Schechter: Remembrance of games past

From SABR member Gabriel Schechter at The National Pastime Museum on October 13, 2014:

Memory is a perplexing combination of convergence and divergence. Somewhat related events coalesce in our brains into a single narrative that becomes more vivid each time we relate it. At the same time, even without the embellishment that is second nature to storytellers, that narrative veers further away from literal fact.

We aren’t simply following the old dictum to “never let the facts get in the way of a good story.” Quite often, we firmly and mistakenly believe that things happened exactly the way we remember them.

In many areas, this trick of memory is harmless and undetectable (sworn testimony would be one exception). When it comes to baseball stories, however, websites like and have made it increasingly easier to debunk errant tales. You might not be able to confirm the details of some family legend, but you can quickly check a player’s claim that he got five hits in his first two Major League starts.

I have found that a sizable percentage of tales in memoirs and oral histories bear only a shaky resemblance to what actually happened. It’s easy to understand why. Baseball veterans—both players and fans—have watched thousands of games over many years. When you’ve seen that many hits, catches, pitches, and everything else, the details inevitably run together in your brain except for a handful of exceptional events. I have a much clearer memory of the one time I sat in the front row to watch Laurence Olivier act than I do of any of the hundred or more Tom Seaver victories I watched (except for the day he struck out ten straight Padres).

Read the full article here:

Originally published: October 13, 2014. Last Updated: October 13, 2014.