February 04, 2010
... how confident would you be in making your wager?
This is one of my favorite questions to ask people at a party or in a bar because it can tell me so much about their baseball knowledge and their propensity for risk and greed.
I actually phrase the question with a few more qualifications, though, and my game show query usually goes something like this:
"Let's say you're on 'Jeopardy!' and you're absolutely routing your two opponents. You have $40,000 going into the final round, while one of your opponents has, let's say, $15,000. You're guaranteed to move onto the next day, but the final category comes up and it has something to do with baseball, which is your favorite sport. How much — if anything — do you risk?"
It's at this point where most people usually tell me that they'd risk just enough to ensure that they would win even if they got the question wrong.
And it's at this point that my response to those people is always the same: "You'd be crazy to leave free money on the table. I'd bet the whole thing."
The person then responds by calling me an idiot while I try to back up my reasoning.
Among my Turd Ferguson-inspired arguments:
1. It's your best category.
2. The sports answers on "Jeopardy!" involve athletes even my mom knows.
3. The Final Jeopardy answers seem to be getting easier and easier lately in an attempt to bring purses in line with the stupid money that "Wheel of Fortune" gives its contestants for being good at hangman.
4. Do you really think a Canadian like Alex Trebek — or his team of geeky writers — is going to come up with a baseball question that will stump you and leave you with nothing?
5. No guts, no glory. You'd be a legend if you pulled it off. And on the slim chance you were wrong? You'd achieve a new level of fame by becoming a YouTube sensation and you could spin it into an ad with Cliff Clavin and make your money back anyway.
The reason I'm bringing all of this up now (apart from pitchers and catchers still being two weeks away and there not being much to write about) is that I was watching an episode last week and the final category was 'pro sports.' This was the final clue:
"The official address of the Atlanta Braves is No. 755 on the drive named for this man."
Though one woman managed to guess Martin Luther King — she obviously isn't much of a golfer — it doesn't get much easier than that, right? Why leave $10,000 on the table?
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At any rate, I decided to see if I'm just being delusional or if all Final Jeopardy rounds involving baseball are really as easy as I think they are.
Thankfully, the fine folks over at J!-Archive have too much time on their hands and have catalogued almost every game board. I ran a search at their site and found that 10 final categories dating back to 1996 have included "baseball" in its title.
It's worth noting that there have been many other final questions involving baseball — like this recent one about the Phillies — but for the sake of brevity I limited the search.
Here's what I came up with with my evaluation in italics. Solutions at the end of the post:
1. BASEBALL HISTORY (7/11/08): "For nearly 30 years, California's Catalina Island was the spring training camp for this non-California Major League team"
A toughie for most, but luckily it involves a team I'm just a bit familiar with.
2. BASEBALL TERMS (4/29/09): "Hall of Famer Willie Stargell called it 'a butterfly with hiccups'"
Might be a difficult question if you hadn't heard the quote before (I had) or realize there's only one real answer.
3. MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL (3/23/05): "The team names of these two expansion clubs start with the same three letters; one might catch the other."
Give me 2-3 minutes and I come up with it, no problem. In 30 seconds in front of a live audience with that J! music might cause the mother of all brain cramps, though. I'd be most afraid of a question like this.
It took me less than two seconds to come up with this one. Please.
5. BASEBALL (9/11/02): "It's the only team to win World Series titles in three different cities for which it played."
See No. 3
6. MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL TEAM NAMES (10/19/01): "This team received its name after an 1890 incident in which it "stole" away an important player from another team."
This is one of the classic Jeopardy questions in which an emphasized word provides a giant clue. Anyone with logic and a knowledge of language and nicknames should get this one.
7. BASEBALL HALL OF FAMERS (4/23/01): "A Red Sox pitcher, later a Yankee, he held the World Series record for consecutive scoreless innings from 1918 to 1961."
I cannot be defeated.
8. BASEBALL HISTORY (5/22/00): "Current name of the National League team that started out in the 1870s as the Boston Red Stockings."
I'd answer this one feeling nice and Chipper about my chances.
9. BASEBALL TEAMS (11/27/98): "In the early days, this team was known as the Alleghenies."
Thank god I know my geography.
10. BASEBALL (12/04/96): "The best American League left-handed pitcher 1916-18, he was moved to left field in 1919."
Now this is just insulting.
So what conclusions can we draw from this?
Well, there must be a lot of Braves, Pirates and Babe Ruth fans on the writing staff because they each showed up twice.
And even though it's not a 100 percent shot, I think I remain steadfast in my belief that I'd be wringing every penny out of Merv Griffin's estate if they somehow had a baseball blogger on the show and let loose a baseball question before I start my run at Ken Jennings.
But I ask this of you (and it's a great question to also ask basketball, football or hockey fans): What would you do in a similar situation? Am I the only one that doesn't see it as gambling if you have a near-certain shot of getting it right?
(By the way, if you want to check out every answer or mention of baseball dating back to 1984, click here. It's a great time waster and the reason this post took so long to write.)
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Answers — 1. Cubs, 2. knuckleball, 3. Mariners/Marlins, 4. A triple play, 5. Braves, 6. Pirates, 7. Babe Ruth, 8. Braves, 9. Pirates, 10. Babe Ruth