Who says our educational system is in trouble? It certainly isn't when there are teachers like Dr. Buck Showalter on the job.
Coolest moment of the spring in my book came when Showalter assigned 19-year-old Josh Hart a one-page report on Frank Robinson when the Orioles farmhand professed that he didn’t know who the Hall of Famer is.
Showalter wasn’t trying to show Hart up. He was simply operating under the philosophy that it is important for these Orioles to know and understand who occupied the nest before them.
Which should be required for every club—and the reason why, today, Professor Miller is happy to administer the first of what will be an occasional series this summer, the Better Know Your Organization quiz.
First up: The Detroit Tigers. Torii Hunter, please take out your No. 2 pencil...
Scott Miller: When the Tigers named Brad Ausmus manager this winter, the female fanbase went crazy. On a scale of 1 to 10, how hot is Brad Ausmus?
Torii Hunter: That’s a tough question. I really don’t judge other men. But when I hear the chicks call his name, or when I read about it on the blog or on social networks, I would say he’s, on a scale of 1 to 10, to the female eye, maybe a 7.
Miller: Brad Ausmus, Brad Pitt and George Clooney walk into a bar. Who’s getting to third base first?
Hunter: Definitely Brad Ausmus.
Miller: True or False: The Tigers once played their home games in Briggs Stadium.
Hunter: Where is Briggs Stadium?
Miller: It’s what it was called before Tiger Stadium.
Miller: Which was your favorite feature of old Tiger Stadium, the fact that your head nearly scraped the ceiling of the tunnel leading from the visitor’s clubhouse out to the dugout, or that old urinal that used to be right there in the middle of that tunnel?
Hunter: It was the urinal, it was the whirlpool that Babe Ruth used to get into to get loose, but there’s one thing missing: a sliding, like a shed, door, a metal door, that slid to close the clubhouse up from that tunnel. They put me right next to it as a rookie, and it was cold, and I had to keep closing that thing and I closed my finger in it once. It’s like really, really bad. It was the worst contraption ever. I didn’t get any stitches, but I bruised my finger. That tunnel was pretty nasty, actually.
Miller: All the retired numbers in the Tigers organization are displayed on the brick wall in Comerica Park. What number did Ty Cobb wear?
Hunter: Gosh, I see it all the time!
Miller: Here’s a hint, it’s a trick question.
Hunter: A trick question? Three.
Miller: No number. They just have his name on the wall. He played before they used numbers.
Miller: Al Kaline famously was the youngest batting champion ever when he won the batting title in 1955 when he was: (A) 13, (B) 20, (C) 31 years old.
Hunter: I’ll say 20.
Miller: Bingo. OK, with Jim Leyland gone, who’s in charge of the Tigers’ cigarettes?
Hunter: I think everybody wears the patch now. Nobody smokes.
Miller: The state of Michigan is shaped like: (A) a 1955 Thunderbird, (B) a mitten, or (C) Bob Seger?
Hunter: A mitten.
Miller: True or false: Detroit is called Motown because there is a very large contingent of fans of Moe from the Three Stooges who live there.
Hunter: No. It is called Motown because of Berry Gordy and all the music that he produced.
Miller: Who’s your favorite Detroit artist?
Hunter: Now, it would probably be Eminem. Motown, I would have to say Smokey Robinson.
Miller: One of the most prolific pinch hitters in baseball history was a Tiger, Gates Brown. Where did he get his nickname?
Hunter: Willie Horton actually told me this story. Did he go through a gate?
Miller: He was in prison. Where did the Tigers find Ron LeFlore?
Hunter: Sounds like he’s French.
Miller: He came from prison too.
Hunter: [Laughing] Man, the Tigers had a lot of cats who went to prison, huh? They can play. Wow.
Miller: What happened to Denny McLain, the former 31-game winner, after he retired?
Hunter: Sounds like he went on drugs.
Miller: He went to prison.
Hunter: I figured it had to be something.
Miller: You guys are attempting to become the first Tigers team since when to win a World Series?
Miller: When Mark "The Bird" Fidrych stunned everyone in 1976 by making the team out of spring training, legend has it that in Lakeland, Florida, when he got the news, he celebrated how? Hint: It was midnight, and it involved his girlfriend and a pitcher’s mound.
Hunter: He made love to his girlfriend on the mound. I heard that. That’s an organizational legend.
Miller: What did the late, beloved broadcaster Ernie Harwell mean when he said of a hitter, "He stood there like the house by the side of the road"?
Hunter: He struck out. Ernie Harwell, great man. I had a chance to meet him before he passed away. Great voice of baseball.
Miller: During a doubleheader in 1979, the White Sox had to forfeit the second game to the Tigers because fans rioted and blew something up on the field. What did they blow up?
Hunter: I think I remember that.
Miller: Disco records. Disco Demolition Night.
Hunter: I didn’t know that was the Tigers. I just knew it was the White Sox.
Miller: Which pizza do you prefer, Domino’s or Little Caesars?
Hunter: Little Caesars. Definitely. [Tigers owner Mike Ilitch also owns Little Caesars].
Miller: True or false: An old infielder named Charlie Maxwell really was from this place: Paw Paw, Michigan?
Hunter: True. That’s the name of our mascot, Paw Paw.
Miller: Another true or false: The Tigers really had a player named John Wockenfuss.
Hunter: I’ve never heard that before. They had a player named John Wockenfuss? I like that! That’s a unique name. You could get the big leagues just because of that name.
Miller: True story: Once in 1973, Nolan Ryan was no-hitting the Tigers, and Norm Cash actually took this to the plate instead of a bat. What did he take?
Hunter: That’s a hard one. Maybe a paddle? Or a fishing net?
Miller: Close. A table leg. They made him exchange it for a bat because they said it was illegal equipment.
Hunter: That’s funny. You do that now, you’d get scrutinized. But that’s funny. That’s baseball. And hey, I’m learning something!
Miller: The most elegant and beautiful Miss America ever, 1988, Tigers fan Kaye Lani Rafko from Monroe, Michigan, went to high school and is buddies with which cool baseball writer?
Hunter: [Long pause]. You?
Miller: Excellent. Good answer.
Hunter: Did you date her?
Miller: I did not. We were just pals. And I’m asking the questions here.
Hunter: That’s funny.
Miller: Why did you choose the Tigers?
Hunter: I chose those guys because at the time I felt like they were the team to beat. You’re talking about a pitching staff with Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez. Three big horses. And really, I’ve been playing this game a long time. It’s hard to beat a team with three big horses. I know pitching and defense wins games. I had a chance to come over here with Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera, one of the best hitters in baseball, it just fits. I’ve been playing against these guys forever, been playing in that stadium forever, hit well in that stadium and so it was a no-brainer. And another thing, it’s close to my son, Torii Jr., at Notre Dame.
Miller: Last question: What are your three favorite things about Detroit?
Hunter: The music. The fans, they come out no matter if it’s cold, rainy, sleet, snow, they’re coming out. And American cars.
Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report. He has over two decades of experience covering MLB, including 14 years as a national baseball columnist at CBSSports.com.
Follow Scott on Twitter and talk baseball here.