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The Capital Times

Elias Is Reliable, But Not Always Unshakable

By Tracy L. Ziemer
Weekend edition: August 16-17, 2003

Being the barometer for accuracy means feeling your heart in your throat when you may have blundered.

Steve Hirdt says mistakes by Elias Sports Bureau are rare. Minor errors happen, he concedes, but major gaffes have been avoided, to his knowledge. Still, Hirdt recalls when he thought he had made a major league screw-up.

Working his first World Series, the 1979 matchup between Pittsburgh and Baltimore, greenhorn Hirdt brushed up on some pitchers' career hitting statistics. Since the American League uses the designated hitter, he knew AL pitchers would have to bat at Three Rivers Stadium and thought the data might come in handy.

"There were no computers then, and we had to go through books to see how Orioles pitchers had batted in the minor leagues," Hirdt said.

In Game 4, Baltimore pitcher Tim Stoddard came to the plate. Hirdt ruffled through his handwritten notes and discovered Stoddard had never had a hit in the minor or major leagues.

"He gets a hit and drives in two runs (actually one run)," Hirdt recalled. "And I know I have two-tenths of a second to decide to use this research or not. So I told Howard Cosell, who was announcing the game for ABC, and Cosell says (on air), 'This is Stoddard's first hit in organized baseball.'"

The Orioles went on to win 9-6. Hirdt attended the post-game press conference, where reporters asked Stoddard, the winning pitcher, about his hitting. He said he had always been a good hitter. Hirdt's heart jumped.

Stoddard boasted he had been used as a designated hitter in the minors, and sometimes even as a pinch-hitter.

"I started wondering if they'd even let me finish working the World Series, or if I'd be fired," Hirdt said.

When pressed by reporters on how many hits he'd had in his career, Hirdt recalled Stoddard saying, "None. I said I was a good hitter, but I never said I had any hits."

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