Goose Eggs

[Updated Feb. 16, 2018]–One of the great things about being married is that every now and again your spouse does something nice for you for no particular reason. Well, at least my spouse does. Lynn recently picked up a little book for me on a remainder table called The Baseball Almanac (Red-Letter Press, 2007). Nothing to do with golf, but nonetheless sure to help me waste more time.

To wit: The entry for July 19 asks the trivia question: Who is the only pitcher with 100 or more career shutouts? After guessing wrong with Cy Young, I went into the record books, to discover what is really an astonishing record, and one that will certainly never be broken until the day cyborgs begin pitching—the Big Train, Walter Johnson, threw 110 shutouts.

His nearest competitor, Grover Alexander, had 90. Only 20 pitchers all-time have 50 or more, the more recent being Nolan Ryan and Tom Seaver (61), and Don Sutton (58). The most recent active player, Roy Halladay, “only” had 20.

The leaders of current active players? Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers with 15 and, if he latches on to a roster this year, the well-traveled Bartolo Colón with 13.

The way the game is played today, pitchers will be lucky to have 110 complete games in their careers. Randy Johnson had exactly 100. (And for a Hall of Famer with 303 career wins, had only three 20-win seasons.) CC Sabathia is the current leader with 38. Walter Johnson had 531. The runaway all-time leader, Cy Young, had 749.

Which suggests a new trivia question to complement the one often trotted out to writers at the beginning of golf fam trips, letting them stew it over for a few days before spilling the beans. That one was: What ten players with four or fewer letters as a last name, hit at least 40 homeruns in a season? Actually, there are now 15 such players.

Even more impossible is this one: There are seven pitchers with five or fewer letters in their last names with 50 or more career shutouts. Who are they? Well, you already have Ryan, and you could probably guess Cy Young (76) and Warren Spahn (63). But it could be tough coming up with the other four without resource to references. But go ahead, I’ll give you a few days.

Spoiler alert: If you want to play, don’t read the comments below, where beans are indeed spilled.

Walter Johnson in 1924 (Library of Congress)

8 Responses to “Goose Eggs”

  1. Bill Lewis

    As for the pitchers, the names Tommy John and Vida Blue pop to mind, but I’m not sure either of them recorded 50 shutouts. I’ll give it some more thought and do my best to come up with more names without doing any online research. One more thought: pitchers used to throw complete games on a regular basis and had careers lasting 20+ years. Why can’t today’s overpaid, pampered wimps do the same?

  2. Tom Bedell

    By all means, give it some more thought, because though Tommy John and Vida Blue are good guesses, neither reached 50 shutouts (John, 46; Blue, 37). As for why today’s overpaid, pampered wimps can’t do the same, good question! I actually think they probably could, but managers won’t let them, especially with this pitch count thing on everyone’s mind. Except mine.

  3. mike antonucci

    50 shutouts/five letters: Lefty Grove is my best guess; After that shots in the dark Three Fingers Brown? Pud Galvin? Early Wynn?, Whitey Ford?, Dizzy Dean? and just because Sox fans in Chicago vernerate him Ted Lyons… I’ll guess Satchel Paige did it but those were on other diamonds…

  4. Tom Bedell

    Okay, the remaining three are Eddie Plank (69), Ed Walsh (57)and Gaylord Perry (53). Now, as for the 15 players with four or fewer letters in their names who hit 40 homeruns in a season? Send answers or tune in next week.

  5. mark loevy-reyes

    babe ruth, george bell, sammy sosa should be three of them.

  6. Tom Bedell

    Okay, via e-mail I had some good guesses from Rory Ford, who came up with nine names, including two of the above; John Ford, who correctly named Jim Rice but guessed wrong with Fred Lynn, Richie Zisk and Jeff Kent, and lastly Mocha Joes softball teammates Michael Antonucci and Patrick Keppel, who rounded out out the list by, they claim “legitimate means,” including “Wally Post (the hardest of the bunch),” which he certainly is. Hardly anyone remembers the late Wally Post, rightfielder mainly for the Cincinnati Reds, who hit 40 on the number in 1955.

    The complete list:
    Babe Ruth
    Jimmie Foxx
    Johnny Mize
    Mel Ott
    Willie Mays
    Norm Cash
    Wally Post
    Jim Rice
    George Bell
    Sammy Sosa
    Adam Dunn
    Derek Lee
    Carlos Pena
    Jermaine Dye
    Nelson Cruz

    And looking at the list the real anal-retentive can see that there are five players who hit forty homeruns in a season with both first and last names with four or fewer letters. (Although, granted, Babe was a nickname.) Thanks for playing!

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