Today’s headline was brought to you by the innovative mind of comedian Steven Wright. He’s the guy who also said, “I kept a diary right after I was born. Day 1: Tired from the move. Day 2: Everyone thinks I’m an idiot.” He also asked, “How young can you die of old age?” Oh, and he told us, “I remember when the candle shop burned down. Everyone stood around singing ‘Happy Birthday.’ ”
Well, you might have figured out that my theme is not about the brilliant Mr. Wright, but about birthdays
(although the Red Sox had a pitcher named Steven Wright) and aging. A couple of weeks ago, I celebrated my birthday. Getting older is not something that bothers me. It is indeed better than the alternative. Adding another year to my résumé just simply widens the gap between my chronological age and my level of maturity. So, now let’s see if I can find nine questions for you on age and birthdays without taking a nap while I’m writing them.
1. In baseball’s first Hall of Fame class, made public on Feb. 2, 1936, Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Honus Wagner and Babe Ruth were named as five of the finest players since 1900. Who was the oldest and who was the youngest of the five at the time of this announcement?
2. Here’s a great tweet from Dan Clark: “On Aug. 29, 2001, Serena Williams wins at U.S. Open, Albert Pujols hits a HR and Vlad Guerrero Sr., Craig Biggio and Dante Bichette all record a hit. On Aug. 29, 2022, Serena Williams wins at U.S. Open, Albert Pujols hits a HR and Vlad Guerrero Jr., Cavan Biggio and Bo Bichette all record a hit.” Who is older, Serena Williams or Albert Pujols?
3. Since 1901, who is the oldest batter to homer while wearing a Chicago uniform?
a. Charlie Root b. Ernie Banks c. Carlton Fisk d. Omar Vizquel
4. Jan. 31 is a great baseball birthday date, and not just because Tommy La Stella was born on that date. Which of these Hall of Famers was not born on that date?
a. Ernie Banks
b. Nolan Ryan
c. Jackie Robinson
d. Hank Greenberg
5. Since 1901, who is the oldest Chicago pitcher to win 20-plus games in a season?
a. Grover Cleveland “Pete” Alexander
b. Mordecai Peter Centennial “Three Finger” Brown
c. Early “Gus” Wynn
d. Eddie “Knuckles” Cicotte
6. Three of the four players listed had four hits on their birthday while playing for Chicago. Who was the one who celebrated his birthday with five hits?
a. Mike Kreevich
b. Mike Caruso
c. Mike Fontenot
d. Brant Brown
7. Ichiro Suzuki, Nomar Garciaparra, Bartolo Colon, Todd Walker and Todd Hollinsworth were all born in the same year. What year?
a. 1970 b. 1971 c. 1972
d. 1973 e. 1974
8. Frank Thomas was born on May 27, 1968, the exact same day as what other Hall of Famer?
a. Trevor Hoffman
b. Jeff Bagwell
c. Greg Maddux
d. John Smoltz
9. Today is the birthday of some great players. Your job is to determine which of the following were born on Sept. 10.
a. Randy Johnson
b. Joey Votto
c. Roger Maris
d. Paul Goldschmidt
e. All of them
f. None of them
Thank you to all of you for your kind emails and your attention to my weekly fun. I hope you learned something, had a few laughs and appreciated some oldies but goodies. I close with a terrific tweet from Bill Simmons, who wrote: “I’ve been following sports my whole life and one thing never changed — the aging near-the-end superstar improbably thriving one more time is still the greatest thing to watch.”
1. Honus Wagner was the oldest, born on Feb. 24, 1874. Babe Ruth was the youngest, born on Feb. 6, 1895. Christy Mathewson was born on Aug. 12, 1880. Walter Johnson was born on Nov. 6, 1887. Ty Cobb was born on Dec. 18, 1886.
2. Serena was born on Sept. 26, 1981 (age 40), and Albert was born on Jan. 16, 1980 (age 42).
3. When Pudge Fisk homered in his first game of the season for the Sox on April 7, 1993, he was 44. Charlie Root was the oldest to homer for the Cubs. He was a 42-year-old kid when he homered on July 16, 1941. Root, a pitcher, was famous for giving up Babe Ruth’s “called shot” in the 1932 World Series.
4. Hank Greenberg was born on New Year’s Day 1911, and the other three were born Jan. 31.
5. I loved the names of these guys. It was Early Wynn, who, late in his career, won 22 games for the White Sox in 1959 at the age of 39. He led the American League in wins and also in innings, throwing 255 2/3.
6. The three Mikes had four hits apiece. Brant Brown of the Cubs celebrated his 25th birthday with five hits on June 22, 1996. He went 5-for-9 as the Cubs beat the Padres 9-6 in 16 innings.’
7. They were all born in 1973, and they will all be 50 next year (hopefully).
8. If I were writing a quiz for the Houston Chronicle, the question would read: “Jeff Bagwell was born on May 27, 1968, the exact same day as what other Hall of Famer?”
9. They all were, and they all make and made baseball magical.