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Friday, March 4, 2011
Updated: March 6, 12:44 PM ET
Stumping the Schwab


LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Envision all the wealth of sports knowledge you can imagine in one place. Then multiply it by 10, add an awesome beard and a bag of potato chips, and you have Howie Schwab, the Sultan of Sports Trivia, or as folks at ESPN headquarters like to call him, simply "The Schwab."

Schwab rose to sports notoriety in 2004 as the star of the trivia show Stump The Schwab but had humble beginnings as a know-it-all researcher at the World Wide Leader in Sports.

"Basically Mark Shapiro, who used to be at ESPN, called me into his office and [said], 'We are starting a new trivia show,'" Schwab said. "I said. 'That's great. I can work on that'. Then he says, 'It's called Stump the Schwab'. The abridged version of what I said in response was 'Are you bleeping serious?'"

From there, Schwab's persona grew to be a thing of folklore at ESPN.

"If you want to try and stump him my advice is to just surrender immediately," said Marcus Matthews, ESPN associate producer.

Although most think he is superhuman, the Schwab doesn't actually bleed box scores.

"I don't remember everything. I'll be the first person to tell you," Schwab said. "There are times where numbers pop out of my head. I'm not perfect. I laugh because people say, 'You know everything.' I say, 'No, I don't, but that's OK. Think whatever you want.'

"I have a target on my back everywhere I go. People say, 'Hey I can stump you, what shoe size was Ty Cobb in 19-something?'"

Once a fan tried to stump Schwab in the restroom.

For 22 years, Schwab, who has a quiet demeanor, has counteracted his demure personality with one of ESPN's most boisterous voices, his friend and close colleague Dick Vitale.

"He provides all the statistics and information for me on game day," Vitale said. "He hands me note cards, informs me of different trends and what to look for. He cares that we put out a product that is first class."

The duo also has a quirky relationship off the court. Vitale is not only amazed at the amount of knowledge Schwab possess, but the way he can knock back a variety of junk food.

"One of the commandments should be, thou shall never ever follow the eating habits of Mr. Schwab," Vitale said.

"We got on a plane at 6:30 in the morning and this is his breakfast, I kid you not. He grabs three bags of potato chips and two bags of M&Ms, and I'm watching him like I can't believe this.

"My grandkids call him 'Schwabie' and they get a kick out of him too. They tease him about meatballs and hamburgers."

He lives off of junk food, can recite statistical information in his sleep and is best buds with Dick Vitale. This Schwab character can't be real. To verify the Schwab is actually human, I gave him a few of our toughest sports trivia questions. Or at least I thought they were tough.

1. What is USC's official mascot?

The Trojan horse. (Correct)

2. How many hall of fames is Cheryl Miller in and what are they?

Naismith Hall of Fame. FIBA Hall of Fame. Women's Basketball Hall of Fame. California Sports Hall of Fame. USA Basketball too. So that's five I guess. (Wrong. Well, wrong in the sense that Schwab named too many hall of fames for Miller. She's in all those but USA Basketball.)

3. How many blocks did Brittney Griner have in her freshman year?

Somewhere around 122. (Wrong. 223 season blocks. No. 1 on NCAA -- all divisions, Big 12 and Baylor season lists.)

4. Name the first African-Americans to enter all four major sporting leagues?

MLB -- Jackie Robinson (Correct)

American League -- Larry Doby (Correct)

NBA -- Nate "Sweetwater" Clifton (Correct. First to sign a contract)

NFL -- Oh, boy ... just say it I don't know it. (Wrong. Fritz Pollard and Bobby Marshall)

NHL -- Willie O'Ree (Correct)

5. Who is No. 24 on the Indiana Fever?

Tamika Catchings (Correct)

6. Name one member of the Rodeo Hall of Fame?

Jim Shoulders. (Correct)

7. Name the last four American Idol winners?

Taylor Hicks, Lee DeWyze, David Cook and ... how about I give you the first one, Kelly Clarkson. She beat the guy who went nowhere. (Nice try, but wrong. Lee DeWyze, Kris Allen, David Cook and Jordin Sparks)

8. Name two female Supreme Court justices?

Sandra Day O'Connor and Sonia Sotomayor. (Correct, since we didn't specify they needed to be active Supreme Court justices. Besides Sotomayor, the other two active female Supreme Court Justices are Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan.)

9. What dog breed has won best in show the most?

Poodle. (Wrong. Wire fox terrier.)

Five out of nine incorrect. Schwab. Stumped. Although to be fair, with all those multi-part questions his percentage probably was over .500. And we snuck in all those non-sports questions. It still counts as an official stumping, though.