Jeremy Beer’s ‘Oscar Charleston’ wins 2020 SABR Seymour Medal

Oscar Charleston: The Life and Legend of Baseball’s Greatest Forgotten Player, written by Jeremy Beer and published by the University of Nebraska Press, is the winner of the 2020 Dr. Harold and Dorothy Seymour Medal, which honors the best book of baseball history or biography published during the preceding calendar year.

Oscar Charleston book coverBeer will receive his award at the banquet of the 27th annual NINE Spring Training Conference on Saturday, March 7, 2020, at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Tempe, Arizona.

The banquet includes the Seymour Medal ceremony, dinner, and the NINE keynote address by Ron Rapoport, author of Let’s Play Two: The Legend of Mr. Cub, the Life of Ernie Banks. To register for the NINE conference, visit nineconference.com.

The Seymour Medal Selection Committee of Andy Andres (chair), Leslie Heaphy, and Amy Essington released the following statement:

Jeremy Beer has broken new ground with his thorough and painstakingly well-documented book, Oscar Charleston: The Life and Legend of Baseball’s Greatest Forgotten Player. Beer not only does the requisite review of the “one of the greatest ever to play the game” claims made by various teammates and students of the game (Bill James ranked Charleston as the fourth best player all-time behind Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, and Honus Wagner; Buck O’Neil called him “Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, and Tris Speaker rolled into one”), but he makes the case for his stature as one of the smartest, and respected leaders of the game during his time playing, managing, and scouting in professional baseball. This is an important book, not only covering one of the greatest and most influential players ever to have played the game, but hopefully leading the way to more comprehensive biographical treatments of players who only played in the Negro Leagues.

Beer, a SABR member since 2015, is a founding partner at American Philanthropic in Phoenix, Arizona, and the author of The Philanthropic Revolution: An Alternative History of American Charity. He wrote “Hothead: How the Oscar Charleston Myth Began” for the SABR Baseball Research Journal in 2017.

He said Charleston’s “unique resume” was a story that was long overdue in being told.

“Oscar was one of the greatest athletes in American history and he deserves to be remembered for that,” Beer said. “He has a legitimate claim as one of the best all-around, five-tool players of all time, up there with Willie Mays, Barry Bonds, and Mike Trout. And he was so special with the other roles he played in the game, too, as a manager and a pioneering scout.”

The other finalists for the 2020 Seymour Medal were:

  • Pastime Lost: The Humble, Original, and Now Completely Forgotten Game of English Baseball, by David Block (University of Nebraska Press)
  • The Workingman’s Game: Waverly, New York, the Twin Tiers and the Making of Modern Baseball, 1887–1898, by William H. Brewster (Luminare Press)
  • Scouting and Scoring: How We Know What We Know about Baseball, by Christopher J. Phillips (Princeton University Press)

The Seymour Medal, named in honor of Dr. Harold Seymour and Mrs. Dorothy (Seymour) Mills, was first awarded by SABR in 1996. To be considered for the medal, a work must be the product of original research or analysis. The winning book shall significantly advance our knowledge of baseball and shall be characterized by understanding, factual accuracy, profound insight and distinguished writing.

To see a list of previous Seymour Medal winners, click here.



Originally published: January 29, 2020. Last Updated: January 29, 2020.

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