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— Where BTF's Members Investigate the Grand Old Game
Wednesday, June 13, 2001
Mike Morgan, the Nexus of the Baseball Universe?
You will be entertained by the answer.
A few years ago, some college students in Pennsylvania invented a popular game about the actor Kevin Bacon.? The object of the game was to start with an actor or actress and connect them with Bacon in the fewest links possible.? People are linked if they appeared in the same movie.? A ?Bacon Number? was assigned to the actor based on the fewest links necessary to connect them with Kevin Bacon.? For instance, Telly Savalas was in ?Kelly?s Heroes? with Donald Sutherland.? Sutherland appeared in ?Animal House? (and ?JFK?) with Bacon.? Therefore Sutherland has a Bacon Number of 1 and Savalas has a Bacon Number of 2.
This isn?t an entirely new concept.? Since the 1960s, sociologists have suggested that every person is connected to every other person through an average of six acquaintances.? Paul Erdos, a prolific Hungarian mathematician, invented the Erdos Number.? Every academic who collaborated on a paper with Erdos was assigned an Erdos Number of 1.? Every co-author of these collaborators has an Erdos Number of 2.? And so on, and so on.? The Erdos Number became the forerunner of the Bacon Number.
What does this have to do with baseball?? You can connect players to each other by linking them with players who appeared on the same team in the same year.? I?m not counting managers and coaches.?? (This eliminates Don Zimmer as a link between everyone from Jackie Robinson to Randy Choate.)? Let?s link Roger Maris to Mark McGwire.? Maris played on the Cardinals along with Mike Torrez.? Torrez was on the ?77 Yanks with Reggie Jackson.? Mr. October finished his career as McGwire’s teammate on the A?s.? How about Lou Gerhig to Cal Ripken?? You can link Gerhig to Tommy Heinrich, Heinrich to Yogi Berra, Berra to Tug McGraw, McGraw to Jeff Stone, and Stone to Ripken.? (Thanks to T. Scott Brandon for that one.)
Who would be the most linkable player in baseball history?? It would have to be a player who a.) Had a lengthy career, and b.) Played for a lot of different teams.? In fact, there is an active player who meets both criteria.?
Currently in his twenty-first major league season, Mike Morgan is the ultimate sports journeyman.? In a career that started in 1978 and spans four decades, Morgan has played for twelve different major league teams.? No one, in any major team sport has played for more than ten teams.? Throughout those many years, Morgan has had close to 650 teammates.? Out of 15,500 players who have appeared in the big leagues, 4.2% have played with Mike Morgan.? We can assign these players a Morgan Number of 1.
Let?s play the ?Mike Morgan Game? with a couple of Hall of Famers.? Ted Williams played with Frank Malzone, who played with Yaz.? Yaz played with Fred Lynn, who was on the 1988 Orioles with Morgan.? The Splendid Splinter?s Morgan Number is less than or equal to 4.? (There may be a quicker link.? I haven?t done exhaustive research on this.)? Hank Aaron has a Morgan Number of 2.? Aaron and Morgan both played with Gorman Thomas.? Warren Spahn?s Morgan Number is also 2.? Spahnnie and Morgan shared Rico Carty as a teammate.
Most players who have appeared in the last quarter century have Morgan Numbers less than or equal to 2.? If they haven?t played with Morgan, they?ve probably played with someone who has. ?Joe Morgan has a Morgan Number of 2.? Both Morgans played with Ken Griffey Sr. (among others).? You can do this with teams.? The 1969 Kansas City Royals all have Morgan Numbers of 2 or less.? Buck Martinez, who was a catcher on that team, played on the 1983 Blue Jays with Morgan.
So, is Mike Morgan the nexus of the baseball universe?? Further research would be necessary to determine whether or not he is.? If he isn?t yet, he probably will be some day.? There are quite a few players who played with Morgan who are young enough to play well into the 21st century.? Some of Morgan?s teammates on the 1998 Twins come to mind.? It is unlikely that anyone has had as many teammates as Morgan.? The other candidates that come to mind, Nolan Ryan and Hoyt Wilhelm, are Hall of Famers.? They have their glory.? Spare some for the journeymen of the world.
JUST FOR FUN
Jonathon Daly is a new member of the Society of Baseball Research (SABR) and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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