Record Keeping at the Dawn of a League

Pinstripe Empire

The definitive history

After reading the concluding part of “All the Record Books Are Wrong,” my friend Marty Appel wrote this in email. Marty  was the long time New York Yankees PR Director and author of Pinstripe Empire and other books.  A children’s version of that team history, Pinstripe Pride, will be published next month, as will a book he packaged, 100 Years of Who’s Who in Baseball.

John, your excellent 3-parter on records reminded me of what it feels like to be there at the start of a league and suddenly realize before the first pitch is thrown, “we better get this right.”

As you may recall, I did PR for the Israel Baseball League in 2007. I was in Israel and quickly sized up the almost impossible matter that official scorers were needed for each of the 3 games played every day, and they better get it right.

Imagine trying to find three qualified scorers, and to make sure they showed up daily (no pay), and submitted a correct scoresheet.

As we drew within hours of the very first game, I was in total panic over this, feeling we would not be getting the first game right and there went history and credibility.

I had conducted a crash course in scoring with the four volunteers for the task, but was not convinced they understood the whole process.

So distracted was I at the very start that I forgot to get the ‘first pitch thrown’ baseball to keep. Fortunately it wasn’t hit, wasn’t put out of play, and I called to the umpire to retrieve it after the second pitch. I still have it. It was marked “OFFICIAL BALL” without the IBL logo. Those were all at customs at Ben Gurion airport.

Book by lefty reliever Aaron Prible

Fine book by lefty reliever Aaron Pribble

I had done a nice yearbook with full rosters, so I felt we were big league until the scoring process started. With help from Andrew Wilson, a young assistant from the US who worked for one of the team owners, we coordinated a season long schedule of scorers and assignments. I left after 10 games, fingers crossed. Somehow Andrew got all the scoresheets and records were indeed kept. My confidence that they were accurate is about 70%. In no cases, so far as I know, were they ‘faked’ because a scorer showed up late.

All of this is to illustrate what early MLB must have been like.

To my great disappointment, when Baseball America published their 2008 Almanac, they left out the IBL despite my sending them stats. That would have been the only place where we became part of the historical record. They published many other European and Asian league stats. That still upsets me.

The league folded after one year, so I suppose no one cares, but we did have some Dominican players who went into pro ball here as arranged by Dan Duquette, who was Director of Player Procurement for the league.

Just some perspective on experiencing “being there” at the formation of a league. And frankly, if I wasn’t there, I doubt there would have been scoresheets for each game.

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