Magazine article Newsweek

Elias Knows Everything: Braves Pitchers Glavine and Maddux Are the First Teammates to Be at Least 100 Games over .500 since the Giants' Mathewson and McGinnity

Magazine article Newsweek

Elias Knows Everything: Braves Pitchers Glavine and Maddux Are the First Teammates to Be at Least 100 Games over .500 since the Giants' Mathewson and McGinnity

Article excerpt

Byline: George F. Will

Last Monday Nancy and Henry Kissinger arrived at a Manhattan restaurant at 8:10 p.m. and excitedly recounted what they had just listened to in their car: a Yankee rookie in his first major league at-bat had hit a home run off a fearsome pitcher--the Diamondbacks' Randy Johnson, who is 6 feet 10 and looks like a giant praying mantis with an attitude.

Before the Kissingers had time to examine their menus, some baseball commentators were reporting that this was the first time since 1986 that a player in his first major league at-bat had homered against a likely future Hall of Famer (Will Clark off Nolan Ryan) and the first time ever that a player homered in his first at-bat off a pitcher who the previous season won the Cy Young Award as the best pitcher in his league.

Who tells us such things lickety-split? The busy beavers at the Elias Sports Bureau.

On a Saturday evening last month the Devil Rays scored four runs in the bottom of the ninth to beat the Orioles, 6-4, thereby snapping a 15-game losing streak. The game ended just after ESPN's 10 p.m. "Baseball Tonight" went on the air. Soon Elias sent a message to reporter Tim Kurkjian on the "Baseball Tonight" set: this was the first time ever that an American League team had snapped a double-digit losing streak by scoring more than two runs in the ninth.

How do such nuggets of baseball history get mined? Here is how.

The Hirdt brothers, Steve, 51, and Peter, 48, both Fordham graduates, are the heart of Elias's batting order, which never sleeps, at least not all at once. This is a 24-hour-a-day business whose approximately 30 employees, when not in the office, are logged on and talking to one another at all hours from their homes. Elias, whose clients now include all the major professional sports leagues, was begun in 1961 by Seymour Siwoff, who is still a bundle of energy at an age he thinks is nobody's business.

Elias's business is to examine the statistical histories of the major professional sports using custom-written software that will retrieve the answers to the kind of questions Peter put to it when he returned home from dinner and saw what the Devil Rays had just done to the Orioles. Peter wondered: in baseball--sport of the long history and long seasons--has this ever happened before?

Learning from the Elias computer that it had not, Peter e-mailed the news to a researcher at the nation's central cultural institution. No, silly, not to the Library of Congress. …

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