Laurila: Tal Smith and the Houston Astros’ first database

From SABR member David Laurila at FanGraphs on January 10, 2016, with mention of SABR member Tal Smith:

No one hacked into the Houston Astros database 40 years ago. Had that been possible, they could have gleaned valuable information by doing so. Tal Smith is the reason why.

Smith was ahead of his time. While serving as the Astros director of player personnel, he began accumulating and cataloguing data “around 1969 or 1970.”

“This was only a few years after the advent of the amateur draft, and I thought it was important,” explained Smith. “I wanted a backlog of all the draft choices —where they were coming from, out of high school, out of college, and so on — and to track those players’ progress. We inputted all that data. This was back in the old keypunch days.”

His colleagues weren’t as enamored with his efforts. Smith left to work for the Yankees in 1973, and when he returned to Houston two years later he found that no one had maintained the program. It was necessary for him to start over.

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Originally published: January 11, 2016. Last Updated: January 11, 2016.