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Changes to Maris and Mantle’s Batting Totals

Posted by Sean Forman on July 27, 2010

Lyle Spatz, chair of the SABR Records Committee has allowed me to reprint this note that he wrote about the recently made changes to Maris and Mantle's 1961 season totals.

We'll have more to say on this in the future, but the basic gist of our policy when making changes of this is that our main desire is to present history accurately. Baseball stats and how they have been collected are inherently fallible. When there is very strong evidence that a change should be made. We will make the change. Please read Lyle's note below to gain some insight how this process works.

1961: ROGER MARIS, MICKEY MANTLE, AND JIM GENTILE: AT LONG LAST A RECKONING

Fifteen years ago, in the April 1995 newsletter, I ran an article detailing Ron Rakowski’s discovery that Roger Maris was mistakenly credited with an extra run batted in 1961. This was extremely significant because Maris won the RBI championship that season by one over Jim Gentile, 142 to 141. Rocky Colavito had 140.

Working with Retrosheet, Rakowski analyzed newspaper accounts and box scores for every game that year, along with the official daily records and score sheets that he obtained from various teams and sportswriters.

The error occurred on July 5 in a game against Cleveland at Yankee Stadium. Tony Kubek (who had struck out but reached when John Romano couldn't hold the third strike) was at first with no one out when Maris singled to right. Right fielder Willie Kirkland threw to third baseman Bubba Phillips in an unsuccessful attempt to get Kubek at third. Phillips then tried to catch Maris who had rounded first, but his throw went into the seats. The umpires waved Kubek home and sent Maris to third. It was an unearned run with no RBI given. Maris later hit a solo homer in the seventh, but the official scorer reported two RBI's to the league office.

The following sources show Maris with just one RBI on July 5, 1961: The New York Times, The New York Daily News, The New York Journal American, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, and The Sporting News. Also play-by-play sheets from the Indians and Yankees and score sheets from Dick Young of the Daily News and Harold Rosenthal of the New York Herald Tribune.

Ron also discovered that Mickey Mantle was incorrectly credited with a run scored that same year. Ron's first discovery meant that Maris now shares the 1961 RBI lead with Baltimore's Jim Gentile, each with 141. However, his newest find makes Maris the league leader in runs scored with 132. He had been tied with Mantle.

Ron discovered the error occurred in the second game of a doubleheader against Cleveland at Yankee Stadium on September 10. Mantle's "official sheet" shows him with two runs scored in this game, when he actually scored only one--a third inning solo home run. In his other three at bats, Mantle walked in the first (left stranded at third base), struck out in the fifth, and grounded to third in the seventh. The run mistakenly given to Mantle actually belongs to Bill Skowron, whom the "official sheet" shows with no runs-scored. Skowron singled in the sixth inning, and scored on Clete Boyer's double.

Ron confirmed the above by checking the score sheets of New York sportswriters, Dick Young, Phil Pepe and Leonard Koppett, as well as the Yankees' team scores sheet and the.. Associated Press.. box score. As a result, give Mantle 131 runs-scored in 1961 and Skowron gets 77.

I am pleased to see that Retrosheet, Baseball-Reference, Baseball Almanac, and the Elias Sports Bureau all recognize these numbers.

I know there are people who object to these types of corrections, even when they are done to rectify an obvious error such as a faulty computation or putting a number in a wrong column. This is especially true when the correction changes a league leader in a particular category. For those of you that do (I hope there aren't too many on the Records Committee) let me restate an obvious truth. Mickey Mantle was one of the game's great players. Does finishing his career with 1,676 runs scored rather than 1,677 make him any less a great player. Will anybody's assessment of Mantle's place in history be changed by the fact that he did not lead the league in runs scored in 1961? I don't think so.

We should try to get the numbers as accurate as we can, but we must also, as Neil Postman, a Professor at NYU and critic of technology run wild, said, "free ourselves from the belief in the power of numbers and not regard calculation as an adequate substitute for judgment, or precision as a synonym for truth."

Lyle Spatz, Chairman SABR Baseball Records Committee

This entry was posted on Tuesday, July 27th, 2010 at 10:46 am and is filed under Announcements. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

29 Responses to “Changes to Maris and Mantle’s Batting Totals”

  1. I agree that this change needed to occur. I also think that something needs to be done about all the records tainted with steroid abuse...at least an asterisk!

  2. Very cool! If Hack Wilson can get an extra RBI 60+ years after the end of the 1930 season, I have no problem with getting the data correct. Now, I do have a question about Ty Cobb's hit total. BR has a different total (4,189) than MLB and Elias (4,191). Can you guys work on that one??
    The discrepancy in hits are in 1906, 1910 and 1912.

  3. Scott, what do you do about "greenies"?

  4. Tony,

    I'm certain that our total is more correct than Elias'. The evidence is pretty clear, but Elias' won't make the change.

  5. Old Hoss Radbourn wants that 60th win back, dammit.

  6. Detroit Michael Says:

    Take the steroids argument to another thread, guys.

    It seems to me that baseball-reference.com should follow its sources on this stuff, not have to make independent decisions whenever there are revisions to the historical records. That being said, I like the website to show what the best evidence shows actually happened.

  7. We do follow the sources. The data we license from SABR is produced by Pete Palmer and Gary Gillette and the Bio and Records committee of SABR. Elias provides no data to anyone, so for all we know, they may have Roger Bresnahan with 1,012 hits. There really is no official source for this data.

  8. I agree with Detroit Michael (#6) on both statements. Now a quick question, does either of these two changes effect (affect?) Maris' Black Ink totals? I would assume not, as he goes from leader to co-leader on one and co-leader to leader on the other. But thought I would ask.

  9. I love changes like this. I love accurate history of events, to go along with personal views and memories.

  10. Thanks Sean. The thing is that Elias is the official source for MLB records and MLB will only go by Elias.

    Great job as always!

  11. I understand that Tony, but can you send me the Elias Baseball Encyclopedia so I can compare my numbers to theirs and see where we differ and why?

  12. Well, now that Mantle has fallen behind a non-HOF player (Rose) in his Black-ink test, I believe we need to open up a poll about his HOF worthiness.

    :)

  13. #12 laugh

  14. Spartan Bill Says:

    The difference between 1767 and 1766 is indeed negligible, but what happens if someone discovers Roberto Clemente has an extra hit?

    3000 sounds a whole lot better than 2999

  15. Spartan Bill Says:

    oops I should have said Clemente was credited with an extra hit

    sorry

  16. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Scott, you are free to draw all the asterisks you like all over your monitor.

  17. Trent McCotter Says:

    Well I've got Cobb at 4190, so that makes three totals...

    I'm glad Elias finally agreed with this one. As Sean says, Elias doesn't put out any encyclopedia or anything, but if they go along with it, then it's iron-clad because they never want to make a change and then have to change it again.

  18. David in Toledo Says:

    I am delighted that you have added Fielding data to the Leaders section. However, it's evident to me that some data isn't being computed (probably for a very good reason). For example, Richie Ashburn and Larry Doby had more games played as centerfielders than are being shown on the leader lists, even though their individual pages indicate how many games they spent in centerfield prior to 1954. This isn't an oversight, is it? Instead, you're waiting for some further of database placement of Ashburn's additional 867 games in center?

  19. John Kerry Says:

    "Will anybody's assessment of Mantle's place in history be changed by the fact that he did not lead the league in runs scored in 1961? I don't think so."

    So you're saying there's a chance? You're a waffler!

  20. Lawrence Azrin Says:

    #1 "Scott Says:
    I agree that this change needed to occur. I also think that something needs to be done about all the records tainted with steroid abuse...at least an asterisk!"

    Something needs to be done, on the basis of WHAT??
    - beyond positive tests, you do not know who actually used steriods
    - even with positive tests, you do not know how long they used
    - you have no idea what the affects of steriods on performance are
    - if you subtract from the totals of batters, you have to subtract from the totals of opposing pitchers, not to mention from the the team totals of both teams involved (hitters/pitchers). League and team leaders would be altered arbitrarily.

    THAT is why you cannot change the record books because of steriod use. As #6 said, a reference source should always reflect what actually happened on the field. If Ty Cobb really had 4189 hits, and not 4191,the record books should reflect that.

  21. [...] Sean Forman of baseball-reference.com reprinted a note on his website written by Lyle Spatz, chair of the Society For American Baseball Research records committee. In the note, Spatz details that Roger Maris was mistakenly given an extra RBI in a 1961 game. It also details that Mantle was given an extra run scored in the same year. [...]

  22. [...] story here, courtesy of [...]

  23. Mike Felber Says:

    I do not think that anyone should be told to take the debate to another thread, when the overarching theme is of how records are kept. Certainly not from someone who did not author the thread.

    However, I agree overwhelmingly with Mr. Azrin. With the small caveats that we have some good idea what PEDs do, though can never say how much exactly they may have added. And an asterisk can be added absent changing any official numbers. Nevertheless, who used what for how long will be a shifting & never complete record. So the asterisk should be just mental, & flexible based upon new evidence.

  24. [...] more on how the changes were discovered, check out Sean Forman’s blog post at baseball-reference.com. (H/T: AOL [...]

  25. [...] more on how the changes were discovered, check out Sean Forman’s blog post at baseball-reference.com. (H/T: AOL [...]

  26. Professor Longnose Says:

    I have a suggestion. How about when you look at these numbers on baseball-reference.com (and elsewhere), you get some sort of an automatic notation that the numbers have been revised after the initial tabulation, much as you get an automatic notation that some number led a league or set a record.

    That will do two things. It will record the original value, which has some historical interest (and in some cases even psychological insight into motivations at the time), and it will also get people used to the idea that numbers get revised based on new information, educating them along the way about how and why.

  27. Brendan Burke Says:

    About Cobb's hit total...

    Having 4191 hits instead of 4189 was the result of double-counting a 2-for-4 game in 1910. That same game provided the difference for giving Cobb the batting title. By the way, the first Macmillan Encyclopedia gave Cobb 4192 hits.

  28. [...] Changes to Maris and Mantle’s Batting Totals (Baseball-Reference). Count me in the “Get it right, even it means upsetting a few people” camp of recording history. Good on ya, Sean. [...]

  29. [...] Analysis by the Society for American Baseball Research found that Maris had erroneously been credited with a run batted in during a game on July 5, 1961; the run, in fact, had scored on an error, as was reported in five published accounts of the game and in the Yankees’ play-by-play sheets. By officially changing the scoring, Maris was deducted a run batted in — giving him only 141, the same as Gentile. [...]