Hole in Bucket on Old Minor League Stats



This article on Foley White shifted overnight. What was going to be another “mystery player” column now has transformed into a piece on a certain kind of error that may be, or seems to be, occurring at Baseball Reference.Com, relative to certain minor league players from the ancient years ago era who may have played fewer than ten games with certain clubs in the same year they worked for more than one team. Foley White, the player shown above in a T-Card depiction of him as a “Houston” player is our case in point. Baseball Reference.Com does not show him as ever having played fr Houston:


When reader/researcher Davis Barker first sent us the picture card of Foley White, he noted that this player may have been the first Houston team member to ever adorn a baseball card. We at the Pecan Park Eagle, of course, immediately ran into the missing data at “BB-REF.COM” and jumped to the too-soon conclusion that we had another mystery player on our hands. – Who was the guy in the Houston uniform, if he was not “Foley White?” I couldn’t be Foley White. Our Baseball Reference source doesn’t show him as ever playing here. The fellow in the artful illustration had to be someone else.


Maybe not.

Before starting to work on the “mystery player” column, I e-mailed Davis Barker last night to see if he had anything further to contribute.

Did he ever?

I awoke this morning to the following e-mail response from Davis Barker. It is information that puts a whole new light on certain questions that need to arise any time with minor league players we may be researching back to the early 20th and 19th centuries, when data was sparse, reported unevenly and often missing from available news files. We mean no disparagement of the great job that Baseball Reference.Com has done with the early minor league years data. It’s just that this example points again to how, even in this wonderfully organized new digital era, it isn’t likely that anything we humans do will ever reach perfection.

“At any rate, here’s what Davis Barker said in response to the ews that we planned to write a “mystery player’ column this morning:


El Paso (TX) Herald Tuesday, May 31, 1910 Submitted by Davis Barker

El Paso (TX) Herald
Tuesday, May 31, 1910
Submitted by Davis Barker

Again, one of those cases where the stats (on BaseballRef.com I assume) are also not exactly correct.  They are based on Reach and Spaulding Guides who are reported by league statisticians who are also sometimes remiss (not to mention the fact of Less Thans – ie: those in less than 10g aren’t included).  At any rate, and based on what I have observed AND Bill Ruggles again, Foley White spent part of 1909 and part of 1910 with Houston and part with Waco … you will find his stats on Waco’s … according to Ruggles notation, it should look something like this:

1909 Houston-Waco
1910 Waco-Houston
“Foley was sort of the region’s “Suitcase Simpson” on the day …. and a lot of his work is buried in being a consistent “Less Than” in league stats and therefore in obscurity … if you want me to followup in the next few days pulling together everything I can find in my files, please let me know.
ALSO …. It is possible that another Houston player may also be in the set …. but I haven’t seen a picture of one or have knowledge of one … BUT …. This is the question I can’t answer … in his Texas League experience he was generally a backup catcher, a Have-Mitt-Will-Travel type of guy, if you will … if that was true, then why did they choose him to represent Houston in this set?  Maybe he knew the photographer ….”
dob (Davis O. Barker)
Our thorough Mr. Barker also has conveyed these two additional pieces of information since we began this column:
White was released by the Buffs in 1910 in the first week of July …
and … the back of his T-Card picture:
Back of Foley White card

Back of Foley White card

Thank you, Davis Barker. We will happily take anything else you may find and post it on this column. We too share your question. How a short-timer like Foley White got his image depicted on a Houston baseball card is still a mysery, as is the question: Was the Foley White card the first of its kind in all of Houston baseball history?
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One Response to “Hole in Bucket on Old Minor League Stats”

  1. Cliff Blau Says:

    Let’s give credit where it is due. The only thing Baseball-Reference.com has to do with the old minor league stats is that they are good enough to display the datums that SABR sends them. The real work of digging out and digitizing the stats and biographical information is done by people like Davis Barker, Reed Howard, and Frank Hamilton, not to mention the late Ray Nemec.

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