Seymour Siwoff, who had run the Elias Sports Bureau from 1952 until earlier this year when his grandson took it over, died last Friday, aged 99.
His name might not be familiar to you, but the Elias Bureau probably is, and Siwoff was credited with making the Bureau famous for accuracy in statistics.
Bob Ibach, who was the Cubs’ director of public relations and publications from 1981-89, wrote the following personal remembrance of his dealings with Siwoff on Facebook, and graciously granted me permission to repost it here. I think you’ll enjoy it.
For this new generation of baseball fans who can’t get enough of statistics and all the analytical data that is spewed out daily, today would be a good day to bow your heads and remember a man whose company and work provided the foundation for what you discuss and how you evaluate today’s baseball player in the 21st Century.
It was with sadness that I read that Seymour Siwoff, the statistics maven who turned Elias Sports Bureau into the place to go for exact information on teams and athletes for more than a half century, has passed away at the age of 99.
Baseball writers like myself in the 1970s knew where to find Seymour at any time of the day to ask him or his staff, which included several of family members, when we needed to check a baseball fact. And later, in the 1980s, when I was PR director of the Chicago Cubs, Seymour knew where to find any of baseball’s PR guys at most ANY time of the day or night when he needed to check a boxscore or a fact from the game that day or the night before.
Because perfection and accuracy was what Seymour was all about. All the time. He ate, slept and drank baseball stats.
I can’t tell you how many times Seymour was my early morning alarm clock on the West Coast when making a Cubs road trip to San Francisco, San Diego or Los Angeles in the 1980s. The phone would ring in my hotel room and I knew it was Seymour, hunting for some tidbit fact, by his distinctive voice.
I remember one time in San Francisco, after flying all night from a night game in Montreal to the Bay Area, arriving at our SF hotel about 5 a.m. By the time luggage got delivered to the hotel rooms, it was 6 a.m. The players went to bed and slept until 2 p.m. before going over to Candlestick Park. Not me, or my then PR assistant, Ned Colletti. Seymour made sure of that.
The phone rang at 6:45 a.m. West Coast time. I had just fallen asleep. “Bob, ah Bob, sorry to bother you, but it’s almost 10 here in New York. On that play in the seventh inning last night, did that go 2 to 6 or 2 to 4.” He was of course talking about a strikeout, throw out caught stealing from our catcher Jody Davis to shortstop Larry Bowa, or was it our second baseman Ryne Sandberg? Seymour just had to know. Didn’t matter that it was 6:45 a.m. on the West Coast.
”2-4, Seymour,” I responded, still half asleep. To which Seymour would always say, “Can’t thank you enough, Bob. You know we gotta keep things accurate here. Talk to you later.”
These days, I bet PR guys are getting a lot of calls on similar plays, with all the shifting around in the infield. Half the time the third baseman is making the putout at second base, or catching a fly ball in short RF. It can get real confusing for those folks scoring at home (with pencils and scorecards, that is, which is also a dwindling few these days).
Seymour was a character, but he took his job at Elias seriously as the keeper of MLB records. Every assist, every caught stealing, every passed ball or wild pitch. You could count on Seymour and his crew to be on top of things.
And when years later computers came into vogue and all the fancy stats that are used today, and which MLB front offices pore over daily, Seymour and Elias were the guys behind the scenes making sure all the new stats were accurate and delivered promptly, not to mention looking up a record any time day or night.
Sometimes when I got an early morning call when I worked at Kemper Sports and ran the Maui Invitational basketball tournament in the 1990s, or a golf event which our company ran, Seymour and I would cross paths via telephone. Same ol’ character, same ol’ gravelly voice.
”Gotta ask a favor, Bob,” he would begin. And I knew it was Seymour on the line.
Seymour worked part time until he was 98, then sold the business. He was a true baseball lifer.
So the next time any of you baseball fans of today are checking out a ballplayer’s stats online or in the papers or elsewhere, remember the name Seymour Siwoff. He is to baseball stats what Thomas Edison is to electricity, or Alexander Graham Bell is to the telephone or the Wright Brothers to the airline industry.
I hope someday that the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown can bestow an honor in the memory of Seymour Siwoff. In fact, there should be an entire display inside the museum in Cooperstown, just for Seymour and Elias,
An honorable man who meant so much to the game of baseball has left us. Rest in peace, my friend.
Job well done.