2 million races: baseball on the verge of the milestone
For 145 years, players have walked, slipped, marched, tumbled and jumped on white rubber patches across the continent. It’s the act of scoring a run, the goal of baseball, and it adds to an impending milestone.
From the reign of Queen Victoria to the era of throwing angles, a parade of ball players has passed through the plate. This happened 1,999,610 times in Monday’s games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, the official statisticians of Major League Baseball.
This means that in the days to come – no one knows exactly when – one lucky player will set his sights on the rubber and score what will officially be the two millionth inning in MLB history.
Cue the confetti and hit the band?
In reality, the feat hardly attracted much attention. The lack of fanfare stands in stark contrast to the events around the millionth race, which sparked national interest amid a contest sponsored by Tootsie Roll and Seiko Watches. Most people these days are quite unaware of the approaching benchmark, which is a testament to the sustainable production of the national hobby – at least for some of those who helped raise the total.
“Wow that’s a big deal,” said Pete Rose, who scored 2,165 of those points. “Two million is a ton. I’m just glad I didn’t have to follow up on it.
That responsibility lies with Elias, who convened an audit last week to confirm the exact figure as the milestone approaches. Baseball Reference has its own handy tab, which counts almost everything that is done in the sport on a daily basis. This website has become the bible of statistical information for many fans, thanks in large part to the old numbers provided by Retrosheet, another reliable historical tabulator.
But the totals at Elias and Baseball Reference differ very slightly, with Baseball Reference being 97 runs higher than Elias. This gap will lead Baseball Reference to register the feat a little ahead of Elias, with the two millionth run set to cross the plateau this week, most likely Wednesday or Thursday based on teams averaging around 130 runs per day this season.
The fact that the Elias and Baseball Reference numbers are separated by less than 100 runs after more than 221,000 games is remarkable, especially since record keeping before 1900 was a bit murky. At least those massive numbers are, if you forgive the expression, along the same lines.
“It shows that baseball has been around for a very, very long time,” said John Labombarda, director of research for Elias, who has worked in the sports office for 41 years, during which most of the second million points were scored. .
One reason for this discrepancy is that MLB traces its origin back to the 1876 National League season. That’s a lot of baseball games, and there’s been debates about the leagues and the years to go. There are also questions about protested games, no-decisions and forfeits. New research sometimes reveals new leads and expels others.
“The whole baseball stats are more interesting to mess up,” said John Thorn, the official MLB historian. “It’s like, how many stars are there in the sky? There are so many anomalies in our record keeping, who really knows? But this remains an important step. “
A similar uncertainty arose overseas in 2012 when trial cricket reached two million races in 2012, and two different players reportedly marked the historic race.
In official baseball accounting, the first inning in today’s Major League Baseball lineage was on April 22, 1876. According to a new study conducted this month by Thorn, the run was tackled by Tim McGinley, a Boston Red Stockings wide receiver, the ancestor of today’s Atlanta Braves. Historians aren’t sure if he hit right-handed or left-handed, but we do know he scored high in the second inning in Philadelphia, as Boston beat the Athletics (unrelated to the current club), 6- 5, in the first. first season game (as recognized by MLB).
The league was made up of eight teams, but they combined to score 3,066 points in the inaugural season. In three centuries, they and their ball-playing descendants have added hundreds of thousands more.
In fact, the two millionth round has already been scored. In the near future – perhaps in the next offseason – MLB will incorporate stats from some Negro leagues into the all-time high, making the two millionth run the one scored several years ago.
Likewise, the millionth race was credited to Bob Watson of the Houston Astros on May 4, 1975 – but that turned out to be wrong too, for almost the same reason.
Watson’s run was the culmination of a century of baseball, capped by a week-long promotional campaign that included countdown clocks at stadiums across the country, big speculation about who would mark the race, and a million Tootsie Rolls (and a watch) for whoever achieved the feat. .
Unfortunately, Thorn said, that figure was based solely on the National League and the American League. In 1969, the MLB officially recognized several other leagues, such as the Federal League, Union Association and more, adding more racing seasons. If the other leagues had been counted, the millionth inning would have scored much sooner.
Today, Elias and Baseball Reference have correctly included these old leagues in the MLB databases, so that the two millionth inning – beyond the black league additions – can be verified with precision. Kind of.
“Absolutely, you can,” Thorn said, “as long as you do it with a shipment of salt, not just a grain.”
Now toss this on the salt heap: An unofficial audit of the MLB database resulted in a third number about 500 executions higher. That would suggest that the two millionth inning did score somewhere on the West Coast on Sunday afternoon. But Elias is the official MLB statistician for all pre-2001 records, so his number – which closely mirrors baseball’s benchmark number – is the one that stands out.
Regardless, it took just under 100 seasons for baseball to compile a million runs, but it only took 46 seasons for the second million. The doubled pace is the result of many factors, but mostly expansion. There are now 30 clubs, all producing multiple races per game in a 162-game season. From 1916 to 1960, 16 teams played 154 games each.
Other factors, such as a sharper ball, the introduction of the designated hitter rule in the American League, smaller ball parks and taller players may have helped increase run production, but this has been marginal. The average points scored per team per game – it was 4.39 until Sunday – has remained relatively constant since 1900, increasing most often from 4.0 to 4.9 points per team per game.
“The only thing that has changed significantly is the way they score,” Thorn said.
Today’s teams rely heavily on the homestays, but for years the emphasis has been on the hits and the course of the bases. Rose was great for it. He says his huge tally is a credit to the batting sloths behind him in the lineup. Rose was later kicked out of MLB for betting on her own team as a manager, and now works with gambling site UpickTrade. But in the field, he was best known for setting the record for career success with 4,256.
Despite that record, Rose said the most important statistic in baseball was the runs, where he is sixth. Rickey Henderson is the first, with 2295.
“Scoring points is the reason you play the game,” Rose said. “Rickey had a talent, but I have to believe I was one of the best at it. I scored a lot because I knew how to direct goals. I was the best baseball player ever, going from first to third.
The active leader for the points scored is Albert Pujols with 1,853 points. But it will be difficult, without a concerted effort, to determine this week who is actually walking safely on home plate for the two millionth time, whether from the numbers produced to the numbers produced by Elias, Baseball Reference. , the unofficial MLB database. or the fans score at home. In 1975, there were observers in all stadiums linked by phone to determine who scored what they considered to be the millionth race.
Forty-six years later, it looks like it’ll be more of a collective effort on the part of all of baseball to reach that more authentic benchmark. And then it will be three million.
“What does that mean, two million races?” Thorn said. “Absolutely nothing. But that’s what makes it fun.