Friday, October 21, 2022

Insight: A collection of random, useless but interesting facts

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

Through the years, my knowledge of obscure and totally meaningless facts and information has served me well. Whether it be matching up from my living room sofa against that day’s Jeopardy contestants or competing against family members in a board game, my accumulation of trivial facts has always been a valuable resource for me.

Carl Yastrzemski of the Boston Red Sox hit
.326 to lead the American League in batting
average in 1967. COURTESY PHOTO 
And why I retain such information is also a mystery. Even given a grocery list, at times I can forget what I went to the store to purchase, yet somehow I can remember the fact that Carl Yastrzemski of the Bostin Red Sox won the American League batting championship in 1967 with an average of .326. And by the way, he also led the league that year in Runs Batted In with 121 and was tied for first in homeruns with Minnesota’s Harmon Killebrew with 44.

Acquiring some sports facts is like second nature to me, having spent a large part of my career covering sporting events for newspapers.

Off the top of my head, I can tell you that Passaic High School in New Jersey holds the record for consecutive high school boys’ basketball victories with 159, a mark set in the 1910s and 1920s over seven seasons. But what’s not commonly known about that achievement is that after losing to Hackensack High School in 1925 to snap its winning streak, Passaic then went on to win 41 more games in a row, capping a stretch that saw the team go 200-1.

Here’s another one you may not be aware of. While bowling backwards at AMF Van Wyck Lanes at Richmond Hill, New York in April 2007, Ashrita Furman established the record for the highest backwards bowling score with a 199.

To retain a brain filled with trivial facts, one must have a curious nature. Perhaps that’s how I know that Joseph Gayetty of New York is credited with inventing toilet paper. “Gayetty’s Medicated Paper” was first sold in America in 1857 and came in packages of flat sheets. The medication was that it contained aloe and each sheet was inscribed with Gayetty’s last name. That product was sold in pharmacies right up until the 1920s. In case you’re wondering, the Scott Paper Company of Philadelphia came up with the idea of putting toilet paper on rolls about 1880 and started mass-producing and selling perforated paper under its own brand name in 1896.

Or how about that author Theordore Geisel, commonly known as Dr. Seuss, wrote his classic book “Green Eggs and Ham” on a bet with his editor, who suggested that Geisel could not complete a book in 50 words or less. “Green Eggs and Ham” clocks in at exactly 50 words.

From my high school biology days decades ago, I can tell you that a spider has eight legs, the spiny anteater and the duck-billed platypus are the only mammals on Earth who lay eggs and that the pregnancy of an elephant lasts 22 months. How I remember those details, I simply can’t begin to imagine.

One of my favorite college classes was Astronomy 101. Along with more than 300 other students in that class, we learned that five planets, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn can be viewed without the use of a telescope at night if you know where to look in the sky. From viewing a Sean Connery space movie called “Outland,” I learned that the names of the four largest moons of Jupiter are Europa, Ganymede, Callisto and Io.

For movie buffs, I can rattle off that the first film directed by a woman to earn more than $100 million at the box office was 1988’s “Big” starring Tom Hanks. Penny Marshall, who played Laverne on the popular 1970s television show “Laverne and Shirley”, was the director of “Big.”

And speaking of Tom Hanks, in 1995 Hanks was nominated for an Academy Award for portraying NASA Astronaut Jim Lovell in the film “Apollo 13.” Prior to casting the movie, actor Jon Travolta sought the role from director Ron Howard to play the part of Lovell. Also, the famous line from that movie was never spoken in real life. During the actual Apollo 13 mission, Lovell never said “Houston we have a problem.”

Growing up a baseball fan though, much of my trivial knowledge has been derived from thousands of hours of watching that sport on television. I’ve always thought that Joel Youngblood’s feat of getting a hit for two different teams on the same day in 1982 is very odd. Youngblood collected a hit for the New York Mets against the Chicago Cubs during an afternoon game, then he was traded after the game to the Montreal Expos, took the train to Philadelphia, and got a hit that evening for his new team in a game against the Phillies.

Trivial knowledge can be both a blessing and a curse. My wife usually cringes and rolls her eyes when I tell her that the actor Terry O’Quinn, who played John Locke on television’s “Lost”, also was in the 1980 western movie “Heaven’s Gate” with Christopher Walken and Kris Kristofferson.

Someday maybe I can put it all to good use on “Jeopardy.”<

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