Jack Sauer has reached a milestone.
The retired teacher, who lives in Belleville, will attend his 1,000th trivia night this weekend at Holy Family in Cahokia.
“My first was March 26, 1994. We played at Gibault High School in Waterloo and we won.”
No wonder he and his team went back again and again and again.
That first trivia night, his eight-person team each paid $5 to play and split $150 in winnings, or $18.75 a piece. Since then, Jack has kept a record of each game. Two former students asked him to play that first time.
“When they called and invited me, I didn’t know such a thing existed,” said Jack, who taught 15 years in Waterloo and 19 years in Bartelso. “I didn’t have any idea there were so many around that I would be playing on a regular basis. We played 52 trivia nights last year.”
His trivia teams have evolved over the years, but usually include a fair amount of teachers. Among the regulars are Bill and Diane Evans, of Maryville; John Brueggeman, of Swansea, and his sister Jane Brueggeman, of Belleville; Steve and Connie Garland, of Collinsville; and Larry Carli, of Edwardsville. Regulars Clark and Robyn Wilhite, formerly of Millstadt, are less regular now that they’ve moved to Omaha.
Jack scouts trivia nights and gets a roster of players together.
Part of what helped me as a teacher is the repetition. When you teach the same thing year after year, pretty soon it sinks in.
Jack Sauer on his strength on the team
“It’s all about the team,” Jack said. “I will say to some friends, ‘Trivia is a team sport. You need people who can cover a variety of topics. You can’t have everybody who knows sports or movies. It’s a team effort. ... Part of what helped me as a teacher is the repetition. When you teach the same thing year after year, pretty soon it sinks in.”
Like many sports, trivia has a season. It parallels the school year, going from mid-September to mid-May.
We asked Jack a few easy questions.
Q: What do you like about trivia nights?
A: “I like the camaraderie at the table. Good trivia questions get people thinking and remembering. It leads to great conversations with friends. I love the conversation that develops at a good trivia night. It’s a lot of fun. When Roger Schlueter writes a trivia, he writes a good one. Jim Rudy also does awesome trivia. We learn stuff. If a question comes up, someone at the table will say, ‘We had that before.’ You recall it. When you come up with it the second time, it sticks with you.” So does the food. “Jane Brueggeman likes to fix really neat things — burritos, tacos, Italian beef, all kinds of good stuff. The guys bring stuff, too. We will pick up a pizza, or crackers and chips. That’s all part of the camaraderie of the evening. We enjoy each other’s company and have snacks and drinks and good conversation. What else is needed?”
Q: In what categories do you shine?
A: “Baseball, especially Cardinal baseball. And politics, especially presidents and current events. If the category is movies or music, I can participate if it’s old. If it’s new, I don’t know it.”
Q: Any questions you get tired of?
A: “One is a baseball question we had the other night. Who were the father and son duo who hit back to back home runs in a big league game? They give the date. It’s Ken Griffey Sr. and Ken Griffey Jr. Another one: Who was the only bachelor president? James Buchanon. We have been asked that so many times. You can’t gain ground on other teams. They know it, too.”
Q: Has the cost of a trivia night changed much in 22 years?
A: “It definitely has. At first, it was $5 a player. Now, typically, it’s $12 to $15 a person, although I played last Saturday in Belleville for $10. It can be $25 to $30 if you go to the Missouri side.”
Q; Has the prize money changed?
A: “The prize money is all over the place. Some places, you make your money back. Other places, there’s a nice difference between what you paid and what you win. Holy Family Church pays $500 for first place. It cost $12 to play. Fairmont City Firefighters paid $500 for first place. Unfortunately, we came in third. We still got $200 for third. It cost $25 each to play.”
Q: How often does your team win?
A: “Out of the 999 that we have played, we have finished first 714 times. We’ve won 71 percent of the time. Don’t make it sound like it’s me. It’s not. It’s a team sport. I am not the best player on my team.” Still, it’s fun to know the answer. “All of us on the team like it when we get a question and we are the only one who has the answer at that particular moment. When you get one that no one else knows, that’s always kind of a kick.”
Q: How far have you traveled for trivia?
A: “Ashley, Illinois. It was on a Sunday afternoon with a chicken and dumpling dinner. It was a pretty good haul way down past Centralia.”