LifeStory

Bob Rosen

Legendary sports analyst, husband, father, cousin, friend and fan

Renowned sports statistician Robert Rosen, a lover of the drama of baseball and basketball through the glories of their numbers, died Friday April 21st, 2017, in New York City, in the care of devoted family. He was 84 years old.

Bob was enamored with sports stats decades before fantasy leagues, and books like "Money Ball" were cool. Adored by his colleagues, even in retirement, he could find his way to a terrific seat at any sold-out game, anywhere in the country, last minute. He adored his wife Diane and spoke glowingly of her, as if they were newlywed. He is survived by Diane, his son Richard, neice Dana, and two cousins Steven and Ellen. 

Here is the obit that appeared Sunday, April 23rd, in the New York Daily News: 



And, here are excerpts from the many other glowing articles that have been written about Bob over the years. 

Bob in the 1950s.

"THE BOY WHO LOVED BASEBALL STATS MADE IT HIS LIVELIHOOD"

Sports writer Cecilia Tan in 2008 lovingly described a conversation with Bob during a rain delay:

"A gentleman with no computer had sat in the chair next to mine and was busily filling in a crossword puzzle, but when he looked up from that I introduced myself.

"Turns out he was Bob Rosen, a life-long Dodgers fan who after theteam left in 1957 swore he would never pay to attend another baseball game. He loved the game itself, though, and by 1962 had gotten a job with the Elias Sports Bureau, which has had him attending major league games for free (in fact, for pay) every since.

"We proceeded to regale each other for the next hour of rain delay with tales and stories of our lives as baseball fans who are also baseball professionals.

"There is no cheering in the press box, that’s true. But no one signs up for a job covering or working in baseball who does not love it. It wouldn’t be worth it otherwise.

"Among the topics we covered: the wild card, expansion, difficulty keeping up with all the teams, will A-rod stay or will he go, stadiums around the country, fans around the country, our first ballgames when we were young,and so on.

"Bob went to his first game when he was already 12 years old. His father “wasn’t a baseball fan. he was a Brooklyn fan. He was a fan of DixieWalker and Duke Newcombe. He didn’t know anything about other teams.” Bob was bitten hard by the bug, though, and soon was not just a Dodger fan but a baseball fan, playing dice-based baseball games and keeping stats. “That was what I liked, stats.” How perfect, then, that he found a home with the Elias Sports Bureau.

“'I was working my way up the corporate ladder and hating it,' he explained. 'But my wife, who was truly wonderful and still is the most perfect wife to me, told me if you don’t give this a try, you’ll always wonder.' So he took the job with Elias 45 years ago and never looked back.  

"The boy who loved baseball stats made it his livelihood....

“'The people I meet in this business are incredible,' he said." 

Bob and bride Diane, 1958.

THE NEW YORKER PROFILE

The 2016 profile of Bob in the New Yorker by Alex Wong:

"Rosen still goes into the office twice a week, but he’s not sure how much longer he’ll keep that up. The paper-and-pencil era, as Hirdt calls it, has given way to mostly computerized data tracking. Today, Elias’s sports statisticians focus more on extracting additional insights from the numbers—nobody spends days double-checking individual box scores anymore. These days, Rosen does his scorekeeping at games for leisure, not because it’s part of his job description. He says that it helps him pinpoint the precise ebbs and flows in a game: a run by a team, a hot streak for a player. And, besides, where will everyone go for numbers if the computer systems go down? 'It happens,' he said.

"Rosen roots for the Giants and the Rangers, and he adopted the Mets when they joined the National League, in 1962. As for the Nets, who moved to Brooklyn in 2012, he isn’t so enthusiastic. 'As a matter of fact, I’m going to write a letter and tell them we don’t like the losing,” he joked. “Get the damn franchise out of here.” He’ll continue to follow the Knicks, though, no matter what. His friends wonder why he still pays attention to a team that has been mired in mediocrity for so long. 'I tell people, if a baby gets sick, you wait for it to get better. You don’t throw them out.'

"When I first met Bob Rosen, on media row at Madison Square Garden, this past January, he was sitting with a scorekeeping book, tracking all the stats by hand, occasionally catching up during timeouts by consulting the game information provided for the press on computer terminals. The Knicks were playing the Celtics, and it was Hardwood Classics Night—the home team wore throwback uniforms, and big moments from past eras were celebrated during game breaks. When the Jumbotron played Knicks highlights from the nineteen-seventies, Rosen began telling me what turned out to be the first of many stories. He has loved the Knicks since their first game, in 1946, against the Toronto Huskies. When they beat the Lakers in Game 7 of the 1970 N.B.A. Finals, on a Friday night at the Garden, Rosen was unable to attend, he told me, because he was at the office of the Elias Sports Bureau, preparing statistics for the Sunday newspapers. But he wasn’t upset, he said. 'First of all, it was on TV there at the office. Second of all, it’s not like they put me away and made me do something lousy. I was working, and I liked what I did.'

"Rosen became a full-time sports statistician at Elias in 1969. He had been working for Elias part time since 1960. The company was founded in 1913 by Al Elias, 'a one-time shoe, shirt, and salad-oil salesman, and former dancer, who was subject to attacks of indigestion,' according to a reporter for The New Yorker who wrote about the company in 1935. Al started the company with his brother Walter; after both of them had passed away, Seymour Siwoff, a former accountant with Elias, purchased the company, in 1952. Siwoff, who is ninety-five, is still its president and C.E.O. today.

"Rosen joined the staff just as Elias was beginning its partnership with the N.B.A. At the time, the league had a scoring crew at every game who would compile statistics by hand and mail them into the league office, where they were all tracked in a ledger book by a single person. After Elias took over, Sundays at the office became 'lay-down day': Rosen and his co-workers would lay out all the game-by-game team statistics for the week to perform a detailed audit. First, they had to make sure the totals for individual players matched the totals for the team; if they didn’t, Rosen would have to go through all the box scores to figure out where the error came from—a process that became more onerous as the league expanded. 'It was a lot of laborious entry involved,' Steve Hirdt, the executive vice-president of Elias, said. But it was the ideal job for Rosen, who loves the numbers that shape the narratives of sports. 'Without them,' he said, 'what the hell is going on?'

"At Junior’s, in midtown, a few months after that Knicks game, Rosen told me about a night, in 1972, when the Knicks scored nineteen straight points against Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the Milwaukee Bucks to erase an eighteen-point deficit in the fourth quarter, and about Game 4 of the 1947 World Series, when the Yankees pitcher Bill Bevens, with a no-hitter going in the ninth, allowed a base hit to the Dodgers’ Cookie Lavagetto that scored two runs. The Dodgers won 3–2 with just one hit, which turned out to be the last one Lavagetto ever got in the majors. Rosen pointed to a painting of a ticket stub and a replica baseball scoreboard on the wall of the restaurant, dated September 24, 1957, the day the Dodgers played their last game at Ebbets Field, in Brooklyn. (They beat the Pirates, 2–0.) Rosen was supposed to go to that one, he said, but his father took Rosen’s uncle instead, explaining to his son, 'You always go, you’ll have other games.'

"Rosen is eighty-three now, and he started cutting back on Knicks games two years ago. After decades providing in-game statistical nuggets to television and radio broadcasters and occasionally working as an official scorer for the team, he says the pace of the game has become too fast for him to keep track. (This is why, at the game where I met him, he kept consulting the computer monitors, to see what he’d missed.) He still keeps score, though, unless he’s on a date with his wife of fifty-eight years, Diane, who’s retired after a career at the Department of Education. (She enjoys the N.B.A. but prefers women’s basketball.)

"Rosen still goes into the office twice a week, but he’s not sure how much longer he’ll keep that up. The paper-and-pencil era, as Hirdt calls it, has given way to mostly computerized data tracking. Today, Elias’s sports statisticians focus more on extracting additional insights from the numbers—nobody spends days double-checking individual box scores anymore. These days, Rosen does his scorekeeping at games for leisure, not because it’s part of his job description. He says that it helps him pinpoint the precise ebbs and flows in a game: a run by a team, a hot streak for a player. And, besides, where will everyone go for numbers if the computer systems go down? 'It happens,' he said.

"Rosen roots for the Giants and the Rangers, and he adopted the Mets when they joined the National League, in 1962. As for the Nets, who moved to Brooklyn in 2012, he isn’t so enthusiastic. 'As a matter of fact, I’m going to write a letter and tell them we don’t like the losing,' he joked. 'Get the damn franchise out of here.' He’ll continue to follow the Knicks, though, no matter what. His friends wonder why he still pays attention to a team that has been mired in mediocrity for so long. 'I tell people, if a baby gets sick, you wait for it to get better. You don’t throw them out.'”




HIS BELOVED BROOKLYN DODGERS

From a piece by Michael P. Geffner in Record Online in 2007:

“'You have to understand that we were our own little enclave in Brooklyn, and what made us famous around the country was the Dodgers,' says Bob Rosen, 74, who works for the Elias Sports Bureau, a company that provides historical research and statistical data for professional sports. 'When the Dodgers won, it was like we won. It made us proud. It made us feel like we were better than the next guy. It was us against the world, and because of that, the Dodgers will live on forever for us.'

"These are the post-World War II Dodgers, of course, the teams from 1946-56, the franchise’s Golden Age that included the entrance of Jackie Robinson, which changed the face not just of baseball but America, six National League pennants and losing three others on the last day, and winning it all for the one and only time in its Brooklyn incarnation in 1955.

“'We never finished lower than third during any of those 11 seasons,' Rosen says, with great pride still, 'and, because we cared about them so much, we always drew over a million — even in that little, dumpy park.'

"Rosen, in those days, was a kid living in a three-family home at Prospect Place, within just a couple of miles of Ebbets Field, and from the time he saw his firstDodger home game, on June 11, 1944, a Sunday doubleheader against the Braves,the Dodgers meant the world to him, as they did to virtually everybody else he knew, including his father, Ben, a machinist who wasn’t even a sports fan and,in fact, couldn’t tell you a thing about any other baseball team.

“'Look at this,' Rosen says, and suddenly the diehard in him is emptying a pocket and producing a business card holder, which when flipped open reveals the startling sight of three beautifully preserved ticket stubs — red, orange and green —that read Sept. 1955, May 1956, and July 1957, the last three seasons of the Dodgers’ existence in Brooklyn and the years Rosen was a season ticket holder. He then hands over a bunch of stunningly-sharp color photographs that he took on clear, sunny days in 1955, all from his $3 box seat in the lower deck down the third-base side, of opposing stars such as the Cubs’ Ernie Banks and theReds’ Ted Kluszewski taking rips, of the umpires meeting before a game at homeplate, of the famous Ebbets rotunda, and of Roy Campanella posing with his mitt in his catcher’s squat — and smiling that glorious Campy smile — on Camera Day."



BOB'S FANS REACT











"The NBA and many of its broadcasters lost a great friend today. Most of you have probably never heard of Bob Rosen. But his work enhanced your enjoyment of basketball on television for many many years.  Bob worked for the Elias sports bureau for over 50 years and was the statistician for thousands  and thousands of NBA broadcasts. Bob passed away this morning at age 84. His stats and information was passed to people like me all the time and then shared with you. When God created Bob Rosen he left out the Bad Mood gene because that was a man who in 25 years of knowing him was never in a bad mood. He had a great life and was such an important part of NBA basketball well before this analytics stuff.  We salute Bob Rosen."

--Mike Breen, announcer for the NY Knicks.



BOB'S TAKE ON...


Over the years, countless sports writers asked his opinion, or analysis, on baseball topics, both profound and obscure.  A small sampling:

On Mickey Mantle vs. Willy Mays :

"Bob Rosen, a veteran member of the Elias Sports Bureau statistical staff, grew up in Brooklyn and naturally was a Dodgers fan. With an objectivity rare for one's childhood, Rosen said Mays was the best player he ever saw and Mantle the second best. But 'the guy I idolized,' he said, was Gil Hodges." (NYTimes)



Mark McGwire and the Hall of Fame:

At least one sportswriter has opined that McGwire doesn't belong in the Hall of Fame even if you ignore any stigma. Stated Bob Rosen of the Elias Sports Bureau:

"I can't elect a guy for home run hitting alone. If a guy doesn't have 2,000 hits, unless he's a pitcher, or a guy who had a remarkable career that was ended by unfortunate circumstances, I can't vote for him." (Baseball Reference)

Orel Hershiser vs. Roger Clemens:

Nobody in Los Angeles will want to read this, but the Elias Sports Bureau--official statistician for major league baseball--says pitcher Roger Clemens of the Red Sox, not Orel Hershiser of the Dodgers, is the best player in baseball.

Asked how this could be, Bob Rosen of the bureau explained by phone from New York that playoff and World Series statistics don't count--and, for pitchers, neither do batting averages.








Bob Rosen
Memorial
  • born

    1932

  • died

    2017

Diane Rosen
It's been a long and lonely year without you and the baseball season brings back all the memories. Love you.
Diane Rosen
Oh Bobby. You had a wonderful life and a great send off. Who could ask for more? I could. Miss you babe.
Arlene Knudson
Bob Rosen was a remarkable man and it was our privilege to know him through letters and phone calls since the early 80's. We North Dakota hicks referred Bob as our pen pal from Brooklyn! So sad to hear from Diane of his passing.
Working RE Magazine
I am Bob's cousin David. I am so grateful for having had the pleasure of having dinner with him and Diane a few weeks before his death. I never knew my dad (his uncle) and when I was young, Bob took me to several Mets and Knick games- sitting in the press box/area and visiting the locker room. It was a Sunday afternoon in 1969 as I recall and Tom Seaver was pitching! We remember very select events from our childhood as the years roll on but I do remember both of those. Thanks Bob. I'm glad you were so well loved by so many.
Sandra Rosen
We will always remember smile and his soft laugh, his joy and happiness with his life, his stories about dancing with Diane, his love of sports and his job, his love of the city, and his kindnesses to us all. He truly enjoyed life, and we enjoyed him.
Bob Rosen
Memorial
  • born

    1932

  • died

    2017