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Nearly two decades after Forman created Baseball-Reference, it ranks third among baseball sites, behind and MLBTrade Redick, the Philadelphia 76ers guard, pays for an advertising-free Basketball-Reference subscription.(Baseball-Reference, however, is the top draw in Forman’s stable.)The sites are not just for casual fans. John Henry, the principal owner of the Boston Red Sox and Liverpool F.Kubatko left Sports Reference in 2013 because of what he called “creative differences.”In 2007, Forman still fit the stats nerd stereotype, working out of the basement of his home and staying up until 1 a.m. The year before, he had left his full-time job of six years — professor of mathematics and computer science at St.Joseph’s University — because it was too hard to juggle both. So Forman turned to his church, which had space to rent.It has 11 full-time employees and is headquartered on the third floor of a building at Summit Presbyterian in Philadelphia, behind the 100-year-old main church and above the gymnasium, which is often used as a day care center.“Walking through it to come in and out, sometimes you’re going through 3-year-olds tossing balls,” said Mike Kania, 38, who eight years ago became one of the company’s first employees.“I worked for AOL for a long time where we had a badge to scan at the front door, people there and a front desk.It’s a lot different from that.”It is, in fact, a point of pride among Sports Reference employees that the sites have grown from humble beginnings into oft-used resources.Until late last year, Forman, 47, was cleaning the office and taking out the trash.
Some data, such as roster transactions or salary information, is input manually, and there are always bugs to fix.C., uses Baseball-Reference’s Play Index to manage statistical searches. And over the summer, Sports Reference began another major undertaking: a soccer website, FBref.com, which the company hopes will be as comprehensive as its other sites.Scott Boras, the well-known baseball agent, donated 0 to the company during its infancy because he had relied on the site’s data while negotiating a contract for Andruw Jones, Forman said.“I use it daily,” said Thad Levine, the Minnesota Twins general manager, although his team, like many others, generates its own advanced and proprietary data.“We went so far as to hire one of their back-end programmers,” added Levine, referring to Hans Van Slooten, who oversaw Baseball-Reference until June, when the Twins hired him for their front office. Forman said he envisioned Basketball-Reference eventually surpassing Baseball-Reference in traffic as a result of the data revolution in the N. In a twist from its current offerings, the company is planning to make the soccer site bilingual, with English and Spanish versions.Eventually, the company hopes to charge for advanced features and to become less dependent on advertising, which currently generates 95 percent of the sites’ revenue.As of now, the only advanced tool that requires a paid subscription is Baseball-Reference’s Play Index.