SABR BioProject: May 2019 newsletter

 

High and Inside
The Newsletter of the BioProject Committee
Society for American Baseball Research (SABR)
May 2019

Past newsletters

Editor: Andrea Long

 

From Co-Directors Rory Costello and Gregory H. Wolf
Change to BioProject Workflow

As part of the ongoing effort to maintain the high standard of quality of SABR’s biographies, we have added another stage to the review process.

This is an initial vetting before editing begins. Our reviewers will determine whether the following standards have been met:

1. That all of SABR’s basic requirements for biographies are covered;
2. That it is properly sourced and formatted, including endnotes;
3. That the writing is of sufficient quality.

If the submission is found wanting in any of these aspects, it will be returned to the author to address the points raised. The reviewers will seek to make more specific recommendations.

If the submission is accepted, it will then proceed to the fact-checking stage. We are now moving this ahead of the copy-editing stage. The process overall will follow what has been implemented with bios that go into SABR’s books that collect biographies on notable teams or themes.

After fact-checking, a different reviewer will then proceed to do the copy editing, per the existing process.

This is similar to the quality-control practice in magazines and good newspapers, where at least two pairs of eyes see every story. The vetters would look at the article as a whole, and the copy editors would be responsible for the details of syntax and style. The vetters can also tip off the editors about what to look out for.

We also seek to allocate a scarce resource — the time of our limited staff of volunteer reviewers and fact-checkers — more efficiently.

There have been cases where the fact-checkers have been put in the position of performing a remedial edit. We need to avoid these.

Authors can add hyperlinks to BioProject nodes for named players at any time during the vetting and editing stages. Ideally, however, the links should be present on submission.

Please continue to send initial submissions to Rory Costello, Chief Editor, at roryscostello@gmail.com. Rory will be cc’d on vetting recommendations.

Thank you,
Rory and Gregory

 

Guest Column: Bill Nowlin

In this edition of the newsletter, we’re pleased to have SABR Director Bill Nowlin’s detailed article about books and the BioProject.

First, a bit of history. The BioProject was the brainchild of SABR president Mark Armour, who is also the Director, Emeritus of the project. He announced its establishment at the 2002 SABR convention in Boston. His idea, though ambitious, was well received, as the numbers show. As of this newsletter, the running total of completed biographies in the BioProject (reported each week in “This Week in SABR”) is 4,851. A few hundred more are in the works, already placed in forthcoming books, bringing the grand total to over 5,000.

To learn more about the history of the BioProject, please see the January 2008 newsletter. In that edition, Jan Finkel shares information about its beginnings and how it grew and developed during that six-year period. In it, he says that the project “would outlive us all” given the sheer number of players involved. He wasn’t wrong. But I suspect that other BioProject authors share my feeling that outliving us all is a good thing. We will always have players to write about, as will future SABR members. And knowing that you are forever linked with a player (or players) you spent considerable time researching and getting to know is incredibly gratifying.

And now, on to Bill. — A.L.

 

SABR Books and Bios
By Bill Nowlin

Authors research, write, and submit biographies. Many of us simply enjoy telling the stories of these baseball lives. The opportunity to see one’s work published in a SABR book sometimes may provide additional motivation.

Naturally, plenty of us are glad enough to write for web-only posting, with no expectation or even hope of seeing a given biography published in a book. I know I’ve written more than 100 bios that were never intended for any book.

A number of the first books were Red Sox-oriented. That reflected the start provided by David Southwick, the interest of the chapters in the New England area, and the willingness of Rounder Books to publish these books. Rounder Books (of which I am co-owner) is based in the Boston area and from 2005 through 2009 published five biography-oriented books. (The number of biographies in each book is included in brackets at the end of every listing.)

  • ‘75: The Red Sox Team That Saved Baseball, Bill Nowlin & Cecilia Tan, eds. (Rounder Books, 2005; reissued by SABR, 2015) [46]
  • The 1967 Impossible Dream Red Sox: Pandemonium on the Field, Bill Nowlin & Dan Desrochers, eds. (Rounder Books, 2007; reissued by SABR, 2017) [49]
  • When Boston Still Had the Babe: The 1918 World Champion Red Sox, Bill Nowlin, ed. (Rounder Books, 2008; reissued by SABR, 2018) [34]
  • Spahn, Sain, and Teddy Ballgame: Boston’s (Almost) Perfect Baseball Summer of 1948, Bill Nowlin, ed. (Rounder Books, 2008) [72]
  • Lefty, Double-X, and The Kid: The 1939 Red Sox, A Team in Transition, Bill Nowlin, ed. (Rounder Books, 2009) [29]

Rounder Books got the ball rolling, but other publishers began to put out books built around BioProject biographies as well.

In 2008, Maple Street Press published Sock It To ‘Em Tigers, Mark Pattison & Dave Raglin, eds. [43].

Clearly, 2009 was a banner year for BioProject-inspired books.

  • Maple Street Press published The Miracle Has Landed: The Amazin’ Story of How the 1969 Mets Shocked the World, Matthew Silverman & Ken Samelson, eds. [43].
  • ACTA Sports published Go-Go to Glory: The 1959 Chicago White Sox, Don Zminda, ed. [48]. This book has been updated and expanded and is being reissued by SABR in 2019.
  • Nodin Press published Minnesotans in Baseball, Stew Thornley, ed. [46].

In December 2011, SABR began its own publishing program with Can He Play? A Look at Baseball Scouts and Their Profession, Jim Sandoval & Bill Nowlin, eds. That book contained 29 biographies of scouts.

Five SABR books that were heavy on bios were published in 2012. Three were published directly by SABR and two in collaboration with University of Nebraska Press.

The three books SABR published itself were:

  • Detroit Tigers 1984: What a Start! What a Finish!, Mark Pattison & David Raglin, eds. [49]
  • Opening Fenway Park with Style: The World Champion 1912 Red Sox, Bill Nowlin, ed. [30]
  • Red Sox Baseball in the Days of Ike and Elvis: The Red Sox of the 1950s, Mark Armour & Bill Nowlin, eds. [46]

SABR entered into an agreement with University of Nebraska Press, and six books resulted under the series editorship of Mark Armour and Bill Nowlin.

2012:

  • Pitching, Defense, and Three-Run Homers: The 1970 Baltimore Orioles, Mark Armour & Malcolm Allen, eds. [39]
  • The Team That Forever Changed Baseball and America: The 1947 Brooklyn Dodgers, Lyle Spatz, ed. [53]

2013:

  • Bridging Two Dynasties: The 1947 New York Yankees, Lyle Spatz, ed. [50]
  • Drama and Pride in the Gateway City: The 1964 St. Louis Cardinals, John Harry Stahl & Bill Nowlin, eds. [50]

2014:

  • Pitching to the Pennant: The 1954 Cleveland Indians, Joseph Wancho, ed. [44]
  • The Great Eight: The 1975 Cincinnati Reds, Mark Armour, ed. [36]

During this time, the SABR board determined that it wanted to ensure that all BioProject biographies would be made available online. The deal with Nebraska was such that it would retain online rights to the biographies, so the Board decided to conclude that aspect of our relationship with Nebraska. (We still collaborate on other publications. University of Nebraska Press distributes the Baseball Research Journal.)

Other books in 2013, published directly by SABR, were:

  • Sweet ’60: The 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates, Clifton Blue Parker & Bill Nowlin, eds. [48]
  • The Year of the Blue Snow: The 1964 Philadelphia Phillies, Mel Marmer & Bill Nowlin, eds. [49]
  • New Century, New Team: The 1901 Boston Americans, Bill Nowlin, ed. [26]

In addition to the two 2014 books published with Nebraska, SABR directly published five other bio-laden books that year:

  • The Miracle Braves of 1914: Boston’s Original Worst-to-First World Series Champions, Bill Nowlin, ed. [37]
  • Thar’s Joy in Braveland: The 1957 Milwaukee Braves, Gregory H. Wolf, ed. [50]
  • Van Lingle Mungo: The Man, The Song, The Players, Bill Nowlin, ed. [40]
  • The 1934 St. Louis Cardinals: The World Champion Gas House Gang, Charles Faber, ed. [36]
  • Detroit the Unconquerable: The 1935 World Champion Tigers, Scott Ferkovich, ed. [30]

The year 2015 brought more:

  • Winning on the North Side: The 1929 Chicago Cubs, Gregory H. Wolf, ed. [43]
  • Who’s on First: Replacement Players in World War II, Marc Z. Aaron & Bill Nowlin, eds. [48]
  • Scandal on the South Side: The 1919 Chicago White Sox, Jacob Pomrenke, ed. [36]
  • Mustaches & Mayhem: Charlie O’s Three-Time Champions: The Oakland Athletics: 1972-74, Chip Greene, ed. [87]
  • A Pennant for the Twin Cities: The 1965 Minnesota Twins, Gregory H. Wolf, ed. [47]
  • The Team That Time Won’t Forget: The 1951 New York Giants, Bill Nowlin & C. Paul Rogers III, eds. [42]

Looking back at the full year of 2016, we have these books:

  • Nuclear Powered Baseball: Articles Inspired by The Simpsons Episode “Homer at the Bat”, Emily Hawks & Bill Nowlin, eds. [20]
  • The 1986 New York Mets: There Was More Than Game Six, Leslie Heaphy & Bill Nowlin, eds. [49]
  • Cuban Baseball Legends: Baseball’s Alternative Universe, Peter C. Bjarkman & Bill Nowlin, eds.; also published in Spanish as Leyendas del Béisbol Cubano: El Universo Alternativo del Béisbol [45]
  • Boston’s First Nine: The 1871-75 Boston Red Stockings, Bob LeMoine & Bill Nowlin, eds. [24]
  • When Pops Led the Family: The 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates, Bill Nowlin & Gregory H. Wolf, eds. [41]

2017 titles included:

  • Overcoming Adversity: Baseball’s Tony Conigliaro Award, Bill Nowlin & Clayton Trutor, eds. [29]
  • The SABR Book of Umpires and Umpiring, Larry R. Gerlach & Bill Nowlin, eds. [18]
  • No-Hitters, Bill Nowlin, ed. [50]
  • Puerto Rico and Baseball: 60 Biographies, Bill Nowlin & Edwin Fernández, eds. [62 – the title did not encompass the two ballpark bios]
  • Bittersweet Goodbye: The Black Barons, the Grays, and the 1948 Negro League World Series, Frederick C. Bush & Bill Nowlin, eds. [54]
  • 20-Game Losers, Bill Nowlin & Emmet R. Nowlin, eds. [66]

2018 books:

  • The Whiz Kids Take the Pennant: The 1950 Philadelphia Phillies, C. Paul Rogers III & Bill Nowlin, eds. [42]
  • From Spring Training to Screen Test: Baseball Players Turned Actors, Ro Edelman & Bill Nowlin, eds. [48]
  • Major League Baseball A Mile High: The First Quarter Century of the Colorado Rockies, Bill Nowlin & Paul T. Parker, eds. [26]
  • Time For Expansion Baseball, Maxwell Kates & Bill Nowlin, eds. [42]

2019 books:

  • The 1995 Cleveland Indians: The Sleeping Giant Awakes, Joseph Wancho, ed. [49]
  • The Team That Couldn’t Hit: The 1972 Texas Rangers, Steve West & Bill Nowlin, eds. [53]
  • Jeff Bagwell in Connecticut: A Consistent Lad in the Land of Steady Habits, Karl Cicitto, Bill Nowlin, & Len Levin, eds. [1]
  • Wrigley Field: The Friendly Confines at Clark and Addison, Gregory H. Wolf, ed. [1]
  • San Diego Padres — The First Half-Century, Tom Larwin & Bill Nowlin, eds. [39]

Coming soon:

  • Kansas City Royals – 34 bios
  • 1946 Newark Eagles – 27 bios
  • Federal League – 45 bios
  • Dominicans in the Major Leagues – 54 bios
  • The Glorious Beaneaters of the 1890s – 44 bios
  • 1982 Milwaukee Brewers – 43 bios

. . . and more.

The annual totals look like this:

  • 2005-2010: 410
  • 2011: 29
  • 2012: 217
  • 2013: 223
  • 2014: 273
  • 2015: 303
  • 2016: 228
  • 2017: 339
  • 2018: 158
  • 2019: 143 (so far)

The total overall, through the end of May 2019, will reach 2,323 biographies in books SABR has published. They include a biography of a mule, the San Diego Chicken, and Homer Simpson.

Some biographies, of course, appear in more than one book. At least one has appeared in as many as four books, and I believe a few others have appeared in three books.

Criteria for starting up a new book

When approached with an idea for a new book, one of the criteria I use is, how many NEW biographies will this get us? There are some teams — including very good and exciting teams — which would not net us many new bios because such a large percentage of the team has already been written.

The goal of the books generally remains to inspire new biographies. Seeking new angles is always a good idea. On a book such as No-Hitters, we deliberately shied away from including some well-known pitchers who already had bios written and tried to feature some of the more unusual.

Not every one of these were biographies inspired by the book program. Some of them were written before the first “team book” came out in 2005.

Before the book program began, Mark Armour tabulated 54 bios in the first year, 93 in the second year, 112 in the third year, and 103 in the fourth year. So, we were progressing at a pace of around 100 bios a year. The book program has accelerated that pace.

When assembling the books, the editors draw on previously-posted biographies — though, as indicated, if there are any substantial number of previously written bios, we just don’t pursue that idea for a book. There is no particular rule, but if more than 20-25% of the bios have already been written, that would tend to “disqualify” a book as one on which we wanted to embark. Generally speaking, I think it’s safe to say that in any given book more than 75% of the bios are new ones.

A note about 2016 and 2018: Around 2018, the SABR book program started putting more emphasis on including what might be called “Games Project books” — and so there were books that collectively contained a couple of hundred game accounts, but no biographies at all. In 2018, we simply published fewer books due to a number of factors on the production side.

There are some unsung heroes. Len Levin has served as copy editor for, I believe, every one of the above-named books (and more besides). He has no doubt edited several thousand bios, game accounts, and other essays. Likewise, the fact-checkers carefully pore over every submission, and spare all of us writers more than a few embarrassing mistakes. They include Carl Riechers, Russ Lake, Bob LeMoine, James Forr, and others.

 

From the Editor
Take Me Out to the . . . Opera?

I lived for art, I lived for love. — Floria Tosca in Puccini’s Tosca

Love is the most important thing in the world, but baseball is pretty good, too. — Yogi Berra

A few years ago, over dinner with some girlfriends, I found myself discussing two of my great loves — opera and baseball. I wish I could feign innocence as to how the conversation took this turn, but I’m sure I’m responsible, given my delight in talking endlessly about both. As I chattered on, one friend remarked how curious it was to love two completely unrelated things with such devotion to both. This was something I’d never considered.

I paused and then launched into an impassioned speech about the similarities between the two: tragedy, comedy, longing, unfulfilled dreams, thwarted plans, victory, defeat, villains, heroes, agony, ecstasy. I was on a roll, and I’m sure I said more. Wine was involved, which made me brilliant, naturally, in my soliloquy but also forgetful.

Turns out, baseball and opera aren’t as far apart as they may seem. As two recently staged operas — both featuring players profiled in SABR’s BioProject — have shown, they complement each other nicely.

The newest entry in the baseball opera canon is The Fix, a two-act opera commissioned by Minnesota Opera, which had its world premiere on Saturday, March 16, 2019. Written by Joel Puckett and Eric Simonson, it tells the story of Shoeless Joe Jackson and the Black Sox Scandal. Books and movies — and SABR's new Eight Myths Out project — cover this wrenching episode in baseball’s past with far more research and greater detail than I could ever begin to provide here, but the two-sentence summary is this: Jackson and seven of his White Sox teammates were accused of throwing the 1919 World Series. They were acquitted in a jury trial, but all were banned from baseball for life.

The opera makes Jackson, his wife Katie, and Chicago Tribune sports columnist Ring Lardner the central characters. Jackson essentially emerges as a sympathetic figure — the hero undone by a tragic flaw. Lardner is portrayed as a man saddened and disillusioned to the point of brokenness by the scandal.

The (Minneapolis) StarTribune was, for the most part, favorable in its review, praising the sets, the music, and the costumes. It deemed The Fix “definitely worth seeing.” The Wall Street Journal was less charitable. It was mildly complimentary of the costumes (“inoffensive”), the lighting (“managed to conjure up some atmosphere”), and Simonson’s direction (“efficient”). The Star-Tribune’s review was titled “Batting above average,” while the Journal’s was called “An opera strikes out,” which pretty well sums up the opposing opinions.

The Summer King, a two-act opera by Daniel Sonenberg, Daniel Nester, and Mark Campbell, is about catcher Josh Gibson, nicknamed “the black Babe Ruth,” who was the second Negro League player inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

The opera is built on three aspects of Gibson’s woefully short life. First is his indisputable talent. In a 17-year career, he hit more home runs than Ruth and was generally regarded as a solid backstop. Second is his unintentional role in desegregating baseball. Gibson was a ballplayer who loved the game. Period. He was not an activist. He did not crusade for racial equality because, according to his son, the color barrier was something he felt he was powerless to change. Finally, the opera presents the tragic aspects of his personal life: the death of his wife in childbirth, his alcoholism and drug abuse, and his death of a brain tumor at age 35.

The Summer King had its world premiere at the Pittsburgh Opera on Saturday, April 29, 2017, with Gibson’s great-grandson in attendance. It was also staged by Michigan Opera Theatre in May 2018, which used the opera to kick off a yearlong celebration of African-American athletes and artists. Both productions received positive reviews. Opera News described the Pittsburgh production as a “compelling theatrical experience and a serious, thought-provoking addition to the repertory.”

George Shirley, who was the first African-American tenor to sing a leading role with the Metropolitan Opera and who participated in a panel discussion about The Summer King, was thrilled to see opera used as the vehicle to tell Gibson’s story. In an interview with The Detroit News, he said what opera-loving baseball fans (or, if you prefer, baseball-loving opera fans) have known all along: “Real life is full of operatic stories.”

Sources and additional reading about The Fix and The Summer King:

As always, your comments, ideas, contributions, and suggestions for this newsletter are most welcome. I’d love to hear from you!

— Andrea

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Update on BioProject Submissions

The total number of biographies in the BioProject now stands at 4,851. Since the last newsletter, we’ve posted 90 new bios online, including 8 by first-time authors.

 

Project Poobahs