By Samantha Carr
If you ever had a baseball trivia question you couldn’t solve, I know one room where you certainly could have found the answer.
Fifty-five researchers filled the Bullpen Theater on Saturday for the Society of American Baseball Research’s second annual 19th century baseball research conference held at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
“It is rare to have so many great researchers in one place – and the Hall of Fame is about the only place where they might all come together,” said Tim Wiles, director of research for the Baseball Hall of Fame.
This year’s conference was named after the late Frederick Ivor-Campbell, a noted researcher on 19th century baseball, who was killed in an automobile accident last year.
“Fred was a spectacular researcher, an exceptionally giving individual, and the kindest and most thoughtful man one could imagine,” said Tom Shieber, senior curator at the Baseball Hall of Fame.
The keynote speaker of this year’s event was Peter Morris, a leading baseball researcher who was recently awarded the inaugural Henry Chadwick Award by the SABR for invaluable contributions to making baseball the game that links America’s present with its past.
The author of several books, Morris’ “Game of Inches: The Stories Behind the innovations that Shaped the Game” was the only book to win both the Casey Award and the Seymour Medal as the best baseball book of the year in 2006. Morris’ keynote address was entitled: “Who Could Play?: Inclusiveness and Exclusiveness in 19th Century Baseball.”
Following the speech, John Thorn – himself the author of several baseball books and influential editor of the classic “Total Baseball” – moderated a panel discussion called “Was Base Ball Really Baseball: Where & How Does the Old Game Survive?” about the newest findings of baseball’s roots and origins with researchers David Block, Richard Hershberger, Larry McCray and David Nemec.
In the afternoon, baseball scholar Tom Altherr, frequently a presenter at the annual Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture – held at the Hall of Fame each year during the first week in June – gave a presentation on baseball as played among slaves in the nineteenth century.
“As a longtime baseball researcher and SABR member, I’m thrilled to be participating in SABR’s Frederick Ivor-Campbell 19th Century Base Ball Conference,” said the Hall’s Tom Shieber.
Shieber presented artifacts from the famous World Tour of 1888-89 taken by Albert Spalding’s Chicago White Stockings.
“It was a pleasure to meet up with the top baseball researchers who have devoted so much of their time and effort to broadening our understanding of baseball’s early days.”
Samantha Carr is the manager of web and digital media at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.