Here's some baseball trivia for you

Apropos of absolutely nothing, but because my brother (who used to do baseball journalism professionally) came up with this question, and it’s a doozy. Google,, and similar sites are off limits!

OK, I’m ready to play ball with this lineup:

Nap Lajoie
Honus Wagner
Mickey Mantle
Babe Ruth
Rogers Hornsby
Ed Delahanty
Dale Murphy
Red Schoendienst
Bobby Grich

All I need for you to do is to fill in the defensive positions by assigning the position at which each of these players appeared most frequently in the first major league season in which he received at least 75 at-bats. If you do it properly, you will indeed have one player at each of the nine positions. And no fair looking at bb-ref or retrosheet

The Babe started off as a pitcher. That’s about all I can contribute and I am not even sure if it’s correct. Where is steve?

That’s one down. The Babe is indeed the starting pitcher in this lineup. Pitcher or no, I think I’d still hit him in the middle of the lineup.

Didn’t Dale Murphy start out as a catcher?

…and that’s the battery.

Too old! Who the hell is Ed Delahanty?

I think Bobby Grich started off as a SS.

For another fun, meaningless exercise, take the best defensive players at each position and then shuffle them on the field. Let’s say it’s players like Jason Varitek, Greg Maddux, Derek Lee, Derek Jeter (hah, kidding!), Andruw Jones, Ichiro Suzuki, etc. You put the catcher at 1B, the pitcher in LF or behind the plate (make them suffer for once), reverse the SS and CF (both athletic positions)… but the funniest response on one blog was to put Ichiro! as pitcher.

Not only does he have a cannon for an arm, he can them be called… PITCHIRO!

He was one of the great hitters of the 19th century who died a “mysterious death.” It is suspected that he fell off a train in one of his drunken stupors, but lots of people have speculated otherwise - murder, suicide, etc.

Ruth and Murphy are the easy ones since they made the most radical shifts.

My guesses: I think Lajoie started as a first baseman and Wagner as a third baseman. Mantle, known as a center fielder, started in left.


The answer:

Nap Lajoie 1b
Honus Wagner cf
Mickey Mantle rf (DiMaggio was still in cf in '51)
Babe Ruth p (the most obvious, but I couldn’t find a good alternative)
Rogers Hornsby 3b
Ed Delahanty 2b
Dale Murphy c
Red Schoendienst lf
Bobby Grich ss

BTW, there really wasn’t anything at all that “mysterious” about Ed Delahanty’s death: he got drunk on a train that was near Niagara Falls, and the conductor was forced to put him off. He refused the help of a railroad worker who had come to see him to safety, and then Ed ended up in the falls. The only mystery is really whether he jumped or fell.

According to Bill James, a book aimed at kids on Hall Of Famers published in the early 1960’s added the whole “mystery” thing to sugarcoat the fact that one of baseball’s early stars died in the prime of his career because he got drunk and fell off a bridge.

Yeah, that’s why I put mysterious in quotation marks. James effectively debunks the mystery, but it persists as one of the great “puzzles” of the sport’s history.