Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Baseball Trivia: Nothing Finer Than A Greasy Spoon Diner

Since the dawn of the Integration Era – 1947 to the present – there have been 41 single-season instances of a player recording 666 plate appearances. Yes, the Number of the Beast, which, of course, has long since been under contention. Masons and members of the Illuminati might argue that 616 is actually the official number that represents Satan, Mephistopheles, Beelzebub, Tset, whatever name your mother tongue allows you to utter in pure fear.

The Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus is the text usually cited supporting that 616 is the true number of the beast. However, I would also argue that the deep cultural phenomenon of naming 666 as the number and how that is a point of reference for possibly billions also legitimizes the use of 666. So, that is where we start!

Might I add, as a quick disclaimer, that I am not a Satanist, but given the evidence that daily life on earth provides to average observers, I tend to see more legitimacy in the belief in the Devil over God. That said, let’s talk about something saintly, shall we?! And by ‘saintly’ I just mean Hall of Famer, for our purposes. Oops, that’s your first hint, I guess!

Most recently, Melky Cabrera did it in 2017 while splitting time between the Chicago White Sox and Kansas City Royals. The Melk Man’s 2017 is also the least valuable 666 season at -0.2 bWAR. Jason Kendall currently owns the highest batting average for a 666 season at .325, however, not a single one of these seasons belongs to a batting champ.

The silhouetted slugger, who is today’s trivia answer, is the only player to have two such satanic seasons. The first came in his age-24 season, when he led the entire solar system in home runs (51), slugging percentage (.639), bWAR (8.1), and total bases (361). He also led the National League in OPS and OPS+ (1.055 and 173). The second instance came in his age-30 season when he split time between the Pirates and Cubs, as he was traded in early June of that season. That season was the first in his career that he hadn’t led the league in home runs. Two of those seasons he tied for the league and all but one of them led the entire major leagues; his rookie season is the only time he “simply” led the National League. His seven consecutive seasons leading the league in homers is still a major league record and they all came in his first seven seasons. Came out the gate with a bang, huh? His .946 OPS still ranks him at 21st all-time!

During his minor league days, he was conscripted into the Navy Air Corps, flying antisubmarine missions in the Pacific theater.

While he only played one season – his second in the majors – with Hank Greenberg, the two became close friends. Greenberg even served as the best man at his wedding, when he married Nancy Chaffee, who was a highly-ranked tennis star at the time. Seven years after his playing career ended, he became part of the inaugural New York Mets broadcast team. In his words, he estimated the Mets hired him, because he, “had a lot of experience with losing.”

Maybe it’s not worth mentioning, but he never got to the playoffs as a player; he would definitely be around for the Miracle Mets run. In 1975 – the year I was born – he was elected to the Hall of Fame by the BBWAA…by one vote over the 75% threshold!! While he didn’t marry into Hollywood, he did once escort Elizabeth Taylor to a movie premiere and his neighbors in Palm Springs included Frank Sinatra and Lucille Ball. Who is one of the greatest sluggers of his somewhat short 10-year span in the majors?

When you’ve succumbed to the terror of not knowing, here’s your ANSWER.

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