#Hot Corner

The perils of official scoring in the good ol' days

Chris Trotman

From a nice piece in the Times about Zander Hollander, who for many years edited annual yearbooks about various sports, including baseball ...

From 1971 to 1997, Hollander edited sports yearbooks, brick-sized tomes known as Complete Handbooks, which in the pre-Internet era were almost holy objects to a certain type of sports-crazed youngster. Here, in one glorious place, was information — statistics, team rosters, records, schedules, predictions for the coming season and more — freed from the restrictions of newspaper column inches and far beyond what a still embryonic cable television system was providing.

In black and white were photos and detailed profiles of players from every team, players that even the most devoted fans might glimpse only in a rare nationally televised network game of the week or an All-Star contest, if at all. The work was Hollander’s driving force. Then he had a stroke, with Alzheimer’s following shortly after. Now 90, he no longer remembers the books that he struggled to produce, that brought him professional fulfillment, friendships and minor fame. So Phyllis, his wife of 60 years, now does the talking.

This piece sent me scurrying to the bookshelf where I keep my preseason annuals. I don't actually have many of Hollander's books, but I do have the first baseball annual, published in 1971. The great majority of the book consists of team previews, along with notes and statistics for the key players. But there are also a couple of essays, one by Tony Kubek about broadcasting and another by Leonard Koppett about serving as official scorer. Koppett points out that teams essentially pay the players whatever the teams like -- this was before free agency, of course -- and so the statistics really don't matter much; the player can cite numbers that favor him, but management will always come back with something that doesn't. "Nevertheless," Koppett writes, "players don't understand this."

Thus Earl Lawson, the veteran baseball writer in Cincinnati, can find himself pushed, punched, choked or threatened, at various times, by such stars as Vada Pinson, Frank Robinson and Johnny Temple. A Dick Young, in New York, can have a running battle with the whole Yankee organization for two years because he charged Mickey Mantle with an error on a ball Mantle and Roger Maris let fall between them. And every man who has ever scored can have the experience, sooner or later, of walking into the clubhouse and being loudly, rudely abused by an offended player and his teammates (who are laying the groundwork for their own future grievance, or carrying a grudge) after a decision not to their taste.

This is not true of all players. Only about 95 per cent.

Ahem. That's PRESIDENTIAL MEDAL OF FREEDOM RECIPIENT Frank Robinson to you, fella.

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