Wednesday, December 26, 2007


At the end of the fascinating,stimulating and most of all informing book, Shades of Glory, is the appendix that is titled Statistics.

It goes on to list three (3) issues researchers must contend with when attempting to rebuild Negro league statistics.

- Which games should be included? We are talking about players who had to barnstorm to get to play those teams who would play them before more black teams were formed. Published schedules were not always accurate and the list of league-sanctioned games was not necessarily stable, so researchers do not have a simple list of games to target. Additionally, there were multiple leagues, independent teams and other exceptions which must be considered.

Makes me wonder just how accurate the white major league records were. Who knew how to keep score and when was the need to do so as much a part of the game as knowing how many outs there were? Was every base-runner treated as if they got on base by way of the base-hit? The phrase, "a walk is as good as a hit," may have been taken literally back in the day and if so, how many walks were credited as hits for players elected into Cooperstown, NY?

- The only source of raw data are the newspaper boxscores and these were not consistently reported by any one newspaper (so researchers must work with a wide variety of publications).

- How do you deal with imprecise information? Because there are many different sources there is an inconsistency to the data presented.

But this glorious book's final paragraph may best describe baseball's keeping of statistics.

More boxscores will be discovered in coming years and these will be added to the existing historical records but Negro leagues data will always contain gaps and inconsistencies.

Like other segments of baseball history, the folklore of the game will remain as important as the actual data, but the effort to rebuild this history will continue.

All of the writings by those who served their respective newspapers by selling its readers on the sport of baseball. Because so many owners thought the idea of broadcasting the game would turn fans away from the game only to find that when broadcasting began it actually increased the interest of prospective fans into becoming fans of baseball. Beginning in the 1920s the games were broadcast by a method referred to as "ree-creation."

The embellished tales were all about the idea of not letting the facts get in the way of a good story. Did Babe Ruth call his shot on October 1, 1932, in the World Series, at Wrigley Field, with Charlie Root on the mound for the hometown Cubs? Charlie Root's nickname was Chinski, d'ya suppose he liked to pitch in close to batters? Especially batters who talked the talk and walked the walk? Why else would the Babe pick him to humiliate?

(In fact, there is a Ford C. Frick Award given annually by the Baseball Hall of Fame to a broadcaster who has made major contributions to the game of baseball. Frick himself had initially gained fame as a ghostwriter for Babe Ruth in the 1920s. He later became the Commissioner, from 1951-1965.)

Kevin Marquez