The Wackiest Brilliant Reader Challenge Yet
OK, today’s Brilliant Reader Challenge, from Brilliant Reader Cory, is an absurdity: Cory challenged me to come up with four baseball teams using the uniform numbers 1-36 — the catch being I can only use one player per number (already I’m thinking, what the heck am I going to do with No. 24?).
The other day, someone asked me: “What is JoeBlogs all about?” And I realized, again, that while I should have a pithy answer to the question, I kind of don’t. It seems to me that the last few days — with me writing about Taylor Swift, doing a deep dive on the Home Run Derby, and today’s nonsense of coming up with four teams using 36 uniform numbers — is kind of what we’re about, with some tennis and chess and football and family and Bruce and golf and pop culture mixed in.
In other words, even I don’t know exactly what this thing is all about.
Of course, I’d love for you to be a part of it. In that spirit, here’s a 14-day free trial. If you don’t like it the next couple of weeks, I get it, just cancel and, you know, no harm, no foul.
OK, here we go — four teams, 36 uniform numbers, maybe we’ll reach out to our good friends at Strat-O-Matic and have them play out a round-robin tournament to see which team is the best. I would guess you’ll have an opinion. Oh, and every now and again, I’ll throw a little fun fact about a number because, you know, why not?
No. 1: Shortstop Ozzie Smith
I had to decide which double-play combination I wanted more — No. 1 Lou Whitaker and No. 2 Derek Jeter or No. 1 Ozzie Smith and No. 2 Charlie Gehringer. It really is too close to call, but in all such situations where it’s too close to call, I have to choose the non-Jeter option, no? I mean, isn’t that our whole thing? Plus, you gotta want the Wizard out there.
No. 2: Second baseman Charlie Gehringer
The Mechanical Man hit .320/.404/.480 for his career — and basically did that exact thing every single year.
No. 3: Pitcher Babe Ruth
I went back and forth and back and forth and back and forth on this … and finally decided that this would be more fun (and much harder) if I didn’t have a DH. In that spirit, the Babe has to be my pitcher — there is a real dearth of single-digit pitching options.
Fun fact: Remember when Ken Griffey Jr. wore No. 3 for the Reds? He switched from his father’s No. 30 to No. 3 in honor of his three kids.
No. 4: First baseman Lou Gehrig
There was another scenario I seriously considered: putting third baseman Paul Molitor here. In that scenario, I had No. 1 Sadaharu Oh at first base, No. 8 Cal Ripken Jr. at shortstop, and No. 5 Johnny Bench at catcher. In the end, tough as it is, I decided this team is better. That would have been a very cool team, too, but I think this one is slightly better.
Fun fact: In “The 12 Days of Christmas,” it’s “four calling birds.” In the original song, it was actually four COLLY birds, which was an English name for blackbirds. Giving someone four blackbirds as a gift didn’t make sense to anyone, so they became calling birds, which, you know, I hope they text first.
No. 5: Third baseman George Brett
Whew, this was a tough one — Johnny Bench, Joe DiMaggio, Brooks Robinson, Albert Pujols, Hank Greenberg, etc. But it works out pretty well with George at third.
Fun fact: George Brett chose No. 5 in honor of his third base hero, Brooks Robinson. And I seem to recall (though this might be my memory failing me) that Robinson chose No. 5 for Joe DiMaggio. And Joe DiMaggio wore No. 5 after his rookie season; he wore No. 9 that first year because he was just a rookie and that was the lowest number the team was willing to give a rookie. It’s not true, as some have written, that he wore No. 9 because that was his spot in the batting order. DiMaggio never once started a game in the No. 9 spot, which is pretty obvious if you think about it.
No. 6: Rightfielder Stan Musial
Stan the Man played more than 750 games in rightfield, leftfield, and at first base.
Fun fact: Our daughter Elizabeth was still in high school when she got to see the show “Six” while it was still a developing show at the Fringe Festival in Scotland, and she told us it was one of the greatest things she’d ever seen. It’s now a huge hit and a Tony Award winner on Broadway and a worldwide sensation.
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