Baseball by the Numbers

Baseball by the Numbers

Baseball has numbers for everything. –Jesse Spector, In “The Sporting News” Baseball fans pay more attention to numbers than do CPAs. —

Sportswriter Jim Murray Baseball is truly a game of numbers, numbers that make up the countless records that fans seem to adore and numbers that make up the statistics that define how well (or how poorly) a player performs. Even casual fans of the sport are familiar with the classic records of the game, such as Nolan Ryan’s 5,714 career strikeouts and his seven career no-hitters, Barry Bond’s batting records and Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak. But it’s the more obscure records that capture the fancy of many fans. For example, Joe Sewell, who played 14 seasons with the New York Yankees and the Cleveland Indians, is known as the batter who was toughest to strike out. Sewell struck out only 114 times in 7,132 appearances at the plate. A record that seems to be known only to true aficionados of baseball is Ed Reulbach’s feat of pitching both ends of a doubleheader and winning both with shutouts on September 26, 1908. The Cub hurler topped Brooklyn by a score of 5-0 in the morning game, and then he came back to win 3-0 in the afternoon game which took only 1 hour and 12 minutes. Reulbach gave up only five hits in the first game and only two hits in the second contest. Morning-afternoon doubleheaders were not uncommon then. Perhaps an even more impressive pitching performance happened on May 1, 1920, when Leon Cadore of the Boston Braves and Joe Oeschger of the Brooklyn Robins, the team known later as theDodgers, both went the distance in a 26-inning game which ended in a 1-to-1 tie when it was called by darkness. Some records you might not want to hold include the one that belongs to Gus Weyhing, who pitched for nine different clubs between 1887 and 1901. Weyhing’s pitches hit a record 277 batters. The record for being on the receiving end of errant pitches belongs to Hughie Jennings, a Hall of Famer who played from 1891 to 1918. He was hit 287 times. As you have probably guessed, Jennings was known for crowding the plate. Some of baseball’s records are like a doubleedged knife. For example, Gary Carter, a Hall of Fame catcher who played for the Expos and The Mets, holds the modern era record for most runners caught stealing with 810 pick-offs. However, he also owns the mark for allowing 1,498 stolen bases. A never-ending debate among fans revolves around t h e q u e s t i o n o f w h i c h baseball records, if any, will never again be broken. For years the safest of all records appeared to be the one for the most consecutive games played. Lou Gehrig’s mark of 2,130 games was thought by many to be unbreakable, and then along came Cal Ripken, Jr., who played 2,632 games in a row. For truly safe records, consider those of Cornelius Alexander McGillicuddy, who is known to baseball as Connie Mack. After three seasons as playermanager for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Mack moved to the Philadelphia Athletics as manager and partowner of the team, a position he held from 1901- 1950. Over his career he managed 7,755 games, winning 3,731 and losing 3,948. All three numbers are major league records. Seventy-six tie games account for the discrepancy in totals. By Pete Jones