The Baseball Encyclopedia giveth and The Baseball Encyclopedia taketh away. Smokey Joe Wood recently improved his won-lost record by 11 decisions, which is not bad for a 92-year-old man. It seems that in its last three editions the Encyclopedia had inflicted a 1-12 record on Wood for 1908, when he only pitched six games. Not until Smokey Joe himself complained—he was worried the discrepancy was keeping him out of the Hall of Fame—did Joe Reichler, the editor of the Encyclopedia, take notice. In the new edition, coming out in May (Macmillan, $29.95), the knock on Wood is corrected to 1-1.
The Encyclopedia also has the power of life and death. Otie Clark was surprised to discover he'd died in Pittsburgh. Otie, who pitched briefly for the '45 Red Sox, happened to have the same full name, William Otis Clark, as Wee Willie Clark, a first baseman in the 1890s, who did die in Pittsburgh in 1932. Otie is alive and well in the new edition.
Some 100 discrepancies and errors have been righted in the fifth version of what has become the tome, sweet tome of all baseball fans. Honus Wagner's RBI total in 1912 will no longer be boldfaced, indicating he led the league. Everybody knows Heinie Zimmerman won the Triple Crown that year. Says Macmillan Associate Editor Jeff Neuman, "We're always grateful when a mistake is found, but some of these errors could only be caught by someone crazy enough to go through every player, line by line." Challenges are checked against the records in Reichler's dinosaurian library. If Reichler is credited with the putout, then a computer that's programmed to catch all sorts of errors gets an assist.
The Encyclopedia may not be perfect, but in the 13 years since its first appearance, it has developed a sort of omnipotence over the game. "Sometimes I get this strange, mystical feeling that I can change the course of history by altering the facts," says Neuman, a devout Red Sox fan. "I'm tempted to take one home run away from Bucky Dent."