Changing of the times claims another victim and one of my favorite baseball publications – Who’s Who in Baseball, obsolete after an impressive 101 years. The internet’s ability to provide unobstructed and instant access to baseball statistical information has sadly rendered the annual publication a baseball relic. For over a century, Who’s Who in Baseball has been a portable baseball encyclopedia, cataloging active major league ballplayers and providing their career statistics. The history of the publication dates back to when Babe Ruth was a left-handed pitcher for the Boston Red Sox. Countless Hall-of-Famers have graced its cover, with over ten decades of ballplayers calling its pages home. Who’s Who has a special place in my heart because my dad started getting me the publication in 1994 (before we even had a computer at home), and despite having plenty of baseball cards, the book easily let me find my favorite players to compare their stats. I quickly learned at the age of seven, that the players with stats in bold were the league leaders, so a player with a lot of bold on their page was probably really good – like Nolan Ryan. Thus began my baseball education and love for stats. I can only imagine how many others over 101-years had a similar experience and took great enjoyment from this once-a-year book. Every spring I’d eagerly anticipate seeing its signature red cover in a stationary or bookstore. Having to wait a full year until the next one, there was something extra satisfying about getting my hands on a freshly printed edition. In a world of instant gratification and insatiable consumption, my appreciation for once-a-year pleasures only grows knowing their days are numbered. This is disappointing news, and it won’t ever appear on ESPN or any other major news outlet, but a loss nonetheless. Cheers to Who’s Who in Baseball, for a fantastic century-long run whose editions transcended so much more than just another baseball season.
I asked my dad to separately write some thoughts in memoriam about Who’s Who, so here’s what he’s got:
It’s spring and so that means for many years I’ve anxiously anticipated the annual release of Who’s Who in Baseball. Oddly, this year it was nowhere to be found. I learned it has been discontinued after 101, yes, 101 years of continuous publication. Another iconic publication done in by the Internet. No longer will we see the classic red and white paperback that contained career stats and photos of each year’s current players. There where great pictures of league leaders, a current world champion team shot, and league stats as well. For some, opening a new WW each year was like opening a Christmas present in spring. And it was never a generational thing. My son Kyle enjoyed WW just as much as I did. It was always a joy watching him bury himself into it, voicing opinions, quoting stats and hearing his musings. In fact, WW was a cornerstone building block for Kyle’s love of baseball stats while providing an evolution to his wonderful blog.
I recall as a child having a neighborhood friend who couldn’t afford baseball cards. But instead, he had his WW. He’d say that he didn’t need the cards as long as he had the red and white. Each year had a different player featured on the cover depending on who won an award the previous year. I got my 1970 edition, and was mortified to see Tom Seaver on the cover. Being a die-hard Yankees fan even then, and still upset at the Mets winning in ‘69, I couldn’t get past the Cy Young winner was staring at me and would be all year! I proceeded to deface Tom’s picture. My only recourse of revenge. I have no regrets.
In later years I’d take Kyle and his sister to baseball card shows. Inevitably, we’d encounter a vendor selling old WW’s. 1957, fair condition, $40. Must have! Mickey Mantle, the ‘56 MVP, was on the cover! Fast forward to 2016, the 101th continuous year. No cover shots of Yanks, but still a treasure. Simply put, WW was a yearly treasure. Sadly, Christmas in spring comes no more. – Mark Jelléy.