I’ve had this idea rolling around in my head for a while, and I finally decided to do something with it.
The idea: What would be the fewest “Degrees of Separation” with a team’s players during the run of Topps cards from 1951 – 2009?
Start with a player from the 1951 set. Connect him with another player in a later year, although in order to connect, each player needs a card from that season. Then connect that player with another, until you can connect to 2009. The goal would be to use the fewest number of players to make the connection.
With the Cubs, I could make it with 8 players. Having long-time players like Ernie Banks, Ryne Sandberg, and Sammy Sosa helped. The trouble spot was in the 70’s and early 80’s, when the team turned over pretty quickly.
Start with Hank Sauer (1951) and go to 1955.
Connect him with Ernie Banks in 1955 and run all the way to 1971.
Now things get a little tougher, as there weren’t any players who spanned the mid 70’s to the mid ‘80’s with the Cubs. We have to use several small steps. There were several options for the smaller steps, but they all involved the same number of players, so I went with some of my favorites.
We’ll go with Billy Williams from 1971 to 1974
Then take Rick Reuschel from 1974 – 1981
Now we let Bill Buckner connect us from 1981 – 1983
Things get a little easier the rest of the way to 2009.
Ryne Sandberg takes us for a while, from 1983 – 1995.
Next up would be Sammy Sosa, running from 1995 to 2004
And we end with Carlos Zambrano from 2004 to 2009.
Eight degrees of Topps separation for the Cubs: Sauer – Banks – Williams – Reuschel – Buckner – Sandberg – Sosa – Zambrano.
Anyone else up to try it with a team? I’m sure there have to be teams that can do it in less than eight steps. The Braves, with a run of Spahn, Aaron, Niekro, Smoltz, and Chipper Jones have to have a chance. How about the Orioles with Brooks Robinson, Palmer, and Ripken as anchors? Williams, Yaz, and Rice should give the Red Sox a chance to beat 8.
Give it a try and let’s see what you come up with. And don't worry if you don't have the cards in your collection, just make the connections and post your results.