The history of baseball is one of the main drawing points to the greatness of a sport that dates back to the 19th century. Baseball trivia helps drive discussion and interest. Fans and players alike all value the past as much as the present, if not more so.
Have you ever wondered how your Phillies knowledge might stack up against the players themselves? I know I have. But I also realize that perhaps the fan possesses an advantage over those guys, since they haven't watched the team all their lives. Upon Scott Eyre's 2008 arrival in Philadelphia, I recall hearing details of how little he knew about the organization, which initially forced me to think that players couldn't possibly know as much about the team as the fans do.
But what if there were individuals that grew up as fans of an organization and later ended up playing for that team? Well, lo and behold, the Phillies have two pitchers in their developmental ranks that used to watch games from the stands at Veterans Stadium and Citizens Bank Park before signing professional contracts with their favorite big league club.
Lefty hurler Jesse Biddle was the Phillies' top draft pick in 2010. The Philadelphia native grew up adoring the team that he is now regarded as a top prospect for. Biddle, in fact, attended Game 5 of the 2008 World Series when the Phillies clinched their second ever World Championship. Biddle is now in the starting rotation for the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws.
Mike McGuire, a righty reliever for the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers, grew up in the Philadelphia area suburb of Swarthmore, PA. Despite being more physically suited for basketball or football at 6 feet 7 inches tall and 240 pounds, Mike grew up in a baseball family, one that was very much into the Phillies, so he chose to pursue the sport was most prevalent in his home.
For fun, I decided to prepare a trivia quiz to test the historical knowledge of the two life-long Phillies fans that are living the dream, playing in the minor leagues for the team they've always followed.
The quiz contained questions dating back to the infancy stages of the organization, included inquiries dating up to the team's current run of superiority and asked plenty from in between.
Despite a prediction of domination, the 25-year-old McGuire struggled with the much older themed questions. Unfortunately for the 19-year-old Biddle, he experienced the same problem.
Both players, who grew up watching the 90's and early 2000's Phillies teams, were more confident when it came to record holders from those time periods.
One question that seemed to present quite a challenge for both hurlers was in regards to the 1950 Whiz Kids team and which player on that roster was honored as the National League Most Valuable player. Following two incorrect guesses and learning the accurate response, McGuire jokingly proclaimed that if Biddle knew the answer he would proceed to bash him about the head. Separately, Biddle struggled to muster even a guess for that question. I playfully offered Biddle the chance to use a lifeline, which he took.
Walking nearby in the Lakewood locker room was home team clubhouse attendant Russ Schaeffer, who quickly changed the game. Schaeffer is a Telford, PA native and an alum of Souderton Area High School, the same school former Phillies pitcher Jamie Moyer attended. A life-long fan of the Phillies, Schaeffer, who might possibly double Biddle in age, proved that no contractual connection to the team will top a lifetime of fandom.
Where Biddle and McGuire came up short, Schaeffer displayed strength. Philadelphia Cy Young winners? The players couldn't list them all, but Schaeffer rattled them off with ease. All the years the Phillies competed in the World Series? Neither player could list each one, but Schaeffer had no problems. Retired jerseys? Difficult for the players but not for Schaeffer.
The full list of questions, answers and results are listed below.
1- There are 20 different men that have both played for and managed the Phillies. How many can you name?
Biddle knew Bowa, and knew that there was a quick transitional skipper in charge of things just after Bowa's time was done, but could not recall the name Gary Varsho.
McGuire came up with more names on this item. He got Larry Bowa, Dallas Green, John Vukovich and Gary Varsho.
Credit on this one is awarded to McGuire. Other correct answers- Bob Ferguson, Bill Purcell, Arthur Irwin, Billy Nash, Chief Zimmer, Hugh Duffy, Red Dooin, Pat Moran, Gavvy Cravath, Kaiser Wilhelm, Art Fletcher, Stuffy McInnis, Jimmy Wilson, Hans Lobert, Ben Chapman and Pat Corrales.
2- There are 8 jerseys retired by the Phillies. Name them.
Biddle was quick to rattle off an easy few with Robin Roberts, Mike Schmidt and Richie Ashburn, but incorrectly named Richie Allen. The lefty pitcher somehow neglected to name the most famous lefty of them all, Steve Carlton, and took quite a while to recall that Jackie Robinson, who has his number 42 retired by all MLB teams, was one of those honored in that way.
Initially, McGuire exclaimed, "I got this!" He named Mike Schmidt, Robin Roberts, Steve Carlton, Jim Bunning and Jackie Robinson. However, he hit a wall and embarrassingly couldn't come up with Hall of Famer Richie Ashburn.
This was the question on which Russ was grabbed as Biddle's rescue option, when we came back to this item, after passing initially. Schaeffer named them all with great ease, including Grover Cleveland Alexander and Chuck Klein. 1 point to Russ.
3- How many career HR does Mike Schmidt have?
Both pitchers tied with an incorrect guess of 528. If one was closer, I might have given him credit, The Price is Right style. Unexpectedly, Russ joined the event and was confident with his correct assertion of 548.
Russ knew it. He gets the point here.
4- The Phillies have been in the World Series seven times. Can you name each of the years the Phils played in the Fall Classic?
Biddle slowly remembered all but one of the years, except the Phillies' first appearance in the World Series, 1915.
McGuire blew this question simply by neglecting to mention the 2009 season. Honest mistake, but that not acceptable. McGuire also missed the 1915 season.
Russ was familiar the full list of years- 1915, 1950, 1980, 1983, 1993, 2008, 2009. Point to Russ.
5- Who is the all-time team leader with 112 career saves?
An easy question from the era in which both players were avid fans, Biddle and McGuire had no trouble declaring that "Joe Table", AKA Jose Mesa, was the top save getter.
No point awarded, as both players were successful.
6- Which member of the 1950 Whiz Kids team was voted as the National League Most Valuable Player by the Baseball Writers Association of America?
This is a tough one. However, super fan Russ knew that Jim Konstanty was the man here. Biddle guessed Ashburn. Mike guessed Roberts.
1 point for Russ, who was able to deliver impressive facts about Konstanty, beyond what the question requested.
7- Can you name the four different pitchers that have won the Cy Young Award as a member of the Phillies?
Biddle promptly knew that Roy Halladay was one and that Steve Carlton was another, which triggered another answer for the retired jersey question, a question he had passed on with the promise to come back to it. He later incorrectly named Roberts, who never won a Cy Young Award.
McGuire knew the same initial two, with Halladay and Carlton, then tossed out an incorrect guess of Curt Schilling. He was shocked to learn that Schill had not won a Cy Young Award as a member of the Phils. He was even more surprised to hear that Roberts also never won the award.
This one seemed easy for Russ, who earned credit for another challenge question, correctly adding John Denny and Steve Bedrosian to the list of answers.
8- There is one current MLB franchise that the Phillies have never traded with. Name it.
The correct answer is the Rockies. No one guessed correctly. Too obscure?
9- In 1933, who became the first and only Phillie to win the offensive triple crown?
Biddle declared at this point, "This is hurting my head!" He knew that he had seen the name dozens of time, but could not come up with it.
McGuire battled here, wanting to think for a while, but couldn't come up with the answer. He knew Klein, upon hearing the answers and wanted to kick himself.
Russ got another Family Feud style steal here.
10- Who is the Phillies’ single season HR leader with 58?
Another easy one for the young guys. Both hurlers knew that Ryan Howard was the team's single season HR leader. Tie, so no point awarded.
Post challenge notes:
Following our chat, Biddle stated that he wasn't as confident afterward, as he was prior to hearing the questions. He was prepared to chalk a possible loss up to his youth.
McGuire ended our conversation by expressing concern over potentially losing to a younger Biddle. However, it was not the youngster in the midst of his first full season as a pro that McGuire should have been worried about. It was, in fact, the vulture trivia beast named Russ Schaeffer.
The young prospects matched up evenly. Neither stood out as a clear winner over the other. Perhaps less "ancient" material and more Macho Row and Doug Glanville era material would have suited them better. The elder Russ represented the fans extremely well and proved to be a force with historical Phillies knowledge.
Fans are superior to players, even those that were once fans, in regards to factual familiarity with their teams. Watching games, listening to broadcasters, experiencing the ball parks as a patron, reading books, re-watching games and engaging in discussions with other fans, throughout a lifetime, force the individuals to absorb more data than they even realize. Congratulations, fans. You've beaten the Phillies. For now.
McGuire image- Joe Wombough
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