Little-Known Baseball Facts to Impress the Kids

Jason Varitek is one of only two players in history to accomplish one particular feat in baseball.
Jason Varitek is one of only two players in history to accomplish one particular feat in baseball.

Baseball, as we know it, has been around since the mid-1800s, but its roots date back to at least the 18th century and perhaps even further. Now the game is an integral part of the American fabric, right up there with Mom and apple pie. Little League has been bringing organized baseball to our youth since 1939 , college baseball has been around for over 150 years , and the National League brought us our first major league game in 1876. More than 200,000 professional games have been played since. With all of that history and all of those baseball games being played at all levels, baseball trivia is almost as popular as the game itself.

There is a seemingly bottomless well of baseball facts, and many are common knowledge to Americans of all ages. Everybody knows that Roger Maris holds the Major League Baseball record for home runs in a season with 61 (don't get me started on the steroid era in MLB). We all know that with 27 pennants to their name, the New York Yankees have won the World Series more than any other team. We practically come out of the womb knowing that the Chicago Cubs haven't won a championship since Teddy Roosevelt was in the White House.

But if you really want to impress the kids at the dinner table or while throwing the ball around in the back yard, try laying some of these little-known baseball facts on them.

Who played in the first game in Major League history?

On April 22, 1876, the Boston Red Caps beat the Philadelphia Athletics by a score of 6-5 in the National League. This might lead you to believe that the predecessors to the Boston Red Sox and the Oakland Athletics participated in this game, but that would be incorrect.

The Boston Red Caps began their existence in 1871 as the Boston Red Stockings and were later known around town as the Beaneaters, the Doves, the Rustlers, the Bees, and the Braves. In 1953, the team relocated to Wisconsin and became the Milwaukee Braves. In 1966, they headed south and became what we know today as the Atlanta Braves.

The Athletics, meanwhile, were booted out of the National League in 1876 after failing to play a full slate of 70 games. The American League Philadelphia Athletics were conceived in 1901 and are the ancestors of our current Oakland A's.

Who played in the first college baseball game?

Amherst beat Williams, 73-32, in a 25-inning game on July 1, 1859, in Pittsfield, Mass. Back then, the game continued until 100 runs had been scored.

In 2008, the U.S. House of Representatives declared Pittsfield as the birthplace of college baseball by way of U.S. House Resolution 1050. It's unclear how many of those members of Congress actually attended the Amherst-Williams game.

How many players have won the Little League World Series, the College World Series, and MLB's World Series?

Ah, trick question! The answer is none. Amazingly, only two players have participated in all three events , and neither one has emerged victorious all three times.

Ed Vosberg played for Tucson, Arizona, in the 1973 Little League World Series and was runner-up to Taiwan. Vosberg then played for Arizona in 1980 when they won the College World Series, and he was a member of the 1997 Florida Marlins, who won the World Series.

The other player is Jason Varitek, who played for Altamonte Springs, Florida, in the 1984 Little League World Series and was runner-up to South Korea. Varitek then played for Georgia Tech in the 1994 College World Series, won by Oklahoma. He won two World Series--2004 and 2007--with the Boston Red Sox which, as we now know, is not the same franchise as the Boston Red Caps.

What famous baseball player made it to the majors by being traded for a suit?

Denton True Young made his major league debut in 1890 after being traded for a suit of clothing .

I know what you're thinking. "Denton True Young?! You said he was famous!"

Well, Young was pitching for a minor league team in Canton, Ohio, when he destroyed the fences at the ballpark with his fastball. His teammates nicknamed him "Cyclone" since the fences looked like a cyclone had come through, and that nickname was quickly shortened by reporters to "Cy."

Cy Young went on to an illustrious 22-year career in the majors that resulted in his enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame , and he is the namesake for the award given annually to each league's best pitcher.

Not a bad return on an investment of a suit.

Who are the shortest and tallest players in MLB history?

When 26-year-old Eddie Gaedel suited up for the St. Louis Browns on August 19, 1951, and had an official at-bat, he became the shortest player in MLB history, standing 3 feet, 7 inches tall and weighing 65 pounds. Gaedel wore No. 1/8 on his jersey and was walked on four straight pitches --all of them high--in his only plate appearance.

The tallest player in MLB history is current New York Mets pitcher Jon Rauch, who stands at 6-foot-11 --or just a shade under two Gaedels tall.

(Your child might be tempted to answer this question with retired pitcher Randy Johnson, but the "Big Unit" is "only" 6-foot-10 .)

Now, don't you feel smarter?

The author is a Featured Contributor in Sports for the Yahoo! Contributor Network .You can follow him on Twitter at@RedZoneWriting and on Facebook .
Content by Eric R. Ivie .