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I've been plugging away, in the occasional idle moment, on a look at the historical use of relief pitchers. I shared a few of the things I learned earlier in the summer, and then decided to put the thing on hold until the season ended. A lot of the relievers I'm looking at are still active, so I wanted to wait until the target stopped moving.

Anyway. In the meantime, the great and mighty Retrosheet (no praise is praise enough!) continues to add more information. They now have boxscores for much of the 1920s and early 1930s. Which means they have Game Logs for most of Fred Marberry's career. Marberry is one of the most significant pitchers in the history of the game, the first great pitcher used largely in a relief role. (He was one of the all-time Save Leaders in my own lifetime - in the early 1960s, forty years after his prime, he was still one of just three pitchers to have saved more than 100 games in his career.)

So I've been going through the Marberry Game Logs to find out how he was used as a reliever. I'll report on that later - I will add that I had to create a whole new column on the spreadsheet, just for him. That would be for the 19 out save, which is unusual.

But here's the thing. Every source I've ever seen credits Marberry with 11 saves in 1929. That's what you'll see at; it's what you'll see on his Retrosheet page; it's what you'll see on ESPN; it's what you'll see at Baseball Cube; it's what you'll see at the Minnesota Twins official site.

I'm quite sure it's wrong. I'm pretty sure that he had just 9 saves in 1929.

If you just add up the games marked as SV on the Retrosheet Game Log Page, you see there's only 9 saves. I then checked all of the other games in the GF column: in each of them, Marberry either got a Win or a Save, or the Senators lost the game. So it wasn't there. I then checked the rest of his relief appearances (he appeared in 49 games, 26 as a starter). Nothing there either. He only saved 9 games that year - I'm certain of that - and for the moment, his career total drops to 99. Which is sad. (I've located four other discrepancies in the Marberry record so far, but I haven't examined them in detail yet.

Naturally, this isn't the only instance I've come across so far. The save rule was invented in 1969, if I remember rightly, and applied retroactively to all that had come before. One would expect to find some odd stuff.  On May 14 1968, Jack Aker came into a game with one out in the eighth inning. There were two runners on base, but the A's had a 13-8 lead. (The tying run was not on deck.) Aker finished the game and got a save. Later that year (July 16) Jim Brewer came into a game with one out in the seventh inning and a runner on base. The Dodgers had an 8-1 lead. Brewer finished the game and got a save. There are some pretty strange saves (and non-saves) in the careers of Don McMahon and Lindy McDaniel. (And there's probably a whole lot more out there - the only thing that made me look in detail at the Aker game, or the Brewer game, were discepancies in the season total from one source to another.)

Anyway, what I'm wondering is this - what do I do with this information? Every source you could possibly look at is wrong about Firpo Marberry's league leading save total in 1929. Who do I tell?
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Mick Doherty - Thursday, October 01 2009 @ 08:08 PM EDT (#206707) #

Bob Costas.

No, I'm not kidding. Can you think of someone who is better known, would actually care about the number, and who'd listen?

Send him a note. If he mentions it during a World Series game, it will cause national hue and cry.

Matthew E - Thursday, October 01 2009 @ 08:15 PM EDT (#206708) #
You could try Bill James. He's got his own website now where people can ask him questions and stuff. I think there's a way you could actually post your findings there. Or he, or someone there, might know who you should talk to.

Do we have contact info for Alan Schwarz? He might know. Tangotiger might know.

Dewey - Thursday, October 01 2009 @ 08:17 PM EDT (#206709) #
I agree that James, or even Costas,  might help.  And surely the people at SABR would be interested, and might even be able to offer suggestions of who (else) to tell?
Dewey - Thursday, October 01 2009 @ 08:34 PM EDT (#206710) #
A secondary question,  about Retrosheet's game logs.  I've just spent a few minutes there trying to track a 1951 game, and what I get is pretty much unusable computer gibberish.  Same with their downloadable Zip package of games for the decade 1940 to 1959.  I use a Mac; so is this Mac-specific or have other users encountered such a problem?   I have the greatest respect for Retrosheet, and am quite prepared to acknowledge that this might be another PEBKAC error.  [problem exists between keyboard and chair]
Nick Holmes - Thursday, October 01 2009 @ 08:50 PM EDT (#206711) #
How 'bout Sean Forman, I think he'd want to know.
codyla - Thursday, October 01 2009 @ 10:03 PM EDT (#206712) #
Why not give Scoot Carson a shout. I'm sure he would be interested.
John Northey - Thursday, October 01 2009 @ 10:09 PM EDT (#206713) #
For more extreme, the two games in relief he didn't finish were both losses as well (he took the loss in one of them).

Now, there is a chance that Retrosheet is wrong somewhere - having him listed as pitching in 2 games he didn't and in 2 other games he did pitch and did get a save. However, that is doubtful as Retrosheet has a lot of checks and balances. This is definitely a good place to post as many do look here who know people who know people. Should be interesting to see the results.
Jim - Friday, October 02 2009 @ 08:31 AM EDT (#206725) #
Carl Monday
Mike Green - Friday, October 02 2009 @ 10:06 AM EDT (#206731) #
Sean Forman.  The BBRef website has a blog where you might want to post a link to this page and a question.
mathesond - Friday, October 02 2009 @ 10:25 AM EDT (#206734) #
Carl Monday

Forkball - Friday, October 02 2009 @ 10:53 AM EDT (#206736) #
Baseball-reference seems like the best place to go. 

Of course, the story sounds more interesting when its wrong.  Maybe this guy got credit for 2 saves when he went 6+ innings!

Magpie - Friday, October 02 2009 @ 03:13 PM EDT (#206758) #

Maybe this guy got credit for 2 saves when he went 6+ innings.

He did a save for going 6.1 in 1924, which I was pretty excited about - it's one of those theoretically possible things that you never actually see (starter gets knocked out in the first, team takes the lead while the first reliever is in the game, third reliever comes on in the third inning and finishes up.) But alas - he wouldn't have received a save today. The Senators took an 8-0 lead behind Tom Zachary, but when the White Sox scored 4 runs in the third, Marberry came in and went the rest of the way. Zachary was still credited as the winning pitcher, which wouldn't have happened today. So Marberry gets a very well-earned save!

Many thanks for all the good ideas. When I finish up the piece, in a few weeks, I'll gather together my dozen or so Odd Things and send them to.... everyone!

braden - Saturday, October 03 2009 @ 06:40 PM EDT (#206886) #
Carl Monday

I legitimately lol'd at that. 
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