Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Sports Seasons

If you're like every other American male (and plenty of females too), you probably spend a lotta time watching sports. I know, though, that some times definitely seem better than others. Right about now, for example, is definitely a time of plenty. Heck, I’ve got March Madness, soccer, and spring training (and hockey and the NBA – if I was actually interested in those). Other times, though, I feel like I’m kind of twiddling my thumbs. I know I always have a real letdown when the Super Bowl’s over, or when the last game of the World Series has been played.

So, what I was wondering is whether there was anything behind those feelings. How often do American sports fans’ cups runneth over? How often do they run dry? Some sports have seasons that just seem to last forever (NBA, NHL, MLB …). Some, though, seem to be much more reasonable (football, namely).

So, the first thing I looked at was how long the seasons are for the different sports. By the way, I eliminated golf, tennis, and Formula 1. Those have interest world-wide and, consequently, seem to go on all year. For everything else a red-blooded American would want to watch, though, here’s what we have:


Well, I was right about the NBA, NHL, MLB, and football, right? And I guess college sports need to have shorter seasons to fit into the school year. But look at NASCAR! I guess having so many races in the sunny South lets them get away with that.

What is UEFA? It’s basically the European soccer season. I debated including that, as soccer is not generally considered terribly Murcan. It’s one of my favorite sports, though, and does seem to be finally getting an audience over here, so … (Note that I did not count MLS however! Neither did I count curling or badminton or croquet. Hey, I’m interested in sports that people actually watch on TV.)

And here’s what you get if you superimpose those seasons on top of each other:


Or in a slightly different form:


And this tells me that I was correct about there being particularly fertile and infertile time periods for sports. As you’ll notice, the summer’s rather poor, and the winter’s rather rich. I’m guessing that people may have better things to do when the weather’s nice rather than just sit inside and watch other people get exercise – something I can heartily agree with.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Baseball Single-Season Record Progressions

Everyone knows Barry Bonds holds the single-season record for home runs. But whose record did he break?  (One point if you guessed Mark McGwire.)

I’m pretty sure everyone knows Nolan Ryan broke Sandy Koufax’s record for strikeouts. But whose record did Koufax break? (If you guessed Rube Waddell, you get two points!).

A look at the progression over the years of baseball’s single season records can be pretty fascinating. Most of the names are pretty familiar. Some of them, though, are definitely not. Some of the records seem to change constantly. But others have been around forever.

This post looks at some basic single-season baseball records, and how they’ve changed over the years. I start with the ones that have changed the least (the most boring ones, in my regard), and end with the ones that have changed the most (the most exciting ones, to me at least).


Wins

Three points if you get this one. It’s Hoss Radbourn, with 59 (!?!?), and goes all the way back to 1884.

Now, if you’re thinking modern era (i.e., post-1903), it’s actually not all that much better. Basically, I’ve got Joe McGinnity setting the record with 31 in 1903, Jack Chesbro setting a new record the next year with 41, and no one subsequently coming close.


This would be a pretty boring chart,
so here’s a pic of Chesbro

ERA

Once again, we’ve got a ridiculous record from a long time ago that’s never been touched. And once again, it’s Hoss Radbourn, with an 0.86 mark that dates all the way back to 1880.

In modern times, we have something similar to wins, but with a little more action and a few more faces. In particular, we’ve got the record being reset every year for 3 years, then a new record that would last 3 more, then a new record that would last 100 years and counting. An extra four points if you knew that Dutch Leonard was the guy who set that record.


By the way, that's ERA on the vertical axis
and years from 1903 on the horizontal


Shutouts

For this one, our record goes back to 1876.  This time, though, it was not set by Hoss Radbourn! The record for shutouts goes to George Bradley, with 16. Five points if you’ve ever heard of George Bradley.

This one does have some action post-1903 however. Grover Cleveland Alexander actually tied Bradley’s record in 1916. Between 1916 and 1903, the record was regularly reset by the likes of Cy Young, Joe Walsh, and Jack Coombs. Since 1916, though, it’s all been crickets.


Runs

Hey, our first batting record!  For this one, we’ve got Billy Hamilton plating 198 runs, way back in 1894.

Looking at how things shake out after 1903, we’ve got 3 record setters, with several years between each. You’ve probably heard of the last 2, but if you guessed Ginger Beaumont for the 1st one, I’m giving you six points!


Average

So, pre-1903, we’ve got Hugh Duffy with a 440 average, set in 1894.Heard of Hugh? Give yourself seven!

In the modern era, we’ve got a fair amount of activity up until 1924, when Rogers Hornsby set the modern record with a ridiculous 424. Ain’t nobody gonna touch that one.


Strikeouts

Stop me if you’ve heard this before … Matt Kilroy, 1886, 513 (!?!?).

Post-1903, we’ve got – as promised earlier – Waddell, Koufax, and Ryan.

And if you’re having a hard time telling the difference between the records of those last two, that’s because of a very good reason. Ryan beat Koufax’s record by a single strikeout – 383 to 382. Do you think he was keeping track?


Stolen Bases

Our final pre-1903 record! And this one belongs to one Hal Nichol, who set a record of 138 way back in 1887. Eight points if you’ve ever heard of Hal.

Post-1903 we’ve actually got, a nice little pattern here. In particular, I like how there was quite a lot of action at the beginning, a bit of a lull, then some more action at the end. 

That gap in the middle, though, is what’s really amazing. It’s like baseball totally forgot about the stolen base. The fact that no one broke the record during those 47 years actually pales next to some of the pitiful season-leading totals. In particular, would you believe Dom DiMaggio once led the AL with a mere 15 stolen bases in 1950?


RBIs

Finally, a post-1903 record! You probably already know Hack Wilson set this one, with a totally unassailable 191 in 1930. What’s interesting about this progression, though, is the huge gap between the previous records and Wilson’s – almost 20 whole ribbies. And those records were set by no slouches either. Ever heard of a couple of guys with the names of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig? (And, no, you don’t get any points if you have.)  


Hits

Hits are an interesting one in that, though there was plenty of action in the early years and with a final record that seemed pretty unassailable, someone actually did come along a lot later and reset it. Remember, back in 2004, when Ichiro broke George Sisler’s record of 257 with a new total of 262? That was definitely one I thought would last forever. Sisler’s record did last for 83 years though.


HRs

Here’s another one you’re probably pretty familiar with. Ruth, Maris, McGwire, and Bonds, right? 

Well, I can pretty much guarantee that you haven’t a clue whose record Ruth broke though. And that just so happens to be some guy named Ned Williamson, who hit 27 dangers way back in 1884. (You get pretty much all the points left if you guessed that one.) Interestingly, Williamson’s record would stand for 35 whole years. That’s exactly one year more than Ruth’s record of 60 would stand (and only three years less than Maris’s).


Saves

Now for my favorite. In fact, this is the only record that actually shows steady progress for the last 100 years or so. What’s super interesting about this one, though, are the names of the record holders over the years. Yes, Three-Finger Mordecai Brown is in the Hall, but most of these guys most definitely are not. Firpo Marberry, anyone? How about Joe Page? Luis Arroyo? Jack Aker? How about Bobby Thigpen? 

I thought for sure Thigpen’s would have a chance of possibly sticking around forever. It broke the heralded 50 saves barrier, was 11 more than the previous record, and was good for 18 whole years before K Rod broke it with a ridiculous 62 (more than half of his team’s game that year!). Now, that one should stick.


Thursday, March 2, 2017

Seriously Confused Colleges and Universities

Right City, Wrong State

  • Oakland Univ. (Rochester Hills, MI)
  • Santa Fe College (Gainesville, FL)
  • Ottawa Univ. (AZ, IN, KS, WI)
  • Cleveland Chiropractic Coll. (Kansas City, KS)
  • Manhattan Christian Coll. (Manhattan, KS)
  • Miami Univ. (Miami, OH)


What is it, a napkin?


Wrong State

  • Delaware Valley Univ. (Doylestown, PA)
  • Ohio Valley Univ. (Vienna, WV)
  • Colorado Tech. Univ. (Sioux Falls, SD)
  • Univ. of Rio Grande (Rio Grande, OH)
  • Virginia Coll. (AL, FL, LA, OK, TN)



Not Even Close

  • Southern States Univ. (San Diego, CA)
  • Midwestern Univ. (Glendale, AZ)



Trying to Pull One Over on Us?

  • St. John’s Univ. (Collegeville, MN)
  • Columbia Intl. Univ. (Columbia, SC)
  • MIAT College of Tech. (Canton, MI)
  • Brown Coll. (Mendota Heights, MN)
  • Andover Coll. (Portland, ME)
  • Georgetown Coll. (KY)
  • Northwestern Coll. (Orange City, IA)
  • Cornell College (Mt. Vernon, IA)
  • Notre Dame Coll. (S. Euclid, OH) 
  • Notre Dame of Maryland University (Baltimore, MD)


Not the Fighting Irish
(but the Falcons of Notre Dame Coll.)


Seriously Confused

  • Indiana Univ. of Pennsylvania
  • California Univ. of Pennsylvania
  • Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis



Wrong Country

  • Peru State College (Peru, NE)
  • Denmark Tech. College (Denmark, SC)
  • Transylvania Univ. (Lexington, KY)


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Weird Basketball Names (NBA)

A
  • Forest Able (AKA “Frosty”)
  • Pero Antic (once played for Lokomotiv Kuban)
  • Quincy Acy
  • Arron Afflalo
  • Al Attles (also a successful manager)
  • Martynas Andriuskevicius (7’2”)
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo (“The Greek Freak”)
  • Alaa Abdelnaby 


B
  • Butch Beard (also a head coach)
  • Wesley Bialosuknia (“The Mad Bomber”)
  • Mookie Blaylock (also the original name of Pearl Jam)
  • Butch Booker (real name Harold)
  • Bob Boozer (Gold Medal winner)
  • Ticky Burden (real name Luther)
  • Vander Blue
  • Rasual Butler
  • Zelmo Beaty (“The Big Z”)
  • Leandro Barbosa (“The Brazilian Blur”)
  • Chauncey Billups (5-time All Star)
  • Otis Birdsong 
  • Brian Brunkhorst (“Bronk”)
  • Bucky Bockhorn 
  • Orbie Bowling ("Orb")
  • Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje (pre-med major at Georgetown)
  • Bismack Biyombo (siblings include Billy, Biska, Bikim, Bimeline, Bikelene, and Bimela)
  • Uwe Blab 



C
  • Demetrius Calip
  • Bruno Caboclo (once played for the Ft. Wayne Mad Ants)
  • Vonteego Cummings (middle name is Marfeek)
  • Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (8th pick overall in 2013)
  • Corky Calhoun (Penn grad)
  • Cornelius Cash 
  • Rastko Cvetkovic
  • Zarko Cabarkapa
  • Bob Cluggish
  • Chubby Cox (Kobe Bryant’s uncle)


Bob Cluggish


D
  • Dick Dickey (once played for the Anderson Packers)
  • Dick Duckett
  • Zabian Dowdell (once played for SLUC Nancy Basket)
  • Dell Demps (current GM of the Pelicans)
  • DeSagana Diop (speaks 5 languages, including Wolof)
  • Predrag Drobnjak 
  • Fennis Dembo (the last of 12 children, his first name is a play on the French finis)


E
  • Cleanthony Early
  • Festus Ezeli (full name is Ifeanyi Festus Ezeli-Ndulue)
  • Ndudi Ebi (once played for Basket Rimini Crabs)
  • Ledell Eackles
  • Bulbs Ehlers (played for John Wooden – in high school!)


F
  • Herm Fuetsch
  • Adonal Foyle (sole NBA player from St. Vincent and the Grenadines)
  • Frido Frey (1st German-born player in the NBA)
  • World B. Free (born Lloyd, he officially changed his name)


Herm Fuetsch


G
  • Marcin Gortat
  • Manu Ginobili (Gold Medal winner)
  • Bato Govedarica (real 1st name Zdravko)
  • Pau Gasol (former #3 pick in draft)
  • Mickell Gladness (former teams include Matrixx Magixx and Townsville Crocodiles)
  • Litterial Green
  • Gorham Getchell (also played in the NFL)


Marcin!


H
  • Anfernee Hardaway (“Penny”)
  • Herm Hedderick (career totals include 4 points, 4 rebounds & 2 assists)
  • Kleggie Hermsen
  • Montrezl Harrell (siblings include Cadarius and Quatauis)
  • Nene Hilario (birth name was Maybyner)


Of Canisius College, that is


I
  • Zydrunas Ilgauskas
  • Didier Ilunga-Mbenga (speaks 5 languages, including Lingala and Tshiluba)
  • Royal Ivey 


Zydrunas Ilgauskas


J
  • Noble Jorgensen
  • Sarunas Jasikevicius (a brother, Vytenis, also played professional basketball)
  • Othyus Jeffers (once played for the Talk 'N Text Tropang Texters)
  • Wah Wah Jones (came from younger sister's attempt to say Wallace / only individual to play for both Adolph Rupp and “Bear” Bryant)
  • Cheese Johnson (real name was Lynbert)


Wah Wah Jones


K
  • Herm Klotz (“Red”)
  • Lonnie Klutz (3 games, 0 points, 5 rebounds)
  • Nenad Krstic (“Curly”)
  • Ibo Kutluay (5 games, 0 points, 1 rebound)
  • Ognjen Kuzmic
  • Curtis Kitchen
  • Kerry Kittles
  • Kosta Koufos
  • Herb Krautblatt
  • Goo Kennedy (real name Eugene)
  • Pickles Kennedy


Ognjen Kuzmic


L
  • Priest Lauderdale (holds dual American/Bulgarian citizenship)
  • Manny Leaks
  • Fat Lever (real name is Lafayette)



M
  • Martin Muursepp (only NBA player from Estonia)
  • Arvydas Macijauskas 
  • Cuttino Mobley (“The Cat”)
  • Jamario Moon
  • Bill Mlkvy (dentist after his basketball career was over)
  • O.J. Mayo (full name is Ovinton J’Anthony Mayo)
  • Luc Mbah a Moute (is a genuine Cameroonian prince)
  • Monk Meineke 
  • Fab Melo (short for Fabricio)
  • Pops Mensah-Bonsu (full name is Nana Papa Yaw Dwene Mensah-Bonsu)


Bill Mlkvy (“The Owl Without a Vowel”)


N
  • Moochie Norris (named after the Cab Calloway song "Minnie the Moocher")
  • Jusuf Nurkic 
  • Rasho Nesterovic (short for Radoslav)
  • Ivano Newbill 
  • Cotton Nash (also played major league baseball)
  • Swen Nater (spent part of his youth in an orphanage)
  • Nerlens Noel (6th pick in the 2013 draft)
  • Boniface N'Dong (Senegalese/German dual national)



O
  • Bo Outlaw (somehow managed to play 10 years in the NBA with a .521 FT average)
  • Alan Ogg (7’2”)
  • Mark Olberding
  • Olumide Oyedeji (has played in the US, the UK, Russia, Germany, Greece, China, Japan, South Korea, Puerto Rico, Spain, Nigeria, Italy, Jordan, and Kuwait)

P
  • Kostas Papanikolaou
  • Easy Parham (real name Estes)
  • Med Park (real name Medford)
  • Olden Polynice 
  • Zaza Pachulia (real name Zaur)
  • Togo Palazzi (5th pick overall in NBA draft ... in 1954)
  • Smush Parker (has played in the US, China, Russia, Greece, Venezuela, Croatia, Tunisia, Morrocco, the Dominican Republic, Iran, and Mongolia)
  • Zarko Paspalj
  • Pavel Podkolzin (former teams include Sibitelecom Lokomotiv and Metallurg Magnitogorsk)
  • Marlbert Pradd (all-time leading scorer at Dillard Univ.)
  • Kristaps Porzingis


Easy Parham


R
  • Zeljko Rebraca
  • Efthimi Rentzias (once played for Ulkerspor)
  • Pooh Richardson (1st pick ever of the Minnesota Timberwolves)
  • Tree Rollins (born Wayne Monte Rollins)
  • Rajon Rondo (4-time All Star)


S
  • Wally Szczerbiak (his dad Walt also played, in the ABA)
  • Odie Spears (born Marion Odicea Spears)
  • Soumaila Sa1make (has played for the Cincinnati Stuff, Greenville Groove, Geoplin Slovan, Detal Inowroclaw, and Mornar Bar)
  • Otto Schnellbacher (also 2-time NFL Pro Bowler)
  • Thabo Sefolosha 
  • Tornike Shengelia (“Toko”)
  • Cheikh Samb
  • Uros Slokar
  • Diamond Stone
  • Stan Stutz (led the NCAA in scoring for 3 straight years)
  • Belus Smawley (one of the inventors of the jump shot)
  • Pape Sow (pronounced “pop sow”)
  • Tiago Splitter 
  • Whitey Skoog (born Myer Upton Skoog)
  • Predrag Savovic
  • Detlef Schrempf (also the title of a song by the group Band of Horses)
  • God Shammgod (is actually a Jr. / also went by the name Shammgod Wells)


Wally Szczerbiak


T
  • Terry Teagle 
  • Hasheem Thabeet (sole NBA player from Tanzania)
  • John Tschogl
  • Corny Thompson (real name Cornelius)
  • Sedale Threatt (once played for Paris Basket Racing)
  • Lou Tsioropoulos
  • Mirsad Turkcan (born Mirsad Jahovic)
  • Hedo Turkoglu (currently an advisor to Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdo─čan )
  • Zan Tabak
  • Dragan Tarlac
  • Yuta Tabuse (sadly does not rhyme with "caboose" / the “Michael Jordan of Japan”)


John Tschogl


U
  • Ekpe Udoh (born Ekpedeme Friday Udoh)
  • Ime Udoka (1st professional team was the Fargo-Moorhead Beez)
  • Roko Ukic (middle name is Lenny)


V
  • Ratko Varda (played 1 NBA game, for 6 minutes, scoring 5 points)
  • Stojko Vrankovic (7'2")
  • Butch Van Breda Kolff (Princeton grad)
  • Whitey Von Nieda (real name Stanley)
  • Kiki Vandeweghe (born Ernest Maurice VanDeWeghe III / his dad played in the NBA & his mom was a Miss America)


Butch Van Breda Kolff was also manager of the New Orleans Jazz


W
  • Elnardo Webster 
  • Bonzi Wells (nickname shortened from original nickname “Bonbon”)
  • Taurean Waller-Prince 
  • Clarence Weatherspoon (“Baby Barkley”)
  • Win Wilfong (born Alva Winfred Wilfong)
  • Von Wafer (born Vakeaton Quamar Wafer / AKA “The Dutch Cookie”)
  • Harthorne Wingo 
  • Metta World Peace (born Ron Artest, he officially changed his name)


Elnardo Webster


Y
  • Charlie Yelverton
  • Korleone Young (born Suntino Korleone Young)


Korleone Young


Z
  • Paul Zipser (born Paul Viktor Louis Zipser)
  • Ivica Zubac (once played for Mega Leks)
  • Zeke Zawoluk (real name Robert)


Cough, please
(Zeke Zawoluk, 1951)

Friday, February 10, 2017

States by Sport

Off the top of my head, I know my home state of North Carolina is definitely a basketball state – just like Indiana and Kentucky and Kansas. Are there any others though? Was I correct in those assumptions?

Same thing with football. Alabama and Florida, right? Probably some Midwestern states as well – Ohio, Michigan … Am I missing anybody? Texas perhaps?

And as for my favorite sport, baseball, I know it’s all concentrated in sunny climes – California, the Southwest, the Deep  South … Any others? Any surprises?

Methodology

For each sport, I:
  • Counted up how many championships each state accounted for (or, for football,  #1 rankings)
  • Placed a marker on a map of the US with its size reflective of how many championships that state had won

Notes
  • For football, I did rankings for years before the FBS.  And I only did that since 1936, the year the AP rankings started. Otherwise, there’d be a lot of CT (Yale), MA (Harvard), and NJ (Princeton) in there. Yup, the Ivy League dominated the early years of college football. Hard to believe, right?
  • For basketball, I’m including the NIT champion for those days when the NIT was more prestigious.


Football

  • I was definitely right about AL and FL.
  • But what the heck is going on with Indiana? I thought that was a basketball state. Oh, Notre Dame. Never mind.
  • I would have thought TX and OK might have been reversed in size. Turns out the Sooners were quite the powerhouse back in the ‘50s.
  • Little surprised GA has only the 1 championship.
  • Also surprised that Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania didn’t win more.


Basketball

  • Well, I was certainly correct about NC and KY
  • But how about California?  Dang! Forgot all about John Wooden and UCLA.  10 championships in 12 years. Whew!
  • Little surprised Indiana and Kansas haven’t won more. Unlike NC and KY, which have multiple teams that have won titles, for Indiana and Kansas, it’s just the Hoosiers and Jayhawks. That probably explains it.
  • You’re probably wondering about 2 states here, Wyoming and Massachusetts. Sure enough, Wyoming won it in 1943 and Holy Cross in 1947. Wyoming’s an interesting story in that their title probably can be traced solely to native son Ken Sailors, inventor of the jump shot.


Baseball

  • Pretty much got this one, but I am surprised how dominant CA was.
  • I see the upper South and lower Midwest also have some representation.
  • But what the heck is going on with Minnesota though? Turns out the Badgers won 3 national championships, between the years of 1955 and 1964. And that is very likely solely a function of having Dick Siebert as their coach, one of the best college coaches ever. Not sure how he ended up in the cold, cold north land though.
  • And how about Mass? Once again, it’s Holy Cross. And once again, it was a long time ago – back in 1952, to be exact.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Nerd Baseball Superstars – the Top Ballplayers from the Top Schools

When it comes to baseball stars, I usually think of big state schools in warmer regions of the country, like Florida, Arizona, Texas, and UCLA. I do not think Yale, Amherst, Northwestern, or the University of Chicago.  For those schools, I think US presidents, Noble laureates, and captains of industry. Wouldn’t it be cool, though, to see who those schools got into the majors or who their top players actually were?

Here's how I went about it:

  • I came up with what I thought were the 25 top, most exclusive (usually private) schools in the country. You’ll probably disagree with me on some of these, but hopefully these aren’t too off base.
  • I went to baseball.reference.com, found those schools, then saw which alumni had the best career WAR.
  • I listed them below, from worst to first.

Enjoy!


#25  Emory | Ed Lafitte
Presidents:  0
Noble laureates:  3
MLB players:  3
Nerd ratio: 1.0
WAR :  2.0

Ed Lafitte actually didn’t graduate from Emory, but from neighboring Georgia Tech. He would go on to get a dental degree, and practice dentistry for 42 years. He would also serve in both world wars.

Things on the ball field were a little less accomplished. Ed pitched for 5 years in the majors and 9 in the minors. Though he threw the Federal League’s first no-hitter, he also led the league in walks that year as well. Overall, he finished 37-35, with an ERA of 3.33 and a WHIP of 1.438.

And, yes, that is a genuine Louisiana name. Ed was born in NOLA, where his family owned a house on Bourbon St.!



#24  Cornell | Joe Birmingham
Presidents:  0
Noble laureates:  54
MLB players:  12
Nerd ratio: 4.5
WAR :  3.3

Joe Birmingham was actually a local, having been born in Elmira, only 30-some miles away from Cornell.

In the majors, Joe played outfield, and was up for 9 years (all with the Indians). He stole over 100 SBs and was quite good on defense (regularly finishing in the top 5 in assists, double plays, and range factor).

Birmingham also managed the Tribe for 2 ½ years. Though he finished with a respectable .471 record, he had one disastrous season of 51-102.

BTW, Joe also attended Notre Dame, a little further down this list.



#23  Harvard | Eddie Grant
Presidents:  8
Noble laureates:  159
MLB players:  31
Nerd ratio: 5.13
WAR :  4.4

Well, it’s nice to know that the best school in the country is bringing up the rear when it comes to something.

Another local (he was born in Franklin, MA), Eddie Grant got a bachelor’s and a law degree from Harvard. While there, he also played on the basketball team.

Grant played major league baseball for 10 years, with 4 different teams, and was a starter for 4 of those years. In fact, he led the league in plate appearances 2 years in a row. An excellent fielder, he was in the top 5 for 3rd basemen in a number of defensive categories over those years.

Grant may be most well-remembered for dying in WWI, one of the few MLB players who did. He was honored with a plaque in centerfield in the Polo Grounds. When the stadium was razed, though, the plaque disappeared. It was only recovered 40 years later, in the home of one of NYC’s finest.

There’s a great story about Eddie, though I’m not totally sure it’s true …  Legend has it that Grant, when there was a fly ball on the left side of the infield,  would yell “I have it!” instead of the less grammatically correct “I got it!”



#22  Amherst | John Cerutti
Presidents:  1 (Calvin Coolidge)
Noble laureates:  5
MLB players:  14
Nerd ratio: 0.36
WAR :  6.6

Well, finally, a modern-day ballplayer. 

John Cerutti graduated from Amherst with a double major, in economics and math. The Blue Jays took him in the first round, the first time that had happened for the Lord Jeffs. Yup, that’s what Amherst used to call their sports teams (they’re now the Moose).

John played for 7 years in the majors, compiling a 49-43 record with a 3.94 ERA. After retirement, he became a broadcaster for the Jays. Tragically, John passed away in his hotel room at the SkyDome at the very young age of 44 (from a cardiac arrhythmia).



#21  MIT | Skip Lockwood
Presidents:  0
Noble laureates:  87
MLB players:  3
Nerd ratio: 29.0 (highest)
WAR :  10.7

Bet you didn’t know that MIT even had a baseball team. A chess club? Sure. Real, live baseball players though??? 

Interestingly, Skip got his degree from MIT after his MLB career was over. During his career, he made attending college in the offseason something of a hobby. Over the years, he attended Merrimack, Carroll College, Marquette, Boston College, Emerson (where he got a B.A.), Fairfield (where he got a Master’s), and Columbia (where he began a PhD program). His MIT degree was a second Masters, in finance and economics, from the Sloan School of Management. Not too shabby!

Skip was in the bigs for 12 years, playing for 4 different teams. He was a starter for 4 of those 12 and was the Mets’ closer for another 3. Overall, he finished with a nothing-to-write-home-about 57-97 record, albeit with a decent 3.55 ERA, 1.311 WHIP, and 800-some strikeouts. His being a founding member of the Seattle Pilots (and then toughing it out for 4 more years in Milwaukee) probably helps explain that woeful W-L record.



#20  Princeton | Will Venable
Presidents:  3
Noble laureates:  42
MLB players:  30
Nerd ratio: 1.4
WAR :  12.9

Another modern player, Will Venable was quite the star for the Tigers. He actually went to Princeton for its basketball program. His dad, though, was major leaguer Max Venable, so I guess it was only natural that Will would try out for – and make – the baseball team as well. Will was actually All-Ivy in both sports.

Will’s been up in the majors for 9 years, from 2008 to last season. Most of that time was with the Pads, where he was a regular for a good 6 years. He was known to have a little pop, some nice speed, and a great glove. Similar players include Oddibe McDowell, Drew Stubbs, and Daryl Boston.

BTW, Will’s brother Winston is a former NFL player. 



#19  Caltech | Gary Roenicke
Presidents:  0
Noble laureates:  35
MLB players:  15
Nerd ratio: 2.53
WAR :  15.5

Yup, this is where the guys from The Big Bang Theory go. My guess is, though, that they’re not big fans of the Beavers (yup, that’s the mascot).

I actually couldn’t find anything on Gary’s time at Caltech (other than a baseballreference.com link), so I’m thinking he probably wasn’t there long.

Gary’s another 1st rounder, going 8th to the Expos. An outfielder, he spent most of his 12 years platooning for Earl Weaver in Baltimore. He was, however, able to compile over 100 homers and 400 RBIs. He also had a pretty decent glove.

Today, Roenicke lives in the wonderfully name town of Rough and Ready, CA, where he is an advisor to an independent league and a scout for the Orioles. The Roenickes are quite the baseball family – brother Ron was in the majors for 8 years and son Josh is currently in the Reds organization. 



#18  Williams | Ted Lewis
Presidents:  0
Noble laureates:  1
MLB players:  9
Nerd ratio: 0.11
WAR :  18.8

Wow! What an interesting guy. Ted Lewis was a pretty decent ballplayer, but he also:

  • Taught English at Williams and Columbia
  • Was president of UMass-Amherst and the University of New Hampshire
  • Was good friends with Robert Frost, who read a poem at Ted's funeral service

As for baseball, don’t be too surprised that Lewis was known as “The Pitching Professor” and “Parson Lewis” (he had a divinity degree from Williams). Ted was up for 6 years, winning 20 games twice. He spent his whole career in Boston, 5 years with the Braves and 1 with the Sox.

Other famous Williams grads – though non-players – include Fay Vincent and George Steinbrenner.



#17  Northwestern | Mark Loretta
Presidents:  0
Noble laureates:  11
MLB players:  27
Nerd ratio: 0.41
WAR :  19.3

Mark Loretta was a college standout and a pretty decent major leaguer as well.  With the Wildcats, Mark was a 4-year starter at shortstop and a one-time Big 10 Player of the Year. 

In the majors, Mark was up for 15 years. During that time, he managed to bring home some silverware, including a Gold Glove and two All-Star berths. A decent hitter, he also topped .300 four times. Unfortunately, though, he never really had either pop or speed.

After retirement, Loretta coached Team Israel in the Olympics. Though not Jewish, Mark’s lovely wife Hilary is.



#16  Swarthmore | George Earnshaw
Presidents:  0
Noble laureates:  5
MLB players:  7
Nerd ratio: 0.71
WAR :  20.1

George Earnshaw came from a fairly tony family. One sportswriter joked that he was "a social register Johnnie" who “knows what to do in case of lobster and artichokes.”

At 6’4” and 210 lbs., Earnshaw played basketball and football as well as baseball at Swarthmore. Not too surprisingly, he went by the nickname of “Moose.”

As for the majors, Earnshaw was up for only 9 years, but was a 20-game winner for 3 of those. Overall, he won over 100 games and had over 1000 strikeouts. He once led the AL in wins and once in shutouts. Unfortunately, he also led the league twice in walks and twice in HRs allowed.

George teamed up with Lefty Grove for most of his career, when the two were with the A’s (and the A’s were very good). Earnshaw would get in 3 World Series with Philadelphia, finishing with a 4-3 record. 

After baseball, George distinguished himself as a Navy Commander in WWII, was a pitching coach for the Phillies, and then retired as a gentleman farmer in Arkansas.



#15  Washington University (St. Louis) | Norm Siebern
Presidents:  0
Noble laureates:  23
MLB players:  22
Nerd ratio: 1.05
WAR :  20.9

So, who we going to believe here? Baseball.reference.com has Norm attending Washington. SABR and Wikipedia, though, don’t say a thing. So, I’m listing Norm here, but also Muddy Ruel, who I definitely know was a grad (actually, from the law school, which he attended in the offseason).

Poor Norm Siebern. Though he came up with the Yankees, they traded him to the lowly Kansas City Athletics in the Roger Maris deal. Overall, Norm garnered a Gold Glove, got MVP votes 3 times, and made the All Star team 4 times. He was also a particularly good 1st baseman as well. In fact, if he’d had a chance to stay with the Yankees, you’d probably have heard of him.

Muddy Ruel (born Herold) was a top-notch defensive catcher back in the teens, 20s, and 30s. Up for 19 years, he led his league in categories such as games (2), putouts (3), assists (3), double plays (3), fielding percentage (2), and range factor (2), and caught stealing (1). He got Hall of Fame votes for 9 years running during the 50s. Ruel was barely behind Siebern with a career WAR of 18.5.

 


#14  Carnegie Mellon | Hans Lobert
Presidents:  0
Noble laureates:  21
MLB players:  4
Nerd ratio: 5.25
WAR :  22.8

Hans Lobert was a major speedster in the first two decades of the 20th Century. Though he never led the league in SBs, he did finish with over 300 for his career. He also beat Jim Thorpe in the 100-yard dash once and also took on a race horse before a game.

After his playing days were over, the former 3rd baseman coached at West Point, and was also a major-league scout, coach, and manager. That last bit was for only a year, with Lobert ending up with a woeful 42-111 record.

Interestingly, CMU (one of my alma maters, by the way) doesn’t even have a baseball team anymore.



#13  Dartmouth | Red Rolfe
Presidents:  0
Noble laureates:  3
MLB players:  34
Nerd ratio: 0.09
WAR :  23.5

So, not only was Red Rolfe a fine Dartmouth grad, he also went to Phillips Exeter prep school. Not sure why he didn’t end up on Wall Street or in the halls of Congress instead of on the baseball diamond.

You may have already heard of Rolfe, as he managed the hot corner for the Yankees during the ‘30s (when they were pretty much in the postseason every year). Rolfe himself would actually get into no less than 6 Series, finishing with over 100 at bats and with a .284 average. 

Though only up in the bigs for 10 years, he made the most of his time there. He was a 4-time All Star, hit .300 four times, and was a league leader in runs, hits, doubles, and triples. He wasn’t a bad fielder either, finishing 1st in fielding percentage 2 years in a row.

After hanging up his spikes, Red was the baseball and basketball coach at Yale, managed the Detroit Tigers for a couple of years, then became the athletic director at Dartmouth. The baseball field in Hanover is named after him.



#12  Duke | Billy Werber
Presidents:  1 (Richard Nixon got his law degree here)
Noble laureates:  11
MLB players:  30
Nerd ratio: 0.37
WAR :  25.1

Billy Werber was actually a neighbor of mine. He lived up the street, at a retirement home. We never actually met, but he sure was in the local paper and on local TV a lot. 

And that’s probably because he was the oldest living major-league ballplayer when he passed away at age 101 in 2009. Hard to believe that a person who was alive in the days of Facebook and Androids once played baseball with Babe Ruth.

Werber was also a pretty good ballplayer as well. Another speedster, he led the NL in steals 3 times and runs once. He was a pretty good 3rd baseman as well, leading the league in fielding percentage (1), putouts (2), assists (2), and range factor (3).

After retirement, Werber ran a successful insurance business, and was also the author of 3 books.

By the way, Werber played both baseball and basketball at Duke (my other alma mater). In fact, he was Duke’s first All-American hoopster.



#11  Johns Hopkins | Davey Johnson
Presidents:  1 (Woodrow Wilson got his PhD here)
Noble laureates:  36
MLB players:  7
Nerd ratio: 5.14
WAR :  27.5

You probably know this guy as a manager. You’d probably have to be a little bit older, or more of a baseball nerd, to remember that he was quite a decent ballplayer as well.

Player-wise, Johnson was up for 13 years, mostly as a 2nd baseman for those great Oriole teams in the 1960s. Davey was a 4-time All Star and a 3-time Gold Glover. He had one incredible year in Atlanta when he hit 43 homers (his previous high being 18).

Dave (what he was often called) actually managed 4 more years than he played. Overall, he finished with an excellent 595-417 record, won Manager of the Year honors twice, and grabbed a World Series ring with the 1986 Mets. He also managed Team USA in the World Baseball Classic and in the Olympics.

Johnson actually only attended Hopkins (and that in the offseason, while he was a major leaguer). He also attended Texas A&M (where he played baseball and basketball), and got his bachelor’s, in math, from Trinity (also in TX). That math degree actually helped him in becoming one of the first managers to employ Sabremetrics.



#10  Vanderbilt | David Price
Presidents:  0
Noble laureates:  7
MLB players:  38
Nerd ratio: 0.18
WAR :  32.2

Hey, another current ballplayer! David – and Vanderbilt – will undoubtedly rise in these rankings. Price is only 31, and just finished a year where he won 17 games and was a league leader in games started.

In his short 9 years in the bigs, Price has actually accomplished quite a lot. He has one Cy Young Award to his credit, and was runner-up for 2 others. He also led the AL in ERA twice, and in wins and strikeouts once each.

Vanderbilt actually has a pretty decent team, winning the NCAA title in 2014. Though David wasn’t around for that, he sure starred for them when he was there. He was an All-America every year, and in his final year made a clean sweep of all the top college awards (Golden Spikes, Dick Howser, and several others). In that year, he went 11-1, with a 2.63 ERA and 194 strikeouts in 133 innings. Wow!



David and Astro

#9  Univ. of Pennsylvania | Roy Thomas
Presidents:  1 (William Henry Harrison dropped out of the med school)
Noble laureates:  28
MLB players:  61
Nerd ratio: 0.46
WAR :  40.2

So, back to total obscurity. Roy Thomas was in the majors for 13 years in the early part of the 20th Century. He did finish with a nice .290 average and 244 SBs though. He also holds some rather unique records: 

  • He is the only player with 3 times more runs than RBIs
  • He once fouled off 22 balls in a single plate appearance

He was known in particular for his ability to walk, leading his league or the majors no less than 7 times. He was also a top-notch outfielder, leading his league in multiple defensive categories.

Roy was later a coach for the Quakers, leaving them with one of the best winning percentages in college ball during his tenure.



#8  Georgetown | Doc White
Presidents:  2 (LBJ and Clinton)
Noble laureates:  2
MLB players:  43
Nerd ratio: 0.05
WAR :  42.6

Roy Thomas and Doc White’s careers almost completely overlap. Doc, though, was a pitcher. In fact, he led the AL in wins, ERA, and WHIP in different years, and finished with almost 200 wins, not quite 1400 strikeouts, a 2.39 ERA, and a 1.121 WHIP. He also threw 5 straight shutouts, fashioning a record that stood 64 years until broken by Don Drysdale in 1968. White could would well be in the Hall of Fame.  Similar players include members Jack Chesbro and Rube Waddell.

The “Doc” comes from Guy’s (his real name) getting a DDS from Georgetown’s School of Dentistry. In addition to pulling teeth, White also moonlighted as a composer, putting the music to lyrics provided by sportswriter Ring Lardner.



#7  Brown | Fred Tenney
Presidents:  0
Noble laureates:  8
MLB players:  41
Nerd ratio: 0.21
WAR :  43.6

Here’s another old timer. Fred Tenney actually split his years fairly evenly between the 19th and 20th Centuries. Over his 17 years in the bigs, he hit .294, topped .300 seven times, scored almost 1400 runs, got over 2000 hits, and stole not quite 800 bases. It was at 1st base, however, where Fred truly shone. He is, in fact, credited with inventing the 3-6-3 double play, stretching for the throw, and other innovations.

Interestingly, at the time Fred played, college grads typically did not play organized baseball. I guess it was considered a little too rough for them. If you can believe it, Tenney actually went by the nickname “The Soiled Collegian.”  

After hanging up his spikes, Fred did a little journalism (including writing for the NY Times) and was an executive for an insurance company and a shoe manufacturer. 



#6  Yale | Jim O’Rourke
Presidents:  5
Noble laureates:  55
MLB players:  30
Nerd ratio: 1.83
WAR :  51.3

Our first Hall of Famer! Jim O’Rourke actually played all but a handful of games in the 19th Century. For the time he played, he ranks only behind Cap Anson in major categories such as games, hits, doubles, and total bases. 

O’Rourke actually graduated from Yale Law School, and was a practicing attorney in the offseason. That’s undoubtedly how he came by his nickname of “Orator Jim.”

Up for 23 years in the majors, O’Rourke played minor league ball up until he was 50. He actually returned to the bigs for a pinch-hitting stint at age 54 – and got a single! His last stunt was catching a complete game in the minors at 62!



#5  Rice | Lance Berkman
Presidents:  0
Noble laureates:  3
MLB players:  38
Nerd ratio: 0.08
WAR :  51.7

So, if Jim O’Rourke can make it to the Hall, why not Lance Berkman? Baseballreference.com gives him a Monitor score of 98 (likely member = 100) and a Standards score of 44 (likely member = 50). Unfortunately, his similar players include such unlikely candidates as Jim Edmonds, Moises Alou, Jack Clark, and Brian Giles.

Over his 15-year career, Berkman made the All-Star team 7 times. He also came in third in MVP voting twice. Interestingly, he was only a league leader in a major category once, with 128 RBIs in 2002. Berkman went by two nicknames – the fearsome “The Big Puma,” as well as the much-less-so “Fat Elvis.”

After retiring, Berkman started coaching – as a hitting coach for Rice and as a head coach for local high school Second Baptist (where Andy Pettitte is his assistant).



Definitely the 2nd nickname for this one


#4  Univ. of Chicago | Ernie Banks
Presidents:  0
Noble laureates:  91
MLB players:  13
Nerd ratio: 7.0
WAR :  67.4

Another Hall of Famer. And another ballplayer who went back to college after his playing days were over.

Ernie Banks actually went to both Chicago and Northwestern (#17 on our list). Interestingly, baseballreference.com only mentions Chicago. Encyclopedia.com, on the other hand, only mentions Northwestern. Go figure.

I probably don’t need to say much about this guy. In addition to being enshrined at Cooperstown, he was also an 11-time All Star, 2-time MVP, 2-time league leader in HRs, and 2-time leader in RBIs. Overall, his 19 years with the Cubbies netted him over 500 homers, 1600 ribbies, 2500 hits, and 1300 hits.

Banks was also one of the nicest guys to ever play the game. He passed away just a couple of years ago, in 2014. I’m sure he’s up in heaven right now, still celebrating the Cubs first Series win in over 100 years.



#3  Stanford | Mike Mussina
Presidents:  2 (Hoover and JFK)
Noble laureates:  60
MLB players:  95
Nerd ratio: 0.63
WAR :  82.7

Another “Moose”!  

And another legit candidate for the Hall. Mussina’s been eligible for 3 years now, garnering 43% in the last vote. His “similar players” include Juan Marichal and Carl Hubbell … though also David Wells, CC Sabathia, and Bartolo Colon.

Over his 18 years, “Moose” was a 4-time All Star and a 7-time Gold Glove winner. He also pitched 139 IP in the post season. And all of that was in the hyper-competitive AL East. Mike basically split his career between the Orioles and Yankees.

Despite the nickname, Mussina was also genuinely a smart fellow. He was the salutarian of his high school class, and was an economics major at Stanford. He also was an All-American for the Cardinal (yup, that's what they're called) and pitched in 2 college world series for them.

Finally, “Moose” sounds like a pretty interesting guy. In particular, he:

  • Was born in Williamsport, PA, home of Little League
  • Still lives in his hometown, where he coaches the high school baseball team
  • Serves on Little League’s board of directors
  • Is actually of Slavic descent
  • Is a big crossword puzzle enthusiast
  • Collects tractors and old cars



#2  Notre Dame | Cap Anson
Presidents:  0
Noble laureates:  2
MLB players:  85
Nerd ratio: 0.02 (lowest)
WAR :  93.9

Not too surprising, this one. The Irish have always been known for their sports teams. So, in addition to Joe Montana and Adrian Dantley, we’ve also got Cap Anson.

If you’re a real baseball fan, I probably don’t need to say a whole lot about this guy. Because, however, he played solely in the 19th Century, he’s probably not as well know as he should be. So, here are some reminders of how good he actually was:

  • 27 seasons
  • 20 seasons batting .300
  • Lifetime .334 average
  • 4-time league leader in average
  • 8-time leader in RBIs
  • 3435 hits overall

And on top of all that, he also managed for 21 years. In that capacity, he finished 1295-947 and also won 5 pennants.

Given all that, I actually debated even including Anson. “Pop” actually attended Notre Dame’s prep school, not the university. (Hey, I just do whatever baseballreference.com tells me to do.) If we don’t include him, Notre Dame’s runner-up would be Yaz. Not too shabby either!


Plus, he also looked like Jimmy Durante


#1  Columbia | Lou Gehrig
Presidents:  3
Noble laureates:  100
MLB players:  22
Nerd ratio: 4.55
WAR :  112.4

Columbia, on the other hand, is not a school I associate with athletic achievement. In fact, these days at least, they appear to be most famous for a football team that went 0-for-the-‘1980s.

Ah, but what a storied baseball history there is. In addition to Gehrig, other Hall of Fame alumni include Sandy Koufax and Eddie Collins. 

Do note, though, that this is definitely a but-what-have-you-done-for-me-lately story. In fact, the Lions have produced only 2 major leaguers in the current century:

  • Fernando Perez was an outfielder for 2 years with the Rays
  • Mike Baxter was up for 6 years, with 4 different teams. 

Put ‘em both together, and you’ve got around 500 at bats, an average in the low .230’s, 7 homers, and 38 RBIs. Iron Horses they ain’t.