Musings: Trivial Pursuit

By Dick Flavin

Boston Red Sox Poet Laureate

and New York Times Best Selling Author

TRIVIAL PURSUIT

As a rule, I do not like trivia questions, and that includes sports trivia, even questions

about baseball. They are a waste of time, a silly pusuit of useless information, and of no

practical or intellectual value. But there are exceptions to every rule. I think that such

questions ae just fine when I happen to know the answer. Then, in fact, I think they are

peachy-keen. Such questions become clevery designed inquiries designed to measure

one’s sagacity and intelligence.

In the New York Times recently there was a column consisting of fifty baseball trivia

questions. Why bother to read such tripe, much less publish it? I thought. It turned out,

though, that the first five questions were about the Red Sox. It happened that I knew the

answers to all of them. Well, I cheated a little on one, but I did know the answer, honest, I

did. (Question: Who is the Red Sox career leader in innings pitched? Answer: Tim

Wakfield.) I just couldn’t think of it at the time. What a wonderful, interactive piece on

little known factoids of baseball information, I mused. Then, on the ensuing forty-five

questions, only a few of which dealt with the Red Sox, I got pretty much skunked, and

my attention span rapidly waned.

There was one question that piqued my interest. It was this: “Which is the only franchise

that has never had a future Hall of Famer, even for one game?” Aha! I thought, the

perfect question to spring on my son-in-law, who knows a lot about baseball and, being

from Philadephia, is a National League guy. One morning at breakfast I casually dropped

the question on him and then watched with pleasure as he agonized over the answer for

the better part of an hour. He’s a tenacious guy and I knew he wouldn’t quit until he

finally got it. (Answer: the Colorado Rockies). I, on the other hand, would have thought

about it for a few seconds before throwing up my hands and saying dismissively, “Who

gives a rap?”

I did once stump Ted Williams with a trivia question and I have been dining out on the

story ever since. Ted was appearing at a celebrity golf tournament on Cape Cod. At the

dinner held afterwards I asked him if he knew what two players who are in the Hall of

Fame wore number nine for the Red Sox. Ted loudly intoned, “Well, [expletive deleted],

I know who one them was.” I said, “Everyone knows that, but who, besides you, wore

number nine?” Ted quickly fired back, “No one after me ever wore my [expletive

deleted] number.” “That’s right,” I said. “It was someone before you.” “Someone in the

[expletive deleleted] Hall of Fame?” he challenged. “Yes,” I said, beginning to feel a litte

nervous, even though I knew the answer. “You’re full of [expletive deleted],” he

pronounced. “No one else ever wore number nine.” Whereupon I asked Bobby Doerr,

who was also at the tournament, to come over to the table at which we were seated. I

asked him, “Would you please tell Ted what number you wore as a rookie?” Bobby, who

was Ted’s best friend when they played, had reached the majors before him. He looked at

Ted and said matter of factly, “Number nine.” “[Many expletives deleted]! I never knew

that!” Ted bellowed. Like most elite athletes, Williams had a highly developed

competitive gene. He didn’t like losing at anything, and he didn’t like the idea that

anyone knew more about a subject than he did, especially if that subject was himself. I

certainly didn’t know nearly as much about most things as he did, but I did have this one

piece of trivia in my arsenal. And, knowing him the way I did, I like to think that he used

the information regularly in the constant quizzes he used to spring on his friends and

associates.

The BoSox Club, the official booster club of the Red Sox, holds a dinner for its board of

directors and past presidents every Christmastime at which trivia questions about the

team are a featured part of the program. Trivia questions are also on the menu at

luncheons held by the Blohards (Benevolent Loyal Order of Honorable and Ancient

Redsox Diehard Sufferers), a group of Red Sox fanatics based in New York City. There

are serious Red Sox acolytes at these functions, and they know their Red Sox trivia. In

fact, to many of them it’s not Red Sox trivia at all, it’s their very lifeblood. That’s how

important the team is to them. They snap at the answers like bluefish on a feeding frenzy.

I sit by passively while these sessions are held, grumbling about what an utter waste of

time they are – unless, that is, I happen to know the answer to a question. Then I

frantically wave my hands and shout out the answer, usually too late to be recognized by

the guy asking the questions.

It happens that I have particular strength in one area of Red Sox trivia. My age is such

that I know a lot about Sox players who have died, especially those who passed on due to

old age. Ask me something like, “Who was the losing pitcher in the seventh game of the

1946 World Series?” and I’m likely to know the answer (Bob Klinger). My memory

might fail me, though, and I would be stumped, if you ask, “Who was the winning pitcher

in the final game of the 2018 World Series?” I’ll look it up, though, and if you ask me

seventy years from now, I might have the answer.By Dick Flavin

Boston Red Sox Poet Laureate

and New York Times Best Selling Author

TRIVIAL PURSUIT

As a rule, I do not like trivia questions, and that includes sports trivia, even questions

about baseball. They are a waste of time, a silly pusuit of useless information, and of no

practical or intellectual value. But there are exceptions to every rule. I think that such

questions ae just fine when I happen to know the answer. Then, in fact, I think they are

peachy-keen. Such questions become clevery designed inquiries designed to measure

one’s sagacity and intelligence.

In the New York Times recently there was a column consisting of fifty baseball trivia

questions. Why bother to read such tripe, much less publish it? I thought. It turned out,

though, that the first five questions were about the Red Sox. It happened that I knew the

answers to all of them. Well, I cheated a little on one, but I did know the answer, honest, I

did. (Question: Who is the Red Sox career leader in innings pitched? Answer: Tim

Wakfield.) I just couldn’t think of it at the time. What a wonderful, interactive piece on

little known factoids of baseball information, I mused. Then, on the ensuing forty-five

questions, only a few of which dealt with the Red Sox, I got pretty much skunked, and

my attention span rapidly waned.

There was one question that piqued my interest. It was this: “Which is the only franchise

that has never had a future Hall of Famer, even for one game?” Aha! I thought, the

perfect question to spring on my son-in-law, who knows a lot about baseball and, being

from Philadephia, is a National League guy. One morning at breakfast I casually dropped

the question on him and then watched with pleasure as he agonized over the answer for

the better part of an hour. He’s a tenacious guy and I knew he wouldn’t quit until he

finally got it. (Answer: the Colorado Rockies). I, on the other hand, would have thought

about it for a few seconds before throwing up my hands and saying dismissively, “Who

gives a rap?”

I did once stump Ted Williams with a trivia question and I have been dining out on the

story ever since. Ted was appearing at a celebrity golf tournament on Cape Cod. At the

dinner held afterwards I asked him if he knew what two players who are in the Hall of

Fame wore number nine for the Red Sox. Ted loudly intoned, “Well, [expletive deleted],

I know who one them was.” I said, “Everyone knows that, but who, besides you, wore

number nine?” Ted quickly fired back, “No one after me ever wore my [expletive

deleted] number.” “That’s right,” I said. “It was someone before you.” “Someone in the

[expletive deleleted] Hall of Fame?” he challenged. “Yes,” I said, beginning to feel a litte

nervous, even though I knew the answer. “You’re full of [expletive deleted],” he

pronounced. “No one else ever wore number nine.” Whereupon I asked Bobby Doerr,

who was also at the tournament, to come over to the table at which we were seated. I

asked him, “Would you please tell Ted what number you wore as a rookie?” Bobby, who

was Ted’s best friend when they played, had reached the majors before him. He looked at

Ted and said matter of factly, “Number nine.” “[Many expletives deleted]! I never knew

that!” Ted bellowed. Like most elite athletes, Williams had a highly developed

competitive gene. He didn’t like losing at anything, and he didn’t like the idea that

anyone knew more about a subject than he did, especially if that subject was himself. I

certainly didn’t know nearly as much about most things as he did, but I did have this one

piece of trivia in my arsenal. And, knowing him the way I did, I like to think that he used

the information regularly in the constant quizzes he used to spring on his friends and

associates.

The BoSox Club, the official booster club of the Red Sox, holds a dinner for its board of

directors and past presidents every Christmastime at which trivia questions about the

team are a featured part of the program. Trivia questions are also on the menu at

luncheons held by the Blohards (Benevolent Loyal Order of Honorable and Ancient

Redsox Diehard Sufferers), a group of Red Sox fanatics based in New York City. There

are serious Red Sox acolytes at these functions, and they know their Red Sox trivia. In

fact, to many of them it’s not Red Sox trivia at all, it’s their very lifeblood. That’s how

important the team is to them. They snap at the answers like bluefish on a feeding frenzy.

I sit by passively while these sessions are held, grumbling about what an utter waste of

time they are – unless, that is, I happen to know the answer to a question. Then I

frantically wave my hands and shout out the answer, usually too late to be recognized by

the guy asking the questions.

It happens that I have particular strength in one area of Red Sox trivia. My age is such

that I know a lot about Sox players who have died, especially those who passed on due to

old age. Ask me something like, “Who was the losing pitcher in the seventh game of the

1946 World Series?” and I’m likely to know the answer (Bob Klinger). My memory

might fail me, though, and I would be stumped, if you ask, “Who was the winning pitcher

in the final game of the 2018 World Series?” I’ll look it up, though, and if you ask me

seventy years from now, I might have the answer.