The question comes up often in my line of work. How did baseball fans ever look anything up before the existence of the Internet?
Prior to the days of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs, one of the most important tools for the baseball fan was the annual edition of "Who's Who in Baseball." Or as the covers title it, "who's who in BASEBALL."Win McNamee/Getty Images
Who's Who is now in its 100th consecutive year of publication and a copy of the newest edition and the celebratory book "100 Years of who's who in BASEBALL" by baseball trivia whiz Douglas Lyons recently came across my desk.
I can remember getting my copy each winter as a kid. Thumbing through was how I learned the numbers of the game. Who's Who was a handy, portable book, thinner and smaller in size than "The Sporting News Baseball Register" and containing more information than the winter preview magazines.
"Who's Who" was also important because it was how I learned what certain players looked like. In those days, you didn't necessarily have access to every game and every team. I can even remember one or two editions of the book in which I tried to erase the mustaches of players who were new members of the Cincinnati Reds, after learning the team had a no-facial hair policy (I was a weird kid).
The 2015 edition with Mike Trout as the primary cover subject retails for $10 and can be found at newsstands, bookstores and online, and looks the same as it did 30 years ago and contains about the same amount of information -- 359 pages of statistical and transactional history for nearly 800 players. The numbers are the basics for each player: games innings, wins, losses, strikeouts, walks, hits, ERA and saves for pitchers; games, at-bats, runs, hits, doubles, triples, home runs, RBIs, steals and batting average for batters.
"You can’t spend your whole life in front of the computer," Lyons said, when I asked him the current appeal of the Who's Who. "Sometimes I just want to read a book."
The best thing about the 100-year history edition is that it makes for a great educational resource. If you’re a young fan looking to learn baseball history, it’s ideal, as Lyons succinctly sums up each season on one page, with particular attention paid to "Who's Who" cover subjects, key moments and entertaining trivia.
Who's Who in Baseball
Pick a page and you'll learn something, like a favorite of Lyons': How in 1946, Snuffy Stirnweiss didn't lead the AL in hitting until the final day of the regular season, when he won the batting title by .000866.
You'll also learn what the greats of the game looked like, as the 100-year edition includes a picture of all 100 book covers. The action shots get a little wider around 1989 as the shape of ballplayers changed in a dramatic way in the PED era. The demographics of the game changed a bit as well.
"It's a panoramic view of the game," Lyons said.
As the game changes from year to year, it is nice to have something that has stayed consistent over time. So kudos, and congrats to current "Who's Who" editors Pete Palmer, Stuart Shea and Rory Slifkin for keeping one of the game's great traditions alive and still kicking strong for another year.