With the Super Bowl in the rear view mirror, this can be one of the slower times of the year when it comes to major American sports. We’re only a couple days away from the NBA All-Star Game, though, and it’s not much longer until MLB teams start shipping out to Arizona and Florida for spring training. While we wait, use some of your free time to explore our new historical data for basketball and baseball.

We now have professional basketball data going all the way back to the inaugural 1946–47 season, when the league of the land was the Basketball Association of America and the Chicago Stags led all opponents with an average of 77 points per game:

best nba team by points average in 1946For comparison, the lowest-scoring teams in the last NBA season—the 76ers, Bulls, and Wizards—each averaged 93.2 points per game.

The Stags folded in 1950 (lasting a year longer than the Providence Steamrollers, at least), and Chicago wouldn’t see professional basketball until the creation of the Chicago Packers in 1961. The Packers franchise is still in the NBA today, but not as the Chicago Bulls:

chicago packers

You can also look up a player’s stats for a given year, such as Wilt Chamberlain’s exceptional 1961–62 season:

wilt chamberlain 1961 nba stats

Or compare two players, like Magic Johnson and Larry Bird:

magic johnson vs. larry bird in 1979Or find out which players led the NBA in scoring the year you were born:

nba scoring leaders 1986

In fact, you can even compare various NBA players’ performances over time. Add a few players, a stat of your choice, and a season (e.g. lew alcindor vs. david thompson vs. pete maravich vs. dr. j points per game 1976). Then, on the results page, change “By season” in the “Points per game history” box to “By age” or “By years in league”:

NBA player stat comparison box

Tinkering around with this data can reveal some interesting patterns—most obviously, just how long Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s career actually was. Take a look through some of our example NBA queries and see what else you can find!

We’ve also added a load of historical baseball data going about as far back as you could imagine. If you’re interested in pre-World-Series baseball stats, you can party like it’s 1899 with the National League champion Brooklyn Superbas, AKA, the Dodgers:

1899 national league

You might have noticed the 20-134 record at the bottom belonging to the 1899 Cleveland Spiders, considered by many to be the worst team in the history of professional baseball. If you have a thing for futility, or if you’re just a self-hating Cleveland fan, Wolfram|Alpha can tell you all the statistical highlights (lowlights?) of their classic season.

Though the rules have largely stayed the same, the game of baseball has still evolved quite a bit over the years. In happier Cleveland news, the 1920 Cleveland Indians won the World Series after the team hit 35 home runs in the regular season:

1920 cleveland indians total home runsThe frequency of home runs has increased quite a bit since then. In 2013, the 35-home-run mark was broken… by five different players:

players in 2013 with more than 35 home runs

10 years ago, the list was even longer.

And, of course, no look through the records of baseball is complete without touching on some of the sport’s greatest names, from Rabbit Maranville to Goose Goslin to Catfish Hunter—Hall of Famers, all. (For those links, don’t forget to click the drop-down menus in the “game stats” sections to get their numbers for batting, pitching, etc.)

Though many consider Wolfram|Alpha to be quite a futuristic tool, we’re always interested in using computational knowledge to explore the past. We hope that you find our historical sports data useful in your own explorations!

1 Comment

Well written article, thanks for that good description.

Posted by Baseball-Fan July 15, 2014 at 9:20 am Reply
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