Elias Sports Bureau

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The Elias Sports Bureau (ESB) is a company providing historical and current statistical information for sports, especially for major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada.

Early history[edit]

In 1913, Al Munro Elias and his brother Walter established the Al Munro Elias Bureau in New York City. At first they sold printed scorecards with baseball data directly to fans, until The Telegram daily newspaper purchased their weekly compilation of "averages" in 1916. Elias was appointed official statistician of the National League and International League in 1919 with the American League and other minor leagues to follow.[1]

In 1937, the Elias brothers assumed publication of Charley White's Record Book, the so-called Little Red Book, after the death of its originator.[2][3] It became an official (authorized) source for major league records. In 1938, the Bureau began producing the Pocket Cyclopedia of Major League Baseball, and for many years published the official Green Book, the National League's annual summary.

Baseball scorekeeping is a popular activity with baseball spectators, but there is only one official scorer for a game of baseball. The development of the Elias business was described in 1942:

Each day the official scorer sends to the league secretary an official scoring blank, properly filled out. This is a quarto sized sheet and contains an amazing amount of information, covering every phase of the game and every player's credits and discredits. From these sheets, the league secretary issues his weekly averages, which go to each team and the newspapers. Because the league sometimes can't issue its data fast enough, several syndicates which deal largely in baseball statistics have been formed, the best known is that run by Al Munro Elias. All the large papers in the country subscribe to his service, and it is from his figures that the daily features of the sports pages – the five leading batters, the five leading home-run hitters, etc. – are compiled.[4]

Sports Bureau[edit]

After the Elias brothers died in the 1940s, the company was managed by Lester Goodman. Seymour Siwoff, who had worked for the Elias brothers as a high school student before serving his country in World War II and earning the Purple Heart, returned to become the company's accountant. In 1952, after Lester Goodman's sudden death, Siwoff purchased the company from the widows of the Elias brothers. The new company was renamed Elias Sports Bureau to better fulfill Siwoff's vision of incorporating all professional sports, and Siwoff took the company into the computer age.

Under Siwoff's leadership for over 60 years and to the present, ESB has become the leading authority on sports statistics. Originally official statistician of Major League Baseball, Siwoff was able to add to this distinction the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, Major League Soccer, and the Arena Football League. More recently, ESB added pro-women's basketball (WNBA) and pro-golf to its list of league clientele.

ESB also is a primary source of statistics for national newspapers, magazines and websites, as well as dozens of broadcasters of MLB, NBA and NHL telecasts. With Sporting News having phased out its record book publishing business during 2007, The Elias Book of Baseball Records appears to be the sole hard-copy source of official baseball records. This book is available only through the company website.

Steve Hirdt, executive vice-president, added his skills as a sports writer. His first venture was writing for ESPN's Page2 website for a brief time. Later, he moved to a column for ESPN The Magazine. The column is entitled "Do the Math" and focuses on sports statistics.

Elias rankings[edit]

At the end of each baseball season, Elias compiles rankings for each player based upon performance over the two most recent seasons.[5] For many years, these rankings were used to place players into three tiers of value: Type A (top 20 percent of rankings), Type B (next 20 percent of rankings), or Non Compensation (remaining 60 percent). This was changed in the 2006 Collective Bargaining Agreement which eliminated Type C free agents and restricted Type A free agents from the top 30% to the top 20% and correspondingly shifted Type B free agents, and the effects were first experienced in the 2007 offseason. The type determined what kind of draft pick a team will receive as compensation if its player signs with another team:

  • If a Type A free agent is signed by a different team, the signing team must compensate the player's former team with its first round draft pick in the next rule 4 Amateur Draft. However, if the signing team's first round pick is in the top 15 then it surrenders its second round pick instead. Also the player's former team receives a "sandwich" pick in between the first and second rounds.[6]
  • If a Type B free agent is signed by a different team, the old team receives a "sandwich" pick in between the first and second rounds and the signing team loses no draft pick.[7]
  • If a Non Compensation free agent is signed, no compensatory picks are awarded to the player's former team.

The Elias rankings were eliminated from free agent compensation after the 2011 season.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Al Munro Elias". International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame — The home page says, "Sourced from Jewish Sports Legends, by Joseph Siegman, published by Potomac Books".
  2. ^ AP New London. "Al Munro Elias dies at 67". New London CT: The Day 2 Aug 1939.
  3. ^ AP St. Petersburg. "Al Munro Elias called by death". St Petersburg FL: The Evening Independent 1 Aug 1939.
  4. ^ Victor O. Jones (1942) "Box Score", pages 162–182 in Newsmen’s Holiday, Books for Libraries Press, Freeport, New York
  5. ^ "AL Elias rankings". USA Today. 1 November 2007. Retrieved 2009-06-14.
  6. ^ The surrendering of draft picks becomes more complicated if the signing team signs more than one type A free agent. In this instance the signing team surrenders its highest available pick to the former team that had the better free agent, based upon Elias ratings. For example, suppose a team that has a top 15 pick in the first round signs two type A free agents: Player 1, who had a rating of 70, and Player 2, who had a rating of 65. The signing team would surrender its second round pick to the former team of the Player 1 and its third round pick to the former team of Player 2.
  7. ^ Lefort, David (1 November 2007). "Compensation talk". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2009-06-14.

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