Saturday, March 10, 2012

Thank you, Vince Coleman

Which MLB speedster took a pay cut to play for the Royals for the 1994 season?

Let's set the scene.

It was the last day of my junior year in high school, in my AP (college-level) US History class.

Since we had already taken our big AP test a week before, the two history teachers let us play a game of Trivial Pursuit, students vs. teachers. A great way to close out the school year. You didn't have to play if you didn't want to. About half the class gathered 'round the Trivial Pursuit board while the other half talked amongst themselves, ignoring the game.

I was among the trivia-minded half of the students who focused on the game. My friends and I laughed about how we couldn't get any of the "entertainment" questions, because what eighteen year-old knows anything about Casablanca?

After the teachers were a few pieces of pie ahead of us, we finally landed on the space I'd been waiting for. Green. Sports and leisure.

The key word: sports.

I was praying for a baseball question. I got my wish.

Which MLB speedster took a pay cut to play for the Royals for the 1994 season?

I'm not sure when I first started to take an interest in baseball.

All I know is that I wanted to absorb as much baseball information as I could, ever since I can remember. Books, movies, magazines, you name it.

I always enjoyed watching sports trivia shows on TV, shouting the answer at the television for no apparent reason. My favorite show of this sort is ESPN's "Stump the Schwab". I loved that fans competed against each other and that it was a show where you had to buzz in to answer in an effort to get a chance to compete against the almighty "Schwab" in the final showdown. (If only "Baseball IQ" was more like that show.)

But I also acquired a great deal of knowledge through my baseball cards. (An overlooked benefit to collecting baseball cards.) 

And I'm not just talking about the stats. For example, did you know that in 1996, Mike Sweeney gave his teammates haircuts in exchange for a $3 donation to his "Tips for Timmy" fund, which was set up in order to raise money to fly his brother out to Kansas City to see him play?

You would if you read the back of Mike Sweeney's 1998 Topps card.

Over the years, my close friends have become aware of my infinite love for baseball. Any time any of them come over, they instantly see all the baseball books scattered about my room, and the neatly organized binders that contain all my baseball cards.

Most of the people I talked to at some point in time knew that baseball was my favorite sport. Not a lot of people at my school knew about my seemingly-useless array of baseball knowledge that was rattling in my brain, however. 

After all, the subject of Vince Coleman doesn't come up a whole lot among teenagers these days.


Which MLB speedster took a pay cut to play for the Royals for the 1994 season?

I instantly thought, "Speedster. Royals. 1994. Vince Coleman." I actually didn't know he took a pay cut, but I put everything together in my head. And while everyone else was puzzled, I calmly said:

"Vince Coleman."

The whole room went quiet, even the people that were talking amongst themselves in the back of the room. My history teacher, who was also a huge baseball fan, grinned and said, "That's right."

Almost instantly, one of the kids in the class asked the question that I think a lot of people wanted to know. 

"How the #$%* did you know that?"

After that, all my friends were saying, "Land on green so we can get a sports question!" 

And we did. A lot. Luckily, a lot of them were baseball questions, although I surprised myself and got a tennis question right as well. I let the other kids in my class handle it when we got a question about Heineken.

I knew almost all of the baseball questions, covering things from Casey Stengel to Chan Ho Park. (We still ended up losing to the teachers, though.)

I found out that when I arrived for my almighty senior year of high school, I was now Nick the "baseball guy", instead of just Nick. 

That was fine by me. A couple of kids I knew who were there for that Trivial Pursuit game invited me to come to their study hall a little ways into my senior year. Apparently, they played Trivial Pursuit against their teacher every day for that half-hour.

So I ditched my study hall for the rest of the year and just went to their room after lunch each day. (Although I never got into trouble for it.)

It beat the heck out of doing math homework.

People were always coming up to me that year and asking what the Cubs or White Sox did last night, or how Carlos Zambrano was doing so far.

I always had an answer for them. 

Now, it wasn't the type of thing that got me girls or anything. After all, I don't know of too many teenage girls that are interested in the fact that Babe Ruth was the first player to hit three homers in a World Series game. 

If any do, I'd like to meet them, because I sure don't know anything about the Kardashians or what the best local nightclub is.

But it was the type of thing that broke the monotony that high school can sometimes fall into. Class. Lunch. Gym. Final bell. Leave. Repeat.

Rather than moping around when we had to do the dreaded "fitness testing" in gym class, we'd talk about baseball. (One of my friends surprised me one day by dropping the name "Andrew Miller" into one of our conversations.)

Rather than people asking me what yesterday's English homework was, they were asking me about that jersey I was wearing. ("Who is "Fon-te-not?") 

Rather than a half-hour of doing math homework, it got me a half-hour each day where I'd laugh and hang out with kids that I wouldn't normally talk to when we'd play Trivial Pursuit in study hall each day.

High school was never a hassle for me and I always enjoyed it, but being able to talk about baseball each day made my senior year a blast.

It was easily my favorite of my four years in high school.

I owe a lot of that to Vince Coleman.

1 comment:

Josh D. said...

Nice story. As a trivia buff myself, I have seen how it can bring together apparently dissimilar people toward a common goal. Sometimes bars/restaurants will have trivia nights to coax in business on their slow nights. Check that out once you are "of age." :-)

I wanted to see what Vince's pay-cut was. Looks like he went from $3.3m to $250k, but that was in 1995. Error card!!! :-)