Stats on Paper

Well, the new low price of $25 induced me to purchase The Baseball Encyclopedia by Pete Palmer and Gary Gillette. I’d never really thought it was worth it to pick up a copy of a book of stats that I can get online from Baseball-Reference. But after getting my hands on it I can see how wrong I was. My feelings are similar to Bill James’s comment on the cover,

Sure, you can stumble across Cliff Dapper in cyberspace, but what are the odds? If you don’t have a print encyclopedia, what are your real chances of discovering that Milo Candini could actually hit? Major league players don’t deserve the wispy, ephemeral immortality of buzzing electrons; they deserve the cold, marble permanence of black ink on white pages.

Well, it only took me a few hours after my purchase to have my first Cliff Dapper experience. I started looking for players who played only one year, but who in their one brief moment in the majors performed well. It didn’t take me long to run across the name of someone I hadn’t thought of in a long time, Tom Dodd. Tom Dodd made only a brief appearance for the Baltimore Orioles in 1985. In his 16 trips to the plate he reached base successfully six times with three hits, two walks, and was hit by a pitch once. And one of the hits was a home run — the only time he ever got to touch home plate at the major league level. His career OPS of .837 is not something to be ashamed of, but he was never able to get back to the big leagues which is sad.

The reason Tom Dodd makes me smile is that I got a good look at him when he played for the AA Charlotte O’s. A few O’s went on to be more famous than Dodd (see Cal Ripken and Eddie Murray) but there was never a better O than Dodd. In 1987 he was the MVP of the Southern League with 37 home runs and 127 RBI. Not surprisingly he was always a fan favorite. I guess his numbers were just not impressive enough to make the jump. The O’s stadium, Crockett Park, was so tiny that I actually played games on the field in 13-year-old ball. The park was ugly with mostly make-shift bleachers that replaced an historic stadium that burned to the ground. It was owned, as was the team, by the family that brought you WCW (formerly NWA) wrestling with Dusty Rhodes, Magnum T.A., and Ric Flair. The stadium is now a subdivision in the Sedgefield/Dilworth/South End area of Charlotte. The park was within walking distance of my house, so I spent a few summer evenings there. When I was 5 I got to throw out the first ball at a game by winning a contest. What a fantastic way to discover the game of baseball. I still remember my winning essay, “I can run fast and throw the ball.” The latter was a lie, because my father had to teach me how to throw a baseball after I found out I won.

To me, Tom Dodd is more than the trivia question answer to “with whom was Dale Murray (edit, see comments) traded to the Yankees for Fred McGriff?” He is a gateway to a fond memory of my youth. Thank you Baseball Encyclopedia. I still need my e-stats, but there are just some things they can’t do. Only 25 bucks…I think I got some consumer surplus.

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