In February 2017, the Institute for Baseball Studies received an extraordinary donation from Robert Patton, the son of K. Robert Patton. Mr. Patton describes the donation as follows:
“My father, K. Robert Patton, is a 77-year-old lifelong baseball fan who has been grappling with an increasing level of cognitive decline over the last several years. However, for most of his adult life he was known for having an almost savant-like recall of every 25-man MLB team roster (and in many cases their farm teams), and could recite them on demand. Perhaps even more impressive, he could tell you how each and every one of those players came to be on that roster. Not just the superstars. Everyone.
“Ask him about, say Bobby Adams, and he would rattle off ‘Cincinnati Reds infielder in 1953 and ’54, sold in ’55 to the Chicago White Sox for cash and a player to be named later. Then traded to Baltimore in ’56 for outfielder Cal Abrams . . .’ It was impressive. And a little frightening. He was a baseball oracle!
“The reason he was able to do so was that starting in 1953, and for the next 59 years, my father recorded every instance of a Major League Baseball transaction and catalogued it on an index card. It became his version of a ‘baseball card.’ Not a static card focused on season-end stats, but a dynamic card that changed throughout the season and winter as players got traded, sold, released, or retired. In these ensuing 59 years, my Dad’s 3×5 index card collection grew to roughly 14,000 cards! All catalogued by team and sorted and re-sortd during the course of a season as transactions dictated.
“Imagine in this largely pre-Internet era the passion and resolve required to execute the mechanics of this kind of effort, from sourcing the data from each week’s Sporting News and daily newspapers, and typing it on a manual 1949 Smith Corona typewriter. Over seven different decades!
“While it is a one-of-a-kind collection (Dad considers it a bit ‘odd’), surely there are few instances of a greater demonstrated passion and involvement with America’s pastime.”
Last week, Mr. K. Robert Patton’s lifetime hobby arrived at Whittier College – an old oak cabinet with file drawers containing his collection of approximately 14,000 index cards. The Institute for Baseball Studies is delighted to be the repository for Mr. Patton’s “odd” little hobby, one that few outside his family ever gained insight to.
“The Institute for Baseball Studies is indeed fortunate to have received the generous donation from K. Robert Patton, a passionate baseball fan,” Institute Co-Director Joe Price remarked. “His incredible collection of baseball transaction cards – about 14,000 of them personally recorded – details how each major league player for almost sixty years joined and departed a team’s active roster via call-up, trade, release, and retirement. We anticipate that the collection will stimulate students’ research and assist baseball scholars in their efforts to write player biographies and team histories.”
A plaque with Mr. Patton’s name will soon be affixed to the exterior of the oak cabinet in honor of the donation of this unique piece of baseball fan memorabilia.