Roth, Quantrill Inducted into Canadian Hall

Allan Roth and Paul Quantrill along with Robbie Alomar and Charles Bronfman were inducted into the Canadian Hall of Fame in June. Quantrill had a 14-season major league career, including 2002 and 2003 with the Dodgers and Roth, considered to be the father of sabermetrics, became the full-time Dodger statistician in 1947 and continued until 1984.

Roth, who was called a witty Canadian with an astonishing arithmetical mind by Boys of Summer author Roger Kahn, is generally considered to be the father of sabermetrics. He was among the first to bring interpretation and analysis to the game's raw numbers, changing the way that data were collected, and ultimately influencing how the game was played.

Roth was born in Montreal on May 10, 1917 and grew up in the city. It was here he took the first steps toward his life's vocation – his avocation really – massaging the numbers associated with sporting events, pulling together as many core statistics as he could and then seeking out whatever correlations and conclusions could be gleaned from them.

His first steps in that direction had to do with hockey. In the early 1940s he was already keeping stats for the National Hockey League.

It would appear that he was first drawn to baseball numbers during World War II when he was seconded to the Canadian army's research centre in Valcartier, Quebec, on the outskirts of Quebec City. Friends of the local Jewish community introduced him to minor league baseball at Quebec's gem of a ball park, the Stade Municipal. As if ordained, he began toying with the numbers of that game, soon realizing that it held infinite more possibilities than hockey.

When Roth returned to Montreal he began working with the International League Montreal Royals, the primary farm team of the Brooklyn Dodgers, and by 1947 had become their full-time statistician. His work soon caught the eye of Branch Rickey, the parent club's chief Manitou, "Baseball is a game of percentages," Roth declared, "I try to find the actual percentage." A convinced Rickey hired him and, cliché or not, the rest really was history. Rickey called Roth "the top statistical specialist in baseball."

When Charlie Dressen took over as manager of the Dodger's and brought his own seat-of-the pants approach to management ("I got my own way of figurin',") he was suspicious of the information and conclusions that Roth was giving him. Consequently, by 1952, Kahn wrote, while "Dressen followed whim and inspiration, Roth was flooding the working press with data." This led to a deeper appreciation for his analytical approach to the game, and a broader audience, including baseball's televised game of the week. He maintained his association with that broadcast, on both NBC and CBS, until 1990.

Roth continued to do serve as stats guru for the Dodgers, first in Brooklyn and then in Los Angeles until 1964, constantly refining the process, constantly discovering new gems. Kahn noted: "He charted every pitch and did the requisite calculations either in his head or with a simple calculator, insisting on working by hand throughout his career." Allan Roth

From 1955-1971, Roth was editor of "Who's Who in Baseball". These simple paperback tomes printed on newsprint were models of minimalism, stripped down to their bare essence. Apart from a title page listing publisher (Harris Press) and, yes, the editor, they offered nothing beyond the "Official Lifetime Records of Major League Players." No introduction, no wordy explanations, no cumbersome qualifications, no advertisements. Prized by collectors' today, in its time the modest "Who's Who in Baseball" was simply invaluable.

Alan Roth died on March 3, 1992. Perhaps the most fitting testament to his memory is found within SABR itself. The Society's Los Angeles branch calls itself the Allan Roth chapter.

Bill Young, a native of Quebec City, has been a SABR member since 20001 and was a founder of the SABR-Quebec Chapter in 2005. He collaborated with Danny Gallagher on the best-selling Remembering the Montreal Expos, and has published a number of articles about minor league ball in Quebec, particularly with respect to the Provincial League.

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