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We've picked the best in the field of baseball information for the benefit of those of you scoring the game at home.
by Ed Shanahan
Soon after this issue arrives in your mailbox or on your newsstand, pitchers and catchers will be arriving at Grapefruit- and Cactus-league ballparks everywhere to open a 1999 baseball season that's got a tough act to follow. After all, the summer game was something of a comeback kid last year, with the champion New York Yankees finishing as the winningest team ever, Roger Clemens grabbing his fifth Cy Young Award, and, of course, a couple of guys named McGwire and Sosa obliterating the major-league home-run record, perhaps the best-known statistical sports measure of them all.
What will this year bring? No one can know for sure, but plenty of people will no doubt be keeping track. With that in mind, we've sorted through the mountain of available material (in the case of baseball, it's actually more like a mountain range) as a service to those interested in staying on top of the national pastime. So, as the great Ernie Banks would say, "Let's play two."
IN THE BOOKSTORES
THE BASEBALL ENCYCLOPEDIA: The Complete and Definitive Record of Major League Baseball
TOTAL BASEBALL: The Official Encyclopedia of Major League Baseball
BILL JAMES PRESENTS STATS ALL-TIME MAJOR LEAGUE HANDBOOK and BILL JAMES PRESENTS STATS ALL-TIME BASEBALL SOURCEBOOK
BASEBALL GUIDE 1999: THE ALMANAC OF THE 1998 SEASON and BASEBALL REGISTER 1999
IN THE PAGES
Though it may be old-fashioned in an era of cybercasts, seemingly endless cable sports reports, and the welter of analysis, many who follow baseball still consider those simple agate-type columns of names and numbers that fill the summer sports pages the best way to follow the game. "There's nothing quite like box scores in the newspapers," says syndicated sports-talk radio host Scott Ferrall, who likes to get his from USA Today, USA Today Baseball Weekly, and The Sporting News. Stats guru Bill James says he turned away from the latter during the eighties because he felt its quality was slipping but says the weekly has begun to regain its reputation.
NBC play-by-play man Bob Costas considers USA Today an authoritative national source, especially for late-breaking scores and stats. "A Dodgers game can end in Los Angeles at 3 A.M. East Coast time, and the complete box score will be there in USA Today when you pick it up in New York in the morning," Costas says. Twice a year --during the season's opening week and then following the World Series-- USA Today publishes the salaries of every major leaguer, with the postseason version factoring in added compensation, which comes in the form of bonuses and incentives.
If it's information related to sports finances you're looking for, Street & Smith's Sports Business Journal gets high marks. And when it comes to the major leaguers of tomorrow --which is to say the minor leaguers of today-- those who want to keep up with the hottest prospects turn to Baseball America, a biweekly that provides voluminous information about all those bent on making it to "The Show."
IN THE NEWSLETTERS
THE SABR BULLETIN: The newsletter of the Society for American Baseball Research
Nothing related to baseball is too arcane for the 7,000-plus-member Society for American Baseball Research, which was founded in 1971. The aim of this not-for-profit organization is to "foster interest in baseball and a more accurate history of the game and correct the record where necessary," according to executive director Morris Eckhouse. Bulletin features include reports from the society's 18 committees (Ballparks, Baseball Songs and Poems, Negro Leagues, and Women in Baseball among them) and regional groups. In addition to the newsletter, the membership fee buys two annual journals, Baseball Research Journal and The National Pastime, and at least one other special publication.
THE NATIONAL BASEBALL HALL OF FAME
A must-visit for those who love the game, the Cooperstown, New York, shrine --into which George Brett, Nolan Ryan, and Robin Yount were voted in January-- is a bit far to travel if you're looking for information from its library's vast archives. The phone call isn't free, but --if the question is simple and especially if it's related to a school project-- the answer is. The charges for complicated research that requires substantial effort on the part of library staffers: $25 per hour and 25 cents per photocopied page. Tim Wiles, the hall's director of research, says the museum gets some 80,000 queries a year (though not all of them by phone).
ON THE TUBE
When it comes to baseball information, nothing quite equals being able to watch an actual game (or maybe a couple hundred games). Of course, it isn't always easy to see the games you really want to see. Say, for instance, that you're a Cincinnati native and a lifelong Reds fan but you now live in Arizona. Somehow the Diamondbacks haven't quite filled that empty space in your life. Well, if you're willing to pay the price, wireless television may be what you're looking for. DirecTV (800-347-3288) and Primestar (800-738-8502) offer Major League Baseball deals that should allow you to get your fill of your favorite team or teams (you must, of course, already be paying to receive one of these services, which come in a range of prices). The DirecTV baseball package ($139 for the season), for instance, lets you select up to 35 out-of-market games each week during the regular season (Primestar's deal is comparable). That means you can watch, say, five games a day, seven days a week. It's up to you to figure out how to squeeze in everything else -- like sleep.
ON THE WEB
Trying to round up baseball information on-line can be overwhelming. There are official pages, unofficial pages, fan sites, historical sites, statistical sites, and sites dedicated to defunct leagues, as well as sites geared to those people active in leagues destined to live only in the realm of fantasy. What follows are some of the good, useful, or just plain interesting ones.
John Skilton's Baseball Links
Rich Johnson's Sportspages.com
Major League Baseball.com
Minor League Baseball.com
Major League Players Association
Ballparks by Munsey & Suppes
Little League BC Coaches Page
Sean Lahman's Baseball Archive
Black Baseball's Negro Baseball Leagues
Ron Shandler's Baseball HQ
Copyright Brill Media Ventures, L.P. 1999
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