Batter Up! Test Your Knowledge of America’s Favorite Pastime

Batter Up! Test Your Knowledge of America’s Favorite Pastime

It’s that time of year…daffodils blooming, allergies ramping up, freak snowstorms reminding Colorado that winter doesn’t die easily…call it what you like, spring is definitely in the air. And in the United States, spring means baseball!

However, due to a peculiar quirk of fate, spring also means April Fool’s Day. So, in honor of both, today’s blog will feature a stunning list of 20 quirky baseball facts…only some of which are actually true. So, test your knowledge of America’s , and see if you can tell fact from fiction in today’s Weird & Occasionally True Baseball Fact Showcase:

True or False?

The widely-known “fact” that in 1839 General Abner Doubleday invented baseball in Cooperstown, NY is actually a myth. The Doubleday story was part of a marketing ploy launched by sporting goods manufacturer Al Spalding to make baseball sound more patriotically American.

During WWII, the U.S. military designed an experimental hand grenade to be roughly the size, weight, and shape of a baseball, so that “any young American man should be able to properly throw it.”

The infamous Depression Era gangster John Dillinger (best known for holding up 24 banks, robbing 4 police stations, and escaping from jail…twice) briefly played professional baseball before turning to a life of crime.

Ironically, the MLB game with the greatest number of extra innings still ended in a draw.

In 1952, rising Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Mario Cuomo was struck in the head by a baseball. The resulting concussion persuaded him to drop out of baseball in favor of politics, a career that eventually made him famous as the hard-headed governor of New York.

The Albuquerque Isotopes, a minor league baseball team based in Albuquerque, New Mexico was actually named after The Simpson’s fictional baseball team, the “Springfield Isotopes.”.

Beloved slugger Babe Ruth played for 22 seasons, between 1914 and 1935; All Star Hank Aaron played for 23 seasons, between 1954 and 1976. Oddly, both men had an identical number of career runs: 2,174.

Before the start of every season, each MLB baseball is given a spring facial in Lena Blackburn Baseball Rubbing Mud, extracted from a mudhole near Palmyra, New Jersey, whose exact location has been a secret since 1938.

In spite of his lifelong hostility towards everything that America represents, Fidel Castro was actually a star player on the University of Havana’s baseball team.

Valuing superstition over science, a disturbing number of professional major league baseball players have been known to pee on their own hands in order to “toughen” their grip.

In 1976, Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher George “Doc” Medich ran off the field to perform CPR on a fan who was undergoing a heart attack. And he did the same thing again in 1978, while playing for the Texas Rangers.

In 1931, female pitcher Virne “Jackie” Mitchell played an exhibition game with the AA Chattanooga Lookouts against the New York Yankees; during the game, she struck out both Babe Ruth and Lou Gherig.

Baseball cards have been a thing since the late 1860s, but by the 1880s, the majority of baseball cards were produced by tobacconists, since the cards were both promotional and practical (serving as an extra layer of insulation for the cigarettes).

At present, the two largest publicly accessible collections of baseball cards are both located in New York: at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

According to the official rules of the MLB, all umpires are required to wear black underwear.

In 1999, Bobby Valentine (manager for the New York Mets) was ejected for disputing a call by the home plate umpire. Furious, Valentine returned to the clubhouse, changed his clothes, put on a fake moustache, and snuck back into the dugout.

In 2006, Tigers powerhouse pitcher Joel Zumaya missed three games because he injured himself playing Guitar Hero. When the Xbox 360 version of Guitar Hero II was released, the credits included the line: “No pitchers were harmed in the making of this game. Except for one. Joel Zumaya. He had it coming.”

Over the course of his career, 12-time Silver Slugger Barry Bonds has “walked” for a total distance of roughly 43.5 miles.

According to astrophysicist (and baseball fan) Neil deGrasse Tyson, it would be impossible to throw a curve ball on Mars.

In 1968, the then-manager of the San Francisco Giants, Alvin Dark complained to reporters that his star pitcher Gaylord Perry was such a terrible batter that: “they’ll put a man on the moon before Gaylord Perry hits a home run.” In fact, Perry did manage his first MLB home run that next year—on the 20th of July 1969—less than an hour after Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon.

Want to know how you scored? Read on!

1. The widely-known “fact” that in 1839 General Abner Doubleday invented baseball in Cooperstown, NY is actually a myth. The Doubleday story was part of a marketing ploy launched by sporting goods manufacturer Al Spalding to make baseball sound more patriotically American.

“official” origins of baseball

[True: And effective. Thanks to Spalding’s 1907 campaign to establish the “official” origins of baseball, lots of people “know” that Abnder Doubleday invented baseball—but the actual origins are murkier. Historians now point to the fact that people have been playing ball and stick games with varying rules for thousands of years, and several American groups contributed to the standardization of rules that resulted in modern baseball.]

2. During WWII, the U.S. military designed an experimental hand grenade to be roughly the size, weight, and shape of a baseball, so that “any young American man should be able to properly throw it.”

WWII, the U.S. military designed an experimental hand grenade to be roughly the size, weight, and shape of a baseball

[True: the BEANO T-13 hand grenade was developed towards the end of WWII. It was approved for field use, and issued in experimental quantities during the Normandy invasion, but faulty timing mechanisms meant that this all-American weapon injured more friendly troops than hostile ones. It was so unsuccessful, in fact, that the OSS (predecessor to the CIA) ordered all of the grenades to be recalled and destroyed.]

3. The infamous Depression Era gangster John Dillinger (best known for holding up 24 banks, robbing 4 police stations, and escaping from jail…twice) briefly played professional baseball before turning to a life of crime.

 Depression Era gangster John Dillinger (best known for holding up 24 banks, robbing 4 police stations

[True: After deserting from the military, Dillinger briefly tried to make an honest living, and he was most successful as a cash-for-play shortstop for the Martinsville Athletics, who leveraged his batting skills to take the 1924 league championship. When the season ended, though, a cash-strapped Dillinger asked league umpire Edgar Singleton to help him set up his first armed robbery. The robbery didn’t go well, and Dillinger became the star player of the Indiana State Reformatory ball club before embarking on a second (far more horrific and successful) round of criminal adventures.

[Bonus Factoid: another John Dillinger played minor-league baseball for 11 seasons between 1994-2005 and became known as one of the first professional baseball players to come out of the closet immediately after his retirement.]

4. Ironically, the MLB game with the greatest number of extra innings still ended in a draw.

[True: In 1920, an afternoon match between the Boston Braves and the Brooklyn Dodgers lasted for 26 innings, and had to be called as a 1-1 draw, because evening was fast approaching, stadium lighting hadn’t yet been invented, and the players could no longer see the ball clearly. Ouch!]

5. In 1952, rising Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Mario Cuomo was struck in the head by a baseball. The resulting concussion persuaded him to drop out of baseball in favor of politics, a career that eventually made him famous as the hard-headed governor of New York.

 Mario Cuomo was struck in the head by a baseball

[True: There’s nothing quite like a good concussion to prepare the brain for a successful career in politics.]

6. The Albuquerque Isotopes, a minor league baseball team based in Albuquerque, New Mexico was actually named after The Simpson’s fictional baseball team, the “Springfield Isotopes.”

Albuquerque Isotopes, a minor league baseball team based in Albuquerque, New Mexico was actually named after The Simpson’s

[True!: It was an odd sequence of events. 1. The Albuquerque Dukes left for Portland in 2000, and the local Albuquerque stadium was briefly deserted. 2. In 2001, the storyline of a Simpson’s episode titled “Hungry, Hungry Homer” described the Springfield Isotopes’ decision to move to Albuquerque, and Homer Simpson’s subsequent (inevitably unsuccessful) hunger strike. Ha, ha. That wacky Matt Groening. 3. In 2002, the Calgary Cannons agreed to move to Albuquerque, on condition that the stadium undergo a $25million renovation before their arrival for the 2003 season. 4. In anticipation of this move, the Albuquerque Journal asked readers to vote for a new baseball team name. 5. The overwhelming majority (62%) of Albuquerque newspaper readers (who apparently watch television in their off hours) chose “The Albuquerque Isotopes.” 6. The team owners liked it, and adopted the name, partly as a nod to the Simpsons, partly as a concession to the fans, and lastly a as nod to the actual New Mexico nuclear laboratories (who were responsible for developing the first nuclear bomb). In tribute to the team’s cartoon origins, sculptures of Homer, Bart, Lisa, and Marge were purchased for display in the new Isotopes Park.]

7. Beloved slugger Babe Ruth played for 22 seasons, between 1914 and 1935; All Star Hank Aaron played for 23 seasons, between 1954 and 1976. Oddly, both men had an identical number of career runs: 2,174.

[True: “You just can’t beat the person who never gives up.”—Babe Ruth]

8. Before the start of every season, each MLB baseball is given a spring facial in Lena Blackburn Baseball Rubbing Mud, extracted from a mudhole near Palmyra, New Jersey, whose exact location has been a secret since 1938.

[True: untreated baseballs are too shiny and slick for professional play, so early teams rubbed the balls with a combination of dirt and water. In 1938, an umpire complained to a Philadelphia Athletics third-base coach that the treated balls were in shabby condition and subject to tampering. The coach, Lena Blackburne, was struck by the idea and systematically studied mud up and down the Delaware River until he found the sweet spot—a mudhole with the right texture and consistency to roughen up a baseball without softening the cover, blackening the cover, or causing the baseball to smell like a bog hole in the summer sun. And baseball changed forever.]

9. In spite of his lifelong hostility towards everything that America represents, Fidel Castro was actually a star player on the University of Havana’s baseball team.

Fidel Castro was actually a star player on the University of Havana’s

[True: You just can’t make this stuff up.]

10. Valuing superstition over science, a disturbing number of professional major league baseball players have been known to pee on their own hands in order to “toughen” their grip.

[True: And apparently it does affect the skin, but urine is actually more likely to soften then hands than to toughen them. Urea (a critical component of urine) is still used in some major brands of commercial skin moistures. But perhaps the success of this practice lies less with chemistry than psychology: it may be one of the odder placebo moments in history, but who’s to say that the somewhat unhygenic habits of Moises Alou, Jorge Posada, Kerry Wood and others haven’t improved batting averages through the raw power of tradition and belief?]

11. In 1976, Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher George “Doc” Medich ran off the field to perform CPR on a fan who was undergoing a heart attack. And he did the same thing again in 1978, while playing for the Texas Rangers.

[True: Apparently the nickname “Doc” wasn’t just a play on the pronunciation of “Medich.” The Orioles pitcher studied medicine at the University of Pittsburgh before leaving for the MLB. Ironically, although he saved the life of the fan from 1978 and eventually completed his full M.D., “Doc” almost immediately had his license revoked by the medical board after pleading guilty to twelve counts of “knowingly or intentionally possessing a controlled substance obtained through prescriptions written to nonexistent patients and people who never received the drugs.”]

12. In 1931, female pitcher Virne “Jackie” Mitchell played an exhibition game with the AA Chattanooga Lookouts against the New York Yankees; during the game, she struck out both Babe Ruth and Lou Gherig.

female pitcher Virne “Jackie” Mitchell played an exhibition game with the AA Chattanooga Lookouts against the New York Yankees; during the game, she struck out both Babe Ruth and Lou Gherig

[True: Mitchell was only 17 at the time, and apparently the Babe was less than gracious about the whole thing, complaining to a newspaper: “I don’t know what’s going to happen if they begin to let women into baseball. Of course, they will never make good. Why? Because they are too delicate. It would kill them to play ball every day.”]

13. Baseball cards have been a thing since the late 1860s, but by the 1880s, the majority of baseball cards were produced by tobacconists, since the cards were both promotional and practical (serving as an extra layer of insulation for the cigarettes).

Allen & Ginter Tobacco produced the famous Champions of the World series in the late 1880s

[True: Allen & Ginter Tobacco produced the famous Champions of the World series in the late 1880s, but the promotional concept was already in full swing. However, the tobacco companies ran into some controversy a few decades later when Honus Wagner, protesting the possibility that his card might lead boys into buying tobacco, asked to have his cards withdrawn from circulation. The first effect is that Honus Wagner’s 1910 card is now both extremely rare and valuable (one sold for $2.1 million in 2013); but the more important and lasting effect is that baseball cards became associated with gum, candy and other kid-friendlier promotional items. In the future, once the sugar-based industries come under sufficient fire, baseball cards will doubtless be packaged with fresh, organic carrot sticks.]

14. At present, the two largest publicly accessible collections of baseball cards are both located in New York: at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

[True: The Met unexpectedly became a baseball card powerhouse thanks to the endowment of Jefferson R. Burdick, who left his incredible collection of more than 31,000 cards to the museum.]

15. According to the official rules of the MLB, all umpires are required to wear black underwear.

[True: After one or two embarrassing wardrobe malfunctions, this regulation came into practice so that if (when) an umpire’s pants split during a game, the fans won’t be able to see it—of course, the rule predates the Jumbotron…and the Big Mac…thus, men’s fashion takes another dark turn.]

16. In 1999, Bobby Valentine (manager for the New York Mets) was ejected for disputing a call by the home plate umpire. Furious, Valentine returned to the clubhouse, changed his clothes, put on a fake moustache, and snuck back into the dugout.

Furious, Valentine returned to the clubhouse, changed his clothes, put on a fake moustache

[True: As it turns out, the commissioner’s office was neither fooled nor amused, and fined the stealthy Valentine $5,000. On the other hand, the Mets won the game.]

17. In 2006, Tigers powerhouse pitcher Joel Zumaya missed three games because he injured himself playing Guitar Hero. When the Xbox 360 version of Guitar Hero II was released, the credits included the line: “No pitchers were harmed in the making of this game. Except for one. Joel Zumaya. He had it coming.”

[At Least Partly True: Xbox did make the crack about Zumaya in their credits, and the original story was widely reported in 2006, after a statement made by the Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski. Ten years later, Zumaya claimed that the story was just a cover for the real source of his injury. But since he refused to offer a better explanation the suspiciously sprained wrist, “playing Guitar Hero” may go down as the weirdest euphemism in baseball history.]

18. Over the course of his career, 12-time Silver Slugger Barry Bonds has “walked” for a total distance of roughly 43.5 miles.

[True: Still leading the sport in career walks (2,550), Bonds walked roughly 20% of his total 12,606 career plate appearances!]

19. According to astrophysicist (and baseball fan) Neil deGrasse Tyson, it would be impossible to throw a curve ball on Mars.

[True: A curveball is made possible by the friction exerted by dense air molecules, which tweak the ball’s trajectory, and the atmosphere on Mars is so thin that the curveball wouldn’t curve back properly. Also, according to Tyson, the field would have to be 40% bigger to compensate for the lower gravity, and baseballs would travel to the batter at higher speeds because of the thinner atmosphere wouldn’t slow them down. Tricky!]

20. In 1968, the then-manager of the San Francisco Giants, Alvin Dark complained to reporters that his star pitcher Gaylord Perry was such a terrible batter that: “they’ll put a man on the moon before Gaylord Perry hits a home run.” In fact, Perry did manage his first MLB home run that next year—on the 20th of July 1969, less than an hour after Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon.

Gaylord Perry was such a terrible batter that: “they’ll put a man on the moon before Gaylord Perry hits a home run.”

[False, but a Darn Good Urban Myth: This incident was recorded in MLB umpire Ron Luciano’s book Strike Two (published in 1984), but historians have since noted that Alvin Dark was fired by the Giants in 1964. He wouldn’t have had any reason to complain about Perry in 1968, because he was busy managing the Cleveland Indians, who play in an entirely different league. At some point, someone must have complained about Perry’s batting (which was mostly terrible), and he certainly did hit a homer shortly after Armstrong landed on the moon…but the rest of the story was probably manufactured in retrospect.]

Ok. So, only one of the “facts” was false. Happy April Fool’s Day!

Here’s to the start of a new baseball season, and to the all weird trivia that you can use to stun your friends and awe your enemies.

Otero Menswear: Anything But Average.

 


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