SABR BioProject: May 2016 newsletter

 

High and Inside

The Newsletter of the BioProject Committee
Society for American Baseball Research (SABR)

May 2016, Volume 1, Number 5

Past newsletters

Editor:
Stew Thornley

 

SABR 46 committee meeting

The 15th annual Biography Project meeting will take place at the SABR convention as usual and we now have a time slot confirmed:

BioProject Committee
4:30-5:30 p.m., Thursday, July 28
Hyatt Regency Miami

We have had some pretty bad luck with EARLY meeting times in recent years, but this is a good slot. Hope to see many of you there. If you have anything you wish to discuss, please let me know.

— Mark Armour


From the Editor
I’m sure at least a few of our committee members grew up with some familiarity with ducky hemp. Now’s your chance to write about Ducky Hemp. The great-grandson of William H. “Ducky” Hemp has contacted the BioProject Committee with an offer of some information for anyone willing to write a bio on Hemp, who played with Louisville, Pittsburgh, and Syracuse between 1887 and 1890. Joseph H. Tyson of Lansdowne, Pennsylvania, found an article on Hemp while doing genealogical research. Contact Joseph, 610-955-1950, if you are interested.

While I’m pitching bios, how about a cheap plug for write-ups on official scorers? (SABR just created an Official Scoring Committee.) In the old days, official scorers were active baseball writers and known more for that than for their stints at calling hits and errors. Fred Lieb and Dan Daniel are two examples, but they also were prominent at times for official scoring. More recently, Bill Shannon might be a good candidate for a bio. Bill was a writer (and co-author of The Ballparks), but he was well-known in New York as a top-notch official scorer. Bill died in a house fire after the 2010 season: Writer, Official Scorer Shannon Passes Away

If you’re going to write a bio, first send a message to bioassign@sabr.org.

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From the Director
Elsewhere in this issue Bill Nowlin talks about leading an effort to knock off all the Red Sox biographies one year at a time. I recently gave Dan Levitt our list of posted biographies (including the Retrosheet ID for each player) and asked him to return to me a spreadsheet listing every team in major league history and the list of “missing” players from that team.

We have produced many team books, of course, and Bill is plowing through the Red Sox. What I wondered was: Are there any other teams we have completely finished without particular effort to do so? The answer it turns out, is “no.” But we came close!

We are missing exactly one player from the 1922 New York Yankees: Clem Llewellyn. If you wish to help us complete this pennant-winning team, step right up.

We are missing just two players from the World Champion 1917 White Sox: Ziggy Hasbrook and Mellie Wolfgang. Here is your big chance. (Most of the 1917 White Sox are covered in the book some of you worked on for the 1919 White Sox. Many of our “close” teams are similar—1969 Orioles, 1961 Pirates, etc.)

This might be a fun way to contribute to the project. Are you a fan of the 1969 Mets, perhaps someone who contributed to the fine book that we put out back in 2009? If so, I bet you liked the 1970 Mets, too. There are only eight bios to go, including a few well-known names: Ken Singleton, Mike Jorgensen, Lee Stanton, etc. Or you could start at the beginning — the 1962 Mets need 25 biographies, but there are 25 books about that team so you would have no shortage of research material. Good luck.

Back in 2005 a group of you put out a book on the 1975 Red Sox, the first “BioProject Book.” Although the team book effort is still going strong, you might consider leading an effort to complete a team without all of the overhead and hassle of putting together an actual book. We might not need a book on the 1965 Mets, but finishing off that team could be a lot of fun anyway.

— Mark Armour, Director

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Guest Columnists
Winter Ball: An Important Dimension
By Rory Costello

I’ve been writing baseball biographies since 1999. From the start, I realized that a player’s experience in winter leagues (if applicable) can be a colorful ingredient in the stories. In many cases, I believe a bio would be simply incomplete if it doesn’t cover this aspect of a career.

My earliest effort was about the men from the Virgin Islands who made it to the majors. For those players, the Puerto Rican Winter League was critical. Without that league, those men might never have made it to the majors at all. Plus, I found that a number of them met and married Puerto Rican women while playing ball there. We always seek to cover this aspect of players’ lives in writing for the BioProject.

Naturally, if the subject is a Latin American player, there’s a good chance that his homeland’s winter league formed a vital and ongoing chapter in his career. Yet winter leagues have been the launching pad for many players from the continental United States, too. SABR member Tom Van Hyning showed this in his two books about Puerto Rican ball, especially the first (Puerto Rico’s Winter League). Tom’s work has been a wonderful source of anecdotes. I’ve also heard some great stories from the players themselves, and even their wives.

If your subject is a Negro Leaguer, the chances are very high that he played winter ball and that it was crucial to his career. Many veterans of all ethnic backgrounds also sought to keep their careers alive in winter ball.

Winter ball has also given a lot of baseball men chances to become managers. To give just two examples, Frank Robinson and Jim Fregosi got their first jobs as skippers in Puerto Rico while still active in the majors. Many players, especially locals, go on to manage or coach in these leagues after their playing days come to an end. Some have even become executives.

All of this is true of winter leagues in other nations – the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and Mexico being foremost. Until 1961, Cuba was very important. Also noteworthy are the leagues in places like Nicaragua, Panama, and Colombia. Another SABR member, Lou Hernández, has done a lot of work on the Latin American leagues, with two books to his credit (The Rise of the Latin American Baseball Leagues and Memories of Winter Ball). Yet I’ve had occasion to touch on still other leagues in Australia and Hawaii.

For a long time, especially from the late 1940s through the mid-1970s, The Sporting News provided excellent coverage of the winter leagues. If you’re not taking advantage of this perk of SABR membership, it’s one of the best things available. Even if you’re not writing bios, it’s just fun to browse.

Statistics can be problematic. The Sporting News showed snapshots from week to week, but they were just small leader boards with limited numbers. Full-season totals were seldom shown. Venezuela (purapelota.com) and the Dominican Republic (the recently launched history.winterballdata.com) have websites with season and career totals, which are a blessing. Jorge Figueredo’s Who’s Who in Cuban Baseball is an essential reference for that league. The late SABR member José Crescioni published a book on the Puerto Rican league which is a partial encyclopedia of sorts, drawn from a private database which still exists. For the other places, though, it’s a lot more difficult or simply not possible to get the numbers.

It’s up to you as a biographer to determine how much weight winter ball should receive in any given story, especially within the BioProject framework of a shorter word count. But please do be aware of it where pertinent.

Partial list of other useful sources

  • Peter C. Bjarkman, Baseball with a Latin Beat and Diamonds Around the Globe
  • Roberto González Echevarría, The Pride of Havana
  • Brent Kelley, Voices from the Negro Leagues
  • William F. McNeil, Black Baseball Out of Season, The California Winter League, and Baseball’s Other All-Stars

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The Fact Checker Is Your Friend (No, Really)
By Warren Corbett, chief fact checker

The early BioProject stories were not routinely vetted for accuracy. In 2013 Mark Armour began an effort to check all published bios retroactively and to begin checking new ones before publication. Some fool volunteered to lead that effort.

Thanks to the dedication of many people, in three years we have checked the vast majority of the 3,700-plus biographies. We have not yet gotten to a handful of the early BioProject books. Here is what the fact-checking group has learned:

The most common errors are the result of carelessness. This applies not only to factual errors, but to writing and typing: mistakes of punctuation or grammar, or words left out — things that would have been caught by a close reading.

Many of the mistakes in statistics look like typographical errors: 2.79 instead of 2.78, .267 instead of .278. But some writers evidently are using old print encyclopedias, and that can cause problems. For example, some encyclopedias didn't count fractions of innings in calculating ERA. Recent research has changed other time-honored stats. I grew up knowing that Ty Cobb's lifetime batting average was .367. It is now recorded at .366. And Ty is not happy.

Writers should rely on Retrosheet.org or Baseball-Reference.com for statistics unless they find convincing evidence to the contrary (as often happens with old minor-league stats).

Another common source of error arises from believing the ballplayer. Whether you interviewed the player or read interviews by others, you can't trust his memory. Many of the things he says can be checked with Retrosheet or baseball-reference's box scores and play-by-play accounts or contemporary newspapers. That doesn't necessarily mean you have to delete his reminiscence; just correct it.

It's no secret that some American-born players before, say, 1960, shaved a year or more off their ages to make themselves appear younger. I have been surprised at how widespread that practice was. Diligent BioProject writers have discovered many birth dates that don't conform to the record books. It's a good idea to verify birth dates.

When you make such a discovery, please include in your bio an explanation with evidence supporting your conclusion about the player’s birth date, so readers will understand that we're not making this stuff up. The explanation can be an endnote. And share your findings with SABR's Biographical Research Committee — by sending an e-mail to Bill Carle or Sean Lahman — which feeds information to the online databases, so the historical record can be corrected.

The best news from three years of fact-checking: BioProject writers are damn good at getting the facts right. As far as I can recall, we have only had to scrap two biographies because they were so far wrong they couldn't be salvaged. One of the writers had died; the other had left SABR. Both bios were reassigned.

I have been gratified to learn that, with rare exceptions, writers appreciate our effort to get it right. They understand that we're trying to make the product better.

If you'd like to help, write to wpcorbett@hotmail.com. We always need more sharp eyes.

Guest columnists welcome: Contact Stew.

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Interview with Bill Nowlin
Rather soon, we are going to be able to announce that we have completed biographies of every member of the Boston Red Sox for the full half-century, 1901 through 1950. This was an effort involving dozens of SABR members, many working as contributors to various “team books” that SABR has published. One SABR member took it upon himself to try and “fill the gaps” and complete the 50 years of Red Sox players. We asked Bill Nowlin how this all came about.

How did this all come about?

BN: The story really goes back to the beginning of BioProject itself. The idea of building BioProject came from Mark Armour; the goal was to have a brief biography of every major-league player. Every one of them. It seemed like an impossible dream, a crazy project. And yet we have close to 4,000 biographies at this point. Mark can talk more about how the idea struck him, and how he moved to help found it and build it. My understanding is that the idea came to Mark because of a member of the Boston Chapter — David Southwick — who announced at the 2002 national convention, in Boston, his hope to pull together biographies of every member of the 1975 Red Sox. David wanted to have this ready by the 30th anniversary of that year’s time, in 2005. 

Time progressed, and several of the bios were done, but it seemed like they were coming in too slowly. Some people had signed up to write a bio but not produced it. But David did have 25 of them. Both Cecilia Tan and I were members of the Boston Chapter, and we each had some experience with books, so we volunteered to pitch in and see if we could forge a book out of it. I find an email from August 21, 2005 where Rounder Books (an imprint that was part of Rounder Records, a company I owned with two partners) had agreed to publish a book, and where I outlined what was missing. At that point, we had bios of most of the members of the team, but we lacked 11 of them. It was one thing to lack bios of Steve Barr, Bob Heise, Buddy Hunter, Rick Kreuger, Bob Montgomery, and Dick Pole. But we were also missing Tony Conigliaro, Dwight Evans, Jim Rice, Rick Wise, and Carl Yastrzemski. It wasn’t going to be much of a book if we were missing such key bios. And the idea was to feature everyone. We got them done, though, over the next few weeks.

Three weeks later, on September 15, we had a first draft of everyone and 19 of them were totally done. I read every one of them, Wayne McElreavy fact-checked them, Mark Armour and Mark Kanter read many (perhaps, most) of them, and Len Levin did the final editing on all of them.  The Red Sox allowed us to go through their photo files (they hadn’t been digitized yet, but they had a room full of file cabinets of photographs), and SABR member Glenn LeDoux got to work on design.

On October 10, we were able to announce we expected to have the book ready in time for a SABR gathering on November 5. It was in fact ready on October 26. We almost missed the 30th anniversary of the season, but we did get the book out in the 30th anniversary year. This was only produced as a physical book, and Rounder Books sold out of the initial stock. Ten years later, the book was upgraded and republished by SABR in 2015, available free to all members as it is today, now available in e-book form.

How is the new edition upgraded?

BN: The first edition was 158 pages long. The new edition is more than 300 pages long. We fact-checked every article over again, and we updated the biographies with what players may have done over the intervening 10 years. Jim Rice, for instance, was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. The original book had capsule bios of manager Darrell Johnson and the five coaches – five pages for the six men. The new edition has full bios on all six, running to 32 pages. It also has a biography of Tom Yawkey, all four members of the 1975 broadcast team, six games of interest (in collaboration with the Games Project), and articles on the postseason, as well as a few other features. When SABR goes to upgrade something, we don’t hold back.

SABR then began to put together quite a few other books of the sort. How did that evolve?

BN: It took a few years. In the process, we learned that some people are better at some things than others. I’m not very good at fact-checking. I never really paid much attention during grammar classes in school. I’m very appreciative of the fact that SABR has within its ranks several people who are very good at fact-checking, and are very good at editing. Len Levin just kept going; he’s edited a huge percentage of BioProject’s biographies, and every single one of the bios that have appeared in SABR’s other “team books” that I’ve helped shepherd to publication. I found that I was pretty good at the shepherding process, gently (usually) urging authors along (after all, we are all volunteers), and organizing the various elements.

The next, biggest step, though, followed hard on the heels of the 1975 book. Dan Desrochers, another Boston Chapter member, suggested we do a book on the 1967 Impossible Dream Red Sox. We did, in 2007. Dan had a fantastic collection of graphics that made this one of the most lavishly-illustrated baseball books ever done, other than those intended to be art books.  SABR plans to bring this book back in print, too, in 2017.  

Having done two of the books at this point got us rolling. In 2008, we put out two more “team books” on Rounder Books: a book on the 1918 Red Sox, When Boston Still Had the Babe: The 1918 World Champion Red Sox, and a book on the 1948 season, in which the Boston Braves won the pennant and the Red Sox went as far as a team could possibly go without winning one, losing a single-game playoff for the pennant to the Cleveland Indians. That book featured a biography of everyone on the 1948 Red Sox but also every on the 1948 Boston Braves. The title: Spahn, Sain, and Teddy Ballgame: Boston’s (almost) Perfect Baseball Summer of 1948. I edited that book, working with associate editors Mark Armour, Bob Brady, Len Levin, and Saul Wisnia.

By this time, fortunately, the original book had begun to inspire other “team books.” Maple Street Press published Sock it to ‘em Tigers, edited by Mark Pattison and David Raglin, in 2008 for that team’s 40th anniversary.

For 2009, Rounder published a book on the 1939 Red Sox titled Lefty, Double-X, and The Kid: The 1939 Red Sox, a Team in Transition. Associate editors were Mark Armour, Maurice Bouchard, and Len Levin. But we saw other books come out as well: Maple Street Press published The Miracle Has Landed: The Amazin’ Story of How the 1969 Mets Shocked the World. That was edited by Matthew Silverman and Ken Samelson. And Don Zminda edited Go-Go to Glory: The 1959 Chicago White Sox, published by ACTA Sports. In the one year, 2009, we thus had three teams fully documented with “team books.” We also added a book that presented a collection of biographies through a different lens – Stew Thornley organized the effort to produce 46 biographies of Minnesotans in Baseball (Nodin Press). We hoped that this book would lead to other regionally-based efforts, and groups in both Connecticut and Rhode Island started up similar efforts. But it takes more than good intentions and a good start to see these books through, and both were abandoned — though the efforts led to a good number of bios being written.

SABR has in the works at this time books on players from Cuba and players from Puerto Rico. So the regional approach is still viable.

The University of Nebraska Press has printed six team books, a very encouraging addition to the body of work coming out of BioProject. As we moved more toward digital books, and wanting all the material that was coming out of SABR and BioProject, the SABR Board of Directors decided to have SABR itself publish our own books, or at least most of them. Accordingly, while books were completed that were in the works, such as Mark Armour’s and my book Boston Red Sox Baseball in the Days of Ike and Elvis, that was the last one published by Rounder Books (in 2012, with associate editors Maurice Bouchard and Len Levin). It gave us another 46 bios, though some (like Ted Williams) overlapped other books — Ted was also in the 1939 and 1948 Red Sox books. There was another Red Sox book, too, aimed for the 100th anniversary of the opening of Fenway Park. That one was published in 2012 by SABR as Opening Fenway Park in Style: The 1912 World Champion Boston Red Sox.

There were then books on the 1960 Pirates, the 1964 Cardinals, the 1964 Phillies, the 1947 Brooklyn Dodgers, the 1947 Yankees, and more. How did SABR move from these individual books to the idea of trying to write up all the Red Sox players from 1901 to 1950?

There is a certain theme to many of the earlier books. Maybe you noticed a lot of them are about the Red Sox. That reflects a certain personal interest. Somehow, as a researcher and fan, I wasn’t inspired to organize a book on, say, the 1956 New York Yankees (even though I once rooted for the Yankees to win, for one game — or at least I rooted for Don Larsen, from about the sixth inning on ... )  It takes someone to organize these books, and someone to carry them through.

I didn’t even mention the 1901 Boston Americans book, published in 2013: New Century, New Team: The 1901 Boston Americans.  

Mark Armour had started in on me about doing a book on the 1986 Red Sox. That didn’t really interest me, though. I thought it was “too recent” — whatever that meant. But that’s part of the reason it interested Mark. He knew SABR was really good on earlier decades. He wanted to encourage biographies of more recent ballplayers so that BioProject would have more balance, and also perhaps more appeal to younger members. It was at a SABR board meeting in 2014 that we were talking and Leslie Heaphy threw out the idea of doing a book on the 1986 Mets. I mentioned my conversations over time with Mark and then said, “Wait a minute! If we aim for 2016, that will have been 30 years. That’s hardly recent. What about if we do a double book, on the 1986 Mets and the 1986 Red Sox?” We did — but it became such a fat book that we had to split it in two, and thus we have the two books that came out this March, both of them subtitled There Was More than Game Six. Because there was.

But around the same time, it crossed my mind — we have all the bios of the 1901 Bostons, the 1912 team, and the 1918 team. That’s three of the first 20 Red Sox teams. There wasn’t as much roster turnover in those days as there is today. I wonder how many players it would take to “fill in the gaps” and have the first 20 years of Red Sox teams.

There were eight members of the 1902 Americans who weren’t on the 1901 team, and six on the 1903 team who weren’t on either 1901 or 1902’s teams. There were five new players on the 1904 team. But some of them had already been written. Maybe this was something to work on over time, and just forge ahead. So I started thinking about completing 1901-20.

Of course, after 1918, we didn’t have another SABR book until the 1939 Red Sox. But, as Mark Armour had noted, there was something that appealed to people to write about those teams and so a good number of the biographies had indeed already been written. For the people who hadn’t been, well, there was something I found inherently interesting about teams that were just that bad. When I started working on 1919, to fill in with bios on the players not already covered in the 1918 book, I was already looking forward to working on all those last-place teams from 1922 until Tom Yawkey bought the team (and soon bought a lot of star players in an attempt to turn things around.) Those were terrible teams — they finished dead last (eighth place in those days), one time (in 1924) advancing to seventh before sinking back into the cellar for six consecutive last-place finishes. Who were all these players? Would anyone ever write about them if I didn’t?

Well, yes, SABR members would. A number of them had already been written about — though not John Smith. How could I resist the challenge of writing about the only John Smith to play in the major leagues in the 20th or 21st centuries?  There were him and many others.

There were a couple of manic days at the Hall of Fame library, photocopying 42 player files so that I could write bios for many of the previously unclaimed players. I kept writing, simply going down the list. Complete this year, then go on to the next year. I wasn’t deciding who to write about. There was no choice involved. When I completed everyone from 1935 and before, I turned to 1936. I didn’t think about who there was I felt like writing about. I couldn’t pick and choose. I just had to write up whoever wasn’t yet taken. This was actually a little liberating in some fashion. I had to write up James Francis Henry and Theodore Olsen and Jennings Poindexter from the 1936 Red Sox, whether I’d heard of them before or not. I don’t think I’d ever heard of Albert Baker before, but when I got to 1938 there was no choice. I had to write up Baker’s bio.

When did I really start doing this in earnest, trying to fill in the gaps? And how many did I write for this particular reason? I don’t really know. I can’t readily trace it, even looking back on the bios I was writing bios for other SABR books and projects, and people were coming to me with ideas for future books. Bob LeMoine approached me with the idea of doing a book on the 1871-75 Boston Red Stockings. I really didn’t know much of anything about 19th century baseball, but I had contributed a chapter to the book Inventing Baseball: The 100 Greatest Games of the Nineteenth Century. I took that on as a challenge, too, writing up the game of June 3, 1875. The Boston team had a 26-0 record (with one tie), heading into June. Al Spalding was already a 20-game winner and it was still May! (He was 22-0 at the end of May.) Yes, I enjoyed writing up that game, and I wanted to learn more about this team. Perhaps in our next newsletter, Bob can tell us more about how he got the idea for the book (due out from SABR later this summer): Boston’s First Nine: The 1871-75 Boston Red Stockings.

In between all these various projects, I just kept plugging along, writing up five players from the 1940 team, six from the 1941 teams, three from 1942, eight from 1943, seven from 1944, eight more from 1945 . . . I had 1950 in my sights, and still do. As I conclude this, I’ve got two more to write from 1949 (Jack Robinson and Walt Masterson) and four from 1950. David Skelton’s working on a Buddy Rosar bio; he was on the 1950 Red Sox team. He’s likely to finish around the time I do, maybe a little earlier. Sometime in May or June, though, I expect to be able to finish up.  At that point, we’ll have a bio for every Red Sox player from 1901 through 1950. Turns out there are 697 Red Sox players in the first half-century.

What’s next after that? The rest of the 1950s?

Probably. Only three more bios would give us 1951, but 1952 is a little discouraging. There are 13 players to be written for that year. And through 2015, the Red Sox have fielded 1,746 players. That’s a lotta players!  Maybe someone will sign up for some of those 1952 players, and I won’t have as many I’d feel compelled to write myself.

But, really, there are other things that interest me, too. Perhaps I need to step back and see more of the “forest” instead of just the “trees.” I’ve really enjoyed working the last year or so on a book about umpires, which I am co-editing with Larry Gerlach. Now when I go to Red Sox games, I try to stop by the umpires’ room and do an interview, or just say hello to a crew that’s been in before.

How do you write so many bios?

It gets easier, the more you do. I’m at a point in life where I don’t have a job to keep me busy, so a lot of time and energy goes into this. But, really, I should slow down a little and take on some more challenging ideas. I should. But these are almost relaxing to do. There is a formula, in effect, for writing them though clearly every player has a different career and a different life. The Hall of Fame Library has been very helpful to me over the years, with all my requests for player files and player questionnaires. Bill Francis has been particularly helpful. Other members help, too, when I have a particular question, perhaps about something the player I’m working on may have done in their part of the country. Rod Nelson of the Scouts Committee responds quickly with queries about who the committee credits with signing a particular player. It’s a two-way street, of course. Sometimes I turn up information that can add to the committee’s database. I can write a bio in one day, if I really work at it. It’s usually a little more relaxing to spread it over two or three days, which sometimes has to be the case when, say, an 1873 Red Stockings article comes in and I need to edit it. Sometimes, certain facts are difficult to track down through the various newspaper databases and I do have to reach out for help from a member who might be willing to take the time, say, to look up cause of death in the Cook County, Illinois, records. I am very appreciative of the willingness to help that almost every SABR member supplies. I hope I have never forgotten to add the name of a helping member to a list of thanks.

Really, though, what’s next?

You know what I’d like to see — I’d like to see other people start in on similar quests. Mark Armour tells me that there’s only one member of the 1921 Yankees who lacks a bio at this point. I don’t know who it is, but once that player’s written up, we’ll have all the Yankees for that year. I suspect there are other members who would have fun completing other seasons for other teams. Maybe we can launch a “complete a team” initiative, to fill in the gaps for teams that are closer to completion.

Earlier this year, I greatly enjoyed researching and writing three bios of former Negro Leagues ballplayers for a book tied into the 1948 Negro World Series, an idea that Rick Bush came up with. That took me away from my Red Sox completist mission, but it was good for me. We’ll just have to see what happens next.

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Project Profile: Tom Schott
Tom Schott was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi; grew up in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and lives in Norman, Oklahoma, where his grandkids, T. J. and Libby, are. Tom and Susan (formerly Gremillion) have a daughter, Tanya, and two sons, Stu and Ben. He and Raccoon Ass will celebrate their 50th anniversary next year.

He is a professional historian, receiving his Ph.D. from Louisiana State in 1978 and working as a historian with the U. S. Air Force and U. S. Special Operations Command. In retirement, Tom is a developmental editor with a publisher that does primarily Civil War and military history. He still writes, researches, publishes, and reads. Tom may be the world’s foremost authority on Alexander H. Stephens, a Georgia politician who was vice president of the Confederate States of America and never weighed more than 90 pounds.

He saw his first game when he was about 11 in Pelican Stadium (New Orleans Pelicans of the Southern Association) on Carrollton and Tulane avenues. He was at the only game the Rangers won in Arlington in the 2010 World Series. He considers significant the half-dozen times he was able to see Nolan Ryan pitch. At Jesuit High in New Orleans, Tom went out for the same team as Rusty Staub. “He was in my class, and after a couple days practice with him and his friends, I (correctly) gave up the idea of making the team.” 

Tom’s been a serious chess player for more than 50 years (B-rated United States Chess Federation) although he says he long ago reached his level of incompetence. When he’s not reading, researching, historying, trying to find a bad beer in Germany (spent three years and was unsuccessful) and trying to put weight onto Alexander Stephens, Tom has 15 to 25 internet chess games going with people around the world.

As a contributor to the BioProject, Tom notes that collecting family information on obscure players is difficult if you’re not a subscriber to the “way expensive” ancestry.com. Hack Wilson was the favorite bio he’s written “because of his short, packed career and his alcoholism which led me to revealing information about fetal alcohol syndrome, which Wilson suffered from.”

As for advice:

  • Advice you have for others, either those who have been writing bios already or those looking to get into it.
  • A good editor is the best friend a writer can have.
  • Research librarians anywhere, a free service, are unfailingly helpful.
  • The amount of useful information available online is staggering, but you have to be dogged about research.

Born in 1943, Tom shares his September 2 birthday with Christian Bethancourt, Ronald Torreyes, Jason Hammel, Rich Aurilia, Rick Manning, Lamar Johnson, Marvelous Marv Throneberry, Nitchie “Chief Chouneau” Cadreau, Mel Behney, Al Spalding, Peter Ueberroth, Milo Hamilton, Terry Bradshaw, Christa McAuliffe (no relation to Dick), Mark Harmon, Jimmy Connors, k. d. lang, Adolph Rupp, and Billy Preston.

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Project Poobahs
Mark Armour (Director)
Rory Costello (Chief Editor)
Jan Finkel (Senior Editor, Emeritus)
Len Levin (Senior Editor)
Warren Corbett (Chief Fact Checker)
Bill Nowlin (Team Projects)
Lyle Spatz (Assignments)
Emily Hawks (Modern Initiative - 1980s/1990s)
Scott Ferkovich (Ballparks Project)
Gregory H. Wolf

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