SABR Salute: Ralph Horton

Editor’s note: The SABR Salute, first bestowed upon writer Fred Lieb in 1976, was designed as a manner of recognizing the contributions of some of the older members of the Society. Subsequent SABR Salutes appeared in the SABR Membership Directory and honored members who had made great contributions to baseball historical research. Ralph Horton (1921-1998) received the SABR Salute in 1997; the following biographical sketch appeared in that year’s membership directory.

Ralph L. Horton was born in St. Louis, October 16, 1921, and saw his first major league game on June 6, 1933. The White Sox beat the Browns 5-3, which was a disappointment, but he did get to see future Hall of Famers Ted Lyons, Luke Appling, and Al Simmons. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University in 1941 and taught high school math in that area until he entered the Navy in 1942. He served as a commissioned officer from 1942-46, and again in the Korean War, 1950-52. He left the service as a Commander.

After his return from WWII in 1946, he had the good fortune to meet Marian Protte. “It was the best thing that ever happened to me,” he says. They were married in 1948 and raised daughters Jacqueline and JoAnn. In the passage of time, two grand-daughters arrived, and one great-grandson. Mrs. Horton took up writing in the early 1980s, and has published three romance novels. She is now writing mysteries.

Ralph, a stockholder of the St. Louis Browns before they left St. Louis, joined Rawlings Sporting Goods Company as Advertising Manager in 1952. From 1964 to 1973, he was Vice-President for Merchandising. He then spent eight years in Wisconsin as Vice-president of Medalist Industries in Mequon. Then it was back to St. Louis where he served as Publisher of The Sporting Goods Dealer, 1981-86, and consultant, 1986-91.

While at Rawlings, Ralph was instrumental in introducing the Gold Glove Award program in 1957. Johnson Spink of TSN also shared the credit as he legitimized the program by having The Sporting News oversee the selection of the winners. When Ralph was on the board of the National Association of Sporting Officials, he helped to launch an annual Gold Whistle Award which goes to an outstanding sports official who also has a strong record of community development. Larry Barnett and Steve Palermo have been among the winners.

After Ralph retired from TSN in 1986, he started his own publishing company which reprinted old baseball guides and record books. He also published two of his own books — Baseball’s Best Pitchers, 1876-1992, and Rating Relief Pitchers. A third study completed in 1995 is Baseball’s Best Fielding Shortstops.

While living in Wisconsin in 1976, Ralph joined SABR as member #467. He has attended most of the National Conventions since 1984. He also has served on several research committees, including the 19th Century, Umpires & Rules, Biographical and Minor Leagues. His primary research interest is pro baseball in the 19th and early 20th centuries. This is reflected in six biographies he prepared for the recent SABR publication Baseball’s First Stars. His interest in evaluating players based on their performance compared to their peers led to what he calls the Relative Performance System (RPS). He has used this system to rate pitchers, relief hurlers, and shortstops in fielding and is now working on offensive performance. He can do much of his work at home because he has a very large sports research library.

Ralph belongs to a long-standing group of St. Louis sports people called the 1-2-3 Club. They meet every Monday from one to three to have lunch, hear speakers, participate in a quiz prepared by our Honoree, and have a good social exchange among the media, former players, TSN employees, etc. If a SABR member is visiting in town, such as Cliff Kachline from Cooperstown, or Larry Gerlach from Salt Lake City, Ralph invites them out to join Bob Broeg and other local members at the 1-2-3-Club.

He is very much into community service activities in: St. Louis. In 1962 he was one of 25 founding members of the BUDDY FUND which raises funds to provide athletic equipment for under-privileged youngsters. For the past ten years he has been a member of the Multiple Sclerosis Sports Dinner Committee. He doesn’t mention the awards he has received for this type of activity, but it certainly helps qualify him for this SABR Salute!


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