Dixie Tourangeau is still solving old baseball mysteries

The Play Ball! calendars were published by Richard “Dixie” Tourangeau starting in 1981.

If you’re a big baseball fan, it’s likely you’ve seen Richard Tourangeau’s work a wall somewhere, maybe your own. It’s possible that you’ve traveled the course of an entire year with his baseball musings. That’s because Tourangeau is the baseball savant behind the “Play Ball!” calendars that were available for more than two decades.

Or if you’re a member of SABR (the Society for American Baseball Research), you probably know him as Dixie. Dixie Tourangeau, a modern-day Columbo who specializes in mysteries from another century.

Dixie’s current caper could be titled “The Curious Case of The Cyclone,” as in Denton True “Cy” Young, baseball’s only 500-game winner. That’s right, Mr. Young tallied in excess of 500 victories, 511 to be precise. Or was it 516? Or 519? Dixie has his nose close to the ground to find that number.

“I became interested in the baseball parks in Boston from the 1800s, and in the course of researching those games,” Tourangeau says, “I learned that much of the statistical record that we take for granted from that era is in error.”

Cy Young Helmar card
Cy Young Helmar Imperial Cabinet #22

Cy Young only pitched for the Boston Red Sox for one season, technically. He pitched for the Boston Americans for seven seasons, from 1901 to 1907, the first years of the new American League. Prior to that, Young was a star in the National League, pitching initially for the Cleveland Spiders. It was in the uniform of the spiders that Young established himself as the game’s greatest fastball pitcher. He flashed that fastball for years as a visitor to face the Boston Beaneaters.

“The Beaneaters played at South End Grounds,” Dixie explains, “but occasionally they [would] play a series at Congress Street Grounds.”

Young pitched at Congress Street Grounds several times for the Spiders, and on two occasions it appears he was the winning pitcher, but not awarded the win based on the rules in place at the time, according to research unearthed by Tourangeau.

If anyone has enough victories on his ledger, it’s the man they called “Cyclone.” But maybe Ol’ Cy deserves a few more wins? We will know more when Dixie finishes his research.

For many, Tourangeau’s brilliant “Play Ball!” baseball calendars were an annual treat. I can remember getting them without fail for Christmas for several years. Each calendar month featured a wonderful photo of a baseball luminary and a detailed entry about his career. The photos were suitable for framing, and the copy (every word painstakingly researched and written by Dixie) included fascinating details. Often the copy told of specific game accomplishments that were unknown before the calendars hit the presses.

“I did that for a long time,” Dixie says, “and I never did it for money. We put those out because we loved baseball history.”

Tourangeau sees much of that love of baseball history and Americana in Helmar cards.

“I’ve been a fan of Helmar and the wonderful artwork on these cards for a long time,” Dixie says.

And we’ve been a fan of yours for many trips around the calendar, Mr. Tourangeau.

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