March 29, 2008


America and Baseball (George Will, 3/30/08, Real Clear Politics)

Today, baseball arrives in the nick of time to serve an urgent national need. It gives Americans something to think about other than superdelegates. Think instead about:

1. Who are the four players with 10 or more letters in their last names who hit 40 home runs in a season?

2. Who are the 11 players who have four or fewer letters in their last names and hit 40 home runs in a season?

3. Which two players who hit back-to-back home runs have the most combined letters in their last names?

For you who wasted the winter by not studying such stuff, the answers are below. The rest of you probably are SABRmetricians. Tim Kurkjian of ESPN (do you know that more than 10 American children have been named Espn?) recalls a convention of the Society for American Baseball Research:

"'Who from SABR might know where I can find the all-time list of pinch-hit, extra-inning grand slams?' I asked the very first man I saw at the convention. The man smiled and -- I am not making this up -- pulled the list from his breast pocket. 'I have it right here,' he said."

Would that today's subprime wizards of Wall Street had comparable mastery of the numbers important to their business. What Edmund Burke said of the study of law -- that it sharpens the mind by narrowing it -- might be true of baseball, too, but baseball people at least know what they are supposed to know. Long after he retired, Ted Williams ran into a former pitcher who said he once struck out Williams. "Slider low and away," said Williams. "Old men forget," said Shakespeare's Henry V at Agincourt. Old baseball men don't.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 29, 2008 10:55 AM
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