Monday, May 19, 2008

Rob Neyer at ESPN wrote a great piece about the errency of human memory and the statistical processes we can use to correct them, all cleverly disguised as a sports story. You see, there is a story, urban legend almost, about late catcher Thurman Munson. When Munson heard he was 2 assists between Hall of Fame Carlton Fisk ( most known for his time on the Red Sox, though I remember his White Sox tenure), he decided to do something about it. He purposefully dropped several third strikes, and threw to first, utilizing the little known dropped third strike rule, and gaining an assist for himself. He did this three times, earning himself three assists, passing Fisk. Of course, this is all bunk.

The author researched several versions of the story, tracing it all the way to Marty Appel, the reporter who brought the assist statistic to Munson's attention. Appel describes the detail of the event in flashbulb detail, which as research shows, is no more reliable than any other memory, which is not at all. Neyer went through exhaustive efforts to search through the statistical record to track down this story. He permutes all of the variables, to count for possible misrememberings, but in the end, concludes that this story is entirely faulty. Skepticism in sports, amazing!

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