Baseball Research Journal 1977: a review

This edition, which has a minor league emphasis, is the first BRJ edition which feels like it was edited, rather than just assembled from pieces Bob Davids had at hand. The result is interesting, and generally satisfying.

The issue’s first five pieces examined minor league clubs with reasonable claims to being history’s best–the 1878 Buffalo Bisons (this one’s by Joe Overfield), the 1919 through 1925 Baltimore Orioles (Al Kermisch), the 1930s Newark Bears (Randolph Linthurst), the 1932 Los Angeles Angels (Bill Schroeder), and the early-20s Fort Worth Panthers (Vern Luse). While all five essays are worth reading, none are really standout pieces; I liked Luse’s best. Other pieces on the minor league theme included Eugene Murdock’s terrific interview/portrait of Joe Hauser, John Pardon’s retelling of Tony Napoles’ 1946 season (he went 22-0 for Peekskill), and Ray Nemec’s careful reconstruction of Perry Werden’s career. Merl Kleinknecht’s exploration of 19th-century black baseball necessarily discusses minor league participation, as well.

Kleinknecht’s piece is a nicely-done pioneering historical study, by the way. Editor Bob Davids contributed a fine summary of the known statistical record of pinch hitting, and describes the need for further research. Bill Haber’s description of his successful effort to find biographical details on 1911 Cleveland pitcher George Paige is great fun; he keeps finding dead ends and false leads, but sorts it all out mostly by persisting. Bill Borst’s portrait of Helene Britton’s stint as owner of the Cardinals is excellent.

Sabermetric pioneer Dick Cramer contributed his now-famous essay on clutch hitting, and Bill James threw in a delightful essay demonstrating that relief pitchers’ ERAs are deflated by about .20 just because of the situations they inherit (this may no longer be true, by the way). Home run analysts John Tattersall and Ray Gonzalez both contributed disappointing articles inspired by Henry Aaron’s retirement. Also of a sabermetric bent are Paul Epstein’s analysis of mid-season manager changes and Stanley Fleming’s essay about stolen bases, though I’d not recommend the latter.

In many ways, this is the best issue so far. There’s one famous contribution, some excellent research, and some interesting reading.

This review was originally published on LibraryThing.

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