Dickson: Response to ‘The Veracity of Veeck’

By Paul Dickson

More in sadness than in anger, I am responding to the attack on my book Bill Veeck—Baseball’s Greatest Maverick in the Fall 2013 issue of SABR’s Baseball Research Journal. For starters, the piece lacks any documentation or footnoting. This flies in the face of SABR’s longstanding tradition of well-documented scholarship in a journal with the word “research” in the title.

Second, the piece attributes a comment to me without any sourcing or context which conveniently makes it impossible to verify or even to formulate a response. The last and only time I can recall talking to either of the authors in person was before I began writing the book. This unsourced quote is used to set up a snide and inappropriate final line.

Third, the authors do not provide a fair summation of what I said about Veeck’s desire to integrate the Phillies or of the corroborating new evidence that I found. Tellingly, they cannot point to a single factual mistake in my discussion of this episode. Instead, they pile misinterpretation upon misinterpretation. For example, they say that Abe Saperstein’s comments about holding spring training in Florida could not be true because of wartime travel restrictions. Saperstein, however, made these comments about the situation in early October 1942, prior to the announcement of any restrictions. The restrictions on spring training went into effect a month after gas rationing was established in December 1942.[fn]Charles Fountain, Under the March Sun: the Story of Spring Training. Oxford: Oxford University Press, USA, 2009, page 39.[/fn]

Finally, what is saddest of all to me is that this was published without giving me an opportunity to read the article, to verify an alleged quotation by me, and to respond in the same issue. As a longtime SABR member and supporter, I deserved better. And as a membership organization that prides itself on meticulous research and first-rate scholarship, SABR deserved better. The future of this organization depends not on vituperative attacks and unsourced quotes but on a higher level of debate, discourse, and documentation.

PAUL DICKSON is a 2013 recipient of the Henry Chadwick Award. He is the author of more than 55 books, including “The Dickson Baseball Dictionary,” now in its third edition; “The Unwritten Rules of Baseball,” “The Hidden Language of Baseball,” “The Joy of Keeping Score,” “Baseball: The Presidents’ Game” (with William B. Mead), and most recently, “Bill Veeck—Baseball’s Greatest Maverick.”

Originally published: November 20, 2013. Last Updated: November 20, 2013.