Frequently Asked Questions
- What is the difference between the BioProject Committee and the Biography Project? Who are you anyway?
There is no real difference. SABR divides its research areas into committees, which often create projects that suit their members. In our case, the committee is just a single project which will never end.
NOTE: There is another committee in SABR called the Biographical Research Committee. That committee is charged with confirming biographical data (birth date/place, death date/place, etc.) for every player in major league history. That committee does worthy work, but is not us. If you want information about that committee, go here: http://sabr.org/research/biographical-research-committee.
- What is the purpose of the project?
Our primary purpose is to research, write, edit and web-publish biographies of baseball players and contributors. We also publish biographies of ballparks.
- There is a biography of Bob Montgomery on your site, but not of Johnny Bench. What gives?
We don’t dictate the subjects. Our collection at this moment represents the gathered work of individual SABR members and whom they have chosen to write about. If you think we need a biography of Henry Aaron, please join up and write it for us.
- Who is eligible to write for the project?
This is a SABR project, and the writers are members of SABR. If you are not a member of SABR, please learn more and then join. You can do both here: http://sabr.org/join. There are no qualifications for membership other than a love of baseball.
Now that you are a SABR member, you are fully qualified to join the Biography Project. Some of our writers are seasoned pros, but many are first-timers. We can work with you to help you turn your research into a worthy biography. Most authors enjoy the process and come back to write another one.
HOW TO CONTRIBUTE
- How do I join the committee?
Please send a note to Mark Armour. He will then ask you if you read the rest of this FAQ.
- Whom can I write about?
Your subject can be anyone who ever played in the major leagues, or any manager, executive, umpire, scout, or broadcaster. In fact, we welcome your ideas for any subject who impacted the history of the game — someone from the Negro Leagues, the minor leagues, the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, and even Japan.
NOTE: One restriction to note. If the person is a player, they must not have played in the previous five years. We don’t want the biography to be constantly out of date. The same applies to non-players if they are still making an impact.
Whom should I write about?
If you want to write but are not sure whom to write about, consider what kind of research you want to do. Do you want to be able to interview the subject? If so, try to find someone who lives near you or to whom you would like to speak on the telephone. Perhaps someone from your favorite childhood team?
The most challenging subjects are the prominent stars (since there is so much material that you have to try to condense into a manageable piece) and the lesser players from before 1940 (since the research will be more challenging).
There are more than 15,000 possible subjects. Surely one or more of them is someone you have always wanted to know more about? Here is your chance.
- Whom do I inform of my chosen subject(s)?
Please inform Lyle Spatz at email@example.com. This is important — not only does this ensure that your subject is available, but it also keeps other people from starting their own biography on the same person.
NOTE: You can have several biography assignments at the same time.
- How do I get started on the research?
We hope to expand this answer to include a link to a page which thoroughly explores research methods and tools. For now, we recommend the following:
- Read SABR’s own bibliography at http://www.baseballindex.org. Your subject might have a few listings or perhaps many. Find or acquire as much as you can.
- Request the subject’s clipping file from the library at the Baseball Hall of Fame.
- If the subject is alive, try to track the person down and interview them. If not, perhaps you can find children.
- What are the requirements of the finished article?
It should be at least 1,500 words in length. (Exceptions can be made for very obscure subjects.) There is no reasonable maximum, but please be careful beyond 4,000 words unless the subject is particularly compelling or the writer is quite polished. In fact, a bio beyond 4,000 words should be pre-approved by the project leaders.
The biography should cover the person from birth to death (or, if alive, to the present). Although their baseball career would usually be the focus, it should not be the entire story. Information about his parentage, childhood, siblings, schooling, marriages, children, off-field hobbies or jobs, post-career life, and death should be covered if possible. Their minor league years should be well-told. As much as possible, try to make the reader know your subject as a person, not just as a shortstop.
Questions one might try to answer could include, when possible: what was the player’s family background (geographically, culturally, ethnically, and occupationally)? What was the player’s first interest or involvement in baseball? Who was the scout who signed the player? Did the player have winter jobs, to help make ends meet? After his or her playing career was over, what did the player do in terms of work and community involvement?
The writing must follow SABR’s style guide: http://sabr.org/about/sabr-style-guide
The bios must include sources. This can either be endnotes, a list of sources, or a paragraph description of the sources you used. In all cases, the more you can provide to help future research, the better. The bibliography and end notes must follow SABR's style for source citations: http://sabr.org/content/bioproject-formatting-your-biography
- I am finished with my story. What do I do with it?
Please send your finished draft to our chief editor, Jan Finkel.
- What happens next?
First, Jan has to find an editor. This could take a few days or (hopefully not) a few weeks. The editor will contact you and let you know the process. The editor could simply make a few suggestions, correct style, and hand it back to you. Or, he or she might send it back asking for some revisions. The goal of this process is to make the story better. There might be several exchanges before you and editor are satisfied.
NOTE: Our editors are not always experts in the period or realm of your subject. Please make it easier on us by asking other people to fact-check the story before it gets to us.
Once you and the editor have settled on a final version, it will be sent back to Jan. He will send it to the appropriate person (currently Mark Armour) who will post the finished version.
- Where do editors come from?
From our committee. This is a crucial role, but unglamorous and somewhat thankless (though we do try to thank as much as we can). If you have any experience editing, we could really use your help (e-mail Mark Armour for details.) Fact-checkers are also wanted. You could volunteer, for example, to read all biographies of players from the 1950s — a job which might only be a bio every month or so.
- Are there opportunities to work with others?
Yes. Under the auspices of BioProject, there have been a number of group efforts, many of which have resulted in published books. A group in Boston got together to write biographies on all of the members of the 1975 Red Sox, which became a book in 2005. This has been followed by other books on specific teams and there are books organized around the birthplaces of different players (Minnesotans in Baseball, as well as currently active projects on Connecticut natives, Canadian ballplayers, and more). We have collaborative projects with the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League and Jewish Major Leaguers, Inc. In each case, these have been group efforts of 15-20 or more authors, editors, etc.
The published books coming out of this project can be viewed here: http://sabr.org/bioproj/browse
NOTE: These projects do not have to result in a book. In fact, not having a book will allow you to post the biographies much sooner.
- How do I join one of these projects?
Well, there are several on-going right now, some of which need writers and/or editors. If you are a member of our committee, you will be informed of these projects as they are starting and along the way.
NOTE: These projects do not only need biographers. They need editors and fact-checkers. There are also often stories about the team that fill out the book — the building of the team, the ballpark, a season-in-review, the World Series. You could write one of these.
- Hey, how come there is a book on the 1939 Red Sox, but not the 1927 Yankees?
See the note above about Johnny Bench. The people who have been willing to organize a project are the ones who choose the project. If you want to organize a project on the 1927 Yankees, we will support you. Just contact Bill Nowlin (firstname.lastname@example.org). He can help you to organize the project and to navigate through the different stages of the process.
- How do the sub-projects work with the Biography Project?
Typically, it works like this: A new author with the name “1927 New York Yankees” is created, and all of the appropriate biographies are assigned to that author. The leaders of the project will then find a way to divvy up all of these bios to individual people. The leaders will handle all of the assignments.
Most of our projects have assembled their own teams of editors and fact-checkers, and handle the process of turning the biography into a “finished” product. A project could choose to use our editorial process, but it is recommended that at least one fact-checker is used from your side if you intend to make this a book.
The process of turning this into a book is also the responsibility of the project leader. (We will help.)
NOTE: Although there is quite a bit of autonomy, we strongly request that the finished biographies adhere to the guidelines and standards of the Biography Project (so they can be posted on our site later). The stories should be at least 1,500 words, and cover the subject’s entire life — not just his time with the 1927 Yankees. If the subject’s tenure with that club was a small part of his career, it should also be a small part of his biography.
At the end of the project, the leaders will submit all the completed biographies to the Biography Project for posting. Depending on whatever agreements were worked out the publisher, there could be a considerable delay before the bios are posted (often at least one year after the book has been published).
OTHER WAYS TO HELP
- I don’t really have time to write or edit, but I have done a lot of research on a few players. How can I help?
We can try to find a biographer that can either use all of your research and add his own and write the story, or work with you as much as you wish. You could share the by-line, depending on what you work out with the writer.
- I have discovered an error (or errors) in one of your biographies. How can this be fixed?
To the right of the biography, there is an e-mail link that will send us mail. Click the address and send the note. If it is a simple typographical error, we will generally fix it right away. If it is more than that, we will contact the author and let him or her know of the issue. Either way, your efforts will help us.
— Mark Armour
July 26, 2009
To go back to the BioProject Resources page, click here.