Elias Sports Bureau Boss Seymour Siwoff Had Immeasurable Impact in How We Watch Sports


Seymour Siwoff, the longtime owner of the Elias Sports Bureau, died at the age of 99, the company announced:

It's hard to overstate how significant Elias Sports Bureau is in the way we all watch, read, and learn about sports. Any time you hear something like, "Lamar Jackson is the first player in NFL HISTORY with four TD passes and at least 50 yards rushing in consecutive games," there's a high probability that stat originated with Elias. (This one indeed did.)

My father went to Wesleyan University with Chris Thorn, who advanced Elias's computerization in the 1970s, and so I was lucky enough to meet Siwoff in his office a few times. He went to work well into his 90s -- as you can see up top, he was literally card carrying member no. 1 of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Who gets that honor now? Roger Angell, probably?. [Update: Sid Hartman will now have that honor, per Jack O'Connell of the BBWAA.]

When I was first starting out in this profession, he advised against it, but stressed that if I did it I "had to have an angle." I think about this advice all the time in covering sports media, a niche where there is much more public interest especially in the tentpole stars than there is coverage.

Siwoff, who fought in World War II as an infantryman and was awarded a Purple Heart, was profiled by Sports Illustrated over 50 years ago, in 1969, as an "answer man" for various newspapers seeking statistical context. His angle grew immensely, approaching 360 degrees. Today, Elias is the official statistician of the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, WNBA, and MLS. They also supply networks including ESPN, NFL Network, Turner Sports, and the Comcast RSNs with stats. The business adapted with the advents of television and the internet and remains relevant and even indispensable to this day.