Top 10 Useless Info Nuggets of the Week

Originally Published: September 6, 2005
By Jayson Stark | ESPN.com

10. USELESS TOUR DE TRANSACTION INFO

On July 30, Randy Winn was traded by the Mariners to the Giants. Sixteen days later, Winn hit for the cycle as a Giant. In case you just had to know (and didn't we all), he's the first player to go cycling after being traded in midseason, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, since Bob Watson did it for the Red Sox on Sept. 15, 1979 -- 90 days after being dealt to Boston by the Astros.

USELESS INFO TRIVIALITY
Greg Maddux came into this season with 14 straight winning seasons (with at least 10 wins in each). Can you name the only two other pitchers (one in each league) who entered this season working on streaks even half that long? (Answer below)
9. USELESS UNASSISTANCE INFO

In an A's-Angels game Wednesday, Oakland's Jay Payton pulled off a play you won't write down in the old scorebook too often -- an 8-unassisted out at second base. (He short-hopped a Maicer Izturis single, then sprinted to second to singlehandedly stop Izturis from stretching it into a double.)

So when, you wondered, was the last time any outfielder recorded an unassisted putout after a hit?

Retrosheet's Dave Smith reports that, as best we can determine, it happened back on June 21, 1993. That day, the Padres' Bob Geren got hung up in no-man's land between second and third after an RBI single by teammate Ricky Gutierrez -- and got tagged out by (ta-daa) Barry Bonds, 7-unassisted.

8. USELESS THOU SHALT NOT STEAL INFO

Yadier Molina
Molina
What, exactly, do Yadier Molina and Johnny Bench have in common? Well, nothing yet -- aside from their mutual affection for shin guards. But that might be about to change. In case you hadn't picked up on this, nobody ever steals a base against the Cardinals anymore. They allowed just 26 stolen bases in their first 138 games -- which, as loyal reader Jason Pritchett reports, would put them on a pace to permit only 31 steals all year.

So what does that have to do with Bench? Here goes: According to Elias, only one National League team in the division-play era ever allowed fewer than 35 stolen bases in a full season. And that was Bench's 1972 Reds, also with 31.

7. USELESS SMALL-BALL INFO

You might say Aaron Small's first career shutout Saturday was a lonnngggg time coming. Before twirling that shutout in Oakland, Small had pitched in 443 professional games -- and started 245 of them -- for 23 teams in 11 organizations. And it wasn't as if Small was cranking out minor-league shutouts by the dozen over all those years. His only minor-league shutout in the previous 13 seasons was (what else?) a no-hitter (for Edmonton, over Vancouver, on Aug. 8, 1996).

6. USELESS COMEBACK INFO

In the last two weeks, we've seen two games that felt more like Duke-Kentucky than a night at the old ballpark. They were two of the most amazing games of this or any year. So in case they passed you by ...
  • Aug. 23 -- Yankees 5, Blue Jays 4: The Yankees wiped out Toronto leads in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings of this game, and finally won it in the ninth. And that's something no AL team had done in more than 50 years. The only two AL teams to pull off that trick, according to Elias, were the 1949 Senators and 1938 Red Sox -- who both did it against the late, great St. Louis Browns.

  • Sept. 2 -- Astros 6, Cardinals 5 (13 innings): In this game, the Astros trailed in the ninth, 10th and 13th innings -- and still won. It was the first time any team had won a game it trailed in three different innings from the ninth on since July 24, 1998, when the Phillies won an even more unbelievable game against Florida in which they trailed in the ninth, 10th, 11th and 12th.

5. MOST-USELESS-SLAM-EVER INFO

Craig Monroe
Monroe
On the other hand, the Red Sox and Tigers played an extra-inning game Aug. 16 that fell on the opposite end of the bizarro scale. In that one, Detroit's Craig Monroe hit a 10th-inning grand slam -- and his team still lost. By three runs (thanks to a seven-run top of the 10th by Boston).

So how many players in history have hit an extra-inning slam in a loss? Well, there have been three others, according to Elias: Cy Williams (July 18, 1925), Mike Vail (June 30, 1979) and Andre Dawson (April 21, 1991).

But how many other players have hit extra-inning slams in games their teams lost by three runs (or more)? That, not surprisingly, would be zero. In fact, according to Retrosheet's Smith, there hasn't been any other game in the last 75 years in which a team scored four times by any means in any extra inning and still lost by three runs. Real, real hard to do, folks.

4. SECOND-MOST-USELESS-SLAM-EVER INFO

And speaking of grand slams that didn't mean much, Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez did the just-about impossible Aug. 23. He gave up a ninth-inning slam to Miguel Tejada -- and still got a save.

Luckily, he had a five-run lead at the time. But he can thank the save rule, which allows a pitcher to qualify for one of those saves just by entering a game with the tying run on deck and finishing it with his team still ahead. But it still ain't easy.

In fact, according to Elias, only four pitchers have allowed a slam in a save since the invention of the modern save rule in 1969. But maybe even more amazingly, the Angels have now done it two years in a row. Scot Shields did the same darned thing, with a slam to Brandon Inge, on April 27, 2004.

3. USELESS FOR-WHOM-THE-BELL-SLAMS INFO

OK, one more grand-slam note. Then we're done. We promise.

David Bell
Bell
Last Friday, Phillies third baseman David Bell finally hit the first grand slam of his career. In his 11th season, his 1,230th game, his 4,221st at-bat and his 156th plate appearance with the bases loaded.

Until that swing, Bell had more slam-free bases-loaded at-bats than any active player. (So Tampa Bay's Alex Gonzalez now holds that honor, with 112).

But the best note on this momentous feat was provided by Bell himself. He reported that this was not exactly one of those like-father-like-son situations -- since his dad (Buddy) hit a slam for the first homer of his career. Took him all of 13 at-bats. (That Buddy-ball slam came off Eddie Watt, on April 22, 1972).

2. USELESS GENERATION-GAP INFO

Pitching matchups just don't get much more fascinating than the Aug. 31 duel in Seattle between Randy Johnson (age 41 years, 355 days) and Mariners phenom Felix Hernandez (age 19 years, 145 days).

Among the stuff you absolutely have to know about that pairing:

  • Those 22 years, 210 days' worth of age gap were the biggest by any two opposing starters, according to Elias, since Charlie Hough (46 years, 5 months) vs. Joey Hamilton (23, 9 months) on June 4, 1994.

  • It was the first time a 40-something pitcher had faced a teenager in (how fitting) 40 years -- since Warren Spahn (44 years, 2 months) lost to Larry Dierker (18 years, 9 months) on June 25, 1965.

  • It was the first time a starter in his 40s beat a teenager, according to Retrosheet's Smith, since Spahn (42 years, 4 months) outdueled the Dodgers' Dick Calmus (19 years, 7 months) on Aug. 23, 1963.

  • But alas, for these guys to have set a record for biggest age gap, Hernandez would have had to start this game at age 12 -- because that record dates back to a classic battle between Satchel Paige (59 years 2 months) and Bill Monbouquette (29 years, 1 month) on Sept. 25, 1965. Those two were born a mere 30 years, 36 days apart.

  • And ohbytheway, the Unit had made eight professional starts before Hernandez showed up on planet Earth.
1. USELESS NAME-GAME INFO

Felix Hernandez
King Felix
But even though Felix Hernandez didn't make any history by facing Randy Johnson, he made truly stupendous history by facing two other pitchers last month. In the third start of his career (Aug. 15), Hernandez pitched against a guy named Hernandez (the Royals' extremely unrelated Runelvys). Then, two starts later (Aug. 26), The Great Felix got matched up against yet another Hernandez (the equally unrelated Orlando, as in El Duque).

So that's two Hernandez-versus-Hernandez duels in five starts. Sensational. And we know exactly what you're thinking: How often does a pitcher get to face two guys with the same last name in the first five starts of his career? Well, heck -- never, of course.

In the last 45 years, Smith reports, there have been 46 duels between pitchers with the same last name. But never had any pitcher had the good fortune to face two different namesakes in the same season. Let alone his first season.

And only one other pitcher in all that time even got to start against two guys with the same name in his whole career. That was Ramon Martinez, who faced Dennis six times between 1988 and 1993 and pitched against his own little brother (Pedro) once in 1996.

But never had any other Hernandez managed to start against a fellow Hernandez in any other game, for that matter -- not El Duque, not Livan, not Adrian, not Carlos, not Xavier. That Felix, on the other hand, is a regular Hernandez magnet. We can hardly wait till he gets to join the I Whiffed Jose Hernandez Club.

USELESS INFO TRIVIALITY
ANSWER: Roger Clemens (eight) and Bartolo Colon (seven).
INJURY OF THE MONTH

Padres ace Jake Peavy cut his hand last month -- on a can of green beans.

Luckily, it wasn't his pitching hand, and he never missed a turn. But the next time your mom tells you to eat your vegetables or you'll never make the big leagues, feel free to tell her this story -- and embellish it as much as you have to.

BOX-SCORE LINES OF THE MONTH

Blue Jays rookie Dustin McGowan, Aug. 21, in Detroit:

4 1/3 IP, 9 H, 12 R, 10 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 2 HR, 3 HBP, 95 pitches to get 13 outs.

USELESS DISTINCTION OF THE DAY

McGowan was the first non-Rockie to allow 12 runs in one game since Wade Miller did it Aug. 23, 2000 -- and the first Blue Jay since David Wells (who gave up 13) on Aug. 20, 1992.

The Mets' Kris Benson, also Aug. 21, vs. Washington:

2/3 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 4 doubles, 7 straight 2-out hits.

USELESS DISTINCTION OF THE DAY

Benson became only the second pitcher in the 37-season division-play era to give up that many hits and not even make it out of the first inning. The other, according to Elias: Brady Raggio vs. Florida on May 15, 1998 (except Raggio gave up nine hits).

THE SULTAN'S CORNER

On Aug. 31, Marlins rookie Jeremy Hermida hit a grand slam in the first at-bat of his career. A mere 107 years and four months earlier, the unforgettable Bill (Frosty Bill) Duggleby once did the same thing.

In between, according to the Sultan of Swat Stats, SABR's David Vincent, 14,320 players made their big-league debuts. And none of them hit a slam in his first at-bat.

On Aug. 31, Kevin Millar played first base for the Red Sox and hit two home runs. The next night, John Olerud played first base for the Red Sox and hit two home runs. Well, guess what? You don't see a team get multihomer games from two different first basemen on back-to-back days real often -- unless maybe one of them is John Olerud.

Here, courtesy of the Sultan, are the only four other times any team has done that:

  • 1965 Astros (Frankie Thomas on Aug. 31, Jim Gentile on Sept. 1)
  • 1970 Giants (Willie Mays on May 15, Willie McCovey on May 16)
  • 1998 Cardinals (Mark McGwire on May 19, Gary Gaetti on May 20)
  • 2001 Mariners (John Olerud on Aug. 22, David Bell on Aug. 23)
Phillies second baseman Chase Utley became the answer to a fun little trivia question last week: Name the only active player to have a two-homer game off Pedro Martinez. Yep, the only three other guys to do it are all out of the big leagues. Here's the list, according to the Sultan: In that same game, Pedro served up four home runs -- for the first time in seven years. In between, according to the Sultan, all those other, slightly more mortal, pitchers gave up four (or more) in a game 239 times. The guys who did it the most: Special citation: Jeff Weaver -- allowed five in a game twice.

Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Send your Useless Information to uselessinfodept@yahoo.com.

Jayson Stark | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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