Ellsbury Returns To Fenway

Friday, June 08, 2007

The Hardest Baseball Trivia Question Answered

For many years, my father and I have asking what we both consider to be "the hardest baseball trivia question." For three decades we've been asking both hardcore as well as regular baseball trivia fans a question that no fan has been able to answer. And that question is:

"Who held the career home run record before Babe Ruth set the record in 1921?"

Back in 1974, I sent a question to the Daily News columnist Red Foley, who used to have a Sunday column called "Ask Red," where he'd answer about 4 or 5 baseball queries from fans in the New York area. On four occasions I sent in questions that were printed in the paper that Sunday. However, every time I wrote to Red I got a response back from him on Daily News stationery. It was a really cool thing.

Hank Aaron had just broken Babe Ruth's all-time home run record. It was of course a huge thing, but in all the hullabaloo surrounding it, I wondered who's record Ruth broke. So I wrote to Red and he sent me back the answer.

For years, my dad and I asked people if they knew, and we'd get all kinds of guesses, like Ty Cobb, Home Run Baker and Honus Wagner. But they were always incorrect. When we'd say the answer, we'd get long faces and the inevitable response of, "I never heard of him."

So after three decades I figured nobody would ever answer this question correctly. I was in Professor Thom's on Thursday night, and my buddy Chris introduced me to a friend of his from ESPN.com named Dave. We were shooting baseball qusetions between us all night. Dave had a great one that stumped Chris and I but good. But then I decided to hit him with my question about the home run champion.

Dave at first said Roger Connor, but that was the "pre-1900" answer (as we checked it out in a baseball encyclopedia the bar has handy). Connor hit 136 homers, but his is not considered the "modern" record, as he hit all of his before 1898. Then the next response from Dave was, "Gavvy Cravath." I was totally dumbstruck! He got it right, and it's the first time his name has been mentioned by anyone in 30 years of asking that question between my dad and myself. I shook Dave's hand and congratulated him on getting it right.

Gavvy Cravath (pictured) was the premier home run hitter before Ruth, hitting 119 homers in a career that lasted from 1908-1920. He came up with the Red Sox, but played most of his career with the Phillies, and won 6 NL home run titles. After he retired, he became a judge in his native California, where he died in 1963. For more on the one-time home run champ, check this out:
http://www.baseball-reference.com/c/cravaga01.shtml

10 comments:

Suldog said...

A great bar bet question is to ask:

"Hank Aaron hit 755 career home runs. Before he hit number 755, who held the record for most home runs?"

The answer, of course, is that Aaron held the record, with 754 :-)

Michael Leggett said...

Cliff Cravath is how the name was listed in various Almanacs, while I was a kid.

Steel36 said...

If anyone knew the answer to that one -they need help cause they love baseball too much.

Blue Blooded Journo said...

It really sucks that you can't run normal internet trivia contests anymore because of wikipedia and the efficiency of google.

People's sports trivia knowledge used to garner a lot of respect when I was growing up. Now, weird knowledge is king.

The Omnipotent Q said...

I love both Google and Wikipedia, and they have both helped me tremendously in the Monday Night Trivia nights.

But you certainly can't do anything like have an online one any more, as the answers are all out there...

Peter N said...

Funny, Sul!
And Q, I have NO trivia answers, so it's like starting from scratch. Every day of my life.
I like Daisuke tonight going against the old man RJ. I have to credit him (RJ) with coming back from a back operation. But this late Sunday afternoon, it's all Dice all the time. Shortly before 5pm. Enjoy!!!
And boom boom, someone's dead tonight on HBO.......I can't wait!

Peter N said...

Who, what, when, where and why. To be determined!

The Omnipotent Q said...

I, too, will be watching The Finale tonight on the midnight rebroadcast on HBO West.

walkerama said...

I am looking to find the answer to this one. Any help would be nice. What two people are in the hall of fame and have nothing to do with baseball?

The Omnipotent Q said...

Abbott and Costello, for "Who's On First."