My pal Steve and I were talking about old baseball cards the other day, and that segued into a discussion about how sometimes they airbrushed the logos off the caps of guys who had been recently traded — and then that segued into another discussion, about “Who’s Who in Baseball.”
If you are an older fan, you probably remember an annual magazine called “Who’s Who in Baseball.”
Shiny red cover with a photo of a good ballplayer (or even a pitcher) on the front. Thousands of ballplayer statistics printed on cheap newsprint. A head shot of every ballplayer. Some, if memory serves, were airbrushed, which would explain how this particular conversation started.
The last “Who’s Who in Baseball” I owned probably had Tom Seaver’s picture on the cover. Steve said they must have stopped publishing “Who’s Who” years ago, what with the advent of the Internet and Baseball-Reference.com.
Nope. They still publish “Who’s Who in Baseball.”
For old time’s sake, I ordered one.
Also for old time’s sake, I kept a lookout for the postman. This is what one does after ordering anything through the mail when one is young, such as the new season of Strat-O-Matic cards or a secret decoder ring.
“Who’s Who in Baseball” arrived Saturday.
It was the 99th edition. The cover still was red, the fonts the same as I remember them. Only instead of Tom Seaver, Clayton Kershaw was on the cover.
It costs $9.95 now.
It’s still printed on cheap newsprint.
The only difference I can see is that none of the head shots are airbrushed, which is too bad, because the beard on the photo of Werth, Jayson Richard Gowan on page 179 could use some serious airbrushing.
Other than the statistics of the ballplayers and a reminder on the last page that “Who’s Who in Baseball” now is available in digital form, as an iPhone or Android app, there is zero editorial content.
On the title page, in print smaller than umpire Lance Barrett’s strike zone, it says submissions of manuscripts, illustrations, and/or photographs must be accompanied by a stamped, self-addressed envelope. And that the publisher assumes no responsibility for unsolicited material. And that any rebroadcast, re-transmission, or accounts of this game, without the express written consent of Major League Baseball, is prohibited.
Actually, it doesn’t say that last part.
Still, if you were thinking about pulling a fast one and submitting some contrived statistics that said you batted .258 at Cedar Rapids and got three at-bats with the Royals as a September call-up, along with an airbrushed picture of yourself, I would forget about getting it back.
I guess I was a little surprised — but only a little — that “Who’s Who in Baseball” has not adjusted. It does not list BABIP (batting average on balls in play) and DIPS (defense independent pitching statistics) and VORP (value over replacement player) and some of these other sabermetrics that are all the rage today.
Maybe some of these young general managers are into BABIP and DIPS. But you almost never hear two guys sitting on a bar stool arguing about some guy’s VORP.
Anyway, I’m not sure why I ordered the 99th edition of “Who’s Who in Baseball.” It’s not like it’s going to be worth a lot some day.
The most valuable one, according to KeyMan Collectibles, is the inaugural 1916 edition which goes for $600. If you’ve got a 1924 “Who’s Who” with Walter Johnson on the cover packed away in some box along with an old coin collection, it’ll probably fetch $400. And whatever those nickels are worth.
On the other hand, I have a bookmark and a shortcut to Baseball-Reference.com on my computer. It’s free.
But as awesome as Baseball-Reference.com is — they even show a guy’s jersey number, and whether his uniform had pinstripes — it doesn’t make a player’s minor league stats easy to find. You’ve got to click on tabs and whatnot. Some baseball fans still want to know what a guy hit at Cedar Rapids on his way up, without having to click on tabs.
So it would take some effort before you could say to the guy sitting on the next bar stool that the last bush league stop of Uggla, Daniel Cooley (Dan) was Tennessee of the Southern League, where he batted .297 with 21 homers and 87 RBIs and played four positions: 2B-3B-1B-SS.
With “Who’s Who,” it’s all right there in front of you. Plus, you get a small picture.
Uggla, Daniel Cooley (Dan) is smiling in the little head shot. It says he was born in Louisville, Kentucky on March 11, 1980. Bats right. Throws right. Height: 5 feet, 11 inches. Weight: 200 pounds.
Year, Club, League, Pos, G, AB, R, H, 2B, 3B, HR, RBI, SB, AVG. Whom he was traded for. How many times he was on the disabled list. When he filed for free agency.
No mention of VORP.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at email@example.com or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski.