Tom Ruane

In Memoriam: Tom Ruane

Tom RuaneFor more than a quarter-century, Tom Ruane worked behind the scenes preparing countless files for Retrosheet’s extraordinary database of baseball history — player data, box scores, play-by-play accounts, transaction files, and much more. Ruane’s contributions to baseball research, and the invaluable role he played in making so much information available and accessible for generations to come, cannot be overstated.

Ruane, who died at the age of 68 on July 18, 2023, was one of the leading lights in the baseball research community since he first joined SABR in 1991. In 1994, he began serving on Retrosheet’s Board of Directors and helped lead the design and implementation of their website in the early 21st century. He led a group of Retrosheet volunteers to create box scores using official dailies and newspaper accounts, an effort requiring painstaking diligence and persistence. Those efforts earned him recognition with SABR’s Bob Davids Award in 2009 and the Henry Chadwick Award in 2016. 

“Aside from baseball, Tom was consistently cheerful, funny, and an accomplished poet,” said David W. Smith, Retrosheet’s founder and former president. “His loss is a huge blow to Retrosheet, SABR, and the baseball research community at large, all of which are significantly diminished without him.”

Ruane was also a prolific author, and many of his research papers are available on the Retrosheet website. As Retrosheet continued to publish more box scores online from the earliest days of professional baseball history, Ruane specialized in finding gems and nuggets from these newly available accounts that helped shed light on the fascinating people and players who participated in the game in those years.

Even more extraordinary was Ruane’s capacity to help others. He fielded tens of thousands of research questions and queries from fellow SABR members, students, reporters, historians, and fans who were eager to learn more, but lacked the experience to navigate Retrosheet’s website and data sets with ease. Ruane’s generosity and his legendary patience were on display on a near-daily basis.

Ruane was born on August 25, 1954, and spent nearly his entire life in the idyllic town of Poughkeepsie, New York, in the Hudson River Valley. Aside from a brief childhood fling with the Minnesota Twins, his rooting loyalty shamelessly bounced between the New York Mets and Yankees depending largely on the two teams’ places in the standings at a given time.

He graduated from SUNY New Paltz in 1976 with a degree in English and added a bachelor’s in Computer Science in 1980 from Union College. He began working as a computer programmer for IBM in 1980 and also wrote short stories that appeared in magazines and journals throughout the 1980s.

Ruane is survived by his wife, Eileen Travis, and two sons, Joe and Pat. Information on services will be updated soon.

Originally published: July 21, 2023. Last Updated: July 25, 2023.