Editor’s note: Joe Guzzardi wrote this article, but I agree wholeheartedly. At least for me, the magic of baseball is in its history. Statistics tell only a part of the story.
I consider myself a middling baseball fan. Outside of the three teams I root for, the San Francisco Giants, the Oakland Athletics and my hometown Pittsburgh Pirates I really couldn’t tell you much about the 27 others. A possible exception would be the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox with which ESPN has a fawning, almost nauseating addiction to.
When pressed, I like to call myself a baseball historian who is much more engrossed in the sport’s rich past and its vital role in American culture than I am in the dry, day to day statistics. I never warmed up to Sabermetrics, and while acknowledging that it has a place, I candidly confess that I never made the slightest attempt to fathom it.
Think of it this way. If you and I are visiting on my front porch, which is more entertaining—a debate about linear weights as a measure of batting performance (I’m still not totally sure what that means) or my recounting the time I saw Mickey Mantle hit a 400 foot single? In a game against the Washington Senators, Mantle hit a ball off Chuck Stobbs so hard to center field that it hit the wall like a rocket that Whitey Herzog played it on the bounce before firing the ball to second baseman Pete Runnels.
This is not intended to disparage the creative and important analysis that many of my SABR colleagues have done and continue to do. But my interests lie elsewhere.
I’ll offer two reasons why I haven’t jumped on the Sabermetric bandwagon. First, my head doesn’t work that way. All those stats remind me of my college economics classes—you know, the Dismal Science.
But more importantly, for more than six decades I’ve watched a lot of baseball. I’ve seen teams that are long gone like those in the old Pacific Coast League or the Puerto Rican Winter League. And I’ve seen hundreds of Hall of Fame players who have passed.
You may not have seen them or possibly never heard of them. I like to think that my oral history may spark an interest in you to put the stats aside, at least for a while, to dig into the past.
I can imagine retelling my grandchildren my Mantle story. But I can’t for the life of me picture us sitting around the old hot stove while I reminisce about 2010, the year Felix Hernandez won the Cy Young Award because he had the American League’s best Sabermetrics.