Before there were computer databases and automated scorebooks assembling minor league baseball stats, there was Bill Weiss.
Weiss, one of the most significant statisticians in baseball history, died on Aug. 16 at his home in San Mateo, Calif. He was 86.
Few have loved stats more than Weiss. Back at a time where compiling statistics was a labor intensive job done by hand, Weiss compiled the official stats for numerous leagues around the West. Before he joined Howe Sportsdata in 1988, Weiss was responsible single-handedly for producing the stats for multiple minor leagues.
“He was the keeper of the flame of what’s important to the game. Unlike most other sports, baseball’s statistical legacy is unparalleled. When it comes to minor league baseball. Bill Weiss and a few other people have kept that history alive and kept the integrity of those statistics. And they did it by hand,” longtime baseball historian Dave Chase said.
In 1948, Weiss was hired to be the Class D Longhorn League’s statistician. Before he was done, Weiss was the statistician for most leagues West of the Mississippi River. He compiled stats for the Pacific Coast League, Sunset, Pioneer, Arizona-Texas, Western International, West Texas-New Mexico, Northwest, Western and American Association among others.
But Weiss did more than just compile the stats. He is one of the original members of the Society of American Baseball Research (SABR) having joined the organization as member No. 34 back in 1971. He also served on the National Association’s Scoring Rules Committee and compiled biographical information and career stats for leagues and organizations for decades.
“Bill was one of a kind—truly a baseball treasure from another era. He loved baseball more than just about anyone I’ve ever known, and dedicated his life to the game. He was meticulous to the last detail in everything he did, and his recollection of baseball events was extraordinary, no matter when they occurred,” said Baseball America founder Allan Simpson.
“If you wanted to research something from the game from 50-60 years ago, at even the most obscure level, Bill was the person to contact. He had an amazing collection of baseball memorabilia and research material—and knew instantly where to retrieve anything in his house, which was more a baseball shrine than it was a home. In many ways, his passing is the end of an era.”
Eventually Weiss’ statistics service was purchased by Howe SportsData, whom he then worked with for many years. (Howe was the minor leagues’ statistician through 2004.) He was inducted into the PCL Hall of Fame in 2006. Weiss also wrote a Baseball Anecdotes column for Baseball America.