Each baseball game equals less than 1% of the regular-season games to be played. So does Opening Day really matter? Does opening a peanut shell with three nuts in it really matter? Does putting on a spring jacket for the first time in a year and finding $20 in the pocket really matter? Does taking nine guesses and going 9-for-9 on the weekly quiz matter? YES! Opening Day does matter. The hoopla (my word of the day), the ballyhoo (my word of the week) and the ceremony mean something special. It means baseball is back, baby. Jimmy Rollins, the outstanding shortstop, sagely said: ‘‘The good thing about Opening Day, at the end of the day, it counts. It’s in the record.’’ In other words, Game 1 counts as much as Game 161. This Opening Day will be special because on March 30, for the first time since 1968, all teams will be in action on one Opening Day. So enjoy the day. Enjoy the experience. Enjoy the quiz. Have fun and learn a lot.
1. So you say you love your teams, huh? Last Opening Day . . .
a. Did the Cubs win?
b. Did the Sox win?
c. Did they both win?
d. Did they both lose?
(Hint: The score of each game was 5-4.)
2. While I am a baseball traditionalist in many ways, I love most of the new rules we will be seeing this season, particularly the pitch clock. (I do still hate the Manfred Man.) There was a batter nicknamed ‘‘The Human Rain Delay’’ during his time as a player because of all the time he took at the plate. He would struggle this season. Who was this slowpoke?
a. Nomar Garciaparra
b. Bill Melton
c. Mike Hargrove
d. Harmon Killebrew
3. Because of the new pickoff rule, we might see the return of ‘‘The Year of the Balk!!!!’’ (Note to self: When someone gives me a podcast, play the screaming music from ‘‘Psycho’’ whenever I say that.) Difficult for fans to recognize but obvious to umpires, balks were all the rage from 1987 to 1989. In 1988, the A’s had 76 balks, the most for any team in major-league history. That same season, the Sox set a club record with 30 balks. The Cubs’ record of 29 was set in 1987, and they had 26 in 1988. Because of the balk penalty accorded to pickoff violations, we could see plenty of balks this season. In 1988, the A’s Dave Stewart set the single-season record with 16 balks. Who holds the Chicago record?
a. Bill Bonham
b. Les Lancaster
c. Britt Burns
d. Carlos Castillo
4. Another set of new rules should bring an increase in the number of stolen bases. They are a fun part of the game that should bring an increase in excitement. Last season, the Cubs stole 111 bases, good for fourth in the majors. The White Sox stole 58 bases, 24th in the majors. Three of these four former members of the Sox once stole more bases than the Sox did all last season. Who didn’t?
a. Luis Aparicio b. Rudy Law
c. Scott Podsednik d. Juan Pierre
5. The pitchout might be making a comeback. My guru, Jayson Stark, pointed out that 14 managers didn’t call for a single pitchout last season. So I checked my copy of the ‘‘2023 Bill James Handbook’’ and found that Tony La Russa was not among the 14, calling for three pitchouts. Here’s a question that you have a 50% chance of getting right (or wrong): Did David Ross call for a pitchout last season?
6. Singles by left-handed batters should rise this season. Ten seasons ago — in 2012, before the shift took hold on ground balls and infield line drives — Cubs lefties had 156 singles and White Sox lefties had 131 singles. In 2022, Cubs lefties had 90 singles and White Sox lefties had 97 singles. Which of these lefties led Chicago in ground ball/infield line drive singles?
a. Yasmani Grandal b. Gavin Sheets
c. Ian Happ d. Alfonso Rivas
7. The pitch clock is expected to knock off about 20 to 30 minutes of dead time per game. Unlike our weekly quiz, these were periods of time when nothing really took place. Last season, White Sox games averaged 188 minutes and Cubs games averaged 186 minutes. In the 2023 Oscars, which one of these best-picture nominees was actually longer than the average Chicago ballgame in 2022?
a. ‘‘Elvis’’ b. ‘‘Tar’’
c. ‘‘Avatar: The Way of Water’’
d. ‘‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’’
8. One thing the new rules have not shown an indication of being able to correct is the dearth of complete games by pitchers. Last season, all the teams in the majors combined for 36 complete games. Who is the most recent Chicago pitcher even to make 36 starts in a season?
a. Early Wynn b. Wilbur Wood
c. Greg Maddux d. Rick Reuschel
9. Here’s our walk-off question: Last season, the White Sox had a walk-off opportunity in 99 plate appearances. The Cubs had 72 walk-off plate appearances. The Mariners led the majors, hitting .341 in their 91 such at-bats. Which Chicago team had the higher average in walk-off at-bats?
a. White Sox b. Cubs c. The same
On this date in 1918, Howard Cosell was born. He died in 1995. His toupee presumably continues to live. Thanks for joining the fun. Enjoy Opening Day.
1. The Cubs beat the Brewers 5-4. The Sox lost in a walk-off to the Tigers 5-4.
2. From a Sporting News article about Mike Hargrove, ‘‘The Human Rain Delay’’: ‘‘With machine-like precision,’’ Bob Sudyk wrote, ‘‘Hargrove approaches the plate, calls time, grabs some dirt, taps at his pants, sleeves, hitches up his waistband, adjusts his hair, taps down his helmet, squeezes his hand deeper into his batting glove, drains all the moisture from his mouth and steps in after raking some dirt in the batter’s box with his cleats.’’
3. First off, I hope you noticed all four options had matching initials. This is how the Quizmaster entertains himself. Former Cubs Bill Bonham in 1974 and Les Lancaster in 1987 hold the Chicago record with seven balks in a season. The Sox’ record is five, done six times by five players, including twice by Mark Buehrle (2001, 2010).
4. If I had to answer that question, I would have been certain that ‘‘Looie’’ wouldn’t be the answer. But he is. Aparicio’s high was 56 steals in 1959. Rudy Law holds the Sox’ record with 77 steals in 1983. Juan Pierre stole 68 in 2010. Scott Podsednik ripped off 59 steals in 2005.
5. Cubs manager David Ross called for no pitchouts last season. In fact, after three seasons at the helm, the next pitchout Ross calls will be his first.
6. Gavin Sheets had 31 singles last season. I suspect he will have many more this season.
7. ‘‘Avatar: The Way of Water’’ clocked in at a water-bloated 192 minutes. But I’m not gonna lie: If they had cut 20 minutes out of each of these movies, I wouldn’t have complained.
8. Early Wynn made 37 starts in 1959, and Wilbur Wood made 43 in 1975. Rick Reuschel made 38 in 1980. This means the answer is Greg Maddux, who made 37 starts in 1991.
9. A walk-off opportunity is a chance to win a game at that very moment. Last season, the Sox hit .260 (20-for-77) in such situations. The Cubs hit a major-league-worst .123 (7-for-57).
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