Baseball Reference – Statistics For The Heart

Posted by Kurt Smith on Friday, April 27, 2012

Recently I warned my readers that I was going to be sharing personal stories from ballgames that I had been to, after reading and enjoying a piece from Mike Luery in his “Baseball Between Us” book. Before I didn’t think people would be interested in my own personal tales, but after reading from Luery’s book I thought, why not? I have some amusing stories to tell, and there’s some philosophy attached to many of them.

So I started jotting down memories of some of my favorites: my first trip to Cleveland, my first Phillies game at the age of nine, and a doubleheader in Baltimore that saw the O’s come from behind to win both games.

And of all places to enhance these memories, I’ve found a website that is all about numbers and statistics—the last place you’d think you’d find something to tug at your emotions.

Baseball Reference is a wonderful resource where you can find statistics of any kind—player numbers, team numbers, attendance figures, leaders in every category up to the top 100. Any possible stat you need, it’s on there.

And best of all, for this fan, they have box scores. From all the way back to when I was a boy, and beyond!

I remember an awful lot about the aforementioned games, certainly enough to fill an interesting blog post or page about them, even though some of them were over 30 years ago. But looking at the box scores, many other things came back—and I learned the dates of the games, too, in case I can’t find the ticket stubs (which I’m not sure I could).

My first Phillies game at Veterans Stadium, now 35 years ago, was an incredibly exciting contest that made an impression on me that lasted the whole summer. I’ve written the whole story of what I remembered, which is a lot—but I had long forgotten the date, July 1, 1977; the starting pitcher for the Phillies, Jim Kaat (and it’s fuzzy but I vaguely remember his windup); and that Tug McGraw pitched three scoreless innings of relief before Gene Garber came in for the top of the 14th, gave up two runs and got the win. I didn’t remember it, but now I know the full sequence of how the Phils scored three in the bottom of the 14th—with singles from Mike Schmidt and Greg Luzinski, a double from first baseman Richie Hebner that should have been a home run, and then Ted Sizemore getting the game-winning hit. Grant Jackson took the loss for the Pirates.

And while there’s no way I remember it, Goose Gossage and Kent Tekulve pitched in that game for the Pirates. And that 34,640 fans shared in Young Kurt’s Big Day.

The Orioles doubleheader was on June 23, 1979…and the back-to-back wins were the eighth and ninth games of a nine-game winning streak for Earl Weaver’s team. I remember Eddie Murray’s walk-off home run to win the first game, of course…but now I know that Tippy Martinez came in to pitch four scoreless innings to get the win, that Scott MacGregor started for the Orioles, and that John Hiller served up the gopher ball to Murray in the ninth. And since Baseball Reference even gives an inning-by-inning account of the game, I found the sequence in the ninth: a walk from Al Bumbry, a sacrifice bunt by shortstop Billy Smith, a walk from Ken Singleton, and the devastating clout by Eddie Murray to win it.

And in the second game, I’ve learned that yes, indeed, I did get to see Jim Palmer pitch in Baltimore, something I couldn’t remember if I ever saw. But Palmer wasn’t terribly effective that night and was lifted in the fifth, for Sammy Stewart who picked up the win with 3 2/3 of scoreless relief. All part of what I don’t remember of one of the best days of my life.

Good times.

Then I looked up my first game in Cleveland, June 30, 1994. I remembered Ripken’s home run in the second (although I didn’t remember that it was in the second, so that helped), Albert Belle’s blast in the eighth, and Jamie Moyer pitching effectively for the O’s before Mark Williamson came in to give a souvenir to a fan in left field off of Belle’s bat.

I didn’t remember that Mark Clark pitched a complete game for the Tribe win; for some reason I had it in my head that Jose Mesa recorded the save, as he did many times that season. I didn’t remember that Ripken, my favorite all time player, went 3-for-4 that night. Or that Jamie Moyer recorded eight strikeouts and got tagged with the loss. One thing that did jump out at me was seeing Chris Sabo’s name in the lineup, in his only season as an Oriole. Instantly I remembered the scene in the sixth inning, when Sabo hit a single, tried to stretch it into a double and was thrown out by about an hour. I was ready for the Orioles to stop signing National Leaguers after that.

And just for the record, the crowd was 41,814, the time of the game was two hours and 42 minutes, and best of all, I know now that the temperature at gametime was 73 degrees—with a 5 MPH wind and no precipitation. I will never forget how a rainy, dreary day driving across the PA Turnpike turned into a picture perfect evening for baseball upon my arrival in Cleveland…now I can prove it!

A lot of baseball bloggers concentrate on statistics, in order to illustrate a point, and they usually do a fine job and go really in depth. But as one who just loves the game, I don’t get into such stats unless they matter for going to the game somehow.

But with Baseball Reference, I’ve had a wonderful epiphany re-living some of the best times I’ve had going to ballgames; and the memory of what happened becomes sharper and clearer, with the numbers and names there in front of me.

It really is like reliving it.

If you remember a certain game vividly, I highly recommend you check out the box score of the game on Baseball Reference and check out all of the details. I’d bet my ticket stubs another fond memory of that day may be stirred for you.

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