Red Sox Nation Owns Washington, Right Down to the Bar Bet Trivia

Hint: It's not Speaker of the House.


By John Aloysius Farrell, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

Nationals Park was Fenway South, and riding the Metro was like taking the T last night, as the Boston Red Sox made a rare visit to the nation's capital, and the displaced members of Red Sox Nation gave the Washington Nationals their biggest crowd ever.

Jason Bay led the Sox slugging, going 4 for 6 with a home run and three RBI. And as I watched the Sox break open the game in the top of the eighth, with the Capital dome glowing on a warm summer night, I could not help thinking of one of the great trivia bar bets.

Assuming that I will never run into one of you at my neighborhood saloon, I'll share it.

Question: When Jason Bay is chosen as the best Canadian-born major leaguer this year, what is the name of the prize that he will get?

Answer: The Tip O'Neill award.

No, not that Tip O'Neill. Not the late great Speaker of the House of Representatives.

We are talking about James Edward O'Neill, outfielder for the St. Louis Browns and other teams, known for many years as "the Woodstock Wonder" because he was born near Woodstock, Ontario.

Among his other accomplishments, O'Neill played in the first World Series, won the first Triple Crown, set a record for consecutive games with extra-base hits and earned the nickname "Tip" because, when he wasn't getting a hit at the plate, he would draw walks by constantly tipping foul balls, and working the count on a tired pitcher.

In 1887, the year he won his triple crown, O'Neill hit .492 by the rules of the time, in which walks were counted as hits. Subtract the walks, and he still had an average of .435 - the second best ever.

The ballplayer Tip O'Neill was so famous that, for a generation around the turn of the last century, any kid named O'Neill got saddled with the nickname Tip. And that is how Thomas P. O'Neill Jr., who would rise to become Speaker of the House, got his nickname.

Which is actually a pretty good trivia question in itself.

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