Womack: The fight to save Bill Weiss's baseball collection before it's too late
From SABR member Graham Womack at Sports on Earth on January 13, 2014, with mention of SABR members Mark Macrae, Miles Wolff, Allan Simpson, Dick Beverage, Ray Nemec, John Thorn, Tom Larwin and Bob Hoie:
It started with a small office. When that office was full, six years after he moved in, Bill Weiss constructed a back office. Then he filled his basement, another office, his front porch, his garage and, eventually, an annex he built to his house. By the time of his death at 86 on August 16, 2011, nearly every corner of Weiss's San Mateo, California home was filled with his life's work: baseball history. A statistician and official scorekeeper for several minor leagues, Weiss spent close to 70 years accumulating historical material, rarely throwing anything away. His wish and the sizable task he left five friends he appointed to a board of trustees? Preserving his collection.
At first glance, the thing that jumps out about the questionnaire is the neatness and precision of penmanship. In ornate cursive, on a legal-sized sheet dated July 18, 1977, about a month after the San Diego Padres drafted him, Ozzie Smith details his amateur career and life to this point. Asked for his most exciting moment, Smith mentions winning Most Valuable Player in a tournament in Taiwan the year before. He talks of being two quarters shy of completing his bachelors degree at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Asked about other clubs he's played for, Smith writes of his summer of 1976 with the semi-pro Clarinda Iowa A's; he'll reference Clarinda again in his Hall of Fame speech 25 years later.
Every time a player joined a team in a minor league Bill Weiss worked with, Weiss would have him fill out such a survey within 10 days. Think of a noteworthy player who debuted in the minors between the late 1940s and 2006, and there's a good chance Weiss got a handwritten questionnaire from him. Through two visits to Weiss's home after his death, this author located questionnaires for Smith, Wade Boggs, Dennis Eckersley, Rickey Henderson, Paul Molitor and many other players. Toward the end of his life, Weiss would occasionally sell an original questionnaire, such as Jose Canseco, though he always kept a photocopy. By the time of Weiss's death, it's estimated he had questionnaires for more than 100,000 players.
The questionnaires are but a small part of Weiss's collection. He also kept official stats, player files and draft records. He kept correspondence from players, managers and league officials who would write to complain about his scoring decisions. He kept records on high school and college baseball. He kept material from a circuit he helped found and run for 25 years, the Peninsula Winter League that featured the likes of Willie Stargell and Joe Morgan. Weiss's personal library of baseball books would eventually fill more than 125 banana boxes with selections dating to the 1860s. That's just the stuff the executor of Weiss's estate Mark Macrae said was fit for donation, about 26,000 pounds of material.
Read the full article here: http://www.sportsonearth.com/article/66450530/
- In Memoriam: William J. Weiss (August 16, 2011)
- 'Spectacular' SABR Baseball Research Center opens at San Diego Central Library (September 28, 2013)
- Search past issues of Baseball Magazine and Sporting Life thanks to a partnership between SABR, LA84 and the Baseball Hall of Fame
This page was last updated January 17, 2014 at 12:51 pm MST.