Shieber: Updating the encyclopedias, one baseball card at a time

From SABR member Tom Shieber at Baseball Prospectus on April 11, 2014:

At last count, over 18,000 individuals had played in the major leagues. And for each and every one of these privileged men, the members of the SABR Biographical Committee have made it their mission to determine vital statistics such as birth date, death date, playing height and weight. Additionally, the committee attempts to determine each player’s handedness: with which hand they throw/threw and which way they bat/batted.

I recently contacted longtime SABR Biographical Committee chairman Bill Carle, who graciously supplied me with a list of every big leaguer for whom batting and/or throwing handedness is currently unknown. Of the over 1,200 players on the list, the vast majority played in the 19th century, and most had very brief major league careers. It should come as no surprise that determining handedness for these fellows is no easy task.

However, thanks to an absolutely invaluable reference work, I was able to determine the batting handedness for 30 of these players and the throwing handedness for 21. The tool that helped fill in the missing information is a spectacular compendium of early baseball cards titled The Photographic Baseball Cards of Goodwin & Company (1886-1890) and co-authored by Jay Miller, Joe Gonsowski, and Richard Masson. The publication came out in 2008, and while it’s tough to find, you may be able to track down a copy at I’d like to thank Jay, Joe, and Richard for sharing some images of their cards for this article.

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Originally published: April 11, 2014. Last Updated: April 11, 2014.