Cubs hit 'em in order

As long as all you useless infomaniacs want to keep on writing, we'll keep cranking out more editions of our Useless Reader Information Dept. So here it comes:

First Prize: Two loyal readers, Matt Steiner and John Wilheim, didn't need to follow the Tour de France to know a great cycling event when they saw one. Both noticed that on July 22, the Cubs hit four home runs in the perfect, numerically correct order:

Solo (Moises Alou).
Two-run (Alou again).
Three-run (Mark Grudzielanek).
Grand slam (Aramis Ramirez).

So how often, they wondered, has a team homered for the cycle -- in that order? Boy, are we glad they asked.

According to the Sultan of Swat Stats, SABR's David Vincent, this was only the third time a team had ever done that -- and the first time any National League team had done it. Let's just say if you were watching the last time, it sure wasn't via satellite. The previous two occasions:

Aug. 23, 1938 -- Red Sox vs. Indians
Solo: Jimmie Foxx
Two-run: Joe Cronin
Three-run: Joe Cronin
Grand slam: Jimmie Foxx

June 24, 1936 -- Yankees at White Sox
Solo: Frank Crosetti
Two-run: Joe DiMaggio
Three-run: Joe DiMaggio
Grand slam: Jake Powell

(After doing that, by the way, the Yankees started over -- with a solo homer by Bill Dickey. But alas, they stopped there.)

Second Prize: As those Seattle Mariners careen south, their current pace puts them on track to lose 102 games. As loyal reader Dan Rosenberg points out, losing 100 games just three years after winning 116 is as hard to do as it is hard to believe.

So what, he wondered, is the record for fewest seasons between winning 100 and losing 100?

And the answer is: You could be looking at it.

That is four years, and it has held up for nearly 90 years, since Connie Mack's old Philadelphia A's went 101-50 in 1911 and 43-109 in 1915.

Even more amazing is that nearly half the members of these 2004 Mariners (10 of them) were also part of that 2001 team. The 1915 A's had only seven players left from 1911 -- and one of them (Ira Thomas) appeared in just one game.

Third Prize: Loyal readers John Temple and Dean Draper noticed that Cardinals pitcher Woody Williams literally did it all in his July 21 win over the Brewers.

He threw seven shutout innings. He scored the only run for either team. And he outhit all his teammates combined, 2 to 1.

Well, you don't see that much. So to find some kind of precedent, we sent retrosheet.org's Dave Smith blitzing through his files.

He found only three other pitchers in the past decade who scored the only run in a 1-0 game:

Odalis Perez, Dodgers -- Aug. 28, 2002
Kerry Wood, Cubs -- Sept. 27, 2000
Bobby Jones, Mets -- June 15, 1994

Meanwhile, Smith turned up 10 other 1-0 games in the division-play era in which a pitcher outhit his teammates. But the only previous pitcher to outhit his teammates and score the only run was another Cardinal, Jose DeLeon, who did it on Sept. 6, 1988. Must be something in that St. Louis water.

Fourth Prize: It sure is selfless of readers to submit prize-winning entries without even giving their names. One loyal (but anonymous) reader had a fascinating question about the Oakland-Seattle game of July 21.

That was a game in which the first pitch of the night was hit for a home run (by Mark Kotsay), and the last pitch of the night was also hit for a home run (a Bucky Jacobsen game-winner). How often do you see that happen?

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this was the first time in 14 years. Last time: Sept. 13, 1990 (Astros-Reds). First-pitch homer: Eric Yelding. Last-pitch homer: Barry Larkin.

Fifth Prize: It isn't often that the great state of Delaware gets its due. But loyal reader Jonathan Dunkle, operator of the www.delawarebaseball.com Web site, is about to make up for that.

What was the historic significance of John Mabry's July 25 homer off Wayne Franklin in a Cardinals-Giants game? Dunkle reports it was the first homer by a Delaware native off another Delaware native since a pitcher (Bert Cunningham) homered off John (Sadie) McMahon on May 22, 1897. What else?

More Useless Greg Maddux Info
The Greg Maddux 300th-win tidbits keep on coming, thanks to loyal reader Doug Greenwald.

  • Maddux was the National League's first 300-game winner since Steve Carlton. And which player played in both Maddux's first win and Carlton's 300th? Bo Diaz (as Carlton's catcher, and as a Red facing Maddux).

  • Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti now has been in uniform for four 300th wins -- by Maddux, Phil Niekro (his Yankees teammate) in 1985, Tom Seaver (against the Yankees) in 1985 and Gaylord Perry (against the Yankees) in 1982.

  • Giants hitting coach Joe Lefebvre played in Carlton's 300th win (as a Phillie) and was in uniform as a coach for Maddux's 300th.

  • Maddux's first game in the major leagues was started by another future 300-game winner, Nolan Ryan. (It was continued on Sept. 3, 1986 after being suspended on Sept. 2.)

  • The last time a Cub won his 300th game was also the last time the Giants were the losing team in a 300th win (in Grover Cleveland Alexander's 300th, on Sept. 20, 1924).

  • And if the opposing starter in Maddux's 300th win, Giants rookie Brad Hennessey, doesn't have a real good memory of Maddux's first win, we'll let him slide -- because he was 6 years old at the time.

    Now here come two more great Maddux notes, from loyal reader Graham Hudson:

  • Only two players besides Maddux appeared in the box score on the day Maddux won his first game and his 300th: Ruben Sierra and Barry Bonds.

  • Five players appeared in a game on the day of Maddux's 300th win whose fathers appeared on the day of his first win: Jose Cruz Jr., Bret Boone, David Bell, Scott Hairston and Jerry Hairston Jr.

    Readers Ask The Sultan

  • After the Phillies surged into the NL lead in home runs recently (before surging right out of it again), loyal reader Phil Yabut was fascinated by the fact that they hadn't hit a grand slam and wondered how often a team had done that.

    Yabut also reminded us that the Phillies were the last team in the league to hit a home run this year -- and wondered how many teams had led their league after taking that long to hit their first homer?

    Well, believe it or not, it's not that unusual for a team to be the last to homer and still lead its league. According to the Sultan of Swat Stats, SABR's David Vincent, it was done just last year (by the Braves).

    Only nine teams have led their league in homers without hitting a grand slam. And here they are, according to the Sultan:

    American League: 1958 Yankees, 1922 A's

    National League: 1920 Phillies, 1939 Giants, 1943 Giants, 1958 Cubs, 1980 Dodgers, 1981 Dodgers, 1994 Braves

  • Eric Karros might not be in Oakland anymore, but at least he left an indelible imprint. As loyal reader Julian McCracken reports, he did participate in a very important event: the only game in history (according to the Sultan) to feature a home run by three different guys named Eric.

    It happened May 7, when Karros, Eric Chavez and Eric Byrnes all homered. That inspired the Sultan to research all the games ever played in which three different guys with the same first name -- any first name -- hit a homer.

    He found nine previous times that had happened -- but only twice for one team. Here goes:

    Two teams
    Sept. 9, 1939 (Red Sox-Yankees) -- Joe: Cronin, DiMaggio, Gordon
    Aug. 6, 1941 (Red Sox-Yankees) -- Joe: Cronin, DiMaggio, Gordon
    Aug. 23, 1939 (White Sox-Yankees) -- Joe: Kuhel, DiMaggio, Gordon
    July 27, 1963 (Tigers-Senators) -- Don: Wert, Lock (two HR), Zimmer
    July 23, 1965 (Tigers-Orioles) -- Don: Buford, Demeter, Wert
    Sept. 6, 1980 (Yankees-Angels) -- Bobby: Clark, Grich, Brown
    Oct. 2, 1985 (Rangers-A's) -- Steve: Henderson, Kiefer, Buechele

    One team
    Aug. 20, 1995 (Phillies) -- Kevin: Jordan, Flora, Stocker
    May 6, 1960 (Giants) -- Willie: Kirkland, Mays, McCovey

    Our Latest Reader Challenge
    Speaking of names, we know it's been a while since our last reader challenge. But we've had some fabulous research done out there. So here are the answers:

    First, we asked whether the recent pitching matchup of Darrell May (Royals) versus Jae Seo was the fewest combined letters in the last names of any pitchers ever to start against each other.

    Loyal reader Michael Mavrogiannis, who seems to specialize in this sort of crazed research, then figured out every six-letter matchup since 1876. Fortunately, there weren't 8,000 of them. Here are the eight he came up with:

    Howie Fox, CIN vs. Preacher Roe, BRO, 4 times, 1949-1951
    Joey Jay, MIL/CIN vs. Vern Law, PIT, 4 times, 1959-1966
    Rudy May, CAL vs. Casey Cox, WAS, 1970
    Bill Lee, BOS vs. Casey Cox, WAS, 1971
    Rudy May, NYA vs. Bill Lee, BOS, 1974
    Doug Rau, LAN vs. Bill Lee, MON, 1979
    Charlie Lea, MON vs. Danny Cox, STL, 1984
    Charlie Lea, MIN vs. Jimmy Key, TOR, 2 times, 1989

    We also asked whether the two winning pitchers in a June 10 Expos-Royals doubleheader (Zach Day and Sun-woo Kim) represented the fewest letters in the last names of two winning pitchers in a doubleheader. And Mavrogiannis found four similar combinations since 1920:

    9/23/1930 -- Jakie May, CIN at PIT; Ken Ash, CIN at PIT
    9/15/1948 -- Howie Fox, CIN at BRO; Preacher Roe, BRO vs. CIN
    8/26/1951 -- Vern Law, PIT at BRO; Preacher Roe, BRO vs. PIT
    7/4/1966 -- Vern Law, PIT at CHN; Don Lee, CHN vs. PIT

    We didn't even ask what the record was for most pitchers with three-letter names winning a game on the same day. But Mavrogiannis looked that up, too (since 1920, anyway). And the answer is ... three (on four different days):

    5/9/1945 -- Bill Lee, Thornton Lee, Preacher Roe
    7/13/1969 -- Casey Cox, Rudy May, Jim Ray
    9/1/2001 -- Chad Fox, David Lee, Robb Nen
    8/16/2003 -- Zach Day, Chad Fox, Jae Seo

    That wasn't all Mavrogiannis looked up, by the way. But it's time to give someone else a chance. And loyal reader Aneel Trivedi took a different approach to this question -- by looking up the fewest letters in opposing pitchers' first and last names combined.

    The record, since 1920, is 13. But it hasn't been equaled, for some reason, since 1963 (Jim Kaat vs. Don Lee).

    Here are all the 13-letter matchups Trivedi could find:

    June 16,1924 Hi Bell vs. Art Nehf
    May 31,1926 (and three other times through 1934) Hi Bell vs. Guy Bush
    Aug. 23,1928 (and one other time in 1929) Ray Moss vs. Ken Ash
    April 27,1929 Ken Ash vs. Hal Haid
    Sept. 13,1946 Ed Bahr vs. Bill Lee
    Sept. 29,1946 Al Tate vs. Al Libke
    July 26,1953 Ed Lopat vs. Al Aber
    July 18,1954 Al Aber vs. Bob Grim
    June 8,1962 Ed Rakow vs. Don Lee
    May 8,1963 Jim Kaat vs. Don Lee

    And finally, one more reader (who didn't give his name) looked up two more related developments.

  • First, what's the most letters in the last names of two starting pitchers in the same game? The winner was ... 25:

    Ken Raffensberger (Phillies) vs. Fritz Ostermueller (Pirates) 9/29/1944.

  • And just to make sure we run this thing completely into the ground, the same reader also looked up the biggest difference between the length of the last names of the two starting pitchers in one game. Which was ...:

    10 -- Al Hollingsworth vs. Bill Lee, 8/21/1937
    10 -- Ken Raffensberger vs. Preacher Roe, many times
    10 -- Ken Raffensberger vs. Bill Lee, 4/20/1946 and 8/15/1946
    10 -- Ken Raffensberger vs. Vern Law, 4/29/1951

    Phew. Fun stuff. But that's enough of that.

    This Month's Challenge

  • All you alphabet fans out there have been in letter-counting heaven ever since the Cubs turned Nomar Garciaparra and Mark Grudzielanek into an official double-play combination. But hold those e-mails. We've already established that those 23 letters in their last names represent the most letters by a DP combination since Grudzielanek and Andy Stankiewicz (also 23), of the 1996-97 Expos.

    Ah, but we will let you bombard us with e-mails on this wrinkle in the Garciaparra trade:

    Since Doug Mientkiewicz was in the same four-team deal, loyal reader Dan Frank was wondering if anyone could come up with the two players whose names combined for the most letters in the same trade. Good luck. And send your submissions to uselessinfodept@yahoo.com.

    Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com.