Baseball quiz: They’re more than just numbers

Just as Harwell told Hughes, the Quizmaster tries to turn stats into stories. So give these a read.

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San Francisco Giants v Chicago Cubs

Pat Hughes throws out a ceremonial first pitch before a Cubs game Sept. 10 at Wrigley Field.

Quinn Harris/Getty Images

I spend a lot of time looking at baseball stats. I have ever since I was a little kid, when I would read the backs of baseball cards. I love the quirks, coincidences and moments of symmetry that can be found. Regular quiz readers know how much I love when the answer to a question is “The same.” I fit the description of the great baseball columnist and sportswriter Arthur Daley, who wrote, “A baseball fan has the digestive apparatus of a billy goat. He can, and does, devour any set of statistics with an insatiable appetite and then nuzzles hungrily for more.”

But more interesting to me are the people and events associated with the numbers. Pat Hughes said, “I try not to kill a broadcast with too many stats. [Late Tigers Hall of Famer] Ernie Harwell told me one time, when you use a statistic, try to tell a story with it.” Following that wisdom, each week in the quiz, I try to cram as many backstories as I can into my Q&A (thank you, Tracey) so that you can remember the numbers and share them with friends and family. That’s today’s backstory. Now, have fun and learn a lot.

1. Congratulations to Cubs announcer Pat Hughes, who has been selected as the 2023 recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award, presented annually for excellence in broadcasting by the Hall of Fame. Hughes, who has called Cubs games since 1996, joins Jack Brickhouse (1983) and Harry Caray (1989) as Cubs announcers to win the award. In Hughes’ illustrious career, he has called many great events, including which of the following?

a. Eight no-hitters.

b. The 25-inning White Sox-Brewers game in 1984.

c. Kerry Wood’s 20-strikeout game in 1998.

d. All of the above.

2. The White Sox hit 149 homers last season, the same as which other team?

a. Rockies

b. Marlins

c. Red Sox

d. Padres

3. Yankees superstar Aaron Judge certainly should thank Chicago for its role in his huge new contract. In 23 games against the White Sox, Judge has hit .382 with 10 homers and 26 RBI. In six games against the Cubs, he has hit .346 with two homers and four RBI. Here are five players who at one point played in Chicago. Did they finish their careers with more or less than Judge’s current 220 homers?

a. Joe Pepitone, who briefly played for the Cubs.

b. Johnny Callison, who played for the Cubs and the White Sox.

c. Todd Frazier, who played 1¹⁄2 seasons with the White Sox.

d. Benito Santiago, who played one season with the Cubs.

e. Nomar Garciaparra, who briefly played for the Cubs.

4. Jacob deGrom landed a huge contract to pitch for the Rangers, but no thanks to the Cubs. DeGrom has a lifetime 2.52 ERA, but a 3.26 ERA against the Cubs. DeGrom went 2-4 in 11 starts against the Cubs, and the Mets were 3-8 in those games. He did strike out 80 Cubs in 66.1 innings. Which Cub do you think struck out the most against deGrom?

a. Javy Baez

b. Kris Bryant

c. Kyle Schwarber

d. Anthony Rizzo

5. Greg L., a self-described duffer, wrote to me and reminded me about the pitcher Bill Faul, one of baseball’s more interesting characters. Faul pitched in the majors in 1962-66, spending 1965-66 with the Cubs. He then went back to the minors and returned to the majors in 1970 for seven games with the Giants. Which of these items about Faul are true?

a. He used self-hypnosis to pitch while in a trance.

b. He ate live frogs to give his fastball “more hop.”

c. The Cubs turned three triple plays behind him in one season.

d. They are all true.

6. James A. suggested a question about 1951, one of the great years in baseball history. Bobby Thomson’s homer to win the pennant for the Giants immediately comes to mind. Mickey Mantle’s debut was certainly memorable. That season, the White Sox finished fourth, and the Cubs finished eighth (out of eight teams). To give you some perspective on how long ago this was, tell me: Which of the following was the top holiday gift for kids in 1951?

a. Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head

b. Colorforms

c. Scrabble

d. Silly Putty

7. Barbara S. asked me to consider April 12, 1969, when Joey Heatherton (daughter of “The Merry Mailman”) married Dallas Cowboys receiver Lance Rentzel. On that date, the White Sox lost to the Seattle Pilots 5-1 in Sick’s Stadium. The Pilots are no more. What team did they become?

a. Texas Rangers

b. Minnesota Twins

c. Seattle Mariners

d. Milwaukee Brewers

8. It feels like we spent a lot of time saying goodbye to Willson Contreras. When the Cardinals come to Wrigley on May 8-10, I hope that those in attendance show Contreras their appreciation for his days as a Cub. Now put these former Cubs catchers in order of the number of homers they hit:

a. Willson Contreras

b. Gabby Hartnett

c. Jody Davis

d. Randy Hundley

9. Here’s our musical question of the week: In 1972, the No. 1 song on the Billboard 100 was “Me and Mrs. Jones” (you know, “We got a thing going on”). It was sung by an artist whose name combines two of the first or last names from the following list of players who played for Chicago in 1972. Who was that singer?

a. Billy Williams

b. Dick Allen

c. Pat Kelly

d. Paul Popovich

UNABASHED PLUG: Don’t forget, “In Scoring Position,” published by Triumph Books, is a great holiday gift for the baseball fan in your life.

ANSWERS

1. Pat called all of those games. I tried to trick you with the 25-inning game, which was the longest in American League history. After spending 1983 with the Twins, he was with the Brewers from 1984 to ’95.

2. The White Sox and Rockies ranked 22nd in homers hit last season.

3. Joe Pepitone hit 219 homers, Johnny Callison 226, Todd Frazier 218, Benito Santiago 217 and Nomar Garciaparra 229.

4. Javy Baez went 3-15 against Jacob deGrom, striking out nine times, the most of any Cub. Anthony Rizzo whiffed only three times and hit .429 (9-for-21).

5. Yes, they are all true. In 1965, on July 14, July 25 and Oct. 3, the Cubs pulled off triple plays, all with Faul on the hill. You’ll have to take my word for the other two.

6. Two art students liked to experiment with art but wanted to avoid the high cost of paint. In 1951, they turned their attention to a relatively new medium: colorful vinyl. Soon enough, they had created Colorforms, which could cling to smooth surfaces and be reused countless times. That year, a box cost 25 cents.

7. The Seattle Pilots were one of four expansion franchises that first played in 1969 and are best known for being the subject of Jim Bouton’s brilliant book “Ball Four.” The next spring, the Pilots were bankrupt and sold. They moved for the 1970 season and became the Milwaukee Brewers.

8. Gabby hit 231 homers, Jody 122, Willson 117 and Randy 80. BTW: Gabby was born Charles Leo Hartnett on Dec. 20, 1900, and was the eldest of 14 children. In view of his awkward shyness, teammates and the press dubbed him “Gabby.”

9. Take Billy Williams and combine him with Paul Popovich, and you have Billy Paul, who had changed his name from Paul Williams to avoid confusion with artists such as songwriter Paul Williams and saxophonist Paul “Hucklebuck” Williams.

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Such heights they’ve reached. Such shared glory. And their unlikely story only gets better.