Think you know baseball? Some interesting facts about the game

Without apologies I admit to being a baseball fan. I’m sure many of you are as well. How much we know about the game is subject to debate, but it’s hard to find things that totally surprise us. Am I right?

Well I found a few things that I did not know and I’m going to share that information with you. Do you know, for example, which team first started wearing numbers on the back of uniforms? Do you remember the longest game ever played? Is it possible to “steal” first base?

Let’s take a look at the answers to those question and some other fascinating baseball facts.

THE LONGEST GAME. In 1984 the Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago White Sox became involved in a lengthy struggle that was tied 3-3 after the 17th inning. At this point the two teams were given some time to “rest” before the game went further.

The teams exchanged runs evenly until inning No. 25. Harold Baines then hit a home run and the White Sox prevailed 7-6. The number of innings set a record as did the time of the game. The game lasted 8 hours and 6 minutes. The official time of the game did not include the “intermission.”

In fairness I should mention that a game back in the 1920s went one inning and a few minutes longer, but ended in a 1-1 tie, so we will give the Brew Crew and the Pale Hose the record!

STEALING FIRST. In 1911 Herman “Germany” Schaefer was on first base with a teammate on third. He attempted to steal second base, hoping the catcher would try to throw him out so the runner from third could score. Alas, the catcher refused to throw the ball.

Before the next pitch Schaefer lit out again, this time for first base. The catcher did try to nail him this time and the runner trotted home from third base.

In short order a new rule was added that prevented runners from running the bases in reverse as it confused the defense and made a mockery of the game!

GREEN MONSTER SEATING. Boston’s Fenway Park was built in 1912, making it now the oldest stadium in big league baseball. It has a number of quaint nuances with the most recognizable being the 37-foot-high left field wall known as the Green Monster.

Most of you know that seats have been installed atop the Green Monster. Do you know what year they were put in? If you said 2004, you are a fan of the game or, at least, spent some time living in Boston.

You are truly a fan if you knew that in the early years of Fenway there were bleacher seats in FRONT of the Monster. The wall is not that far from the plate, so people sitting in front of it made the park play differently.

I would like to know if a ball hit off the wall in those days was considered a home run. Hey, it did sail over the bleachers! If you know the answer, let me know.

JERSEY NUMBERS. In 1929, two teams decided to put numbers on the back of jerseys so fans could more easily identify the players. Those two teams were the New York Yankees and the Cleveland Indians.

Since the Yankees got rained out on opening day, the Indians became the “first” team to wear numbers on the back of jerseys. In those days numbers were assigned based on the player’s position in the batting order.

For example, Babe Ruth always batted third in the lineup, thus he wore the No. 3. Do you remember who batted behind the Babe? If you said Lou Gehrig, you are correct. And what was his number?

Please tell me you got that one right too!

THE WORLD SERIES THAT WASN’T. The first World Series was held in 1903 between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Boston Americans — now known as the Red Sox.

The following year the National League pennant was won by the New York Giants, who would eventually move to San Francisco. The Giants refused to play the Americans. The owner of the Giants claimed the American League was not a real league and went on to “declare” his team the 1904 world champions!

If it were only that easy! Let’s see … I’m rich. I’m younger. I’m good looking. OK, who said I finally went too far?


The official song of Major League Baseball has been around a long time. Do you know who wrote the song? If you thought it was a couple of baseball crazed fans, you would be wrong.

The tune was written in 1908 by Jack Norworth and Albert von Tilzer. Neither of these gentlemen had ever been to a big league game. Their efforts (Norworth wrote the lyrics and von Tilzer supplied the melody) have lasted over a century.

The song is performed during the seventh inning stretch (another baseball tradition with different versions of its origins) at ballparks all over the country. It happens to be the third most sung song in the U.S. behind — you guessed it — Happy Birthday and the Star-Spangled Banner.

Interestingly enough, the words fans sing at the ballpark are only the chorus of the song. The rest of the song is available online and worth the look. I just hope you don’t add an “s” to Cracker Jack as many do. That would be incorrect.

Norworth went to his first major league game in 1940. There is no word on whether he sang along …

Al Stephenson is a columnist for The A-T.

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