As I've mentioned a few times, the baseball records are merely approximations. Today I made them a little bit less approximate, I hope.
I've been researching the career of a 1960s outfielder named Adolfo Phillips -- an incredibly talented player with a really interesting career -- for SABR's BioProject, and it didn't take long for me to realize there was probably something amiss with Phillips' minor-league ledger ...
Obviously, it would have been very difficult for a player in 1961 to play in 183 minor-league games. Unless some of those games were played in March and/or October. But that wasn't the case here. The Alabama-Florida League started playing on the 24th of April and ended on the 22nd of August; the Pioneer League started on April 23, ended September 4. Also, I acquired Phillips' "contract card" from the Hall of Fame and found that he spent most of July on the Disabled List. Absent a huge number of doubleheaders and perfect time, it was mathematically impossible for Adolfo Phillips to play 183 minor-league games.
So, hoping to figure out what happened, I queried SABR-L, the Society for American Baseball Research's mechanism for asking (and answering) questions related to just about anything under the sun. Within just a few minutes, I had a lovely message from a fellow SABR member, with an illuminating attachment: a page from the 1963 edition of the Philadelphia Phillies Organizational Sketch Book. A snippet of that page ...
That's not a page for Adolfo Phillips; it's the page for Harry Michael "Mickey" Phillips. If you look at his Baseball-Reference.com page, you'll see that he's "missing" his 1961 season with Dothan. It's pretty clear what happened: Way back in 1961, the record-keepers got confused by two low-level Phillies farmhands with the same last name. The next year's Official Baseball Guide -- the root source for most of our 1961 minor-league statistics -- simply doesn't mention Mickey Phillips at all. Instead, everything he did in the Alabama-Florida League was credited to Adolfo Phillips ... and that hasn't changed in the 52 years since.
I've pointed this out to the proper authorities, and with luck the records will be corrected before long.
I know this is a small thing. But I do enjoy thinking that soon Mickey Phillips's descendants might look him up and say, "Hey, Grandpa played baseball for three seasons, including the summer of '61 with the Dothan Phillies." Maybe they already knew that. But it's always nice to have a little proof.