's game-winning home run at the 2017 All-Star game was the event's first extra-inning blast in exactly 50 years. Ironically, Tony Perez, who threw the game's opening pitch, was the last All-Star participant to hit an extra-inning homer, in 1967. The score of both games was 2-1. Five teammates on the celebrated Big Red Machine became All-Star MVPs: Tony Perez (1967), Joe Morgan (1972), George Foster (1976), Ken Griffey Sr. (1980) and Dave Concepcion (1982). Ironically, the two Reds with the most All-Star appearances, Pete Rose (17) and Johnny Bench (14), failed to become All-Star MVPs. However, they both were World Series and National League MVPs. So seven of the Reds' "Great Eight" were MVPs during their careers. And in 1976, all seven made the NL All-Star team; talk about a star-studded lineup! Who was the odd Red out? Center fielder Cesar Geronimo, who in 1976 won one of his four consecutive Gold Gloves and slashed .307/.382/.414/.795 with 201 total bases and 22 steals; he finished 25th in the MVP voting despite hitting eighth in an outrageously good lineup. Were the 1976 Reds the best baseball team of all time? If the question intrigues you, please click the hyperlink to enter the debate.

George Brett won AL batting titles in three different decades: the first in 1976, the second in 1980, the third in 1990 (at age 37). Pete Rose led the NL in hits in three different decades: twice in the 1960s, four times in the 1970s, and once in the 1980s (at the tender age of 40!). Jimmy Connors has been called "the Pete Rose of tennis" (a comparison he welcomes) because they were both "bad boys" and fiery competitors who, while lacking size and pure athleticism, continued to will themselves to victory over younger, more athletic players well into their forties. Connors holds the pro tennis "endurance" records for games, matches, sets and wins. Rose holds the pro baseball "endurance" records for games, plate appearances, at-bats, hits and games won. Connors was number one from 1974-1978, a period of time in which Rose led all MLB in games, hits and runs. Connors retired at age 44 and Rose played his last full season at age 44.

Was Bob Gibson baseball's biggest badass? This was Hank Aaron's advice to Dusty Baker: “Don't dig in against Bob Gibson, he'll knock you down. He'd knock down his own grandmother if she dared to challenge him. Don't stare at him, don't smile at him, don't talk to him. He doesn't like it. If you happen to hit a home run, don't run too slow, don't run too fast. If you happen to want to celebrate, get in the tunnel first. And if he hits you, don't charge the mound, because he's a Gold Glove boxer!” Or as Dick Allen put it, “Gibson was so mean, he'd knock you down and then meet you at home plate to see if you wanted to make something of it.” Here's what Jim Ray Hart learned the hard way: “Between games, (Willie) Mays came over to me and said, ‘Now, in the second game, you're going up against Bob Gibson.' I only half-listened to what he was saying, figuring it didn't make much difference. So I walked up to the plate the first time and started digging a little hole with my back foot. No sooner did I start digging that hole than I hear Willie screaming from the dugout: ‘Noooooo!' Well, the first pitch came inside. No harm done, though. So I dug in again. The next thing I knew, there was a loud crack and my left shoulder was broken. I should have listened to Willie.” Now we know how Gibson managed that incredible 1.12 ERA ... batters were afraid of him, with good reason!

Is it possible to be too competitive? Bob Gibson may have gone over some sort of line: “I've played a couple of hundred games of tic-tac-toe with my little daughter and she hasn't beaten me yet. I've always had to win. I've got to win.”

So was Bob Gibson the most hated and feared baseball player of all time? Probably not. Ty Cobb has been called the most hated figure in the history of sports. He once said of himself: "In legend I am a sadistic, slashing, swashbuckling despot who waged war in the guise of sport." Cobb's mother shot his father to death; three weeks later he debuted in center field for the Detroit Tigers. Cobb has been accused of murder himself, of beating his son with a whip, of racism to the extent of choking a black woman until he was knocked out by a teammate, of battery against a black worker who complained when he stepped in wet cement, of going into the stands to beat a heckler who had lost his hands in an industrial accident, of beating and choking an umpire after a game, of honing his spikes to razor sharpness in order to terrorize opposing infielders, and other nefarious deeds. Other fear-inspiring candidates, primarily because of their size, include Frank Howard (6'8", 275 pounds), Aaron Judge (6'7", 280 pounds of chiseled muscle), Adam Dunn (6'6", 285), Dave Winfield (6'6", 220), Giancarlo Stanton (6'6", 245), Dave "King Kong" Kingman (6'6", 210), Willie McCovey, Willie Stargell, Barry "Steroid Monster" Bonds, Reggie Jackson, Dick Allen, Frank "the Big Hurt" Thomas, Albert Belle (called a "surly jerk" by one journalist), Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco (known collectively as the "Bash Brothers" before they started cheating) and George "the Destroyer" Foster. But surely the most fear-inspiring players were pitchers with blazing fastballs and bad temperaments ...

Ty Cobb, the sadistic despot himself, said that Walter Johnson's fastball "hissed with danger." Johnson's fastball has been estimated to have clocked around 100 mph.

Two-time National League MVP Dale Murphy called Nolan Ryan "the only pitcher you start thinking about two days before you face him." Reggie Jackson said, "Ryan is the only guy who puts fear in me. Not because he can get you out, but because he can kill you." Ryan threw a fastball in 1974 that was reportedly clocked by a laser gun at 108.1 mph, and he is the all-time strikeout king.

Bob Feller was known as "Rapid Robert" because he threw a scorching fast ball (reportedly once clocked at 107.6 mph). Feller also had a facial tic that made batters very nervous while they were awaiting his next pitch. The way he was blinking on the mound, could he see them clearly?

According to Yogi Berra, his teammate Ryne Duren "had several pairs of glasses but it didn't seem like he saw good in any of them." Those Coke-bottle lenses, coupled with a 100-mph fastball and "tactical" wildness, made Duren one of the most intimidating relievers of the late 1950s. His manager, Casey Stengel, once said of him, "Hitters don't like to see that fella. Especially family men." Duren would often enter a game by first squinting through his thick glasses, then throwing the ball well over the catcher's head to the backstop. There are even stories (possibly embellished) of Duren hitting not only hitters in the batter's box, but also those waiting in the on-deck circle! The most intimidating aspect of Duren's game was the fact that batters truly believed that Duren could not see, that he was just throwing into "an undifferentiated void." No wonder their knees were knocking together in fear!

Goose Gossage was intimidating because as teammate Rudy May explained: "Hitters always have the fear that one pitch might get away from him and they'll wind up DOA with a tag on their toe." Bob Watson ventured that it was his delivery that made the Goose such an intimidating figure: "He's all arms and legs and he's not looking at you. That doesn't make you feel good when he's throwing 100 miles an hour. I don't mind a guy throwing 100 miles an hour if he's looking at you!"

Randy Johnson, the "Big Unit," was named the most intimidating baseball player of all time by the MLB Network. Johnson stood 6'10" and threw a fastball clocked at up to 102 mph with a sidearm, whipping motion. He had left-handed hitters understandably "trembling" with fear, especially when he threw over their heads to warn them to back off. Adam Dunn explained the left-handed hitters' conundrum: It was a "hopeless feeling" to face pitches that seemed to be aimed at the back of the neck, only to drop in for unhittable strikes. One anxiety-ridden hitter admitted to suffering from Randy-Johnson-itis. The day he pitched would be a good day to recover from a hastily-concocted "injury." The Big Unit retired with 303 wins, five Cy Young awards, nine strikeout titles and the highest strikeouts-per-nine-innings rate of all time (10.6).

Sal Maglie was called "the Barber" because he gave close shaves to batters who crowded the plate. Drysdale credited "Sal the Barber" with teaching him the art of the brushback.

Dick Radatz was given the nickname "the Monster" by Mickey Mantle, who struck out 44 of the 63 times he faced relief pitching's Frankenstein. Radatz stood 6'6" and weighed 230-260 pounds. Stir in a 95-mph heater delivered sidearm, and you had a real monster on the mound. Radatz was another pupil of Sal Maglie. When someone opined that Radatz had only one pitch, columnist Jim Murray opined in return that that was like saying a nation was going to war with "only an atomic bomb." Radatz with his one pitch "left devastation in his wake." As one sportswriter observed: "The supernova of relievers, he lit up the sky at Fenway Park for three years before flaring out." But during those three years he was damn near unhittable. Radatz still holds the major league record for strikeouts by a relief pitcher with 181 in 1964. He averaged 9.7 strikeouts per nine innings for his career, higher than Nolan Ryan, Sandy Koufax, or any pitcher of his era or prior. Radatz was, it seems in retrospect, the coming of the new wave of strikeout artists.

Early Wynn was a fierce intimidator who one said, "I'd knock down my own grandmother if she dug in on me." Wynn called hitters his "mortal enemies" and claimed to "hate" them. Hatred seemed to work for him, as he won 300 games and was enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Ted Williams, perhaps the greatest pure hitter of all time, called Wynn "the toughest pitcher I ever faced."

In 1967 a young all-star second baseman named Pete Rose moved to left field to make room for Tommy Helms. Two decades later, in 1988, Tommy Helms again replaced Rose ... this time as manager of the Cincinnati Reds. In the meantime, Rose had broken and set the all-time records for games, wins, plate appearances, at-bats, hits and times on base.

Pete Rose did not believe in "rest days." Toward the end of the 1975 season, with the Reds on their way to 108 wins and up by 20 games, manager Sparky Anderson would repeatedly tell the 34-year-old Rose that he was going to give him a day off. "Like hell you are!" Rose would shout back. Seven years later, at age 41, Rose was still playing 162 games. At age 44, like a superannuated Energizer bunny, Rose was on base nearly 200 times. He ended up playing more games than any player in major league baseball history. How did he do it? Baseball's Mr. Indestructible had a record 17 seasons with 600 or more at-bats, and a record 23 consecutive seasons with 100 or more games played. Lou Gehrig played his last full season at age 35, Cal Ripken at age 37. They are considered to be baseball's iron men. But Pete Rose played a remarkable 1,702 games from age 34 to 45, amassing 2,026 hits during his sunset years. That's more hits than the following baseball legends had in their entire careers: Shoeless Joe Jackson, Home Run Baker, Hack Wilson, Ralph Kiner, Johnny Mize, Bill Dickey, Tony Oliva, Earle Combs, Bob Meusel, Gabby Hartnett, Mickey Cochrane and Hank Greenberg. Hell, Rose almost out-hit the celebrated hall-of-fame double play combination of Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance by himself!

Pete Rose was major league baseball's last playing manager, for the Cincinnati Reds from 1984-1986.

Barry Larkin played on teams with Pete Rose Sr. and Pete Rose Jr. (The elder Rose bested his son by a mere 4,254 hits!)

Yogi Berra was a great catcher, but not so great at math. For instance, he explained that "baseball is ninety percent mental, and the other half is physical." And he once instructed players to "pair up in threes." Geometry wasn't his strong suit either: "You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I'm not hungry enough to eat six." Yogi wasn't much better at history, observing that "Napoleon had his Watergate." Nor was Yogi good at biology, claiming that he didn't know if streakers were male or female because they wore bags on their heads!

Casey Stengel rivaled Yogi Berra's talent for malapropisms. For instance, Stengel once told his players: "Everybody line up alphabetically according to your height."

The Chicago Cubs went 108 years between World Series appearances. There are 108 stitches in a baseball, which was designed by A. G. Spalding, the Cubs pitcher who was also their first manager. The movie Taking Care of Business, which shows the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series, is 108 minutes long. The Cubs similarly won the World Series in the movie Back To The Future II, which is also 108 minutes long. World Series MVP Ben Zobrist wears No. 18 = 10 + 8. The last time the Cubs won a World Series game was on 10/8 in 1945. The final game went 10 innings and the Cubs scored 8 runs. There is a long list of such "strange but true" coincidences.

The 1953 McClymonds High School baseball team surely had the best outfield in the history of high school baseball. Hell, it may have rivaled the best outfields in the history of major league baseball! Frank Robinson was a fourteen-time All-Star, a Gold Glove winner, a triple crown winner, and the first player to be named MVP in both leagues. He finished with 586 home runs, 1,829 runs and 1,812 RBI. Vada Pinson was a four-time All-Star and Gold Glove winner who finished with 2,757 hits, 1,365 runs and 305 steals. Curt Flood was a three-time All-Star who won seven consecutive Gold Gloves and hit .300 or higher seven times.

Curt Flood was aptly named. He could be "curt" with foolish owners, and he helped "flood" other players with money when he sued baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn over the reserve clause in 1970, an action that eventually led to the "Curt Flood rule," free agency and multi-million-dollar contracts.

Andy Messersmith was one of the first major beneficiaries of Curt Flood opening pro baseball's money floodgates. Messersmith had perhaps the most unusual nickname and number to appear together on a baseball uniform. Ted Turner, the owner of the Atlanta Braves, also owned the first TV superstation: WTBS (which aired on channel 17). When the Braves signed Messersmith as one of baseball's first millionaire free agents in 1976, Turner gave him the nickname "Channel" and assigned him uniform number 17. Thus his new ace pitcher became a walking, talking, strike-out-throwing human billboard!

Here is an example of the "Curt Flood Effect": Babe Ruth's highest annual salary was $80,000. That works out to around $150 per at-bat. In his final year, Derek Jeter made $269,841.27 per at-bat. Talk about inflation!

Ken Griffey Sr. and Ken Griffey Jr. became the first father and son to play in the same major league baseball game when they took the field together for the Seattle Mariners on August 31, 1990. In their first game together, with Sr. hitting second and Jr. hitting third, they both got singles, so they ended up on the basepaths together as well! Later that season, they would hit back-to-back home runs.

Barry Bonds, the all-time home run leader with 762, had excellent baseball bloodlines. His father was Bobby Bonds, a three-time gold glove winner for the San Francisco Giants who was a member of the 30/30 club a record five times. Reggie Jackson was his cousin and Willie Mays was his godfather! Together Bobby and Barry Bonds own the MLB records for combined "family" home runs, RBIs, and stolen bases.

"Home Run" Baker never hit more than 12 home runs in a season, failed to hit 100 home runs for his career, and averaged fewer than 8 home runs per year. 

Modern pitchers are pampered sissies, compared to Hoss Radbourn, who really was a Hoss despite standing only 5' 9" and weighing 168 pounds. In 1884 he started 73 games and completed all of them, accumulating a staggering 678 innings! 

Before you tell a young hitter not to "bail out" or "step in the bucket," please consider the case of "Bucketfoot" Al Simmons, who won two batting titles, hit .338 for his career, and drove in an amazing 1,828 runs while consistently violating baseball's cardinal hitting rule!

Mel Ott was another great hitter with an unorthodox batting style. Ott, who stood only 5'9" and weighed a mere 170 pounds, would lift his forward (right) foot high into the air, prior to making contact. Ott became the first NL hitter to surpass 500 home runs, and he led the Giants in home runs for 18 consecutive years.

Ed Delahanty "bailed out" in a different way, when he got drunk and was kicked off a train into the Niagara Falls, where he drowned in 1903. Delahanty's .346 lifetime batting average was exceeded only by Ty Cobb (.366), Rogers Hornsby (.358) and Shoeless Joe Jackson (.356).

"Shoeless" Joe Jackson earned his nickname when he removed his shoes during a game because he had blisters on his feet. Jackson was accused of "fixing" the 1919 World Series, despite setting a record that stood till 1964 by compiling 12 hits and hitting .375. He did not commit an error, and threw out a runner at the plate. So it is very hard to understand how he "threw" anything. "Shoeless Joe" spent the last 30 years of his life denying that he had "fixed" the series.

Name the first switch hitter to win an AL batting title and the first switch hitter to win the NL title. Hint:  One of them said of the other: “If I'd had to hit all those singles, I would have worn a dress.” Answer: Mickey Mantle (1956-AL) was dissing Pete Rose (1968-NL). But ironically Rose finished with 1,241 more total bases than Mantle! All those singles and doubles really did add up. Mantle had 10 seasons with 270 or more total bases, but Rose had 11 such seasons. And while Rose is not generally regarded as a slugger, he had only 41 fewer career total bases than the Sultan of Swat himself, Babe Ruth. Rose had more total bases than Lou Gehrig, Mel Ott, Jimmie Foxx and Reggie Jackson. Furthermore, Rose had more than a thousand total bases more than Rogers Hornsby, Sammy Sosa, Ernie Banks and Mike Schmidt. And he had more than two thousand total bases more than Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, Johnny Mize, Johnny Bench and Yogi Berra. Yes, all those singles and doubles really did add up, over time.

Known as "Charlie Hustle," Pete Rose once said, "I'd walk through hell in a gasoline suit to play baseball."

Pete Rose was famous for his no-holds-barred style of play: for instance, his violent collision with Ray Fosse when Fosse blocked the plate at the 1970 all-star game. But did you know that Rose had invited Fosse over for dinner the night before?

In 1968, Bob Gibson went 22-9 with a 1.12 ERA that included a 95-inning stretch in which he allowed only two runs. Catcher Tim McCarver called Gibson the luckiest man in baseball because "he is always pitching when the other team doesn't score any runs."

Pud Galvin was baseball's first 300 game winner and he ranks second only to Cy Young in complete games and innings pitched. His physique gave him the nickname Pudding, which was shortened to the slightly more dignified Pud. Galvin may have been baseball's first-ever PED user because he admitted to drinking an elixir that contained monkey testosterone, way back in 1889!

Ted Williams has been called the "greatest hitter in the history of baseball" and the "greatest fly fisherman in the world." He was also John Glenn's wingman during the Korean War. Talk about star power (not to mention starman power). “John Glenn? Oh, could he fly an airplane!” Williams once said in an interview with the Chicago Tribune. “Absolutely fearless. The best I ever saw. It was an honor to fly with him.” And Glenn may have saved his wingman's life. After getting hit by enemy anti-aircraft fire, Williams's F9F Panther jet was ablaze. Glenn flew next to his wing and pointed up. Flying higher into thinner air, the fire was extinguished, allowing Williams to make it back home safely.

Ted Williams was the best pure hitter to ever play the game. He has the highest OBP (on base percentage) of all-time, at .4817. Basically, he ended up safely on base nearly every other at-bat. If the totals for the five seasons he missed while fighting for his country were similar to what he produced in the closest years that he actually played, it has been estimated that the Splendid Splinter would have finished with something like 3,500 hits, 700 doubles, 100 triples, 700 home runs, 6,500 total bases, 2,700 walks, 2,400 runs and 2,500 RBI. That would make him the all-time leader in walks, runs and RBI, and in the top ten for every major offensive category other than stolen bases. He remains the only player to hit .400 in the modern era, and he once reached base a record 16 consecutive times.

William "Dummy" Hoy was the first deaf player ever to play Major League Baseball, but he was no slouch. Hoy finished his career with a .288 batting average, 2,044 total hits and 596 stolen bases.

It's easy as pie to guess the best-hitting pitcher of all time: Babe Ruth, duh! But who was the worst-hitting pitcher of all time? Bob Buhl had the worst season. In 1962 he went 0-for-70; including the end of the 1961 season and the start of 1963, he had an 0-for-87 streak. That's amazingly bad! For a career, Dean Chance had a truly abysmal 406 strikeouts in 662 at-bats, and a career batting average of .066. If we drop down to a minimum 200 at-bats, Ron Herbel somehow managed to hit .029 for his career.

Who was the best-hitting pitcher of modern times? Ken Brett, the brother of George Brett. For his career, Ken Brett hit .262 and slugged an impressive .406, with 10 homers and 44 RBI. He set a record for pitchers by hitting home runs in four consecutive starts when he played for Philadelphia in 1973, and he once hit a pinch-hit triple and drove in two runs. He was also the youngest pitcher to pitch in a World Series, at age nineteen. Going back in time, Wes Ferrell had a career batting average of .280. Which pitcher hit for the most power? The great Walter Johnson had several years in which he hit as many or more home runs than the teams he faced! The Big Train slammed 94 doubles, an astonishing 41 triples, and an impressive 24 career home runs. He drove in 255 runs and his 795 total bases are, by far, the greatest number of total bases by a pitcher. Bob Gibson and Don Drysdale were other great pitchers who hit with power, at times, with more than 20 career homers, but they fall far short of the Big Train's total bases and RBI.

Jim Deshaies holds the record for the most at-bats without an extra-base hit, with 373 (he hit .088 for his career).

Okay, we expect pitchers to be pitiful hitters! But who was the worst-hitting MLB position player of all time? In modern times, Mario Mendoza was such a bad hitter that his name became a synecdoche for offensive ineptitude. That is, batting below "the Mendoza line" means hitting below .200. In nine big league seasons, Mendoza failed to reach the .200 mark five times, with a career best of just .245. In 1,456 plate appearances, he compiled a batting average of .215. Still, Mendoza was far from the worst hitter of all time! Catcher Bill Bergen (1901-11) came to bat more than 3,000 times and somehow managed to slash .170/.194/.201. Yes, that's a .201 slugging percentage! His career OPS+ was a microscopic 21. In 1909, Bergen hit .139, the lowest-ever average for a player who qualified for the batting title. That season, he set another record for futility by going 46 at-bats in a row without a base hit, the longest streak ever by a position player! While there may be a debate about the greatest hitter ever to play the game―Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Ted Williams, et al―there seems to be no debate whatsoever about the worst hitter ever to grab a bat!

At just 15 years of age, Joe Nuxhall of the Cincinnati Reds was the youngest player to ever appear in a Major League Baseball game.

Satchel Paige was the oldest rookie in major league baseball history, at age 42 in 1948. He made all-star teams in 1952 and 1953, at ages 46-47, but was released after the 1953 season. Paige played one more major league game in 1965 at age 59, in a publicity stunt engineered by controversial Kansas City Athletics owner Charles O. Finley. Paige sat in a bullpen rocking chair before the game and had a "nurse" who brought him coffee. But he threw three scoreless innings, then left the game with the crowd singing "The Old Gray Mare."

Paige was the oldest MLB all-star, at age 47. Pete Rose was the oldest position player to appear in an all-star game, at age 44, plus three months.

Julio Franco retired as the oldest position player in modern baseball history, at age 49 in 2007. A few years later in 2012, Jamie Moyer retired at the age of 49 as the oldest pitcher in MLB history to record a win in his final season.

Home run champions Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth both scored exactly the same number of runs in their careers: 2,174. What are the odds?

Cincinnati Reds centerfielder Cesar Gerónimo was the 3000th strikeout victim of both Nolan Ryan and Bob Gibson.

Cy Young holds the major league baseball record of 7,356 innings pitched. To break that record, a pitcher would have to throw 300 innings per year for 24.5 years, or 200 innings for 36.7 years! It seems safe to say that this is one record that will not only never be broken.

Ralph Kiner is the only player ever to lead a league in home runs for seven years in a row — and he did it his first seven years as a major league player! Kiner evidently never heard of rookie jitters, or a sophomore slump.

Rick Ankiel was an "uber-prospect" with "amazing movement on his pitches." But after a decent rookie year, he started to uncork wild pitch after wild pitch. Eventually, he had to give up pitching. However, he made a comeback as an outfielder  with one of the strongest and most accurate outfield throwing arms in the majors. Ironically, the player who lost his accuracy as a pitcher from 60 feet 6 inches away was able to unleash some of the strongest, most accurate throws from the outfield distance that we'll ever see!

C. C. Sabathia once led both leagues in shutouts, in the same season! In 2008, he threw two shutouts for the Cleveland Indians, tying for the AL lead with seven other pitchers. He was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers, where he threw three shutouts, tying his teammate Ben Sheets for the NL lead.

Baseball players played barehanded, sans gloves, until the 1870s. But gloves did not help some of the more "challenged" defenders ...

Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman Steve Sax became unable to make routine throws to first base, committing 30 errors in 1983. The phenomena was called the "Steve Sax Syndrome." Fans who sat behind first base at Dodger Stadium would don batting helmets, professing to have no idea where Sax's errant throws might land. But Sax did eventually recover, going on to lead AL second basemen in fielding percentage and double plays in 1989.

Pete Incaviglia was such a notoriously poor defensive outfielder that his nickname was "Oops."

Curt Blefary was given the nickname "Clank" by teammate Frank Robinson, who claimed it was the sound the ball made when it banged against Blefary's glove.

Outfielder Smead Jolley was one of the most challenged defensive players in the history of the game. Jolley once made three errors on a single play, having the ball somehow go through his legs twice. But the official scorer took pity on poor Jolley, giving him only two errors.

Glenn Liebman quoted a teammate of Babe Herman as saying: "Babe wore a glove for only one reason. It was a league custom. The glove would last him a minimum of six years because it rarely made contact with the ball." Liebman quoted another source as saying that Herman did get a bit better later in his career: "Herman improved greatly in his ninth season. He still hadn't caught a ball yet, but he was getting a lot closer." Herman led NL first basemen in errors in 1927, then changed positions ... only to lead NL outfielders in errors the next two years, playing right field. And Herman was not much better as a base runner. He was one thrown out by 48-year-old Cardinals manager Gabby Street, who had been forced into emergency duty as a catcher. Twice he turned home runs into singles by standing and gawking while teammates passed him on the basepaths. For such snafus, Herman was dubbed "The Headless Horseman of Ebbets Field."

Nolan Ryan was the greatest strikeout artist of all time, but he struck out as a glove man with a career fielding percentage of .895!

Bill Dahlen holds the all-time record for most errors 1,080. He committed 86 errors in a single season while playing for the Chicago Colts in 1895.

Adam Dunn almost holds the distinction of leading the league in errors at two different positions! In 2006, Dunn led all NL outfielders in errors with 12. In 2010, he finished second in errors at first base, to Ryan Howard, with 13. Dunn was equally terrible in left field, right field and at first base, finishing with -28.4 dWAR despite spending a lot of time at DH.

But who was the absolute worst defender in the history of major league baseball? Maybe Herman Long, a shortstop who made 1,096 errors in 1,882 games, or more than an error every other game! His career fielding percentage was .908.

Going from the ridiculous to the sublime: Brooks Robinson is the greatest defensive third baseman ever with 16 straight Gold Gloves and 11 seasons leading the AL in fielding percentage. After Robinson's tour de force in the 1970 World Series, Sparky Anderson said, "He can throw his glove out there and it will start 10 double plays by itself."

Pete Gray was right-handed, until he lost his right arm at age seven or eight. Gray played 77 games in the outfield for the St. Louis Browns in 1945, hitting .218 with six doubles and two triples. He was a competent fielder, even playing center field, but struggled to hit breaking balls in the majors. Because he had only one hand, once he started his swing, he was unable to check it or adjust his timing. He did not play in the majors after 1945.

In 1884, Hugh "One Arm" Daily had a season for the ages, throwing four one-hitters, striking out a then-record 19 batters in a game, and finishing with a record 483 strikeouts for the season. But the competition was watered down, his career was soon over, and he retired with a record of 73-87.

Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown was the victim of a farming accident with a food chopper. However, his loss of two fingers led to a grip that gave him a devastating curveball, which both curved and sank. His career ERA of 2.06 is the best in MLB history for pitchers with 200 or more wins. 

"Slug" was an appropriate label for the hard-hitting Harry Heilmann. He was a slugger, and the contrast between the thunder in his lumber and his slow feet made the nickname doubly appropriate. Heilmann won four batting titles, and his .403 average in 1923 made him the last AL right-hander to hit over .400 in a full season. What would he have hit if he had possessed Ty Cobb's speed?

Luke Appling, the man called "Old Aches and Pains," was famous for complaining, but that rarely kept him off the field. He finished his career as baseball's all-time leader in games and double plays at shortstop.

Dick Sharon once said of Nolan Ryan, baseball's all-time strikeout leader nicknamed the Ryan Express, "He's baseball's exorcist; he scares the devil out of you."

Jim Palmer won three Cy Young awards, and four Gold Gloves, and won 20 or more games eight times, but he may be most famous for modeling underwear.

Which two players in the modern era had the highest on-base percentages at age 43 or older? Answer: Reds teammates Pete Rose (.364) and Tony Pérez (.363), in a virtual tie. Rose also had two of the top ten batting averages of all time for players age 43 and older. Pérez has the highest slugging percentage (.410) for such players. Rose and Pérez rank in the top ten in nearly every major batting category for players age 43 and older. If we expand the category to players age 40 and over, Rose leads all players in the modern era in games, at bats, plate appearances, hits, walks, times on base, singles, doubles, triples, total bases and runs created. And he ranks in the top ten in nearly every category other than homers and slugging. It seems safe to say that Pete Rose was, overall, the greatest player of the modern era from age 40 to retirement.

Kid Nichols almost always finished what he started, completing 532 of his 562 career starts.

The argument can be made that Babe Ruth was the greatest baseball player of all time, because Ruth was one of the best pitchers of his era before he became its best power hitter. His career ERA of 2.28 is the 17th best of all time, and half the pitchers who rank above him are mysterious figures from baseball's distant dead-ball days. Ruth was a winner, ranking 11th in career winning percentage at .671. And he was at his best on the biggest stage of all. Ruth pitched 29 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings in the World Series: a record that stood for 42 years. He was 3-0 in the World Series with a microscopic ERA of 0.87. According to CBS Sports, Ruth is one of the ten greatest World Series pitchers of all time. According to Game Score, Ruth's 14 innings of one-run ball in game two of the 1916 Fall Classic remains the single greatest start in World Series history by any pitcher, ever.

The New York Yankees are the most successful major league baseball team of all time. Who is the pitcher with the best won-lost percentage of any hurler with at least with 15 wins against the Yankees? Babe Ruth, who was 17-5 with a .773 winning percentage against the Yankees, while pitching for the Red Sox!

However, Babe Ruth was not the most versatile baseball superstar. That honor goes to Pete Rose, who was an all-star at five different positions: 2B, LF, RF, 3B and 1B. Rose also played CF, and was even a player-manager! And he was all-world at those five positions, making 17 all-star teams, earning two Gold Gloves, and appearing in the MVP rolls a remarkable 15 times.

Cap Anson is in the baseball hall of fame, and was the first player to tally 3,000 hits. But he was also a champion balkline billiards player and won a national title as part of a five-man bowling team. He was also an avid golfer.

Speaking of golf, Brooks Koepka, the winner of two consecutive U.S. Open golf championships, says his true love is baseball. He's the nephew of Dick Groat, an NL MVP and eight-time all-star for the Pittsburg Pirates. Groat is the only athlete to be elected to both the college baseball and basketball halls of fame. He was a two-time All-American at Duke, and the Helms national player of the year in 1952 after averaging 25.2 points per game. Groat played one season in the NBA, averaging 11.9 points per game, before deciding to concentrate on baseball.

Bo Jackson is the only athlete to be named an all-star in two major American sports: baseball and football. He also won the Heisman trophy and was named the greatest athlete of all time by ESPN. He was a two-time Alabama state champion in the decathlon, setting state high school records for indoor high-jump (6'9") and triple-jump (48'8"). Jackson's 221 yards on November 30, 1987, just 29 days after his first NFL carry, is still a Monday Night Football record. His NFL career rushing average of 5.40 yards per carry is third-best of all time, and better than Jim Brown's, Walter Payton's and Emmitt Smith's. Jackson was a very rare athlete: able to throw a football 60 years, run 4.2 in the 40-yard dash, and bench press over 400 pounds. Was he the greatest dual-sport athlete ever?

Or was Jim Brown the best multi-sport athlete of all time? He was named the best NFL player of all time by the Sporting News. He was also called the best lacrosse player in his day. And he averaged 38 points per game as a high school basketball player (his scoring record was later broken by another great multi-sport athlete, Carl Yastrzemski). 

Or was the best multi-sport athlete Jim Thorpe, who has also been called the world's greatest athlete? Thorpe excelled in baseball, football, basketball, track and field, lacrosse ... even ballroom dancing! A Native American, and a descendent of the legendary Chief Black Hawk, Thorpe was relegated to his tribe's reservation until he participated in athletics for the Carlisle Indian Industrial School (which competed in NCAA events). Thorpe led Carlisle to back-to-back National Championships in football, and was a three-time All-American. In a game against top-ranked Harvard, Thorpe scored all his team's points in an 18-15 upset, kicking four field goals! Thorpe also won the 1912 intercollegiate ballroom dancing championship. He won gold medals in the 1928 Olympic games for Pentathlon and Decathlon, with records that would not be bested for 36 years. Thorpe played professional football, professional baseball, and barnstormed as a professional basketball player. In his best major league baseball season, he hit .327 for Boston. He was named to the first All-NFL team, and even co-founded and served as the first president of the American Professional Football Association, which became the NFL. In 1950, the national press selected Jim Thorpe as the most outstanding athlete of the first half of the 20th Century. He was also named Athlete of the Century by ABC's Wide World of Sports. Among his amazing athletic accomplishments, he once high-jumped 5'9" in street clothes (heavy overalls), and kicked a wind-assisted 95-yard punt.

Who is the only player to hit a major league home run and score an NFL touchdown in the same week? "Neon" Deion Sanders hit a home run for the NY Yankees on September 5, 1989, then followed up four days later with a 68-yard touchdown return for the Atlanta Falcons. He's also the only person to play in the World Series and the Super Bowl.

Jackie Robinson was not just the first African-American to play major league baseball; he was a dynamic multi-sport athlete. In high school Robinson played shortstop and catcher on the baseball team, quarterback on the football team, and guard on the basketball team. With the track and field squad, he dominated the broad jump. He was also a member of the tennis team. In 1936, Robinson won the boys' singles championship in the annual Pacific Coast Negro Tennis Tournament. Robinson was UCLA's first athlete to play four varsity sports: baseball, basketball, football, and track. Robinson won the 1940 NCAA long jump title, jumping over 24 feet. Oddly enough, baseball was Robinson's worst sport at UCLA! Robinson played football semi-professionally before serving in WWII. During his 10 major league baseball seasons, Robinson excelled, making 6 all-star games and winning the 1949 NL MVP award.  

Forget what you've been told: Jackie Robinson wasn't the first black athlete to play major league baseball, or even the second! On July 15, 1884, Weldy Wilberforce Walker―also known as Welday Walker and W. W. Walker―became the second African American to play in the majors. So who was the first? None other than his brother, Moses Fleetwood Walker! Their father, Moses W. Walker, was a minister and one of Ohio's first black physicians. "Fleet" Walker became the first African American to play a varsity sport for the University of Michigan, where he starred on the baseball team. He then became the first African American player in the majors on May 1, 1884 (a few months before his younger brother joined him on the Toledo Blue Stockings, then a major league franchise). But apparently Cap Anson, then baseball's greatest superstar, refused to take the field against the Walkers, and they were forced out of the majors and soon thereafter the minors as well. Major league baseball would have an impregnable color barrier for more than half a century, until Jackie Robinson broke it for good on April 15, 1947.

But hold on, because the plot thickens! There is reason to believe that William Edward White may have predated Jackie Robinson by 68 years, and the Walker brothers by five. White played one game as substitute for the Providence Grays of the National League on June 21, 1879. According to research by SABR, he may have been born a slave in 1860, but having lighter skin was able to pass for white. If the research is correct, White was not only the first African American to play major league baseball, but the only former slave as well.
Danny Ainge is the only athlete in the history of the United States to be named a high school All-American in three sports: football, basketball and baseball.

John Elway starred at baseball and football. He was picked in the first round by the Yankees and hit .314 with a club-high 24 homers with the Yankees' single-A farm club. Elway was the first pick in the 1983 NFL draft and went on to a storied NFL career with two Super Bowl victories in his final two seasons.

Which Hall of Fame pitchers played basketball with the Harlem Globetrotters? Ferguson Jenkins and Bob Gibson.

Who is the only player to play on championship teams in both MLB and the NBA? Gene Conley with the 1957 Milwaukee Braves World Series Champs and 1959-61 Boston Celtics NBA Champs.

Chuck Connors, the actor best known as TV's the Rifleman, is one of 12 athletes to play in the NBA (Celtics) and MLB (Dodgers/Cubs). Conneos was also drafted by the NFL's Chicago Bears and is credited with being the first player to shatter an NBA backboard, in 1946.

Which major league baseball player scored 33 runs and stole 31 bases without ever making a plate appearance? Herb Washington, a former Michigan State All-American sprinter who played exclusively as a pinch runner for the Oakland A's in the 1970s.

Nicknamed the "Mechanical Man," Charlie Gehringer batted .300 or better 13 times, scored 100 runs or more 12 times and collected 200 hits seven times. Pitcher Lefty Gomez marveled at Gehringer's remarkable consistency, saying: "Charlie Gehringer is in a rut. He hits .350 on Opening Day and stays there all season."

A creature of habit, Wade Boggs would eat chicken before every game, take the exact same number of ground balls and run sprints at exactly the same time. That discipline served him well at the plate, as Boggs might have had the best batting eye the game has ever seen. As George Brett said in 1988 about Boggs: "A woman will be elected president before Wade Boggs is called out on strikes. I guarantee that."

New York Yankee Don Larsen, a mediocre 81-91 lifetime pitcher, pitched the only perfect game in World Series history on October 8, 1956. Oddly, Larsen's wife filed for divorce that same day.

From April 30, 1982 to September 19, 1990, Cal Ripken Jr. played 2,632 straight games, which means he didn't miss a single game in sixteen years.

How many times was Roger Maris intentionally walked the year he hit 61 homers? Answer: Zero. (Mickey Mantle hit behind him.)

Sammy Sosa broke Roger Maris' record of 61 home runs three times. How many of those years did he lead the league in home runs? Answer: Zero. (Mark McGwire hit more in 1998 and 1999, while Barry Bonds hit more in 2001.)

Fidel Castro was a star baseball player for the University of Havana.

During the Battle of the Bulge, Americans used their knowledge of baseball to determine whether soldiers were really Americans, or German infiltrators wearing American uniforms.

MLB made a rule during WWII, which said that in the event of an enemy bombing, whoever led after five innings would be declared the winner.

Baseball player Moe Berg (1902-1972) was a linguist. He used Latin rather than hand signals to communicate on the field. His knowledge of languages made him a useful spy after his baseball career ended.

On June 11 and 15, 1938, Johnny Vander Meer pitched back-to-back no-hitters for the Cincinnati Reds. The second no-no was pitched at Ebbets Field and was the first night game ever played there.

Johnny Bench, a Hall of Fame catcher, could hold seven baseballs in one hand.

On July 17, 1990, the Twins entered the history books when they turned the ultimate rally killer twice. Playing the Red Sox, the first triple-dip occurred in the bottom of the fourth inning, the second in the bottom of the eighth. Incredibly, the Twins still managed to lose the game. The next day, the Twins and Red Sox set more history: they combined for the most double plays ever, a game the Twins also managed to lose.

Babe Ruth wore a wet cabbage leaf under his cap during games, to keep cool. He would change it for a new one every two innings.

A teenage girl named Jackie Mitchell rocked baseball in the 1930s. Mitchell was one of the first female baseball players. Her father began teaching her to play baseball as soon as she could hold a ball. She was neighbors with Hall of Fame pitcher Dazzy Vance, who taught her what became her signature pitch: a devastating sinker. When she was 17, she began touring with different teams. At one point she struck out nine batters in a row. Joe Engle spotted her in 1931 and signed her to a contract to play for the Chattanooga Lookouts, a AA club. It was with this team that she faced the Sultan of Swat, Babe Ruth himself. She struck him out on three swinging strikes. Lou Gehrig came up next, and struck out on three consecutive sinkers. But she ruffled too many male feathers, her contract was voided, and she wasn't allowed to play ball with the boys anymore.

Late in the 1957 season, the Dodgers were getting ready to move out west (unknown to their fans), and the Cubs were going nowhere (as usual). Both teams decided they needed some new blood down on the farm and traded their entire 25-man rosters. If it wasn't the strangest trade ever, it was certainly the biggest!

Joel Youngblood was a center fielder for the Mets; in 1982, they were playing the Cubs in Chicago, Youngblood struck out his first at-bat but knocked a single his next. After the Cubbies had retired the Mets in the top of the inning, Youngblood was informed that he had been traded to the Expos. He arrived in Philadelphia, where the Expos were playing the Phillies, mid-way through the game. Coming in as a pinch hitter, Youngblood recorded his second hit of a very long day!

The Yankees, Cubs, Angels and Dodgers are the only four MLB teams that lack a mascot. The Yankees used to have one, but he quit after being beaten up by fans.

Jason Varitek is the only person to have played in the Little League World Series, the National Championship of the College World Series, the MLB World Series, Olympic Baseball, and the World Baseball Classic. He also caught a record four no-hitters during his career.

MLB umpires are required to wear black underwear, in case they split their pants.

In 1962 the New York Mets traded for Harry Chiti in exchange for a player to be named later. That player ended up being Harry Chiti. Thus Chiti was traded for himself!

In the third inning of his May 10, 2013 start against the Padres, Alex Cobb faced four hitters, struck out all four and still gave up a run (WP, SB, SB, balk).

In 1930 when asked how he felt about holding out for a salary higher than President Herbert Hoover's, Babe Ruth laconically replied, "Why not, I had a better year than he did."

On the other hand, the worst professional season of all time undoubtedly belonged to the 1899 Cleveland Spiders, who went 20-134 and finished last in the NL, 84 games behind the pennant winner, Brooklyn. The Spiders averaged 145 paying fans per game, lost 40 of their last 41 games, and folded forever at the end of the season. Their pitching staff gave up more than eight runs per game.

"Marvelous Marv" Throneberry was the worst player on the worst team of all time. Playing for the 120-loss Mets in 1962, Throneberry set a record for lowest fielding percentage by a first baseman (.981). He once hit a triple, but was called out after missing both first and second base. Like Bob Uecker, Throneberry turned ineptitude into glory, with the help of Miller Lite commercials. "If I do for Lite what I did for baseball," he said, "I'm afraid their sales will go down." Jimmy Breslin agreed. He once wrote that "Having Marv Throneberry play for your team is like having Willie Sutton work for your bank."

Mets manager Casey Stengel once told Throneberry: "We was going to get you a birthday cake, but we figured you'd drop it."

Almost as amusing as Marv Throneberry was catcher Choo Choo Coleman, a career .197 hitter. Stengel didn't think too highly of Coleman, explaining how he kept his job: "You have to have a catcher or you'll have all passed balls."

Butch Hobson committed a whopping 43 errors at the hot corner in 1978, finishing the season with an .899 fielding percentage, the lowest for a full-time player in the modern era. But at least Hobson was consistent, as his career fielding percentage wasn't much better, at .927. But let's be fair. Hobson, a former safety and backup quarterback at Alabama under legendary coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, was suffering with bone chips in his right elbow that he sometimes had to "rearrange" between plays!

Bob Kammeyer gave up only eight runs pitching for the Yankees in 1979. Unfortunately, he never recorded an out, and ended the season with an earned run average of infinity. (Infinity being only slightly worse than his 1978 ERA of 5.82.)

In May of 1912, a man named Claude Lueker, who had no hands, heckled Ty Cobb by calling the Georgia Peach—an infamous bigot—"half a nigger." Cobb entered the stands and slugged Lueker repeatedly, ignoring the pleas of fans for him to stop beating up a man with no hands. When Cobb was suspended for the assault, his teammates went on strike until Cobb was reinstated. To avoid paying hefty fines and forfeiting the next game, the Tigers had to find replacement players. Aloysius Travers was one of those replacements: a violist and college student, the priest-in-training was assistant manager of the St. Joseph's College baseball team. In his one major league appearance, Travers pitched a complete game, allowing 26 hits and 24 runs (but only 14 were earned).

Bill Bergen was an excellent defensive catcher—perhaps the best of his day. Unfortunately, Bergen has the lowest career batting average of any player with at least 2,500 at bats. He hit .170 with two career home runs.

Tony Suck sucked long before the word "suck" came to mean what it does today. Suck's offense sucked; he had a career on-base percentage of .205, a slugging percentage of .161, and zero home runs. Incredibly, his defense was worse. Suck's fielding percentage was .894 behind the plate, .783 in the outfield, and .754 at shortstop.

Rabbit Maranville was famously fast (hence the nickname Rabbit). But the hall-of-famer was not a particularly effective hitter or base stealer. His career OPS+ was 82. He stole 291 bases and was caught 112 times, and that's with 14 years  of  caught-stealing numbers missing!

In 1972, Mike Kekich and his teammate Fritz Peterson traded families. They swapped wives, children, dogs and houses!

2019 World Series Weirdness

The 2019 World Series was wonderfully weird and wacky. Move over, Miracle Mets, an even bigger underdog just had its day! The Washington Nationals, an expansion team that had never won a World Series, lost superstar slugger Bryce Harper to free agency before the 2019 season commenced. The team then stumbled out of the gates with the worst 50-game record of any championship team, a dismal 19-31. At that point their chances of winning the World Series were 1.5 percent. Conversely, the heavily favored Houston Astros, with three Cy Young winners backed by one of the most powerful offenses of all time, were only the sixth team in MLB history to win 100+ games for three consecutive seasons.

The Nats were the unlikeliest of champions. Should we call them the Gnats? Their 5.68 reliever ERA was the worst of any World Series winner. Perhaps due to the stress created by such an implosive bullpen, manager Dave Martinez had a heart procedure during the season and needed a cardiologist to watch over him in the dugout when he returned. When his doctors asked him to take a stress test, Martinez responded: "Are you kidding me? I'm getting one every night!" Things got worse in the World Series, as relievers other than Patrick Corbin, a starter, had a combined ERA north of six. The cardiologist had to be summoned during game six, when Martinez became short of breath after exploding when Trea Turner was called out for basepath interference.

The Nats faced an elimination game in each postseason series, and trailed in all five elimination games they played. In those near-death experiences they faced Josh Hader, Rich Hill and three Cy Young winners in Clayton Kershaw, Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke. But somehow the Gnats managed to defy the odds and win all five.

Because the Gnats were underdogs, their opponents had home field advantage, which they overcame by winning eight consecutive postseason road games. They lost all three home games during the World Series, but won all four road games, making it the first time in the 115-year history of the World Series that the road team won every game. The Gnats were the first team to win four road games in a single World Series. They scored 30 runs in four road games, but only three runs in three home games. In fact, they suffered the worst three-game home sweep in World Series history, according to run differential, and never held a lead in any inning. That left them to face two Cy Young winners pitching at home, with the dominating Gerrit Cole lurking in the background, ready to slam the door shut in the closing innings. Verlander and Greinke were the two winningest active pitchers and Cole was having one of the best postseason pitching runs of all time. It was like Mighty Casey versus the Rugrats. Or perhaps the Rugrats' fleas.

Max Scherzer was unable to lift his arm above his shoulder before game five of the World Series and had to wear a neck brace, but came back to start game seven. However, he wasn't his usual dominating self and one of the all-time great strikeout pitchers faced 16 hitters before recording his first whiff. Scherzer was outpitched and out-K'd by velocity-challenged Zack Greinke, who threw some 65-mph curves but gave up only one hit the first seven innings. For most of the game the Gnats' offense consisted primarily of tapping the ball weakly back to Greinke, a five-time Gold Glove winner who fielded his position flawlessly. Scherzer gave up the first homer off his slider in over a year and only survived by stranding nine runners. However the Comeback Kids came back yet again, scoring six runs in the last three innings to win the final game 6-2. But Howie Kendrick's game-winning homer almost didn't happen. The barely-long-enough fly ball was curling foul ... until it dinged the foul pole, making it fair! In a season of squeakers, it was the ultimate squeak of the mice that roared.

Kendrick was a 36-year-old career journeyman who was only playing because it was a road game with the DH. Daniel Hudson, who closed out the ninth, had been released by the pitching-poor Angels. Trea Turner was playing with nine fingers. Scherzer was running on fumes. Only two Washington hitters — Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto — could be considered legitimate stars. It truly was an upset for the ages. Perhaps we should call them the Miracle Gnats!

KING for a DAY?

Stephen Strasburg became baseball's highest-paid player on December 9, 2019 when he inked a seven-year contract for $245 million with the Washington Nationals. That's a cool $35 million per year, but it turned out to be relatively cheap. The very next day, Gerrit Cole signed a $324 million deal with the New York Yankees for nine years, or $36 million per year. Apparently, Cole and his agent wanted to make sure he was the highest-paid player and thus waited for Strasburg to sign first.

Related Pages: Weird Sports Trivia, Baseball Timeline, All-Time Cincinnati Reds Baseball Team, The Greatest Baseball Infields of All Time, Cincinnati Reds Trivia, 1976 Reds Virtual Trades, Is Mike Trout the GOAT?, Best Baseball Nicknames, Mike Trout Nicknames, Weird Baseball Facts and Trivia, Baseball Hall of Fame: The Best Candidates, Why Pete Rose Should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame, Big Red Machine Chronology, Baseball's All-Time Leaders in WAR per Season, Baseball's 100 WAR Leaders, Baseball's All-Time Leaders in WAR7, Who is the NBA GOAT?, NBA All-Time PPG Leaders, NBA Greatest Scorers, The Best Tennessee Vols Basketball Teams and Players of All Time

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