Baseball Research Journal 1976: a review

The 1976 BRJ is full of lists: Pitchers stealing home (Leonard Gettelson), home/road home run breakouts (John Tattersall, of course), extra inning homers (Ray Gonzalez), relative batting averages (David Shoebotham), extra-inning scoreless ties (James Watkins), lopsided shutouts (Ronald Liebman), four-strikeout innings (Emil Rothe), GIDP (Stanley Kuminski), complete game percentage (Stanley Fleming), and major league games played away from home parks in the early 1900s (Bob Davids, apparently). Also listed are the results of a couple SABR membership surveys: The “most exciting game” in baseball history, and “colorful players.”

Not that there’s no narrative. For instance, Fred Lieb offers a discussion of history’s most exciting games (he prefers the 1908 “playoff” game between the Giants and Cubs), Paul Frisz profiles Three-Fingered Brown, Alvin Peterjohn reconstructs Cy Young’s first professional season, Alvin Ahrens tells us about iron man Jack Taylor, John Holway recovers the relatively short but quite impressive career of John Beckwith, and Randy Lindt describes the May 12, 1890 pitchers’ duel between Amos Rusie and Kid Nichols. There’s also the first installment of Al Kermisch’s recurring “From a Researcher’s Notebook.”

The best piece is Eugene Murdock’s profile/interview of 96-year-old Paddy Livingston, at that time the oldest living major leaguer. What makes the piece more than a reminiscence is Paddy’s attitude about the game; all things considered, he preferred to be home in Philadelphia. Not many journeyman players sit out entire seasons because they didn’t like the contract.

The Ray Gonzalez piece on extra inning homers is delightful–in tone and substance it’s quite like the work Tom Ruane’s posting on Retrosheet and SABR-L these days.

There are a couple pre-sabermetric pieces. David Shoebotham’s piece on Relative Batting Averages, mentioned above, gives the math and a bunch of lists, but really isn’t particularly analytical. And George Wiley’s piece, titled “Computers in Baseball Analysis,” does rank order correlations on many of the standard statistics and demonstrates that scoring and preventing runs is extremely important. Both are early efforts, with significant analytical shortcomings. But things are about to improve.

Bob Davids edited this one, with help from Al Kermisch and Tom Hufford. All in all, a significant effort.

This review was originally published on LibraryThing.

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