18 Things You Didn't Know About Baseball

Baseball Trivia

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Aaron Judge
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Surprising Facts About America's Pastime

Most baseball fans know that Nolan Ryan has the most career strikeouts of any Major League Baseball player or that Babe Ruth has more nicknames than a household pet, but there are plenty of interesting tidbits that might surprise even the most devout fans of America’s pastime. See how many you already knew as the new season gets underway.

Related: The Greatest Baseball Movies of All Time 

Aaron Judge #99
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Aaron Judge Breaks Single-Season Home Run Record

New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge might not be a member of the 700 home run club with the likes of Babe Ruth and new inductee Albert Pujols, but when it comes to the highest number of home runs hit during a single American League season, he holds the record. Judge crushed his 62nd dinger of the season during a game against the Texas Rangers on Oct. 4, 2022, leaving his formerly tied position with Roger Maris in the rearview mirror.

Related: The Cost of a Beer and Hot Dog at Every Major League Ballpark

Albert Pujols
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Only 4 Major League Players Have Hit 700 Home Runs

St. Louis Cardinal Albert Pujols hit his 700th home run Sept. 23, 2022 in a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, becoming just the fourth player in major league history to join the exclusive club. He hit his 699th homer the same night in the third inning — only one inning before hitting number 700. The other three players in history to cross the threshold are Barry Bonds with 762, Hank Aaron with 755, and Babe Ruth with 715. Pujols retired last year with a career total of 703 home runs.

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Plaque Commemorating Alexander Cartwright
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Abner Doubleday Actually Didn't Invent Baseball

Despite receiving widespread, notorious credit for inventing America’s pastime, Abner Doubleday isn’t really the mastermind behind the sport. The real origins of baseball date further back than the accounts surrounding Doubleday with references to similar games being played in America dating back to the 18th century. Officially, however, Alexander Joy Cartwright — a firefighter who played for the New York Knickerbocker Baseball Club in 1845 — introduced a new set of rules that laid the foundation for baseball as we know it today.

Cincinnati Red Stockings
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The Cincinnati Red Stockings Were the First Pro Team

On the heels of the National Association of Baseball Players lifting restrictions in 1869, allowing players to be paid, a Cincinnati attorney named Aaron Chapman hired former cricket player Harry Wright to organize the Cincinnati Red Stockings — the first professional baseball team — known today as the Cincinnati Reds.

Babe Ruth Scoring after Home Run
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The Yankees Weren't the First Team to Have Jersey Numbers

You might have heard that the New York Yankees were the first Major League Baseball team to have numbers on their jerseys, but those accounts aren’t actually true. In 1916, the Cleveland Indians were the first team to have numbers on their jerseys, incorporating sleeve numbers for a few weeks. The team was also the first to have numbers on the back of their jerseys, which happened in 1929. So where does the confusion come from? Apparently, the day the Indians debuted their numbered-back jerseys, the Yankees were set to do the same until their game was rained out.

John Dillinger
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Bank Robber John Dillinger Was a Semi-Pro Shortstop

Before turning to a life of crime, John Dillinger faced a promising baseball career. He batted leadoff for the semipro AC Athletics and was an incredible shortstop. He even led his team in hitting one year. Ironically, what seemed like the avenue to play professional baseball was actually the road to becoming one of the most notorious bank robbers in history.

The Athletics’ home game umpire, Ed Singleton, was an ex-con who convinced Dillinger to rob a local grocery store — his first robbery. The heist was unsuccessful and landed Dillinger in prison for almost a decade. He played baseball while behind bars, catching the attention of Indiana’s governor, Harry G. Leslie, during a visit to the prison — Leslie even chimed in during Dillinger’s parole hearing later that day to advocate for the bandit’s request to move to the prison in Michigan City, where the baseball team was better. 

Related: Where America's Most Famous Outlaws Are Buried

Mud is Rubbed on Baseballs
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Mud Is Rubbed on Baseballs Before Each Major League Game

Because brand new baseballs leave the factory with a shiny gloss on them, they can be hard to grip. To make them less slick, every team in the major league rubs a special mud on them before each game — a process that has recently been regulated to ensure every team applies the mud in the same way for fair play. Major League Baseball’s “mud man,” Jim Blintiff, sources the mud from a secret location somewhere in South Jersey along the Delaware River. The special mud is an old family secret passed down from Blintiff’s father and grandfather before him, first used in the 1930s and introduced league-wide by the ’50s.

Pittsburgh Pirates
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Some Players Pee on Their Hands to Toughen Their Grip

When New York Yankees pitcher Jameson Taillon played for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2018, he had to step off the mound after pitching only three innings thanks to a cut on his middle finger. To alleviate his pain and heal the wound quickly so he could get back to pitching, many of Taillon’s teammates suggested peeing on the cut, both to heal it and to toughen his skin. Taillon never disclosed whether he ended up relieving himself on, well, himself, but there are a handful of other players who have been candid about the off-the-wall practice. Former outfielder Moises Alou was famous for peeing on himself to prevent calluses, since he didn’t wear batting gloves. Jorge Posada, Julian Tavarez, and Kerry Wood have also admitted to washing their hands with their own urine. 

Taft baseball
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Taft Was the First President to Throw a Ceremonial First Pitch

Though he might be better known for being the only person to serve as both the president and chief justice of the United States — or maybe you’ve heard rumblings and rumors about how he was so overweight (he weighed 350 pounds) that he got stuck in the White House bathtub — President William Howard Taft was also the first president to throw a ceremonial first pitch on Major League Baseball's opening day in 1910.

New York Giants played the Philadelphia Phillies
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The Fastest Major League Game Was Less Than an Hour

The average major league baseball game lasts right about three hours, but since games are determined by innings instead of time limits, sometimes things wrap up ahead of schedule — and sometimes they wrap up way ahead of schedule. When the New York Giants played the Philadelphia Phillies on Sept. 28, 1919, both teams’ pitchers threw complete games, but the Giants came out on top, winning the game 6-1 and lasting just 51 minutes.

joe nuxhall
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Major League Baseball's Youngest Player Wasn't Even 16

Right in the thick of America’s involvement during World War II, major league teams were struggling to find enough players as many of them were enlisting in the armed forces. In 1944, the Cincinnati Reds decided to scout the state of Ohio in search of players, leading them to a semipro pitcher named Orville Nuxhall. Nuxhall, who had five children, didn’t want to take the time away from his family. But Nuxhall’s 14-year-old son Joe was also a talented pitcher, and his age didn’t stop the Reds from signing him once his high school basketball season came to an end. 

Nuxhall had to get permission from his school to attend opening day, but he spent most of his early days with the team warming the bench until just before his 16th birthday, when the Reds were leading the Cardinals 13-0 in the ninth inning and Nuxhall was put in to pitch the last three outs of the game, making him the youngest player to ever pitch in the major leagues. But he didn’t do very well — giving up five runs on five walks and two hits — and ended up getting sent back down to the minors a few days later.

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The Longest Major League Game Lasted More Than 8 Hours

In Major League Baseball, games almost never end in a tie, no matter how many extra innings need to be played for one team to come out on top. On May 8, 1984, the Chicago White Sox and the Milwaukee Brewers pushed that envelope as far as it’s ever gone. The game spanned 25 innings, which lasted an exhausting 8 hours, 6 minutes. The game was so long that it took two days to complete after reaching 1 a.m. and being met with the American League rule that no new innings could start beyond that time. The White Sox ultimately emerged victorious.

Dodger Stadium
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Dodger Stadium Has the Largest Seating Capacity

If you want a go-big-or-go-home experience as you enjoy your overpriced hot dog and beer at a major league game, head to Los Angeles. Dodger Stadium has the largest seating capacity with room for 56,000 spectators.

The Dodgers minor league
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The Dodgers and Cubs Once Traded Their Entire Minor League Teams

In true "Eh, why not?" fashion, Brooklyn Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley traded his entire minor league franchise with Chicago Cubs owner Phil Wrigley. The two teams exchanged their entire rosters with each other in 1957 in an effort to shake things up. 

Baseball on School Ballfield

Baseballs in Major League Games Last Only About 7 Pitches

That super secret, special mud from New Jersey might make major league baseballs less slick, but it doesn’t help them last. Once the ball hits a bat or the dirt, it's kaput, which means that the average baseball lasts only about seven pitches during a major league game. But the major league tries not to be entirely wasteful — as long as the balls aren’t destroyed, they are repurposed during batting practice or shipped off to minor league teams.

oakland coliseum
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The Worst-Attended Game in Major League History Had Only 250 Fans

When the Oakland Athletics played the Seattle Mariners on April 17, 1979, the crowd didn’t exactly go wild. The teams played for what must have felt like an empty stadium with only 250 spectators in attendance. First baseman Dave Revering even remarked that there were so few spectators at the game that he tried to count them.

Ray Chapman
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Ray Chapman Is the Only Player to Die From a Pitch

Baseball might not be known as a dangerous sport, but that doesn’t mean its history is void of some gruesome incidents. On Aug. 16, 1920, at the New York Yankees’ Polo Grounds, Cleveland Indians shortstop Ray Chapman stepped up to bat sans helmet and when Carl Mays pitched the ball to him, it hit him in the temple and he fell to the ground. The next day, Chapman succumbed to his head injury and died. Still, it took two more decades before helmets became a major league regulation.

1858 baseball team
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The New York Knickerbockers Were the First Team to Wear Uniforms

Knicker pants with knee-high socks and crisp pinstripe jerseys have such a sleek look to them, and the aesthetic of a baseball uniform is part of the sport’s culture. But the first uniforms in the league were about as far from the current garb as can be — four years after the New York Knickerbockers became the first professional baseball team, in 1849, the team debuted the sport’s first uniforms: white flannel shirts, blue woolen pantaloons, and straw hats. 

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