On the day after Thanksgiving, baseball misplaced a titan. Seymour Siwoff wasn’t a former participant or supervisor, nor was he an umpire, entrance workplace govt, or an proprietor. However in operating the corporate that for many years was the official statistician for Main League Baseball, Siwoff’s imprint on the sport is gigantic.
Siwoff joined the Elias Sports activities Bureau as an accountant earlier than preventing in World Warfare II, then purchased the corporate in 1952 and constructed it into the behemoth that it’s as we speak with practically seven full many years of management. He handed away at age 99.
Statistics are the lifeblood of sports activities with baseball main that cost. Some numbers in baseball are magical, like Barry Bonds’ 762 house runs or Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak.
It’s absurd how rapidly we will entry baseball statistics as of late. Because of great websites like Baseball-Reference, FanGraphs, Baseball Savant and the like, we will nearly immediately know probably the most particular of feats, such because the 4 instances a pitcher struck out 20 batters in a nine-inning recreation.
Baseball statistics weren’t at all times at our fingertips at a second’s discover, actually not earlier than the web or earlier than private computer systems turned widespread. I knew of stats because of the backs of baseball playing cards and voracious studying of The Baseball Encyclopedia. Sure numbers are burned into my reminiscence without end, like Wade Boggs hitting .368 with a whopping 240 hits in 1985*, Don Mattingly homering in a record-tying eight straight video games in 1987, or Eddie Murray getting 184 hits in 558 at-bats, hitting a significant league-best .330 in 1990.
*Boggs’ 240 hits in 1985 was the very best whole in 55 years, and wasn’t reached once more till 2000. It’s been reached simply 15 instances in main league historical past. 1980s Boggs was a power of nature. By his first seven seasons (1982-88), Boggs received 5 batting titles and was hitting .356 with a .445 on-base proportion. Good gravy.
I used to be additionally glorious at remembering cellphone numbers again then, however for the reason that creation of cell telephones the necessity for memorization is now not wanted and my recollection has atrophied. It’s the identical for baseball stats. I can look them up at any time, so there isn’t a have to commit many to reminiscence.
Think about how troublesome it was 50 years in the past to even know sure statistics, lots of which weren’t even absolutely recognized till after the season was full. Enter Seymour Siwoff, whose record-keeping vigilance was on full show in a wonderful Sports activities Illustrated profile from 1969, one which dubbed Siwoff “the recording angel of statistics.” Ernie Banks drove in seven runs on Could 13 that 12 months, and the Cubs PR division wasn’t certain if this was actually a private document (they didn’t have Baseball-Reference, you see). In order that they known as Siwoff on the Elias Sports activities Bureau:
Now Siwoff was exhorting his males to comb the data for Ernie Banks’ private single-game excessive in runs batted in, they usually have been responding with exuberance. Out got here giant volumes containing sheets laced with forbidding rows of figures, together with a day-by-day compilation of the two,300-odd video games the 38-year-old Banks had performed. Every man, Siwoff included, took one of many volumes and scanned the columns rapidly and silently.
Moments later the cellphone rang again at Wrigley Subject. “Banks has had seven RBIs in a recreation twice earlier than,” Siwoff reported breathlessly. “On August 4, 1955, and once more on Could 1, 1963.” This intelligence went out instantly over the ball park’s public-address system to the group readily available and, through the press field, to the surface world. “If Seymour says it’s so, then it’s so,” testified Chuck Shriver, the Cubs’ publicity man. “He’s my bible.”
Siwoff ran Elias for an astonishing 67 years earlier than turning over management of the corporate to his grandson, Joe Gilston, earlier in 2019.
Statistics could be chilly and unemotional however they’re additionally a approach to higher perceive the sport. A boxscore could be artwork and paint a splendidly vivid image of a recreation, one thing to reinforce, not exchange the expertise. I’ve been obsessing over comparatively obscure numbers for 35 years, not due to the numbers themselves however somewhat my love of baseball. They provide me a deeper connection to the game.
Siwoff in that 1969 SI profile mentioned, “What I get pleasure from most about statistics is the prospect they provide you to relive the previous.”
In a 1987 interview with the Los Angeles Occasions, Siwoff confirmed that, along with stats, he had a deep love of sports activities:
“Any person might do one thing phenomenal, which is why sports activities has this huge romance to it. The reason being as a result of sports activities is drama, excessive drama. You go to the theater and you understand how the ending is as a result of any person already wrote it, proper? However sports activities is the last word theater. You understand the ending solely when the sport ends. Generally nothing occurs. Generally an uncommon factor occurs.”
Having the ability to acknowledge and have fun the weird was made simpler by the tireless work of Siwoff and plenty of others. Thanks for this stunning reward.