Thursday, May 10, 2012

Clear Scores and Statistics

Late last summer while waiting for a Neshanock game to begin, I overheard members of two other vintage teams discussing how their clubs maintained statistical records.  I forget the exact details, but both teams used modern categories like batting averages and runs batted in. 

When I started keeping score for the Neshanock in 2010, Brad "Brooklyn" Shaw encouraged me to learn and use Henry Chadwick's 19th century system.  Brad also provided me with a replica of a 19th century base ball guide which included Chadwick's description of his system.  I supplemented that information with other research including multiple trips to the New York Public Library to look at Chadwick's original score books.  Not surprisingly Chadwick's system evolved over the years beginning with little more than runs and outs to a full blown system to record many details which Chadwick, no doubt, relied on for writing about games for multiple newspapers.  I started using the system midway through the 2010 season including recreating (with the help of my friend Henry F. Ballone) the score book itself.

Up until that day last summer, however, I hadn't thought much about how to use the data accumulating in the score book.  After further discussion with Brad, we agreed, that as in everything we do in vintage base ball, historical accuracy is the highest priority.  So I did further research into how Chadwick reported statistics and found that in the late 1850's and early 1860's this consisted almost entirely of runs and outs.  One confusing statistic was something called clear scores which didn't seem to be defined anywhere in the contemporary sources.  The definition I came up with (I think from the 19th century SABR e-mail list) was that a striker or batter achieved a clear score when he scored a run every time, he got up regardless of how he got on base - hit, walk, muff (error) etc. 

However earlier this year in e-mail communications with Bob Tholkes, I learned that he favored another definition - a clear score means the batter had no hands lost (outs) during a game.  At the same time Bob also hadn't been able to find any source where Chadwick defined the term.  I had the opportunity to hear Bob's informative talk on Chadwick's statistical systems in Cooperstown last month which he illustrated with the below pages from the 1861 Dime Base Ball Player.  The chart shows the offensive records for the Brooklyn Atlantic during the 1860 season including clear scores.

With this information I thought it might be possible to look at the original Chadwick score books and resolve the question.  So last Saturday I made the short trip to the NYPL to look at both Chadwick's score book for 1860 and the Atlantic Base Ball Club's game books which are also part of the Spalding collection.  While it's hard to see on the above copy, four different Atlantics achieved clear scores in 1860 including one by a player named Smith. 

Unfortunately Chadwick didn't score every Atlantic game in 1860, but I did find an October 8, 1860 match where the Atlantic defeated the Liberty Club of New Brunswick, NJ by a score of 15-10.  In the Atlantic lineup was a player named Smith (E.J. Smith according to the Atlantic game book for 1860).  In the box score Smith is listed with 0 hands lost and 3 runs scored.  An examination of the inning by inning details shows that Smith batted five times and reached base each time with four doubles and a single.  He scored in the second, fifth and seventh innings, but did not score in the third and eighth.  Furthermore in the third and eighth innings, he was not retired on the bases.  The Atlantic game book confirms this information so that it seems the definition Bob Tholkes is working with is correct - a clear score means the player did not make any outs during the game, either at bat or on the bases.  It is, of course, possible that there was another game where in addition to not making outs Smith scored every time he got on base, but I think that unlikely. 

All of this, of course, raised my consciousness of clear scores so as I looked through the game books and later that afternoon at multiple issues of Porter's Spirit of the Times, I took more notice of the hands lost column in box scores and was somewhat surprised to see few, if any, zeros. 

I was going through PSOT as part of my research on the spread of base ball in New Jersey.  The most interesting find was an account in the 12/5/1857 issue of the paper of a Thanksgiving Day game between the Friendship and Independent Ex-Volunteer Clubs of Paterson, New Jersey.  It's the earliest account of base ball in Paterson that I have seen thus far. There were only seven on a side which probably doesn't have any special significance, but I was interested in one of the names in the box score - Garabrant.  For some reason there was a revival in Paterson in 1867 of what they called "old fashioned base ball" by players who had supposedly never played the "modern game" (Paterson Daily Press, 8/2/1867) with a Garabrant one of the team captains.    

After finding this and the different possible interpretations of the 1855 Washington Club of Orange, I've decided to do a series of posts on what I have found thus far in New Jersey regarding clubs that played something other than the New York game.  The idea will be to post the information I have found rather than trying to draw many conclusions.  I hope to do the first about the Antiquarian Knickerbocker Club of Newark towards the end of next week.  First, however, there will most likely be a post on Saturday's Neshanock match with the Brooklyn Atlantics in Chester, New Jersey.  As in the picture below, I'll be looking for clear scores, but this time with a better sense of what they are.

                                                      Photo by Mark Granieri

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