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Retrosheet is a non-profit organization whose website features major league baseball box scores from 1906 to today and play-by-play narratives for almost every contest since the 1930s to today. It also includes scores from every Major League Baseball game played since the 1871 season (what is officially the inception of Major League Baseball history), as well as all All-Star, League Championship Series and World Series games.
Retrosheet was founded in 1989 by Dr. David Smith, a biology professor at the University of Delaware and his colleagues at the yearly SABR meeting held in Arlington, Texas in 1994. Building on momentum begun by writer Bill James' Project Scoresheet in 1984, Smith brought together a host of like-minded individuals to compile an accessible database of statistical information previously unavailable to the general public.
Smith originally contacted teams and sportswriters in order to gain access to their scorebooks, while other contributors researched old newspapers for play-by-play accounts. Marshaling the computer expertise of a number of these people, Smith used these accounts to build a wealth of new data. The result has allowed fans and historians to explore new aspects of baseball history by using pertinent information, as well as to clarify the record with new insights into daily records from each team and each game.
While all teams eventually contributed to the project, gaps occurred with some teams, most notably the Atlanta Braves, Houston Astros and Pittsburgh Pirates of the late 1960s. The Braves, Pirates and Cincinnati Reds have also been lacking information from previous eras. Only through the deduction of game play by plays from various newspapers accounts was Retrosheet able to discern what occurred during some games where no official or team record was found.
The first 40 years of the 20th century have uncovered more play-by-play coverage than the period of the 1940s. The lack of television (and prior to that, radio) accounts serve as the main reasons for this disparity, while World War II limited the space that had been used for such information.
In 1994, the organization began sending out a quarterly newsletter to interested parties, then added a website in 1996. Following publication of the January 2002 newsletter, the organization chose to end sending out the paper version, adding periodic updates via their website instead.
As of its 20th anniversary (2013), Retrosheet has recovered the Box Scores and entered in the likely play by play for over 70% of all the games played between 1903 (the start of the modern era of baseball) and 1984, representing over 115 thousand baseball games. In 2013, Retrosheet was able to announce the release of over a century of Box scores, spanning from 1914 to 2013. They have since extended this box score coverage to 1906, with additional scores available for 1871-2, and 1874.
Retrosheet's Board of Directors meets each year in conjunction with the Society for American Baseball Research's annual convention, though since 2013, they have mostly convened pro-forma via phone to conduct formal business. Many of Retrosheet's contributors are SABR members, whose data is based mostly on the crowd sourced volunteer gathered information Retrosheet relies upon for its twice a year updates to their site.