A little holiday fun ... here are some baseball trivia questions:
1. Only four players have hit 50-plus home runs for teams that won the World Series. Can you name the four?
Answer: This is one of my favorite trivia questions.
The obvious answer is Babe Ruth, who hit 50 home runs in 1927 and 1928. Fun fact: Lou Gehrig never hit 50 homers in a season, though he did hit 49 twice. Henry Aaron also never hit 50 homers in a season.
The second -- Mickey Mantle. He also did it twice, in 1956 and 1961. Mantle you might know, won the Triple Crown in 1956, but he is not the only Triple Crown winner on a championship team. Frank Robinson won the Triple Crown in 1966 (with 49 homers) and his Orioles won the championship.
The third -- Roger Maris. He obviously hit 61 homers in 1961. He continues to hold the record for home runs for a World Series champ.
The fourth -- Luis Gonzalez. That's the trick one, of course. Gonzalez's 57 home runs in 2001 remains one of the oddest seasons in baseball history.
2. Only one pitcher has hit more than five home runs in a season when he also won the Cy Young Award. Name that pitcher! (Hint: He actually hit six home runs).
Answer: Ferguson Jenkins in 1971. He hit six home runs. Jenkins was not a good hitter ... but he was for some reason in 1971. He was a .154 hitter with seven home runs in 784 plate at-bats for the rest of his career. But in 1971, he hit .243, slugged .478 and hit those seven homers.
3. Two pitchers in baseball history had more 20 wins and 10 balks in the same season. Can you name them? (Hint, they are are both fairly prominent in the game today, one as an announcer and the other as a front office man).
Answer: David Cone and Dave Stewart both pulled off the trick in 1988. I guess my hint could have been that that they had the same first name. Cone won 20 and balked 10. But Stewart outdid him, winning 21 and balking 16. Those 16 balks are also a modern record, which at first seems strange -- you might expect that record to fall to someone with a serious balk move like Steve Carlton. But my guess is that Stewart was so big and lanky that his balks were OBVIOUS and would get called every time.
Here's one for you: Of the 13 pitchers who had 10-plus balks in a season, 11 of them pitched in 1988. That was the year when, for some reason, MLB decided to really crack down on balks. I can't remember the reason but I'm sure it was silly.
4. Over the last 50 years, only one non-pitcher has won an MVP award with five or fewer home runs. Who was it?
Answer: Pete Rose in 1973. Rose hit .338 with 230 hits, which is why he won the award. But even advanced statistics show that he was excellent that season, with a .401 on-base percentage and an 8.2 Baseball Reference WAR. Joe Morgan was better, but Joe Morgan was always better.
5. In the last 50 years, which player had the most errors in a season? Hint: He's in the Hall of Fame.
Answer: Robin Yount in his first full season in 1975 had 44 errors at shortstop.
Since the turn of the century, nobody has approached 40 errors. I think part of this is improved defense and improved equipment. I wonder if part of it is also a change in the way the game is scored. Errors, it seems, are harder to come by, especially in home parks. But that just might be an observation.