What is wrong with me?
So, to begin, I hope you have seen that I have begun my new baseball series “60 Moments” where I am counting down the 60 greatest moments in baseball history as seen through the strange lens that I use to see the world. We have just made it through the first week, and you can see the whole project here.
Or if you like, I’ll put the first five up individually. I’ve done more since then.
No. 60: Enos Slaughter’s mad dash (appeared on what would have Slaughter’s birthday).
No. 59: Dwight Evans’ famous homer of Tom Browning in the epic 1992 Strat-o-Matic series I played against my buddy Chardon Jimmy.
No. 58: Javy Baez’s classic tag in the World Baseball Classic.
No. 56: The day Joe DiMaggio almost lost his 56-game hitting streak.
One thing I can tell you about this series — it will be out there. I just don’t see any point in counting down the moments that everybody has already talked to death. I mean, yes, I’m sure I’ll hit some of those along the way. But you can expect some strange turns in this series. I like to think of it as a new version of the Shadowball Series I was working on for a while.
We’ll see how it works out. Thanks, as always, for following along.
Today, the No. 1 player on the Baseball 100 — Willie Mays — turns 89.
Which means today, I get a whole bunch of new emails and tweets from people who want me to know that the No. 2 player on the Baseball 100, Babe Ruth, was not only a great hitter (he hit more home runs than entire teams!) but also a great pitcher. Whoa!
I wish I’d known that before making the rankings.
With Elizabeth closing in on her high school graduation — whatever that looks like in this strange mirror world we live in now — we haven’t had a whole lot of time to do the usual cool stuff as a family. We did start watching Brooklyn 99 from the beginning, which has been fun, and we gathered around to watch Michael’s Parks and Recreation reunion show, which struck a lot of feelings in all of us.
One fun thing: I’m cleaning out my office and coming across all sorts of treasures and junk. One thing I came across was a slightly expired package of Big League Chew, the chewing gum to use if you want to pretend you are chewing tobacco.
By “slightly expired,” I couldn’t tell for sure if it was “best used by” November of 2019 or November of 2010. I suppose with Big League Chew, the difference is negligible. We all had some. We all have lived to tell the tale.
And the tale is this: Our youngest daughter, Katie, did not know how to blow a bubble. I have to say, I don’t actually remember how I learned to blow a bubble — it just seemed to be one of those osmosis things, like knowing that shouting “shotgun” gets you the front seat and knowing the tune to 99 bottles of beer on the wall. I would say that 93% of the knowledge that rattles around in my brain seems to me innate; I don’t know where I picked up almost any of it. Probably at camp.
In any case, I spent a good solid hour trying to teach Katie the subtle art of bubble making. This was quite hilarious and frustrating. Katie is one of those learners who must know literally everything there is to know about a subject before she will try to do anything with it. She is the kind of person who writes practice essays before writing the actual essay.*
*I have no idea where she got this from.
So she had me explain how you send forth a gum bubble I would say, 25 different ways.
And by the end, right, she still wasn’t too great. But we’ve got time. One thing we definitely have is time.
Tonight, Margo and I will watch the last episode of Justified. We began binge-watching it roughly at the start of our isolation, and we have now put aside this evening to finish it off.
Funny thing, Margo found a bottle of Maker’s Mark bourbon for the occasion. What’s funny is how she found it: In 2008, when I was writing a about the 1975 Reds called The Machine, I went to a special dinner featuring the Great Eight.
At the dinner: Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, George Foster, Dave Concepcion, Ken Griffey, and Cesar Geronimo.
Also at the dinner: Nick Lachey.*
*Who was born in Harlan, Kentucky — wow, how everything comes around!
Anyway, they gave me a big bottle of Maker’s Mark, which we have never opened because I’ve never had a sip of bourbon in my life. I’ll let you know how it goes — the finale and the bourbon. Mike Schur suggests a single ice cube and sip slowly.
Here’s what happened. A friend made the point that the Hall of Fame often talks about only the top 1 percent of all players make it to Cooperstown. That’s not EXACTLY right — it really depends on how you count the players — but it’s close enough. Anyway, he asked me: What percentage of players have been on a World Series championship team?
I could have estimated it. I should have estimated it.
I didn’t estimate it.
I literally counted every player who played on a World Series team.
Before I give you the answer, I want to pause and ask the question in the title: What is wrong with me? I should be able to just look at questions like that and go: Yeah, too much work. Instead, I spent two hours breaking down the entire list of players who have appeared on winning World Series teams, from Henry Aaron and Ed Abbaticchio to Barry Zito and Ben Zobrist.
So, first the answer: I started in 1905, Giants vs. Athletics. There have been 16,657 players in the big leagues since then, according to Baseball-Reference.
And there have been 1,621 different players who have played in the World Series for the winning team. So that means that almost exactly 10 percent of all players in baseball history have won a World Series.
I don’t know about you, but that kind of shocked me. I would have thought that number was way lower. I mean, you think about all the players who come up for a cup of coffee, all those players who stick around for only a year or two, all of those players who were buried on bad teams, it just doesn’t add up for me.
But that’s the number.
There are more numbers: 403 players have played on at least two World Series champions. Thirty players have played on at least five.
But here’s the thing, the big payoff: All 30 of the players with at least five World Series were Yankees for at least part of their career. In fact, only one of them (Catfish Hunter) won the majority of their titles with another team.
Here you go:
10 World Series: Yogi Berra
9: Joe DiMaggio
7: Hank Bauer; Bill Dickey; Mickey Mantle; Phil Rizzuto; Babe Ruth.
6: Frankie Crosetti; Whitey Ford; Lou Gehrig; Joe Gordon (won one of his with Cleveland); Johnny Murphy; Vic Raschi; Allie Reynolds; Red Ruffing
5: Joe Collins; Lefty Gomez; Catfish Hunter (3 with Oakland); Derek Jeter; Tony Lazzeri; Eddie Lopat; Gil McDougald; Johnny Mize; Paul O’Neill (1 win Cincinnati); Andy Pettitte; Mariano Rivera; Red Rolfe; George Selkirk; Moose Skowron (1 with Dodgers); Gene Woodling.
I didn’t need to know any of this.