This article was written by Ralph E. LinWeber
This article was published in the 1982 Baseball Research Journal
Record books have been compiled on every game of skill and athletic endeavor that exists. Baseball, America’s national game, is, of course, the most prominent because of its long history, the long season in which it is played, the endless flow of statistics, and the broad interest it affords. Although statistical based newspaper and magazine articles had appeared before, the first known baseball guide made its appearance in 1860. It was called the Beadle Base Ball Guide or Beadle’s Dime Base Ball Guide — an indication of its cost. It is a rare item and today the few in existence are known to be in collectors’ hands.
The Beadle Guide continued publication until 1881 and in that period showed the evolution of various baseball terms and statistical categories. Baseball “matches” eventually became games and “hands lost” became number of times the batter was put out. In 1868 the Dime Baseball Guide added base hits to the score with outs coming first, runs second, and hits last in the three columns. In 1871 the Boston and Cleveland National Association clubs issued batting averages based on hits to times at bat. However, it was many years before all clubs started to show at bats in the box score.
From 1868 to 1885 the DeWitt Baseball Guide was in publication, with Henry Chadwick the editor from 1869 on. It was smaller than the Beadle book and contained less information, but it boasted a larger circulation. Chadwick also put out his own Baseball Manual in 1870 and 1871. The man called the “Father of Baseball” was a statistician of note and his endless research into the records uncovered facts and figures that enlightened the sports world. George Wright, one of the early star players, also published a record book on baseball in 1875 while he was with the Boston club of the National Association.
In 1877, A.G. Spalding, a former star player who became a sporting goods magnate, launched Spalding’s Official Base Ball Guide. It lasted for many years and enjoyed the greatest success of any publication of its kind. It first covered the National League and expanded to other leagues as they were established. In 1883, Alfred J. Reach, like Spalding, a former player who moved into the sporting goods field, introduced the Reach Guide. It contained the first year averages of the American Association as well as the National League and was similar in coverage to the Spalding Guide. With the establishment of the American League as a major circuit in 1901, the Reach Guide took the title of Reach Official American League Base Ball Guide. Of course, Spalding also covered the AL.
Starting in 1908, Spalding published two books, which caused some confusion to later researchers. All the minor league records were taken out of the Guide and put into the Spalding Base Ball Record, along with the major league records. The Guide also carried major league records and expanded its narrative section. This division continued until 1925 when the Spalding company cutback to one publication — the Guide — with its original content.
In this period there were many other short-lived baseball guides and record books. The Wright & Ditson Baseball Guide was published intermittently between 1884 and 1912 with Tim Murnane, a former player turned writer as editor. There was a Sporting Life Guide in 1891, a Victor Baseball Guide of 1896 and 1897; John McGraw’s Baseball Book of 1904 and 1905; the Lajoie Baseball Guides of 1906-07-08; and Bull Durham’s Guide of 1910 and 1911.
The Spalding and Reach Guides continued strong throughout this period, publishing separately through 1939. They were duplicative, however, and published a combined edition in 1940 and in 1941. The foreword of the 1940 Spalding-Reach Guide explained the background and is quoted here in full.
This issue of the Base Ball Guide inaugurates the amalgamation of two pioneer chronicles of America’s national game the Spalding Guide and the Reach Guide. In recent years they have been published from the same source, and to a large extent duplicated each other in material and general presentation of salient features of the year in organized base ball, in addition to promulgation of the official rules.
Both guides have a heritage of long standing in the national game. This year marks the sixty-fourth milestone for the Spalding Guide and the fifty-eighth for the Reach Guide. Both stem from great figures of early baseball — A. G. Spalding, pitcher of the famous Boston team of the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players, 187 1-1875, and A. J. Reach, second baseman of the Philadelphia team of the same organization, reputed to have been the first player to be paid a salary for playing base ball, as early as 1864. Both men became prominent in National League affairs and each was a club president, Mr. Spalding at Chicago and Mr. Reach at Philadelphia. After their playing days they entered the sporting goods business and eventually joined interests, so that the guides have a precedent in that respect.
The two guides have been fortunate in their selection of editors. The Spalding Guide was originally edited by Louis Meacham of the Chicago Tribune, a noted writer on the game and one of the early boosters of base ball in the Middle West. Upon his death, in 1882, Mr. Meacham was succeeded by Henry Chadwick, the “Father of Base Ball,” one of the immortals of the game now enshrined in the Hall of Fame at Cooperstown. Mr. Chadwick edited the Guide until his death, at the age of eighty-four, in 1908, when Mr. John B. Foster took up his duties and continued them to the present day.
The early editors of the Reach Guide included O.P. Caylor and Al Spink, both noted authorities on the game in their day, and later Francis C. Richter, editor of Sporting Life, of Philadelphia, who served as editor of the Reach Guide until his death in 1926 and was succeeded by James C. Isaminger of Philadelphia.
The coalition of the two guides marks another step in the literature of the national game and every effort will be made by the publishers to continue the combined guide as the outstanding authoritative chronicle of base ball.
This joint effort lasted only two years, however, as The Sporting News took over this assignment in 1942 with the Official Baseball Record. It was compiled by J. G. Taylor Spink in collaboration with Ernest Lanigan and Paul Rickart. The next year it was called the Baseball Guide and Record Book, and in 1947 became the Official Baseball Guide.
During World War II Spink and Commissioner Landis had a disagreement over financial remuneration for publishing the guide. As a result, the Commissioner’s Office issued its own book of records on the majors and minors in 1943. They did not publish in 1944, but in 1945 issued a large book with records for two years. Their last such effort was in 1946. Secretary-Treasurer Leslie O’Connor was listed as editor and the publisher was Barnes and Company.
During that brief period the Spink guides did not have the “official” designation in the title. Since then The Sporting News publications flourished, expanding in size and content to the present day.
Of course, the cost expanded faster than the size, but one reason was that it was from almost a zero base. The Spalding and Reach guides were only l0¢ a copy until 1920 when they went up to 25¢. To use one example — the 1912 Spalding Record Book had more than 350 pages crammed full of more baseball facts and figures than a researcher could absorb. The price was 10¢. The price escalation came later: 35¢ in 1925; 50¢ in 1940; $1 in 1947; $1.50 in 1962; $2 in 1967; $3 in 1976; $5 in 1978; $7 in 1980. In 1982 the guide came out in larger format with larger type and more pictures. The price was $9.50.
Over the years these guides have been tremendous research sources. SABR-type baseball enthusiasts have been poring over them for decades; in fact, more than a century. Their popularity has grown over the decades and they also have become prized items for collectors. I’m sure some wives have become furious at their mates for spending $30-$40 for old guides when it says, plain as day right on the cover, “Price: 10 Cents.”
I am one of those who paid the early prices for the guides, but I would have paid more if necessary. I found them extremely valuable. In 1944 I wrote a 385-page book entitled “Toledo Baseball Guide of the Mud Hens.” It was a 60-year history of the Toledo baseball club from 1883 through 1943 and I couldn’t have done it without 60 years of baseball guides. They were great books; they still are.
Raymond Gonzalez, author of the article on the next page, points out that in the 80 years of Yankee history, slightly more than 400 players have performed on the mound for that club. Reviewing the entire list, one’s memory is jogged by strange and imposing names not usually associated with the Yankees and/or with pitching. They include, with the home runs they gave up, the following: Sam McDowell 10, Wes Ferrell 8, Bobo Newsom 8, George Uhle 7, Stan Coveleski 5, Murry Dickson 4, Jim Kaat 4, Sal Maglie 4, Bob Friend 2, Ewell Blackwell 2, Gaylord Perry 2, Dazzy Vance 1, Babe Ruth 1, Bill Donovan 1, Virgil Trucks 1, Ralph Branca 0, Lew Burdette 0, Hugh Casey 0, Rocky Colavito 0, Burleigh Grimes 0, Gene Michael 0, and Lefty O’Doul 0.