My dad loved numbers. The digits that marked daily living—birthdays, anniversaries, addresses, even phone numbers—held particular appeal. After he died, I found countless lottery tickets and scraps of paper scribbled with numbers for everything from daily New York Lotto drawings to Powerball. This was not a random collection of losing tickets; rather, these were logs of my dad’s memories, an archive of his life documented in numbers. Each set of numerals told a story, measured time, recorded moments, re-inscribed relationships—many recognizable to those who were in the know, namely his four kids.
The 2022 baseball season would have delighted my Yankees-fan father (save for the championship series sweep by the Houston Astros). He would have been quick to notice the poetic symmetry found in the quest by outfielder Aaron Judge (whose uniform number is 99) to break the team and American League single season home-run record of sixty-one, set sixty-one years ago in 1961, by outfielder Roger Maris (uniform number 9). Judge broke the record in early October (like Maris) with his sixty-second homer in the 161st game of the 162-game season. I can only imagine my dad’s Powerball ticket telling the story within the confining quirks of a lottery game: 9, 10, 22, 61, 62, with Powerball number 9. Translation: In October 2022 (10, 22) Aaron Judge (9…9, 62) broke the record set in 1961 by Roger Maris, who did it at Yankee Stadium on East 161 St. (9, 61).
Baseball of course is a sport enamored with numbers. A passion for statistics is evident from the earliest box scores, on through the flip-side of baseball cards, and right up to today’s sabermetrics. The so-called science of winning, sabermetrics entails “the search for objective knowledge about baseball.” Each year seems to bring another statistical category, a novel measurement: home-run exit velocity, pitch spin rate, launch angle, and wins above replacement (WAR), my least favorite because of the violent acronym and the reductionist premise that people are hypothetically replaceable. I am still not entirely certain how or even whether knowing such details enhances the fan experience, but increasingly baseball professionals rely on an endless analysis of what appears to be an overwhelming amount of data in order to make a variety of decisions, in the front office and on the field. For fans looking for help to comprehend sportscaster babble, the Society of American Baseball Research (SABR) has a timeline tracing a half-century of sabermetrics history, literature, and highlights, and Major League Baseball provides a glossary of standard and advanced stats.
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