- Jayson Stark, Senior Writer, ESPN.com
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The useless info keeps on mounting. So here come our 10 favorite Useless Info Nuggets of the week:
10. Try the express lane
All of a sudden, it's actually possible to get home from a night game in time to catch Letterman's monologue. Roy Oswalt's 1-hour, 50-minute shutout of the Blue Jays Sunday was the seventh nine-inning game this year that lasted less than two hours.
So when was the last time we'd seen this many games that fast at this point in a season? No, it wasn't 1914. But it was 20 years ago. Elias reports there were nine games under two hours before June 15 in 1985. And amazingly, Mark Buehrle was only 6 at the time.
9. All because of U
As so often happens, the mainstream (aka "sane") members of the baseball media missed the really big story connected with Ugueth Urbina's trade to the Phillies.
Useless Info doesn't much care how this deal affected the Phillies' bullpen. What mattered to us is that it made these Phillies just the third team in the last quarter-century to have two players on the same roster whose last names start with a "U," Urbina and Chase Utley.
But hold on. One of those teams was the 2004 Tigers, who barely count. They paired Urbina with pitcher Lino Urdaneta, but only for about five minutes. Urdaneta spent most of the year on the disabled list, then was activated long enough to face six hitters, allow all of them to reach base and exit the big leagues as fast as you could say, "One ticket to Toledo, please."
So in reality, there has been just one team in these last 25 years that truly deserved to tour with U2 the 1980-83 Tigers, who employed both Pat Underwood and Jerry Ujdur.
Thanks to retrosheet.org's Dave Smith, we know that, besides that group, only five other teams in the last 70 years have doubled their U's: the 1978 Blue Jays (Tom Underwood-Willie Upshaw), the 1977 Cardinals (Underwood-John Urrea), the 1974 Phillies (Underwood-Del Unser), the 1967 Braves (Bob Uecker-Cecil Upshaw) and the 1966 Braves (Upshaw-Arnold Umbach).
So aren't U glad U asked? Oh, that's right. U didn't.
8. Namesakes of the game
It must be Name Week here at Useless Info headquarters, because, through Wednesday, Derrek and Carlos Lee were tied for the NL RBI lead. Which inspired a loyal reader who identified himself only as Jeremy to ask whether two players with the same name have ever finished 1-2 in any category.
Well, since we'll look up just about anything, we checked all three triple-crown departments. And the only two namesakes ever to finish 1-2 in any of those categories in any year were Matty and Felipe Alou, in the 1966 NL batting race. Being the magnanimous note-gatherers we are, we're not even going to eliminate them for being brothers.
7. Deja Molina dept.
If we're talking brother acts, nothing beats the fabulous Molina brothers, who never stop churning out classic notes.
We're still trying to figure out whether they were the first brother trio ever to get at least one hit apiece in the same postseason. But a slew of loyal readers checked in to report their latest trick, after reading about it in a Chris Snow story in the Boston Globe.
It was actually Red Sox media-relations wiz Peter Chase who noticed that, on three straight days (June 4-5-6), the Sox faced a lineup with a different Molina brother Jose, then Bengie, then (thanks to the miracle of interleague play) Yadier.
Has to be a first. Doesn't it?
6. Jason it is
Any team that could carry three players named Jason and a fourth named Jayson would have to rank on our list of favorite teams. So those 2005 Dodgers deserve every syllable of the monstrous coverage we're about to give them.
Dodgers public-relations genius Josh Rawitch reports that the Dodgers produced perhaps the greatest week in the history of Jasons last week, when they had a different Jason hit a home run three days in a row June 6-7-8 (Repko, then Phillips, then Grabowski).
According to the Sultan of Swat Stats, SABR's David Vincent, this marked the first time in history that three different Jasons homered for the same team three games in a row. The closest previous call came last July 19-21, when the Reds got homers from Jason LaRue, then Jason Romano, then LaRue again in three straight games. Hey, at least they alternated.
But wait. This note gets even better, because in that last game, Grabowski's homer was hit off a pitcher named Jason (Johnson). And the Sultan says that the only previous time any Jason ever homered off a Jason was Aug. 15, 1995 (Jason Giambi off Jason Jacome).
And you especially astute readers will know Johnson used that occasion to become the first Jason ever to allow a homer to a Jason and also hit a homer in the same game. Which made this one of the most historic days in the history of Jasons.
5. The I's don't have it
Hard to believe, folks. But Rawitch apparently came down with a serious attack of the dreaded Useless Info Fever, because he wasn't through.
When Cesar Izturis burst into the lead among NL shortstops in All-Star voting this week, Rawitch had to know: How many players whose names began with an "I" have ever started an All-Star Game?
Uh, that would be zero, actually. In fact, the only player in history to have his name begin with an "I" who even played in an All-Star Game was Jason Isringhausen (one IP, one run in 2000). So watch that balloting for further developments. If Izturis wins, the only missing letters, other than X, in the starting All-Star alphabet will be U and Q.
4. Double trouble
Believe it or not, three different pitchers have gotten two hits in an inning this year: (Jason Schmidt, Dontrelle Willis and Jason Marquis). But only Marquis had a home run and another hit in one inning. Which caused loyal reader Todd Burford to wonder about the last time any pitcher did that.
And the answer, according to Elias, was April 6, 1999, when Greg Maddux homered and singled in one inning against the Phillies. In typical Maddux fashion, by the way, he drove in more runs in that inning (three) than he allowed that night (one).
3. Pinch this man
Of all the great ways a team can tie a game in the bottom of the ninth inning, it doesn't get much more spectacular than a pinch-hit, inside-the-park homer. But that's how the Mets caught up to the Angels in the ninth on June 11 on a pinch-hit inside-the-parker by Marlon Anderson.
The Sultan, David Vincent, reports that Anderson was the first man in 80 years to do that in the bottom of the ninth, and just the third in history to tie a game with a pinch-hit inside-the-park miracle in either half of the ninth inning. The other two:
Ernie Johnson, Yankees, June 10, 1925 (bottom of the ninth); Lee Lacy, Dodgers, Aug. 3, 1978 (top of the ninth).
2. Meet you in St. Pete
Here's a trivia question for you: What monumentally historic baseball event will take place this weekend?
No, not that battle of the Yankee pariahs: Jeff Weaver vs. Jose Contreras, on Sunday Night Baseball. The actual answer is that the only two major-league franchises that have never played each other will finally meet.
And can a historic duel like that possibly get more romantic than Devil Rays versus Cardinals?
There were actually still four matchups like that (at least in the regular season) when the week began. But Reds-Red Sox, Yankees-Pirates and Mets-A's beat the Cards and Rays to the tape. So when Scott Kazmir fires that first pitch toward David Eckstein Friday night, it will truly mark the end of an era.
1. Extra-special loss dept.
It's hard enough to score in three consecutive extra innings. (It takes some major cooperation from both bullpens, anyhow.) So now think how tough it is to score in three straight extra innings and still lose by five runs yet.
Well, that amazing trick was performed by those creative Diamondbacks just last Sunday, in one of the weirdest games of any year. The D-backs and Royals managed to score precisely one run apiece over the first nine innings. Then, naturally, they went out and scored a run apiece again in both the 10th and 11th innings.
But the Royals then put this game away with six runs in the top of the 12th. So that run Arizona scored in the bottom of the 12th just finished off a very bizarre 9-4 loss.
According to Elias, this classic made the Diamondbacks just the third team in history to score in three straight extra innings and lose. The others: Padres score in 11th, 12th and 13th but lose 7-6 in Montreal May 24, 1988; Marlins score in 10th, 11th and 12th but lose 7-6 in Philadelphia July 24, 1998. The D-backs, however, were the first home team ever to do that.
That 1998 game, by the way, was the real all-time classic, because the Phillies trailed in the ninth, 10th, 11th and 12th and still won. Somehow.
Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Send your Useless Information to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The useless info keeps on mounting. So here come our 10 favorite Useless Info Nuggets of the week.