CAN it be that baseball interest has burned hotter in some...


November 16, 1994

CAN it be that baseball interest has burned hotter in some other city than in Baltimore?

The name Allan Roth came up, the other day, at a meeting here of the Bob Davids Chapter of SABR (the Society for American Baseball Research). Roth, who died in 1992, was for many years the Brooklyn-Los Angeles Dodgers' statistician.

And he recorded not just every play but every single pitch. For four years, when his seat was behind home plate, Roth even wrote down what kind of pitch.

No one in the other major league cities seems to have been so diligent.

Play-by-play accounts for the majors (which daily papers no longer print) are now kept by a group called Baseball Workshop; its data base can supply you any or all of the 22,806 games from 1984 forward (roughly, 1.72 million plays).

The problem is, the earlier games. From 1901 through 1983, the majors played 115,717 games. Who's going to hunt down the scoresheets from club archives, Cooperstown, newspapers, etc., to spot the mistakes, reconcile the contradictions and carefully input every name, every number?

The answer is, Retrosheet.

A speaker at the SABR meeting (at the University of Baltimore) was David W. Smith, Retrosheet's founder (in 1989) and leader. Mr. Smith is betimes a University of Delaware professor of microbiology. Retrosheet, Inc. is run entirely by volunteers, and disseminates its data free.

Retrosheet has the 1954-onward Orioles complete (among some 60,000 scoresheets so far). The Orioles and 23 other clubs collaborate (whatsa matter with you, Detroit and Toronto?)

Is all this a lot of bother? Old outcomes, viewed by modern eyes, surprise. A big thing nowadays is the pitch count -- pass about 120, and out a pitcher comes, for fear of strain.

In a 14-inning game May 28, 1960, the Retrosheet Newsletter reports, Sandy Koufax threw 210 pitches; nor was that the only time he topped 200.

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