Way Back Base Ball: March 2009 Archives


Did you know that so-called "saber-metrics" weren't invented by Moneyball author Billy Beane? It turns out that the Society for American Baseball Research was actually founded in 1971. A young Joe Morgan responded the following year by turning in the best season of his career, for the organization's founding angered him for reasons he would only later comprehend. I was going to go with a Terminator reference here, but I couldn't really get it to work. You see, SABR would probably be more like the machines. I guess Morgan could have been the Michael Biehn character. Hm.

Anyway, what I'm trying to say here is that SABR has recently been digitizing the entire Baseball Research Journal. And it's available for free, on the Internet, and you don't even have to be a talking computer who likes baseball statistics like me to understand some of the articles! The full article list currently has BRJ articles from 1972 to 1984, 1986 and 1989.

I perused the archive1 and selected a couple of links for all of you to enjoy this Friday afternoon. If your work is blocking March Madness on Demand it's a nice silver medal!

• A 1972 article showed correlation between World Series winner and Presidential election winner, around two decades before the news media noticed, en masse, that a recent Redskins' game result decided election winners. Truly, SABR was a revolutionary organization from the very beginning.

• Another 1972 article, "Birds, Bees and Baseball," contains the following anecdote, which I must reproduce in full:

A record for distance in throwing a frog probably was established close to 30 years ago by Donald Atkinson, an umpire in the Georgia-Florida League.

Atkinson was working behind the plate on a very hot day in a game between Moultrie and Albany. He was in his shirt sleeves with a canvas bag in which he kept his supply of balls slung over his shoulder.

In the fifth inning one of the Albany players hit a foul fly that went over the grandstand. Atkinson reached into his bag to get another ball. What he got hold of was a live frog. He let out a yip and threw the frog half way to the next county. He never did find out which player had sneaked the frog into the bag.

This was definitely the crazy landing game of its day. "No way did that just happen, folks."

• A 1973 artricle adds this factoid: Babe Ruth hit his first home run the day before the sinking of the Lusitania! There's also a note that the New York Evening Journal lightly mocked pitcher Jack Warhop for surrending a homer to another pitcher. Ha!

• Some excellent lists: Pitchers who stole home (1976); a variety of lists on baseball brothers (1979); players with 10 years of service who didn't play in the minors (1980); game winning homers against old club in day after trade (1989); all-time leaders in being awarded first base on interference (not surprisingly, Pete Rose is first).

• The most comprehensive look at printed baseball cartoons humanly possible, from 1983.

• Finally, there's this 1986 article, "Baseball tops all sports as national phrasemaker." It's about how lots of baseball terms are.idioms, and contains examples: "A salesman who strikes you right off the bat as a screwball, someone way out in left field, will obviously not get to first base with you." Well, obviously. A salesman? They have some loose morals in SABR, I must say.

But wait! There's more! SABR recently freely released the 2009 Emerald Guide to Baseball as a .pdf download. Yes, apparently they can fit whole encyclopedias (500+ pages!!) on computers now. The wonders of modern technology never cease to amaze.

1 This is a lie. I merely browsed it.