This article was published in Fall 2016 Baseball Research Journal
While baseball historians agree that Billy Hamilton of the 1894 Philadelphia Phillies holds the all-time MLB record for most runs scored by an individual player during a single season, different sources provide different totals. This article attempts to determine once and for all what the accurate number is.
QUESTION: Who holds the all-time MLB record for most runs scored by an individual player during a single season?
ANSWER: Billy Hamilton of the 1894 Philadelphia Phillies.
There is no disagreement on who holds this record, but there is on the number of runs “Sliding Billy” scored in his record-setting campaign. According to MLB.com (the official website of Major League Baseball), Hamilton scored 192 runs in 1894, while Baseball-Reference.com has Hamilton with 198 and The Elias Book of Baseball Records (published by the Elias Sports Bureau—the official statistician of Major League Baseball) 196.[fn]MLB.com and Baseball-Reference.com accessed on May 15, 2016. Seymour Siwoff, The Elias Book of Baseball Records, Elias Sports Bureau, New York (2016).[/fn]
The run is unquestionably the most important statistic in baseball. With no disrespect for the contributions of pitching and fielding, teams win or lose based solely on the number of runs the players on each team score. Knowing how many runs are scored is integral to the most basic record of the game: who won and who lost. It seems inconceivable that these sources would disagree on the number of runs scored by Hamilton in 1894. In an attempt to settle the matter, we have undertaken a comprehensive and in-depth research effort to authoritatively answer the question of how many runs Billy Hamilton scored in 1894.
The most rigorous modus operandi for resolving the runs-scored discrepancy is to ascertain the “complete details” for each of the 1,179 runs scored by the Phillies in 1894. Ascertaining the “complete details” means obtaining each of the three critical components of each run:
- The identity of the player who scored the run
- The run-scoring event (for example: a 2-RBI triple, a wild pitch, a 1-RBI bases-loaded walk, a steal of home, a 1-RBI grounder where the batter is safe on a fielding error, a 0-RBI grounder where the batter is safe on a fielding error)
- The identity of the player who completed his plate appearance during the run-scoring event (if any): the player who could be credited with an RBI
In order to obtain the complete details for each run scored, we examined the box scores and text descriptions for all 132 games played by Phillies in 1894, comparing the accounts of six daily newspapers published in Philadelphia and at least two daily newspapers from the opponents’ cities.
The Appendix at SABR.org provides supplemental material and the complete details, according to our research, for each of the 1,179 runs scored by the Phillies on a game-by-game (GBG) basis for the 132 games they played in 1894. With reliable GBG runs-scored numbers for each player, we are able to achieve full-season totals for each, as shown in Table 1, Column A. For comparison, the table also presents the originally-reported official runs-scored numbers (B) and the runs-scored numbers currently shown on Baseball-Reference.com (C) and MLB.com (D).
Inspection of Table 1 reveals that our full-season runsscored number (196) for Billy Hamilton agrees with the originally-reported official statistics, but several other players—Jack Clements, Lave Cross, Ed Delahanty, Sam Thompson, and Tuck Turner—show discrepancies. Comparison of our runs-scored numbers with Baseball-Reference.com reveals three more players with runs-scored discrepancies—Hamilton, Lou Johnson, and Jack Taylor. And comparison with MLB.com reveals differences for six more players—Bob Allen, Jack Boyle, Kid Carsey, Bill Hallman, Joe Sullivan, and Gus Weyhing.
Let’s begin with the runs-scored numbers provided on MLB.com (Column D), focusing on Billy Hamilton. Box scores and game accounts show Hamilton played in all 132 games, but MLB.com records Hamilton playing in only 129 games. Here’s the reason for the games-played discrepancy for Hamilton at MLB.com: the database of historical stats MLB.com uses only includes 129 games played by the Phillies. The provenance of this database at MLB.com is well-documented: beginning with a database obtained from Pete Palmer in 2001, who had generated it based on the 1969 edition of The Baseball Encyclopedia (Macmillan), which in turn was based on David S. Neft’s records, aka “ICI sheets.” Neft’s game-by-game database showed the Phillies as a team playing only 129 games and Hamilton scoring 192 runs in them.[fn]David S. Neft, an employee at Information Concepts Incorporated, an information systems company in New York, directed a research effort beginning in the mid-1960s to produce a complete and comprehensive baseball reference work, which culminated with the publication in 1969 of The Baseball Encyclopedia by Macmillan. The computerized game-bygame (GBG) records compiled by Information Concepts Incorporated (typically referred to as “ICI sheets”) are available at the National Baseball Hall of Fame Library in Cooperstown, New York. Pete Palmer, in an email (January 9, 2015) to Herm Krabbenhoft, wrote that MLB.com obtained his database of baseball statistics “probably in 2001 or so” and that “MLB has not done much with the data besides adding in current years.” John Thorn, currently the Official Historian of Major League Baseball, corroborates this story in an email (July 16, 2012) to Herm Krabbenhoft: “Herm I have no sway with the mlb.com data. It is Pete Palmer’s old Total Baseball database, with some tinkering by unknown hands.”[/fn]
Right: The 1892 Phillies. Billy Hamilton is at the far right.
In assembling his ICI database, Neft chose to exclude protested games, including three from the Phillies 1894 season—April 26 (Philadelphia 13, Brooklyn 3); August 27, first game (Philadelphia 9, Cincinnati 19); and September 6, first game (Philadelphia 14, Cincinnati 7). While the 1894 season was still in progress, the National League directors decided that these games were illegal.[fn]For example, see “Three Baseball Games Thrown Out,” Chicago Daily Tribune (September 21, 1894) 11.[/fn] Note that though these games were “no-decision” games with respect to each team’s won-lost record (i.e., the equivalent of a draw), the statistics achieved by the players in these games were counted toward their official full-season records. The official 1894 games-played log, as shown in the 1895 edition of Spalding’s Base Ball Guide, lists 132 games for Philadelphia—the 128 games for a 71–57 won-lost record, one tie on May 26, and three illegal “no-decision” games.[fn]The 1894 Philadelphia games-played log on Retrosheet.org is identical.[/fn]
The official records show Hamilton with 196 runs scored for the entire 1894 season (132 games)—which is consistent with our research which shows that Hamilton played in the three “ICI-omitted” games and scored a total of six runs—one run, one run, and four runs, respectively.
But wait, adding the six runs Hamilton scored in the three “ICI-omitted” games to the 192 runs shown on MLB.com results in a revised total of 198 runs scored—the number currently shown on BaseballReference.com. Baseball-Reference has implemented Pete Palmer’s updated database of baseball statistics, which includes the omitted games. We must now address why Baseball-Reference shows two more runs scored for Billy Hamilton (198) than our research (196).
Comparison of the GBG runs-scored numbers pinpoints two games as the sources of the discrepancy. Let’s scrutinize the run-scoring in each of these two games.
JUNE 15, 1894—PHILADELPHIA vs. CINCINNATI— PHILADELPHIA SCORED 21 RUNS
According to our research, Hamilton scored two runs in the Phillies-Reds game on June 15, 1894. However, the ICI sheets show Hamilton with three runs scored. Table 2 presents the runs-scored information provided in the box scores from the game accounts in various newspapers. Also shown are the runs-scored numbers according to our research and those given on the ICI sheets.
(Click image to enlarge.)
Inspection of Table 2 reveals that the box score runs-scored numbers are not harmonious for Hamilton, Taylor, and Grady. PEI, PINQ, and PNA box scores show Hamilton with 3 runs, while all others show Hamilton with 2 runs. Similarly, the PINQ and PNA box scores show Taylor with 1 run, while all of the other box scores show Taylor with 2 runs. And, the PEI box score shows Grady with 2 runs, while all of the other box scores show Grady with 3 runs. So, which box score is correct? To find out, we examined the text descriptions (provided in the Appendix) for each of Philadelphia’s 21 runs, as presented in the various newspaper accounts. Here is a summary of the complete details from the text descriptions for each of the runs scored by the Phillies:
First Inning—Philadelphia scored 1 run
- Hamilton scored on a 1-RBI groundout by Grady.
Fifth Inning—Philadelphia scored 3 runs
- Turner scored on a 3-RBI double by Boyle.
- Grady scored on a 3-RBI double by Boyle.
- Delahanty scored on a 3-RBI double by Boyle.
Seventh Inning—Philadelphia scored 5 runs
- Turner scored on a 3-RBI homer by Delahanty.
- Grady scored on a 3-RBI homer by Delahanty.
- Delahanty scored on a 3-RBI homer by Delahanty.
- Boyle scored (from second base) on a 2-out 1-RBI single by Reilly.
- Hallman scored (from first base) on a 2-out single by Reilly coupled with a fielding error (fumbled pickup followed by a wild throw) by the center fielder Hoy.
Eighth Inning—Philadelphia scored 8 runs
- Allen scored on a 2-RBI triple by Turner.
- Hamilton scored on a 2-RBI triple by Turner.
- Turner scored on a 1-RBI double by Grady.
- Grady scored on a 1-RBI single by Delahanty.
- Delahanty scored on a 1-RBI double by Hallman.
- Hallman scored on a wild pitch.
- Taylor scored on a 2-RBI single by Turner.
- Allen scored on a 2-RBI single by Turner.
Ninth Inning—Philadelphia scored 4 runs
As can be seen, the complete details for the four ninth-inning runs are not summarized—because none of the text descriptions state specifically which players scored the runs. All that can be gleaned from the text descriptions is that at least six players got on base— Delahanty (triple), Boyle (single), Hallman (single), Taylor (single), Cross (single), and Hamilton (double). Fortunately, however, the identities of the four players who did score the four ninth-inning runs can be readily deduced from the runs-scored numbers presented in the box scores provided in the newspaper accounts, which are summarized in Table 2. Taking into account the complete details for the runs scored through the eighth inning (as summarized above), it is clear that through the eighth inning the 17 Philadelphia runs were scored by Hamilton (2), Turner (3), Grady (3), Delahanty (3), Boyle (1), Hallman (2), Reilly (0), Taylor (1), Allen (2), Cross (0), Callahan (0).
Knowing who scored the runs through the eighth inning from the text descriptions and knowing the total runs each player scored according to the box score allows us to deduce which players scored the four ninth-inning runs. However, because the box scores are not all in agreement, one has to do the math with each box score and then determine if the deduced run-scorers are in sync with the text descriptions.
Let’s start with the PEI box score. Subtracting the runs-scored numbers through the first eight innings from the runs-scored numbers given in the box score results in the “four” deduced ninth-inning run-scorers being Grady (minus one run!), Delahanty, Boyle, Taylor, Cross, and Hamilton. Clearly, the PEI box score is absurd—five positive run-scorers and one negative run-scorer—ludicrous!
Therefore, the PEI box score is logistically not viable.
What about the PINQ and PNA box scores? Subtracting the runs-scored numbers through the first eight innings from the corresponding runs-scored numbers given in the box scores results in the four deduced ninth-inning run-scorers being Delahanty, Boyle, Cross, and Hamilton. Do these four deduced ninth-inning run-scorers mesh with the text descriptions given? Here’s play-by-play:
- Delahanty led off with a triple—and subsequently scored.
- Boyle singled—and subsequently scored.
- Hallman singled—but did not score; therefore, he must have been retired on the basepath.
- Reilly batted—but did not score; therefore, he must have been retired.
- Taylor singled—but did not score; therefore, he must have been retired on the basepath.
So, at this point, we have Delahanty having scored the first ninth-inning run (perhaps on Boyle’s single) and we have Boyle either having scored the second run of the ninth inning (perhaps on Taylor’s single) or still on base waiting to score the second ninth-inning run. AND, we have three players retired (Hallman, Reilly, and Taylor)—i.e., the ninth inning is over…before Cross could single (and subsequently score) and before Hamilton could double (and subsequently score).
Therefore, the PINQ and PNA box scores are logistically untenable. AND, since the ICI sheets have the exact-same runs-scored information as the PINQ and PNA box scores, the ICI runs-scored numbers for Hamilton (3) and Taylor (1) are not tenable.
This brings us to the PPRS, PPL, PREC, and CINENQ box scores. Subtracting the runs-scored numbers through the first eight innings from the corresponding runs-scored numbers given in these box scores results in the four deduced ninth-inning run-scorers being Delahanty, Boyle, Taylor, and Cross. Do these four deduced ninth-inning run-scorers dovetail with the text descriptions? Here’s the play-by-play:
- Delahanty led off with a triple—and subsequently scored (probably on Boyle’s single).
- Boyle singled—and subsequently scored.
- Hallman singled—but, since he did not score, he must have been retired on the basepath.
- Reilly batted—but did not score; therefore, he must have been retired.
- Taylor singled—and subsequently scored (perhaps on Hamilton’s double).
- Cross singled—and subsequently scored (probably on Hamilton’s double).
- Hamilton doubled.
Yes! The four deduced ninth-inning run-scorers— Delahanty, Boyle, Taylor, and Cross—are indeed in perfect alignment with the text descriptions. However, while we know for certain who scored the four ninthinning runs, we do not know for certain who batted in the ninth-inning runs scored by Delahanty, Boyle, Taylor, and Cross. As shown in the Appendix, various scenarios can be conjectured for assigning RBI credit. Here’s a summary of some possible paths for the four ninth-inning runs:
- Delahanty scored on a 1-RBI single by Boyle…OR…
- Boyle scored on a 1-RBI out by Reilly…OR…on a 1-RBI single by Taylor…OR…on a 1-RBI single by Cross…OR…
- Taylor scored on a 1-RBI single by Cross…OR…on a 2-RBI double by Hamilton…OR…
- Cross scored on a 1-RBI double by Hamilton…OR… on a 2-RBI double by Hamilton…OR…
So, considering all of the available information— and having demonstrated that the runs-scored numbers given in the PPRS, PPL, PREC, and CINENQ box scores are accurate—Billy Hamilton actually scored two runs in the June 15 game (not three runs as shown on the ICI sheets). And, similarly, Jack Taylor actually scored two runs in the game (not one run as shown on the ICI sheets).
AUGUST 17, 1894—PHILADELPHIA vs. LOUISVILLE— PHILADELPHIA SCORED 29 RUNS
The other game for which our runs-scored number for Hamilton (two) differs from the ICI sheets runs-scored number for Hamilton (three) is the Phillies versus Colonels contest on August 17. To resolve the discrepancy, let’s examine the text descriptions (provided in the Appendix) for each of the runs as presented in the various newspaper accounts. As summarized in the Appendix, we were able to ascertain complete details for only six of the runs—the first three runs in the first inning (Boyle, Delahanty, and Thompson scored on Thompson’s 3-RBI homer), the one sixth-inning run (Delahanty scored on a 1-RBI single by Turner), and the two eighth-inning runs (Boyle and Cross scored on Cross’s 2-RBI homer). Unfortunately, as detailed in the Appendix, the text descriptions did not provide sufficient information to ascertain the complete details of the other 23 runs. Thus, we were forced to rely entirely on the box score runs-scored information for the identities of the run-scorers and the number of runs each player scored. Table 3 lists the runs scored by each Phillies player according to each box score. Also shown are the runs-scored numbers given on the ICI sheets.
The most-glaring item in Table 3 is that the ICI sheets and the PINQ box score each show both Hamilton and Boyle with three runs scored, while all of the other box scores show Hamilton with two runs scored and Boyle with four runs scored. For all of the other players there is complete agreement for all of the corresponding runs-scored numbers. So, the critical issue is ascertaining which box score is correct for the runs scored by Hamilton and by Boyle. Since the text descriptions of the runs given in the newspaper accounts do not resolve the issue, one is left with just the box scores themselves. One could simply claim that because there are seven box scores showing Hamilton with two runs scored and only one box score showing Hamilton with three runs scored, the majority rules. However since it is widely known that even competing independent newspapers sometimes shared box scores, a plurality of box scores does not necessarily guarantee consensus. So, to help resolve this issue one needs to know how many box scores are unique. The Appendix provides pertinent information on the uniqueness of the box scores, from which it can be confidently advanced that there are five unique sets of box scores:  PINQ;  PEI and PREC;  PNA and PPL;  PPRS; and  LOUCJ and LOUCOM.
That four of these unique sets of box scores—; ; ; and —have identical corresponding runs-scored numbers for all of the players can be taken as meaningful evidence in support of these runs-scored numbers being correct (and that, therefore, the PINQ box score runs-scored numbers for Hamilton and Boyle are spurious and incorrect). Additionally, since the ICI sheets have the same runs-scored information as the PINQ box score, it can be reasonably concluded that the ICI runs-scored numbers for Hamilton (three) and Boyle (three) are not accurate.
Another line of reasoning that is important in evaluating the accuracy of baseball’s historical statistics is that baseball’s originally-reported official numbers must be held as correct—unless they can be irrefutably proven to be wrong. As it has developed, the official GBG runs-scored records of the 1894 season are no longer extant. All that does remain are the official fullseason runs-scored statistics that were released and reported to the public, such as in The Sporting News or the annual baseball guides. So, embracing that line of reasoning—i.e., deference to the official records—results in accepting that Hamilton scored two runs—since (as indicated below) that then results in Sliding Billy ending up with a total of 196 runs scored for the season—i.e., the same number as that officially reported in 1894 in The Sporting News.
Considering all of the available information, we conclude that Billy Hamilton scored two runs in the August 17 game (not three runs as shown on the ICI sheets). Analogously, Jack Boyle actually scored four runs in the game (not three runs as shown on the ICI sheets).
Combining our findings for the games on June 15 and August 17 gives Hamilton 196 runs (not 198 runs as shown on Baseball-Reference.com) during the 1894 season.
Having resolved the discrepancy of the runs-scored number achieved by Hamilton for the major league record for most runs scored by an individual player in a single season, let’s now turn to the seven other players for whom our full-season runs-scored numbers (Table 1, Column A) are different from the runs-scored numbers presently shown on Baseball-Reference.com (C) and the official runs-scored numbers reported in The Sporting News in 1894 (B). Without going into all the laborious details here, let’s simply state that we assembled evidence to support our runs-scored numbers; the pertinent supporting documentation is provided in the Appendix at SABR.org/node/42657.
In the present endeavor we strove for 100% accuracy for the runs scored by the players on the 1894 Phillies by ascertaining the complete details for each of those 1,179 runs. Fortunately, we obtained evidence as to the identities of the players who scored each of the runs. We were not always able to determine the player who may have driven in the run or by what means. As it turned out, there were some other games for which we needed to deduce the identities of the run-scorers for some of the runs or to rely entirely on the box score for the identities of the run scorers and the number of runs that each player scored in the game. For each of these games the Appendix provides the text descriptions from numerous newspaper accounts. The bottom line with respect to the players who scored the runs is this: we have assembled persuasive evidence which allows us to report with high confidence the identities of each of the run-scorers and the number of runs they scored in each of the 132 games Philadelphia played in 1894.
From our comprehensive and in-depth investigation of the runs scored by the players on the 1894 Philadelphia Phillies, the most significant conclusion is that the 196 sculpted onto Sliding Billy’s Hall of Fame plaque is correct.[fn]Curiously, the biographical sketch for Billy Hamilton currently given on the Hall of Fame’s website (baseballhall.org) states, “Remarkably, he scored 192 runs in 129 games in 1894,” while the 2015 edition of the Hall of Fame Yearbook states on page 85, “…his record of 198 runs scored for the 1894 Phillies has stood for more than a century.”[/fn] We hope that MLB.com and Baseball-Reference.com will also eventually show Hamilton’s 196 runs-scored number.
HERM KRABBENHOFT, a SABR member since 1981, respectfully dedicates this article to the memory of Rick Steckley, a boyhood friend whose favorite baseball player was Harvey Kuenn. Back in 1955, when Herm was first discovering baseball, besides playing catch and “flies and grounders” together, Rick introduced Herm to the fun of collecting baseball cards and explained the meanings of the stats on the backs, like “R” for runs and “RBI” for runs batted in. As it turned out, Herm’s enduring interest in those numbers eventually led him to do his research on players like Ruth, Gehrig, Greenberg, and Sliding Billy. Thanks so much, Rick!
KEITH CARLSON is a lifelong St. Louis Cardinals fan and a SABR member since 1984. His major interest is sabermetrics with an emphasis on measuring defensive performance.
DAVID NEWMAN first joined SABR in 2002. He is a retired internal auditor with the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. Dave remains a lifelong Yankees fan, a tradition passed down from his father. He has spent many hours in the Library of Congress Microform Reading Room, a short Metro ride from his Crofton, Maryland, home where he lives with his wife, Carol.
RICHARD “DIXIE” TOURANGEAU has been a SABR member since 1981. He lives in Boston one mile from Fenway and two miles from the Public Library. He has been a large and small contributor on several Krabbenhoft Investigative Squads searching for numerical baseball truths.
The final draft of this manuscript (including the Appendix) was provided to Cory Schwartz (MLB.com), John Thorn (Official Historian of Major League Baseball), Pete Palmer and Gary Gillette, Sean Forman (Baseball-Reference.com), and Craig Muder and Jim Gates (National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum) in order to facilitate the incorporation of Hamilton’s 196 runs-scored number.
We gratefully thank Gary Stone for providing copies of game accounts from newspapers to which he had access. We also thank John Thorn and Pete Palmer for their inputs on the statistics utilized by MLB.com.