Born in a DP camp, baseball historian John Thorn adopts America’s national pastime

From Hillel Kuttler at on December 15, 2013, on SABR member John Thorn:

The past escorts John Thorn home from the moment he greets a visitor at a 139-year-old railroad station, crosses the Rip Van Winkle Bridge and arrives at his residence, a county historical landmark.

Clad in a facsimile jacket of the defunct Negro Leagues’ Kansas City Monarchs, he enters the billiards room of his home in this Hudson River town 35 miles south of Albany, its walls crammed with old framed prints and theater posters.

The environment befits the official historian for Major League Baseball and one who devours Americana.

“I am a sports historian by trade,” the 66-year-old Thorn says, “but I am an antiquarian in all things.”

While Thorn may delve into baseball lore for a living, it was more than just a game for this son of Holocaust survivor parents who was born in a displaced persons camp in Germany.

As an immigrant raised in the New York City boroughs of the Bronx and Queens, the young Thorn collected baseball cards and read their statistics and text, which he says helped him assimilate in America. Thorn says he was drawn to the national pastime because of its “possibilities for fairness” and the heroic figures who played the game.

His baseball-inspired imagination enabled Thorn to “construct my own legends untied to my European roots,” he explains while sitting in his second-floor office surrounded by books filling floor-to-ceiling shelf units.

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Originally published: December 16, 2013. Last Updated: December 16, 2013.