Ernest John Lanigan
(Ernie, Figure Filbert)
Ernest J. Lanigan was the nephew of The Sporting News founders Al Spink and Charles Spink and one of five men in his family, including J.G. Taylor Spink and C.C. Johnson Spink, to gain acclaim as a newspaperman. As sports editor for the New York Press and official scorer for a handful of World Series, he was the premier statistician of his day.
Lanigan compiled the first baseball encyclopedia, the Baseball Cyclopedia, in 1922, which in 1988 was reprinted with each of its twelve annual supplements, taking it to 1933. As the original publisher advertised on the book's title page, it "comprises a review of Professional Baseball, the history of all Major League Clubs, playing records and unique events, the batting, pitching and base running champions, World's Series' statistics and a carefully arranged alphabetical list of the records of more than 3500 Major League ball players, a feature never before attempted in print."
In addition to serving as sports editor of the New York Post and Cleveland Leader, Lanigan wrote for Baseball Magazine, worked as secretary and information director for the International League, and served as curator, historian and director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum until his death, when he was replaced by Lee Allen.
Shortly after The Sporting News was launched, 15-year-old Lanigan went to work for his uncles. He worked for the New York Press until 1911, when he became secretary of the International League under Ed Barrow. He served stints as baseball editor for the Cleveland Leader, business manager of several St. Louis Cardinals farm teams, and press information director for the International League. His frail health was a factor in his frequent job changes.
In 1946, he was named curator of the Hall of Fame and later served as its historian. Lanigan was a titan of baseball record keeping. He was among the first to advocate the formation of the BBWAA. He was instrumental in making the RBI an official statistic and the unofficial lists he compiled for years are a valuable resource. Called Figure Filbert by Damon Runyon, he once confided :
"I really don't care much about baseball, or looking at ball games, major or minor. All my interest in baseball is in its statistics." (NLM)
- Lyle Spatz: "Ernie Lanigan", The Baseball Research Journal, SABR, Volume 43, Number 1 (spring 2014), p. 120.