Sharp as a SABR
The Society for American Baseball Research’s Nineteenth Century Committee held its fifth annual Frederick Ivor-Campbell Base Ball Conference at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s Bullpen Theater over two days last week, beginning Friday afternoon and continuing all day Saturday. For the registered attendees from across the country, it was an opportunity to engage with others who share the same unique passion.
“It gives me a chance to hang out with people who care about what I care about, which is the old-time game,” said John Thorn, Major League Baseball’s official historian as well as a moderator during Saturday morning’s panel discussion entitled The Evolution of the Pitching/Catching Battery. “And it’s very convivial and it’s one of my favorite weekends of the year.”
Other programs held during the two days included The Two Faces of Baseball’s Creation Myth, Jimmy Fogarty and the Players Brotherhood, and Beer Tanks & Barbed Wire: Bill Barnie and the Baltimore Orioles of the AA (1883-1891).
“It’s a great opportunity to meet other people who have the same fascination as I do,” said acclaimed baseball historian and author Peter Morris. “We share ideas, hear a lot of new ideas, and hear what people are working on.”
Morris was a member of the Pre-Integration Era Committee that elected umpire Hank O’Day, New York Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert and 19th century player Deacon White to the Hall of Fame in December at MLB’s Winter Meetings. The Pre-Integration Era covered candidates whose most significant career impact was realized from baseball’s origins through 1946.
“It was exciting to have recognition go to players who I think have deserved it for a long time,” Morris said. “Just because the Hall of Fame didn’t start until the 1930s there was a whole generation who never get evaluated by their peers, and there’s no way to get around that, but I think at least now we’ve had a group of historians who’ve looked at them and really given them a fair chance.
“Personally, being part of the Committee was just so rewarding. It was one of the most exciting experiences of my life. In preparing for it weeks and months beforehand, and then when it came, it was even more exciting and better than I ever dreamed it would be.”
Bill Francis is a Library Associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum