When I saw that tonight’s pitching matchup at Citizen’s Bank Park featured the Phils Cliff Lee and the Mets Dillon Gee, the first thing that piqued my interest was the rhyming last names. But then, being a math geek, I noticed the paucity of letters in their combined last names. I wondered if any starting pitching matchup in history gave us fewer letters than the six of Mr. Lee and Mr. Gee.
With the Retrosheet database fired up, I parsed out the last names of both starting pitchers in every game where this information was available (approximately 198,700 games). I then computed the lengths of each hurler’s last name, added them together, and voila! It seems that Gee/Lee’s total of six ties the all-time record low, achieved 19 times prior (all since 1949).
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As you can see, Preacher Roe and Howie Fox faced off three times in 1949 (Fox took the loss in all three, part of a dismal 6-19 campaign), and once in 1951 (once again, Roe beat
Wade Fox). Joey Jay and Vern Law battled four times between 1959 and 1966. More recently, Jimmy Key and Charlie Lea dueled twice in 1988.
But it had been over four years since our last battle of three-letter named pitchers, and given that John Ely is the only other such pitcher to start a game this season, its unlikely we’ll get another six-letter combo matchup save for these Lee/Gee tussles. (Therefore, I’m hoping the Tigers call up Fu-Te Ni to their playoff roster, and give him a World Series start against Mr. Lee and the Phils, just so we can lower this record to five.)
Oh, and since I know you are wondering what the longest matchup is in terms of last names, its 25, done twice:
9/29/44: Fritz Ostermuller vs. Ken Raffensberger
5/29/96: Jason Isringhausen vs. William VanLandingham