clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Today in White Sox History: February 25

Invention breeds innovation

Chicago White Sox
Harold Baines was a master of the game-winning RBI — a statistic created by former White Sox GM Frank Lane.
Rich Pilling/MLB Photos via Getty Images


The White Sox create what is regarded as the first media guide, handed out to beat writers.

Now, clearly there were programs and even media guides published before 1946, even by the White Sox themselves. However, those were often (always?) Spring Training and/or player rosters-only. The guide, written by Marsh Samuel and running 17 pages, actually just triggers a deeper, more interesting story ... that the White Sox were once forerunners of the metrics revolution!

According to researcher Alan Kornspan at Cleveland State, beginning in 1946 and following in the footsteps of some other innovative figures (Branch Rickey, for one), Samuel began tracking advanced statistics, likely of his own creation but resembling some of what we see in the metrics world today. Cleveland owner Bill Veeck got wind of what Samuel was doing — and hired him away! At that point, Sox successor Ward Stevens took the reins and continued the work, which was still merely siloed in the PR department — not player evaluation.

However, once Frank Lane was hired as GM — at this time, no one wanted the White Sox GM job, as the team was in hock and possessed a woeful roster — he added Earl Flora as both publicity director but also statistician.

Lane’s pet stat, tracked as a child rooting for the Cincinnati Reds, was RBI with RISP. Under Lane’s direction, Flora started tracking reach percentage (i.e. on-base percentage), base runs (both bases advanced by runners, as well as bases a batter’s hit moved runners) and GWRBI. In fact, Lane felt so strongly that RBIs were an overblown stat that he created his own offshoot: OBR (Opportunities to Bat in Runs), the percentage of time batters drove in RISP.

Without extending this too long, Flora returned to sports editing, to be replaced by future White Sox GM Ed Short, a tireless worker who drove statistical analysis on the South Side to new heights.

But that is a story best continued on another Day in White Sox History.