Weird scoreboard facts

Living in New York City, I could, without too much trouble, attend a baseball game virtually every day during the summer months. In addition to the Yankees and Mets, there are two minor league teams within the five boroughs—indeed, Manhattan is the only borough without a professional team—in addition to other minor and independent league teams within 50 miles.

I don’t quite attend a ballgame every day, but I do attend quite a few. When you attend this many games, you inevitably start to notice certain things about the game experience. Being that I primarily attend Yankee games, one of the things I have noticed is that the staff at Yankee Stadium is very fond of putting up facts on the scoreboard which are—how can I put this?—somewhat unusual.

In honor of Spring Training, which means the season is just around the corner, we’ll review some of my favorite scoreboard facts, and try to provide a little context to some of them.

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Ok, so this one is cheating, technically, because it comes not from Yankee Stadium, but rather from Boston’s Fenway Park. I do like it though. Wikipedia reports that the name is “Italian for “jump over” (salta) “the thicket” (la macchia, a kind of tall shrub)” which I suppose I believe if only because it seems too crazy to be made up.

To spare you the misery of counting, the name is 14 letters long. That allowed “Salty” to take over the position from players like Todd Hollandsworth, Steve Wojciechowski and (a personal favorite) Tim Spooneybarger. Another 13-letter player of note in this story is William Van Landingham. In addition to the 13 letters in his last name, the first name counts at seven, which ties him with Salty (whose first name is six letters, of course) for the longest name in baseball history at 20 letters.

(And yes, before you all comment, I’m aware that full names like Cornelius McGillicuddy clock in at more than 20 letters, but for the purposes of this exercise we’re using a nom de baseball.)

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Of course he is. If anyone knows who the other two players are, please let me know. I’m usually pretty good at tracking down baseball trivia, but this one is entirely stumping me.

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A couple of thoughts on this: first, although it may seem entirely random, if you look closely, you can see that the Yankees were on this day facing Cleveland’s Ubaldo Jimenez (against whom Ibanez is 1-for-12 with no home runs) so there is at least a certain logic to putting the graphic.

Second, I feel very badly for whichever Yankee or Elias Sports Bureau intern was tasked with reviewing the Raul Ibanez home run log to determine just how many pitchers whose last name ended with “z” he had homered against.

Finally, I was wondering if Ibanez is the all-time leader in home runs hit by a player whose last name ends in “z,” off of a pitcher who last name ends in “z.” Fourteen is, after all, an impressive number of pitchers. But it is not the best all-time. Instead, that title falls—I believe, though I will admit I haven’t checked every possible permutation—to Ibanez’ ex-teammate Alex Rodriguez, who has homered against 18 pitchers whose name ends in “z.” For A-Rod, that ranges from Wilson Alvarez (#1) to Livan Hernandez (#7), Livan’s half-brother Orlando Hernandez (#8), Clay Buchholz (#14) to the Henderson Alvarez (#18).

World War Z, indeed.

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First off, I love that this graphic includes the bit about Yogi Berra’s “birth name.” Heaven forbid Yankee fans feel one of their idols is being slighted on a ridiculous on-screen graphic. Of course, this would be the time for me to admit that, when I saw the list, my first thought was “Yogi Berra must have more than 72 home runs.” Oh, well.

Anyway, you know where this heading, so here we go, the home run leaders for each letter—at least insofar as first names go:

Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, Carlos Delgado, Dave Winfield, Ernie Banks, Frank Robinson, George “Babe” Ruth, Hank Aaron, Ivan Rodriguez, Jim Thome, Ken Griffey, Jr., Lou Gehrig, Mark McGwire, Norm Cash, Orlando Cepeda, Paul Konerko, Quilvio Veras, Rafael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa, Ted Williams, Urban Shocker, Vladimir Guerrero, Willie Mays, Xavier Nady, Yadier Molina (as noted in the photo), Zack Wheat

Urban Shocker was a pitcher, but as far as I can tell, he is the only “U” player with a home run—and he only has one. If Yadier Molina can hit over 100 home runs (he ended 2012 with 77) he would leave “U” and “Q” as the only letters without a 100 home run player. If I had to guess, I would say “Q” will get there first, but unless Quintin Berry develops some really unexpected power, it will be a long time before we see either of those letters climb the list.

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Naturally. Alcides went just 1-for-5 in this game, with his only hit coming in the eighth inning of a game Kansas City had long since made a blow-out. I cannot help but wonder if he was, nonetheless, motivated to perform—not only by this ridiculous graphic, but also by the guy sitting behind me who bellowed “stick to ping-pong!” after his outs.

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Comments

  1. Brandon Isleib said...

    In a question I never thought I’d get to ask in any context:

    How are we counting U.L. “Initials Stand for Nothing” Washington?

  2. Richard Barbieri said...

    Huh, that’s a really good question, Brandon. U.L. Washington did not come up in my searches for “U” players—which I assume is some kind of bug because of the nature of the thing—but if we accept that the first letter of his first name is “U,” then I guess he has to replace Shocker on the list. Good catch.

  3. Rex_Banner said...

    The other two guys to homer on their birthday/opening day are Ian Stewart for Colorado in 2010 and Scott Rolen for Philadelphia in 2000.

  4. Paul G. said...

    U L Washington would be second on that list.  First is (Urban) Johnny Hodapp with 28.  Full list:

    HR NAME (Given First Name)
    28 (Urban) Johnny Hodapp
    27 U L Washington
    11 Urbane Pickering
    6 (Ulysses) Tony Lupien
    3 (Urban) Red Faber
    2 (Ulysses) Lil Stoner
    1 (Urbain) Urban Shocker
    1 (Uriah) Jake Evans

    U L is the tops for anyone who admits to his first name, or letter as the case may be.  And while I don’t think it had quite the same meaning back then, I don’t see “Lil Stoner” as an improvement over “Ulysses.”  Then again, James Joyce’s novel Ulysses was the subject of obscenity trials around the same time Lil was starting his major league career, so maybe it was.

    (NOTE: Using the Lahman DB to find the given names.  My version is through 2011 so perhaps someone snuck up on the list in 2012.)

  5. gerard said...

    Ken Griffey Jr.‘s real first name is George, like his father. looks like Kent Hrbek at 293 is the ‘K’ leader instead.

  6. Cliff Blau said...

    Lou Gehrig’s first name was Henry, so he’s behind Henry Louis Aaron on the “H” list.  Looks like Larry Walker at 383 is the true “L” leader.

  7. Mark said...

    UL Washington & Lil’ Stoner debates?
    I had to fall out of my chair in order to ROFLMBO.

    Grateful not to have also blown hot coffee through my nose.

    UL owns up to the “U” so the record is his if I get a vote!

    Full disclosure: I went to lots of games at Royals Stadium in that ‘76-‘85 decade when they were truly worth watching, so I am admittedly biased.

  8. Paul G. said...

    I downloaded the newest Lahman DB.  The “U” home run gang did not change at all.

    Since I was already doing that, I checked all the other letters.  There are a few more corrections required beyond those mentioned in the comments.  Here’s, what best I can tell, the correct list (corrections from the original list in bold):

    Alex Rodriguez
    Barry Bonds
    Carlos Delgado
    Dave Winfield
    Ernie Banks AND Eddie Mathews (tied)
    Frank Robinson
    (George) Babe Ruth
    Hank Aaron
    Ivan Rodriguez
    Jim Thome
    Kent Hrbek
    (Larry) Chipper Jones
    Mark McGwire
    Norm Cash
    Orlando Cepeda
    Paul Konerko
    Quilvio Veras
    Rafael Palmeiro
    Sammy Sosa
    Ted Williams
    (Urban) Johnny Hodapp
    Vladimir Guerrero
    Willie Mays
    Xavier Nady
    Yadier Molina
    Zack Wheat

    There is also a player in the DB only known as last name “Scott” with a homer, so I suppose he leads the “no first name” list, right ahead of Cher and Fabio.

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