A buddy of mine named Andy Moursund (a) has been a great baseball fan since attending games at Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C., back in the early 1950s, and (b) is the proud owner of a great collection of old Sporting News papers from his boyhood.
Recently, while organizing his collection, Moursund decided to tote up the results of the spring training box scores that were published in those issues of TSN. One can only imagine what kind of a task it was, but Moursund added up the won-lost totals of all preseason games played between American League and National League teams for every spring from 1945 through 1962.
For a variety of reasons, many of us (including Moursund) have long believed that the National League gained superiority in quality of play over the American through that period. Moursund decided to test the proposition using these spring training results, and what he found could hardly support the NL-superiority case any more strongly.
Moursund’s research found that over those 18 springs, National League teams defeated American League teams to the tune of a 143-win advantage. AL teams had the edge on NL teams in just four of the 18 years, and the biggest margin the AL ever posted was 10 wins, in 1959. By contrast, the NL held a winning margin of greater than 10 games in seven different seasons, including such whopping totals of 31 wins (in 1957) and 22 wins (in 1956).
These are just “exhibition” games, of course, not for-real competition. Nonetheless, Moursund suggests that “unless we postulate that only the AL ‘wasn’t trying’ in these games, it’s hard for me at least not to see this as one more piece of evidence pointing towards a conclusion” of significant NL superiority in that period.
“Although I’m no mathematician,” Moursund continues, “it would seem to me that to argue that these lopsided results were purely random is more an act of faith and fandom than of anything more concrete.”
I’m strongly inclined to agree.