Before we start, I have a confession to make. My baseball trivia quizzes are too hard. Even I think they’re brutal. I went back through last year’s quiz the other day and couldn’t get more than half of them.
But that’s the point. The quiz isn’t meant to comfort, but to challenge. It’s not meant to be easy. I don’t carry the Red Sox career doubles list around on the top of my head (David Ortiz recently passed Wade Boggs for fourth, he now has 426, by the way). I do get help from the outside on occasion.
Putting the quiz together takes time. Half the fun is sifting through the old record books, trying to come up with interesting facts and creative ways to connect players over the decades. I hope it’s an instructive exercise, one that deepens a fan’s fascination with baseball’s infinite mathematical wonders.
They’re only numbers, but they record and reflect the game’s essential athletic beauty. When a baseball lover sees certain statistics, he doesn’t see only numbers; he sees a player’s slow, steady devotion to his craft, his daily commitment to a hard, unforgiving game.
When I see Derek Jeter’s stat line, I see the player as well. I gain a renewed admiration for his dignity and consistency as a player and a man. He never seemed to lose a sense of how lucky he was to be a big-leaguer, and how people watching him would give anything to be in his place.
So my 24th annual trivia quiz is dedicated to Jeter, who will retire at the end of the season. He’ll leave behind the example of a near-perfect ballplayer. It’s also a comfort to know that he’ll provide an unending trove of trivia material for the future.
Masahiro Tanaka looks like a solid candidate for American League rookie of the year. He would be the first Yankee to win the award since Jeter in 1996. Jeter received all 28 first-place votes that year. How long would it take you to recall that James Baldwin, a White Sox pitcher, finished second?
Jeter turned 40 on June 26. He stands ninth on the all-time hit list with 3,397. He has the most hits of any player born after World War II. By the end of the season, he should pass Red Sox legend Carl Yastrzemski, Honus Wagner and Cap Anson and retire as No. 6 on the hit parade.
Jeter is 11th all-time in runs scored (1,904) and closing in on the Top 10. Alex Rodriguez, who is still listed as an active player, is 10th in runs. Now what Yankee fan wouldn’t love to see Jeter pass A-Rod in career runs?
Anyway, it’s time for the annual quiz. To quote a former hockey GM, there will be suffering. It’s my 24th quiz, which means I was in Buffalo for a year before I came up with the idea. Next year’s will be the Silver Anniversary quiz. Now that promises to be a doozy.
There are 60 possible answers. Remember when 60 homers was a record? Anything over 30 right answers is good. As usual, all questions involve stats accumulated after 1900:
1. A Yankee question for the starter. There were eight players on the 1996 Yankees who have at least 250 career home runs and 1,000 RBIs. In fact, all eight have between 250 and 350 career dingers.
2. Back to those ‘96 world champion Yankees. In addition to the eight guys with 250 homers, there are two OTHER players who finished their career with 1,500 runs scored.
3. He was the winning pitcher in Game Six of the 1986 World Series (the Buckner game). He was also the winning pitcher in Game Six of the 1991 World Series when Kirby Puckett hit his walkoff homer. He finished his career with 86 wins and 318 saves.
4. Who is the only active player in the Top 10 in career World Series home runs?
5. Name the five switch-hitters who have accumulated 100 triples, 100 homers and 100 stolen bases. OK, two are active.
6. Name the five active pitchers with 150 career wins. This tells you how unlikely it is that anyone will win 300 again. One of them got there in the last month.
7. Alphabet trivia time! You know you love it. Seven players whose last name begins with “G” have 150 career saves. Some easy ones here.
8. Who is the only player ever to hit 30 home runs in a season and not hit 100 for his career? George Kunz tipped me off to this one.
9. Over the last 50 years, four Dodger lefthanders have thrown no-hitters. Sandy Koufax, Fernando Valenzuela and Clayton Kershaw are three. Who was the fourth?
10. Now that Mariano Rivera is retired, this reliever is the oldest active pitcher in the game at 41. He’s among the NL leaders in saves. He was the opposing pitcher in David Wells’ perfect game in 1998. He later played for the Yankees and wore No. 21 — Paul O’Neill’s old number — until the unmerciful booing of fans made him change it. Who is he?
11. Only two catchers in history have had 100 runs scored, 100 RBIs and 100 walks in a season. One played in the 1930s. The other did it in 1979 — and became more renowned for checking himself into drug rehab after the season.
12. Who was the first pitcher to start and win a World Series clincher for two different teams?
13. Who was the last player to lead the National League in home runs three years in a row?
14. More alphabet trivia: There are five players with the last name beginning with “D” who have 350 home runs. Name them.
15. Between July of 2009 and August of 2012, six pitchers threw a perfect game. Name the pitchers. For an easy bonus point, name the team that was victimized in three of the perfectos.
16. He’s closing in on 2,000 games without appearing in the postseason, the longest drought in the big leagues. He’s also the active leader in striking out. This one courtesy of bartending icon Jack Gray.
17. Over the past 50 years, only three players have walked 120 times in a season and not hit at least 10 home runs. Name the players and their teams.
18. Who are the only two players in history with 250 home runs, 400 stolen bases, 1,400 walks, 1,400 runs and 1,300 RBIs?
19. Name the five players who hit 200 home runs for two different franchises. Only one played before 1980.
20. In 2007, he led the National League in batting (.340), hits (216), doubles (50) and RBIs (137), but finished second in the MVP voting in one of the closest votes in history. Name the player and the guy who won MVP.