As we move through Spring training, and the United States gets ready for another season of America's favorite pastime, have you ever stopped to wonder how the computer may have changed baseball, or has it?!
Right now thousands of fantasy baseball leagues are conducting drafts, and each manager who thinks he understands the game is utilizing a wealth of statistics. Now let's imagine that is the Spring of 1954, how would you play fantasy baseball? What kind of stats would you use?
- The computer as we know it is years in the future
- The ability to share data is difficult at best
Enter Branch Rickey, the mechanical calculator and slide rule! Life Magazine published a fascinating article that Summer where many of the stats we now hold sacrosanct were first reviewed by Coach Rickey. Here is his formula:
- H = Hits
- BB = Base on Balls
- AB = Times at Bats
- HP = Hit by Pitch
- TB = Total Bases
- R = Runs
- ER = Earned Runs
- SO = Stike Outs
- F = Fielding
- G = Games
Here is one other important stat about Mr. Rickey: (reprinted from Life Magazine:
As the man who guided the St. Louis Cardinals to six National League pennants and the Brooklyn Dodgers to two. Branch Rickey, currently general manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates, is considered baseball's brainiest and most successful executive. He was among the first to use such revolutionary practices as the farm system and the mass tryout camp, the first executive to see the value of using baseball statistics in putting together and running his teams.
You can read a reprint of the Life Article via Baseball Think Factory, and an analysis with linkable follow-up stats via the Captain's Blog. Remember, in 1954 you would have had to pull out your trusty slider rule to calculate your statistics. Hmmm ... that might have given the Northstar Nerd an advantage over the younger folks against whom I have played Fantasy Baseball in the past!
Check this advertisement out from Superman Comics (circa 1958). You could actually purchase a custom slide rule focused specifically on batting averages!
Here is one final image which says it all. Branch Rickey is explaining his statistical system to a computer nerd like myself. All I can say is ... Play Ball!