It seems a fitting beginning to Praiseball Bospectus to tackle the biggest question facing SABR today: who exactly is Tangotiger? An introduction is far from necessary, as the 2006 book he co-authored with Mitchel Lichtman and Andy Dolphin, The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball, and its accompanying blog are necessary reading for all SABR. And he’s a statistical consultant for the Mariners and Blue Jays to boot.
Tangotiger is an obvious nom de plume, but I–like many people, I expect–assumed that Tom Tango was his real name, as “Tom M. Tango” appears on the cover of his book. But that’s not the case. According to Maclean’s magazine, “his real name a closely guarded secret.”
Long known in the online sabermetrics world as “Tangotiger,” he tacked on the “Tom” and dropped the “Tiger” solely to have something semi-respectable-looking to put on the cover of The Book. “There are a lot of old-timers who think that I should sign my Christian name,” he blogged in 2008. “I don’t see why it’s anyone’s business other than mine.”
So what do we know about Tango? In the About the Authors section of The Book, we learn, “Tom Tango runs the Tango on Baseball website and has consulted for major league baseball teams. He lives in New Jersey.”
Keep in mind that Tango’s consulting gig with the Mariners began (as far as I can tell) in 2009 and his gig with the Blue Jays in 2010. It’s not much of a clue, but he’s worked with other teams before Seattle and Toronto. Not that it matters; in the Maclean’s profile, Tango says, “Take all my past and current employers, colleagues, peers and readers, and I have met exactly one person.” One person? Who could it possibly be?
In the end, our best clues come from another profile, this from the Toronto Star. A lot of the information here was reported earlier and elsewhere, but it makes for a convenient summing up of the public information on Tango: from Montreal, lives in New Jersey, married, one child, male, 40-something, “trained computer programmer,” works in corporate America.
To find out more, we’re going to have to investigate in more uncommon ways. Well, the first known use of “tangotiger” is in a September 17, 1917 article in the New York Times, “All Seek an End to Sedition Mixup”:
“We want the question of free speech thrashed out fairly and squarely in the open,” [National Secretary of the Friends of Irish Freedom John D. Moore] said. “We want a jury trial for our speakers. On the other hand, the Fusion city administration and the Tammany county officers are trying to get the soapbox into politics. They have made a tango-tiger combination, which is working overtime to force us to be tried by one man of their section instead of by a jury of twelve.”
As for what a “tango-tiger combination” is, that warrants its own post.
It’s not really noticed again until March, 2004, when he’s referred to twice as an “analyst extraordinaire” from Baseball Primer on the Hardball Times. Baseball Primer is now the Baseball Think Factory and their archives are completely effed, so that’s a dead end. Extensive Googling, though, suggests that a comment from June 11, 2001, might be his first appearance on the internet. He says, “Would be nice to run a regression analysis of OBA/SLG/BA v R/game…” Note that he lists the slash stats in super-SABR order, thus confirming that this is the true Tangotiger.
By the way, he’s been on BBTF so long, his user ID is 11. For comparison, Chris Dial is 71, Voros McCracken is 76, and MGL is 80.
The first legitimate media mention of the actual Tangotiger came in the Seattle Times, in an article titled “Pitching and Defense Go Hand in Hand” published on June 1, 2005, where he’s called “research wizard Tango Tiger.”
The name Tom Tango or Tom M. Tango doesn’t really appear until 2006, which makes sense, considering he invented it for the cover of The Book.
So we explore elsewhere. Domain registration information for insidethebook.com gives us the ZIP code of 07932, in Florham Park, New Jersey. Unfortunately, domain registration information for Tango’s personal research site, tangotiger.net, lists 08837, in Edison, approximately 20 miles away. Both though list a contact number of 1-800-555-1212, which is just National Directory Assistance. In a 2006 comment, he says The Book is buyable by check sent to
PO BOX 21
FLORHAM PARK, NJ 07932-0021
The earliest archived version of his now-defunct Geocities site, Tango on Baseball–from 2002–doesn’t give away anything. Although his e-mail address then was firstname.lastname@example.org, whereas now it’s email@example.com. Was tangotiger already taken on AOL?
Obviously, Tango is really smart and quite serious about his privacy. Barring a bonehead mistake on his part, the public isn’t going to know who he is unless he wants us to. But combining the publicly available information with what’s obvious from reading his non-sports posts on The Book blog, there’s a profile to be on the lookout for. So the next time you’re in northern New Jersey and meet a 40-something, white (come on, he loves hockey), married, one-child-having, libertarian-leaning Canadian who works for large corporations doing database stuff, graduated college in 1990, and loves escrow accounts, he might just be Tangotiger!