If you’re a baseball fan, you almost certainly know and love Baseball-Reference.com. Or FanGraphs. And you just take it for granted that every single baseball statistic you could possibly want — and many you’ll never, ever need — will be available to you with a couple of clicks.
That was not always the case, of course. Heck, even when Baseball-Reference.com was the only game in town there was a time when it only updated once a year, with new stats only becoming available at the conclusion of each season. The ages, they were dark.
But what about before that? If you were obsessively into baseball before 2000 or so and you wanted historical statistics, you either (a) used the backs of baseball cards; or (b) relied on giant baseball encyclopedias like Total Baseball or the original Baseball Encyclopedia. The latter of which was first published in 1969 and went through several editions.
Today at FiveThirtyEight, Rob Neyer has the story of how the original Baseball Encyclopedia came to be. It wasn’t a committee project or something commissioned by a big corporation to fill a commercial niche. At least not at first. Rather, it’s a neat story involving the intersection of one man’s boredom, curiosity and baseball obsession.
Which, if we’re being honest, applies to a lot of us too.