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|Thanks to Baseball-Reference.com, you know this was a scary sight for Willie Mays.|
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."