Bob Davids Award: Mark Rucker

This year’s recipient of SABR’s highest award is one of our more venerable and celebrated members, with many publication and film credits, multiple collaborations with notable figures, and an unequaled position in his field—one which he may be said to have created, that of picture archivist of our national pastime. But this year’s Bob Davids Award winner may be said to have made his mark upon SABR long before he collaborated with Larry Ritter, or David Nemec, or Peter Bjarkman, or Ken Burns. The 2010 winner of the award, as you may well have guessed, is Mark Rucker.

With John Thorn, another of his frequent collaborators, he created a pictorial section on oldtime baseball for the debut issue of The National Pastime back in 1982. Inspired by that foray into the nineteenth century game, the pair went on, in 1983, to establish with SABR’s blessing the nineteenth century research committee, which continues as one of the organization’s largest and most active. In 1984 they created the first of several special pictorial issues of The National Pastime. Some of these Mark Rucker created with other text editors, including the issue devoted to the Golden Age of Baseball and another on the game’s lighthearted imagery. His paintings have graced the covers of SABR publications and have been sold in galleries worldwide.

Mark has written and compiled several notable books on his own, but collaboration has been his preferred modus operandi, and everyone who has worked with him knows why. Whether within SABR or in the larger world of publishing, Mark is committed to making each project to which he lends a hand the best that it can be, disregarding matters of time and personal cost. In the spirit of SABR’s founder, Mark has willingly taken a back seat in the credits just as long as he can be associated with great team work.

Mark’s photo service and repository, originally called Transcendental Graphics and now The Rucker Archive, is a familiar image credit to all those who read baseball books. He was the pictorial consultant to Ken Burns’s Baseball, which first aired on PBS in 1994, and lent many of his personal treasures to that effort, in film and in print. He collaborated notably with Bjarkman on “Smoke,” with Nemec on “The Beer and Whiskey League,” and to universal critical acclaim with Ritter on “The Babe: A Life in Pictures.” In recent years his archival interests have broadened from baseball to circus, the Old West, and the stage. But he is typecast forevermore as baseball’s greatest image expert.

His website declares “The name Mark Rucker is synonymous with pictures.” But for three decades it has also been synonymous with SABR, and all of its members, past and present, have been enriched by that association. Please welcome, as the 2010 recipient of the Bob Davids Award, Mark Rucker.

Related link: Mark Rucker was the recipient of a SABR Salute in 2001