SABR’s 19th Century Conference a hit at Hall of Fame

By BILL FRANCIS

The National Pastime’s earliest days were a hot topic of conversation for a group of visitors to Cooperstown on Friday.

The Society for American Baseball Research’s Nineteenth Century Committee is holding its fourth annual Frederick Ivor-Campbell Base Ball Conference at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s Bullpen Theater over two days, beginning today and continuing all day Saturday. For the 55 registered attendees from across the country, it’s an opportunity to engage with others that share the same unique passion.

SABR 19th Century Committee (Milo Stewart, Jr./National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)

“I was here two years ago and it was the most fun I’ve ever had at a conference in my life, and I look forward to this year’s to be even more fun,” said Long Island’s David Nemec, an author of more than 30 books involving baseball. “The presentations are spectacular and the people are most enjoyable to be with.”

According to Peter Mancuso, the Nineteenth Century Committee Chairman who runs the conference (“actually this conference runs me,” he joked), “there’s wonderful people that participate in this conference at all levels. Even if they are not a presenter, they are in the audience asking some really profound questions. And of course we have the great talent of all of these researchers and writers – they really breathe life into the conference.”

Included among the varied research presentations are “Bridegrooms and Superbas and Dodgers … Oh My!: The Birth of Brooklyn Baseball in the 19th Century,” “The Birth of Baseball Statistics,” “Abner Graves: The Man Who Brought Baseball to Cooperstown,” “’The Great John L.’ and the National Game,” “A Comparison of Alexander Cartwright and William Wheaton” and “John B. Day, the Metropolitan Exhibition Company and the Re-establishment of Major League Baseball in New York City.”

“I learn something from almost everybody I talk to,” Nemec said. “They’ve delved into different types of research than I have. They have a different slant on certain aspects of the 19th century game. To me the 19th century game was a prism of the entire late 19th century, which was a very fluid, fast-moving time. Society and many features of the country changed very quickly, and baseball kept up with it.”

Mancuso concurred, adding, “There might be a common denominator in the room and that is a love of history. If you are a baseball enthusiast and also happen to be lover of history, this is a very unique opportunity to delve into both of those worlds. I think what really makes the conference is the people who attend it. It’s a real collection of very knowledgeable people on 19th century baseball.

“I always consider myself at this conference to be the batboy of the all-star game. I just kind of hand out the bats and they go up and hit the home runs.”

Bill Francis is a Library Associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

1 Comment

Bill, I sure enjoy this committee’s work. Of course, having a great-uncle, Samuel Thompson HOF ’74, who played in the 19th Century creates the interest for me. My college Fraternity, Phi Delta Theta is also having its Lou Gehrig Award dedication on April 23rd at the Hall. Lou was a Phi Delt when he was at Columbia. Keep sending these interesting articles. Don Thompson

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