By Jim Caple
Page 2

Ferguson Jenkins lost six games by 1-0 scores in 1968.

Barry Bonds has earned $172 million in salary over his career. The attendance at the final game at Ebbets Field was 6,702 (no wonder the Dodgers moved). January 17 is the birthday of Chili Davis, Denny Doyle, Darrell Porter, Pete LaCock and T.J. Bohn. Randy Johnson was 22-13 with a 3.66 ERA in 46 career appearances (45 starts) at Yankee Stadium. When the New York Giants won 26 consecutive games in 1916, all the games were at home. The Colorado Rockies drew almost as many fans for their first game (80,277) as the St. Louis Browns drew the entire 1935 season (80,922). Omar Moreno holds the record for most outs in a season (560 in 1980).

Oh, excuse me. I'm busy scrolling through the best Web site on the Internet (besides ESPN.com, of course), Baseball-Reference.com. Forget Google, YouTube, MySpace, Amazon, eBay, Wikipedia, the Drudge Report, Hotornot.com and all the other Internet addresses; Baseball-Reference.com is the indispensable one. After all, NYTimes.com may provide you with all the news and analysis from Iraq, but Baseball-Reference.com gives fans the facts on the ground they really need.

Three players (Adam Greenberg, Harvey Grubb and Cy Malis) were hit by a pitch in their only career plate appearance.

Naturally, the career statistics for every player are there, plus the annual statistics for every team. But so are the season schedule, results and standings for every day in major league history. Not only is every box score available back to 1957, the boxes are expanded with updated batting averages, ERAs and, occasionally, pitch counts. Want to see all of Pete Rose's hits or walks, or all of Bonds' home runs? Every player's day-by-day is available for the past 50 years. Want to know how Bob Gibson fared against Willie Mays? All batter-pitcher matchups are available, plus home-road, left-right, day-night and ballpark splits (Gibby held Mays to a .196 average and struck him out 30 times in 108 meetings). You can look up how batters fared against Randy Johnson by inning (they hit .179 against him in the ninth) or the most RBIs in a game by a player who didn't hit a home run since 1957 (Jeff Cirillo, seven on Aug. 12, 2002) or the most walks allowed by a winning pitcher in the same span (12 by Jack Fisher on Aug. 30, 1961).

Bob Gibson
AP Photo
Thanks to Baseball-Reference.com, you know this was a scary sight for Willie Mays.

Of course, there are some obscure statistics on the site, too.

Hell, I spent an hour Tuesday night just fiddling with the Oracle of Baseball, a tool that finds teammate links between players from any era, almost always within the Kevin Bacon-mandated six degrees of separation. For instance, Lou Gehrig played with Buddy Rosar on the 1939 Yankees … Rosar played with Jimmy Piersall on the 1950 Red Sox … Piersall played with Aurelio Rodriguez on the 1967 Angels … Rodriguez played with Cal Ripken Jr. on the 1983 Orioles.

You can find out even more by subscribing to Baseball-Reference.com's expanded service for $29 a year. But I don't know if I will. I can easily afford the $29. But I'm afraid my wife will divorce me if I spend any more time on the site.

As it is, the most challenging part of Baseball-Reference.com is convincing your spouse that you aren't surfing for porn -- that you really can spend that many hours staring at the computer screen without a single salacious image.

Unless you count stirrup socks as erotic (there is a link to a Hall of Fame page displaying every uniform).

The man we have to thank for Baseball-Reference.com -- and thus the person single-handedly responsible for the countless lost hours of office-worker production -- is math professor Sean Forman. He started working on the site in the mid-'90s when he was supposed to be working on his dissertation for a doctorate at the University of Iowa. "The dissertation was on protein folding," he says. "Baseball-Reference was far more interesting to me."

Well, of course it was. I don't even know what protein folding is, but I'm willing to bet it's not nearly as interesting as Mark McGwire's career average against Roger Clemens (.045 in 53 plate appearances).

Forman began the site for the most compelling of reasons -- he wanted to be able to use it for his own enjoyment and research. "I pretty much just wanted to find The Baseball Encyclopedia online," he says. "The Internet seemed like a great format because you could easily link from player stats to team to year stats. Rather than thumbing through 2,000 pages of the Encyclopedia, it would all be there."

In baseball's greatest launch that didn't include a ball soaring from Hank Aaron's bat, Forman put the site online on Feb. 1, 2000, just as the Internet bubble was bursting. "If we had started two years earlier, we could have been millionaires." Forman's poor timing was everyone else's fortune. Instead of selling the site for millions of dollars to a startup venture that would have gone out of business, Forman turned it into a labor of love, constantly tinkering with, adding to and bettering it. He estimates he would work 10-15 hours a week on the site -- twice as much during the summer.

I can only imagine what his wife had to say about it.

"She's been very patient," he says. "There are times when I've gotten a little too into it. She would tell me, 'Just don't work from midnight to 3 a.m on it.'"

Still, it's that combination of dedication, brains and midnight oil that allows us to know that Sandy Koufax held the Mets to one run over eight innings to win his 19th game in 1963 despite pitching on just one day of rest. And that Paul Molitor hit .291 in his 20s and .308 in his 30s. And that Barry Bonds has led off a game with a home run almost as many times (nine) as he's ended one with a home run (10). And that Pete Rose had more hits against Phil Niekro (64) than any other pitcher. And that …

Sorry. I can't help myself once I get started.

The hard work also helped Forman reach the true standard of success in life. His hobby is now his career. After all those lonely hours and long years of research, the site has become lucrative enough through subscription and page sponsorships -- he says the page averages 40,000-50,000 hits per day -- that Forman recently left his teaching position at St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia to make Baseball-Reference.com his full-time occupation.

So now he'll have even more time to make the site better. Though I don't know how it possibly could be.

"You can have minor league stats," he says. "You can have some more things relating to Hall of Fame players. I want to update statistics during the current season and I've been buying stats the last two years with the intention of doing that."

Great. Now I'll never get around to cleaning the garage.

INFIELD CHATTER

"Maybe you heard about this: Randy Johnson, used to play for the Diamondbacks, came to play for the New York Yankees -- well, he's been traded back to the Diamondbacks. It's crazy. So, now this season, the oldest, most overpriced thing at Yankee Stadium will be the hot dogs."
-- David Letterman

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached here. His Web site is back up at a slightly different address, jimcaple.net, with more installments of 24 College Avenue. In addition to "The Devil Wears Pinstripes," his new book with Steve Buckley, "The Best Boston Sports Arguments: The 100 Most Controversial, Debatable Questions for Die-Hard Boston Fans" is on sale now.




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LABOR OF LOVE