Author Guidelines: Team Ownership Histories

The SABR Team Ownership Histories Project is a joint effort of SABR’s Business of Baseball Committee and the BioProject. The intention is to keep its essays up-to-date and to provide as much detail as possible about the organization and composition of ownership groups, franchise sales, relocations, stadiums, and other issues that provide the financial context for team success on the field.

Here are some Author’s Guidelines to keep in mind for this project:

1. These will be unlike BioProject individual profiles in that it is expected the team histories will be updated on a regular basis due either to changes in current ownership or new information about earlier owners or groups of owners. As such, if you become interested in other topics or move on to other phases of your life, different researchers may be brought in. This will not be done without communication with you.

2. The focus of the article should be off the field. When writing about the St. Louis Cardinals of the Breadon years, the success of the Cardinals is important as it affected the club's business and the decisions being made by the front office. But how the individual players were doing or how the World Series was won or lost is of no matter to this story.

3. Much of the story will likely be on the ownership transitions — team sales, partnership transfers, etc. But be prepared to include information on other important ownership events, such as the proposal, financing, or construction of new ballparks, the rise and importance of local television contracts, relations with cities, rumored sales, and the threat or reality of a franchise move.

4. The history should be kept in the context of its cities and eras. Changes in ownership and performance are often precipitated by economic fluctuations, neighborhood evolution (especially for ballparks), the non-baseball fortunes of the owners and other environmental factors. Explaining the why is as important as getting the dates and names correct.

5. Work should be fully annotated (to printed sources wherever possible). Examination of major team histories and biographies of owners, important players/managers and stadiums are expected as well as research in The Sporting News and local newspapers.

6. Partnerships are possible, as one researcher may be an expert on the early days while another follows more recent decades. It is possible to volunteer to do one ownership group or era while waiting for others to do the remainder.

7. It should contain as complete a breakdown of ownership group percentages as proves possible. (It is often the case when a team is sold, much better financial information about the previous group comes to light). Team financial information (income/expenses and assets/liabilities) should be included if available — in the body of the article if relevant for a given year, in an appendix otherwise. Whenever a sale of a part of the franchise is covered, note what that says about the value of the entire team.

8. Please follow the SABR Style Guide and the BioProject rules for formatting your biography.

9. You’re probably already aware of the following resources, but I offer them to you just in case.

10. James Quirk and Rod Fort’s Pay Dirt: The Business of Professional Sports Teams (Princeton University Press, 1992) has an appendix which gives ownership histories, including prices reportedly paid, for all major league teams which existed to that point.

11. Cliff Blau has developed a website which expands on Quirk and Fort’s appendix. It does not include prices, but it is FOOTNOTED and has percentage breakdowns. The footnotes are invaluable, giving you a guide to exact sources and much more precision as to dates than the Quirk/Fort appendix. These you can use to expand your research. It will also allow you to do a search of the page and possibly identify your owner’s participation in other ownership groups.

12. SABR's The Baseball Index is an electronic card catalog to baseball research assets. You can search it by owner’s name, stadium name, or other terms you dream up to identify articles and books that could be useful in your research. This should allow you much better information on why a team was sold, and bought.

13. I think you’re going to find that access to The Sporting News ( and Baseball Magazine archives ( through the SABR website to be helpful, as will be BioProject profiles. You can also check the SABR/Baseball-Reference Encylopedia at SABR's full list of Research Resources is available at

14. As an additional item, there is available an Excel spreadsheet tracking baseball attendance by franchises from 1890 through 2011. The data is drawn from Retrosheet. If you’d like a copy, please contact Andy McCue at

15. And, a note on plagiarism …



Briefly stated, plagiarism is (a) using someone else's words, ideas, and visual representations (like graphs, charts, diagrams and maps) without giving adequate credit to the source and (b) following too closely someone else's pattern of expression or visual representation.

Some plagiarism is illegal — an infringement of copyright; ALL plagiarism violates scholarly ethics and, of course, violates SABR's standards for its authors. As you doubtless know from your many years of schooling, plagiarism is the most serious of literary offenses. In many colleges, students who plagiarize are expelled; at all reputable newspapers, writers who plagiarize are fired.

Experience shows that much plagiarism is unintentional, the result either of carelessness or of an inadequate understanding of what plagiarism encompasses. Here are the three main "don'ts"):

Do not copy another writer's (or speaker's) words without putting them in quotation marks and acknowledging the author. Anything beyond three or four ordinary words taken from another source require acknowledgement, as does usually every "significant" word. (Exception: well-known phrases from literature do not ordinarily require either quotation marks or acknowledgement. In the opening line to the Oakland A's history in Total Baseball (first edition, 1989), author Fred Ivor-Campbell didn't need to credit Charles Dickens for his literary borrowing; it was simply a turn on Dickens's familiar opening to A Tale of Two Cities: "The history of the Athletics is a tale of three cities — a story of the best of teams and of the worst of teams." But attempts at this kind of clever borrowing from literature are best used only rarely, if at all; very often it is only the writer who appreciates their cleverness.)

Do not express another person's significant ideas without acknowledging the source. The key here to the need for acknowledgement is the word "significant." If an important idea or concept or way of thinking is original with someone else, give the originator credit. If you do not know the originator, then probably the idea has already entered into general knowledge, and it will be enough if you make it clear that it did not originate with you.

Note: You do not need to credit the source of "common knowledge": that is, information available in at least two reliable, reputable sources. Some examples: the winner of the 1933 World Series, and Duffy Lewis's lifetime major league home runs, information you may not know off-hand, but could certainly find in a number of sources. The source of information that can be found only in one or two specialized sources, though — like Duffy Lewis's lifetime MINOR league home runs — should be acknowledged, either in the text of the biography and/or in your list of sources that accompanies it.

Do not simply change the original author's words while following his/her general pattern of expression. This is close paraphrasing, which may be the most common problem of unintended plagiarism. It is caused when you try to rewrite someone else's work instead of writing your own original work. In writing biographies for the BioProject, you should use your sources to gain information and insight and understanding, but you must avoid using them as patterns for your own writing.


Original: Here is the opening paragraph of Ivor-Campbell's history of the Phillies in the first edition of Total Baseball:

It took the Phillies thirty-two years to win their first pennant, and ninety-seven to win their first world championship. They have finished last in their league or division twenty-seven times — more than one season in four. In the nine years from 1975 through 1983, though, they were one of the most formidable teams in baseball.

Here are some acceptable and unacceptable uses of this paragraph:

UNACCEPTABLE: From 1975-1983 the Phillies were among the most formidable teams in baseball. (There are six words in succession taken directly from the original, including one "significant" word ["formidable"], and the whole phrasing follows the original too closely.)

ACCEPTABLE: Frederick Ivor-Campbell points out in Total Baseball (first edition, 1989) that from 1975 through 1983 the Phillies "were one of the most formidable teams in baseball."

ACCEPTABLE: Frederick Ivor-Campbell points out in Total Baseball (first edition, 1989) that the 1975-1983 Phillies were among baseball's "most formidable" teams.

ACCEPTABLE: Frederick Ivor-Campbell points out in Total Baseball (first edition, 1989) that the 1975-1983 Phillies were among baseball's greatest teams.

UNACCEPTABLE: The Phillies needed 32 years to win their first pennant, and 97 years to win their first World Series. (While the information here doesn't "belong" to the original author — anyone could have calculated these figures for him/herself — the writer follows the original author's pattern of expression too closely, copying the original word-for-word for more than ten words in a row. If you got your information from this passage, you might as well credit the author; if you uncovered the information on your own, you could write it something like this to avoid plagiarism: It was thirty-two years after their founding before the Phillies won their first pennant, and ninety-seven years before they won their first World Series.

ON THE VERGE OF UNACCEPTABLE: As Frederick Ivor-Campbell has pointed out (in Total Baseball, first edition, 1989), the Phillies needed 32 years to win their first pennant, and 97 years to win their first World Series, while finishing at the bottom of their league or division, on average, more than once in every four years. But for nine years — 1975-1983 — they were among baseball's greatest teams. (There is no unacceptable borrowing of words here, and the author has given acceptable credit to the original source. But the writer has merely adopted the original author's pattern of thought and expression rather than process the information through his own mind, and, as a result, has written nothing but a close paraphrase of the original. As it stands, the passage may be marginally acceptable because of its brevity, but if the author were to continue to paraphrase additional paragraphs of the original, it would become clearly unacceptable.)

To go back to the Team Ownership Histories Project page, click here.