Baseball statistics can never tell the whole story, yet numbers can often act as figures of historical relevance, placing context around a specific player, team, league or feat.
Finally, baseball fans interested in the Negro Leagues have some viable statistics to examine. Numbers that would have taken weeks and months to find and compute are now available at our fingertips.
Historians have often struggled researching the Negro Leagues. Most people affiliated with the various clubs have passed on, making interviews nearly impossible. Newspaper coverage of the leagues was hit-or-miss and box scores are often difficult to decipher, littered with misspellings and inaccuracies.
Have you ever wanted to find information about the Hilldale Daisies and their historical 1925 season and Negro League championship? Good luck. You can pool information together from various sources, but the time commitment often is a deal-breaker. Box scores are held hostage in educational databases and on microfilm, leaving those without access out of luck.
The situation, however, appears to be changing.
Thanks to the tireless work of dozens of individuals affiliated with "The Negro Leagues Researchers and Authors Group," statistics on Negro League players are now available through www.baseball-reference.com.
Major League Baseball provided the Hall of Fame with a $250,000 grant in July 2000 in order to comprehensively examine the history of African Americans in Baseball, from 1860-1960. This process meant pulling data from various sources and piecing together team and player statistics.
"The data that forms the basis of these statistics is the result of years of tireless research by a dedicated team of historians," said Jeff Idelson, President of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. "We are so proud to have been able to facilitate this research, and equally pleased that our partner, baseball-reference.com, is able to make this information available to the public. This history that once was lost is now alive to help tell the story of the great African-American baseball heroes of the early 20th Century."
In total, researchers plowed through more than 3,000 day-by-day accounts in nearly 375 different newspapers from across the country. The study included sanctioned league game box scores from almost 100 percent of games played in the 1920s, in excess of 90 percent of the box scores from games played in the 1930s and box scores from 50-70 percent of games played in the 1940s and 50s.
Leagues and clubs rarely kept official statistics, meaning nearly everything had to be tabulated by hand.
Thanks to the work of the individuals who worked on this project, writers and researchers like myself have even more information to analyze and report.
Ideally, the cycle of information sharing will forever continue.