This article was written by Mark Armour
This article was published in the Spring 2011 Baseball Research Journal
One of SABR’s founding members and its first Executive Director, Kachline served as historian at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and left an indelible mark on baseball research.
CLIFFORD S. KACHLINE (1921–2010) left an indelible mark on the world of baseball research, a lifelong love he initiated at age 18. In early 1940, Kachline read an advertisement in The Sporting News about the forthcoming first edition of its Baseball Register. The ad showed the year-by-year statistics of a couple of players, and young Kachline noticed a few errors. He promptly wrote a letter to Taylor Spink, the paper’s publisher, who wrote back to ask if Kachline would proofread the entire book before it went to press. He did so, and did the same for the 1941 and 1942 editions. In 1943, the 21-year-old joined the newspaper’s staff in St. Louis. For the next 24 years, Kachline wrote many feature stories for the paper and edited many of TSN’s annuals including the Official Baseball Guide, Baseball Register, and Baseball Dope Book.
In 1969, following a two-year stint as PR director for the soccer association known both as the United Soccer League and the North American Soccer League, Kachline replaced Lee Allen as historian at the National Baseball Hall of Fame. In this role, Kachline acquired many large file collections which might otherwise have been thrown out: financial records from the Yankees, contract cards from the National Association (the governing body of the minor leagues), and documents from the commissioner’s office, among others. He wrote the text on the plaques for new honorees and the placards for most of the exhibits in the museum.
Kachline was also one of SABR’s founding members. When the group convened for the first time in August 1971, the meeting took place just outside Kachline’s office in the Hall of Fame library. Kachline spent eight years on the SABR board, including two as its president. In 1983 he was named the group’s first Executive Director, and SABR’s headquarters moved to his house in Cooperstown. He served in this post for three years, during which time SABR’s membership grew from fewer than 2,000 to over 6,000.
Through all this, Kachline retained his doggedness for getting the facts straight, a tendency he first made clear to Taylor Spink in 1940. When Bob Feller was thought to have broken Rube Waddell’s single-season strikeout record in 1946, Kachline went through Waddell’s 1904 season game by game and found six more strikeouts, which put Rube one ahead of Feller. His connections throughout baseball helped him not only find discrepancies in the record books, but also work with the right groups to get the record books changed. In 1977 he first became aware that Hack Wilson might have driven home 191 runs in 1930 rather than his presumed 190. Although other researchers were involved in the case over the years, Kachline led the charge that caused the record to be changed in 1999.
Kachline and his wife Evelyn were fixtures at SABR conventions and local meetings for nearly forty years. He remained a thoughtful researcher and a friend to many throughout the world of baseball until his death in 2010 at age 88.