Planning for a 19th-century baseball annotation research project

By Peter Mancuso

Our fifth annual Frederick Ivor-Campbell 19th Century Base Ball Conference was named for Fred by the second year it was held. Why wouldn’t it be? Fred helped plan the first conference we held at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown and accepted my invitation to him to serve as moderator for that first year’s panel discussion, “From Baseball Research To Writing To Publication” with panelists Peter Morris, Bill Ryczek and John Thorn. Wow, talk about an All-Star lineup being managed by an All-Star manager! Then tragedy struck a few months later and Fred was killed in an automobile accident.

In a large way, with Fred’s guidance, both the quality and demeanor of all future conferences were set that first year and have held up throughout. The 2013 conference was no exception, with great information imparted by all the presenters, panelists and interviewees in a warm and friendly atmosphere made all the more pleasurable by the combined company of conference veterans and first-time attendees, indistinguishable.

This year’s Luncheon Keynote Address was given by Tom Shieber, who upheld the fine tradition of all of his keynote predecessors. He presented a thoughtful and provocative talk on the theme that I have asked all of our keynote speakers to address, encouraging baseball research. Tom, like all those before him, who each in their own way accomplished their mission, had a little bit more in mind: He had a specific proposal to make.

In his address, Tom explained his nearly lifelong hobby of annotation, something of a family hobby, particularly, early on for Tom, the annotating of photographs. Is there any wonder that Tom would end up working at the Baseball Hall of Fame? We have supplied below a link to Tom’s original draft of his Keynote Address at this year’s Ivor-Campbell Conference. Although it was not intended for publication (its primary purpose was to give Tom prompts to his presentation), I convinced Tom that he should share it with our membership. I encourage all of you to read it. I think you will find it a wonderful mix of SABR history, Tom’s own story and most importantly his proposed project, all presented with verve and wit.

In a nutshell, Tom has developed an online method for a group to collectively annotate any early baseball artifact. Specifically, he is suggesting the annotation of an early 19th-century baseball book, one that is in the public domain.

So, imagine this: Imagine our committee members having the opportunity to take an early classic baseball book, one revered by baseball historians, and to produce from their research a new fully annotated edition of that baseball classic.

Tom Shieber feels he has the web-based tool to accomplish this and we both feel that our Nineteenth Century Committee has the talent among its members to accomplish this exquisitely. I am planning on furthering a discussion of this new potential committee group project at our annual business meeting during SABR 43 in Philadelphia. Before that meeting on August 1, I hope you will read Tom’s Keynote Address and visit Tom’s blog at

Whether you are planning on attending SABR 43 and being at our annual committee business meeting or not, I welcome any one of you who may have an interest in this exciting potential project to contact me ( or Tom Shieber ( before SABR 43 with your thoughts and ideas so that we have them in time for the meeting.

Peter Mancuso is chairman of the SABR Nineteenth Century Research Committee and a member of the SABR 43 Planning Committee.

Originally published: June 24, 2013. Last Updated: June 24, 2013.