“For All Sad Words of Man and Pen…”

Ron KaplanContributor IJuly 31, 2010

(Because the new records books will carry this development.)

I just read a fascinating item: Seems that in the pre-Internet/computer days of record keeping, someone made a mistake in 1961 and credited Roger Maris with one extra run batted in than he deserved. This is all according to this piece by Greg Couch on MLB.Fanouse.com. Other media outlets are starting to pick up on this unusual circumstance.

Who cares, you ask? Well for one, Jim Gentile.

“[R]esearcher Ron Rakowski discovered several years ago that Maris had been mistakenly credited with an RBI one day that year when the run actually scored on an error,” Couch wrote. “Baseball has finally agreed to take away that RBI, leaving Maris at 141. That’s how many Gentile hit that year for Baltimore.” Which means that Gentle, a 27-year-old first baseman with the Baltimore Orioles that season, has some “black ink” next to his name. He also had career highs in home runs (46) and batting average (.302). In his nine major league seasons he averaged 20 HR/61 RBI/.260 AVG (but I bet no one ever accused him of PED use).

In the story, Gentile—who hit a record six grand slams in 1961—recalls how he lost out on an extra $5,000 after his best-ever season: “I remember [Baltimore GM Lee] MacPhail, at the time I signed the contract, said that if I had led the league in RBIs, it would have been worth $5,000 more.”

So I was wondering: what if Gentile had been the co-RBI title holder at that time?

Perhaps it would have led to greater things. He finished third in the AL MVP race. Maybe he might have won, which could have precipitated several more good seasons, buoyed by being the champion? Maybe things would have spiraled in his favor. He left the majors at the age of 32, following his last season in 1966 with the Indians in which he batted .128 in just 33 games.

Just maybe he would have taken better care of himself, avoided injuries, and ended up being inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Then maybe things would have spiraled in the universe beyond baseball. The increased contracts could have meant a better education for his kids. His son might have become President of these United States, his grandchildren found a cure for cancer or perfected space travel, allowing mankind to visit the edges of the galaxy and beyond…

Just sayin’. You never know what little thing might have changed history.

Gentile, now 76, is philosophical about matters and doesn’t seem to bear anyone any grudges. “He’s glad that his grandkids now will be able to see that he did something,” writes Couch, who thinks the Orioles should pony up the five grand (adjusted for inflation)

Baseball-reference and other online registers have already revised Gentile’s entry.