By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
By Roy Edroso
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
By Zachary D. Roberts
Who's smarter than Bobby Valentine? Voicereaders. And Brian Calandra of Astoria, in particular. After tabulating 7,142,246 votes (or thereabouts) with Arthur Andersen-like precision, we declare Calandra the grand prize winner of the Voice's first Annual Cryogenic Baseball Quiz.
He got all the answers rightso did dozens of othersbut it was the fourth paragraph of his essay question touting Henry Aaron as the greatest living ballplayer that clinched it for Mr. C. "My nostalgia GLB is legendary Yank phenom Dan Pasqua, whose two-run homer off Dan Quisenberry rapturously ended my first visit to Yankee Stadium and inspired me to wear his "21" throughout Little League. But I'd forget that tomorrow if any player's heroics got me laid, and that hasn't happened yet (sex, yes; baseball-inspired sex, no), although both a Shane Spencer-inspired home run and Hideki Irabu win (problems with my pitches, not his) came close." Words to live by, indeed. Calandra wins a copy of Richard Tofel's A Legend in the Making, a copy of Allen Barra's Clearing the Bases, and a Voice ball cap, which will surely help him get laid.
Our second prize goes to Desmond Devlin of Jackson Heights, who submitted the very last entry we received, touting Albert Belle in the kind of 13-point argument that makes sense only in the wee hours: "(1) He overcame substance abuse to become an inspirational figure to all Americans, just like President Bush. . . . (4) When Saint Cal ended his streak, Belle became the active player with the most consecutive games played, which pissed everyone off. . . . (13) He'll never get the chance to make the shortest Hall of Fame speech ever: 'No comment.'" Devlin gets a Barra-filled prize package of Clearing the Basesand That's Not the Way It Was, as well as an open invitation to come trick-or-treating at my house anytime.
Rounding out our top fiveeach will receive a cap, a book, and a year's worth of gloating rightsare Chris Brame of Bishop, Georgia, who gave it up for Roger Clemens; Eric Chaikin of Hollywood, California, who made a short but sweet argument for a certain Red Sox reliever ("I was a teenage Mets fan in New England for the sixth game of the 1986 World Series and can therefore state from personal experience that the greatest living ballplayer is Calvin Schiraldi"); and Owen King of Brooklyn, who would immortalize "the idea of Willie Mays."
Receiving honorable mentionsand one cap eachfor their essays, despite stumbling on a question or two, are Glenn Slavin of Brooklyn, who reminded us about the great Sadaharu Oh; Joel Rhymer of Freedom, New Hampshire, who cited the wit and wisdom of Bill Lee; and Ed Heinemann of Chicago, who cast Mark Fidrych as baseball's Bartleby. ("When the Bird talked to the Ball, we were reminded that control is a performance, an act of will, or just an illusion, not unlike the illusion that allows us to be fans, muttering to the TV, shouting from the stands, feeling intensely our effect on the action even as we know it doesn't exist, living in that hope for those who die unhoping.")
But enough bookkeeping. So who is the greatest living ballplayer? According to our team of crack, Florida-based election judges, it's Willie Mays, who tallied 44 percent of the vote. Second was Hank Aaron (15 percent), followed by Barry Bonds (10 percent), and Stan Musial (6 percent). A wide variety of suspects split the remaining chads, ranging from Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson to Mookie Wilson and Willie McGee.
The average score by our entrants was a very impressive 12.84 out of a possible 14 (not including the essay). The hardest question was No. 5, a quasi-trick question on baseball deaths. All the incidents were true, but Bernard Malamud fans should remember that Eddie Waitkus survived being shot by the deranged female fan.
Props to all the seamheads who entered, but pay attention, because next year you'll have to be smarter than Joe Torre.
1. About which current major leaguer did Bill James recently write, "Somebody asked me did I think [ X] was a Hall of Famer. I told him, 'If you could split him in two, you'd have two Hall of Famers.' "
Rickey Henderson, in the New Historical Baseball Abstract.
2. Yankee closer Mariano Rivera, whose errant throw probably cost the Yankees the 2001 World Series, was charged with two errors in the first half of the 2002 season. How many regular-season errors did he have entering the 2002 season?
Rivera had committed one regular-season error (on July 24, 2001) in his career entering the 2002 season.
3. Who am I? As a hitter, I'm a virtual clone of Jason Giambi. Entering this season, my career slugging percentage was one point higher than his, my career on-base percentage was one point lower. Even though I'm only six months older, I've hit almost a hundred more home runs, and played in 11 postseason series to Giambi's two.
Jim Thome, although there was a typo in the questionit should have read "my career slugging percentage is 10 points higher." However, this did not affect the results of the quiz because no one got only this question wrong.
4. In the 1972 Flood v. Kuhn decision that temporarily upheld baseball's reserve clause, Supreme Court justice Harry Blackmun pontificated about the "many names, celebrated for one reason or another, that have sparked the diamond and its environs and that have provided tinder for recaptured thrills, for reminiscence and anticipation in-season and off-season." He then listed more than 80 of the game's greats and not-so-greats. Which of the following was not included in the list?