School Library Journal: Interview With John Thorn

From Rocco Staino at the School Library Journal on October 13, 2011, with SABR member John Thorn:

John Thorn, Major League Baseball’s official historian, talks about his first children’s book, First Pitch: How Baseball Began (Beach Ball, 2011), about the humble beginnings of America’s national pastime.

Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig last March named you the Official Baseball Historian of Major League Baseball (MLB). What does that mean?

My role is to assist the various divisions of MLB on matters involving historical precedent. Unlike all other sports, baseball’s past is always present, so when, for example, Derek Jeter passes the 3,000 hit mark, he reanimates the ghosts of Cap Anson, Honus Wagner, and Ty Cobb. From MLB Properties and MLB Advanced Media to MLB Network, there’s always a call for historical data, and my job is to offer it correctly and sometimes entertainingly, to media outlets or within MLB confines. A significant short-term duty of the Official Baseball Historian, uniquely “up my alley,” is to chair an 11-member select panel on Baseball’s Origins. This committee’s charter runs to the end of 2012.

In First Pitch: How Baseball Began you dispel many myths about early baseball. Is there one you didn’t get to include in your book?

I suppose the false notion that’s unique to baseball among American sports is that there was a golden age of heroes, when giants walked the earth. No one thought Johnny Weissmuller would compete for an Olympic Gold medal in swimming, that Red Grange would top the charts of NFL rushing leaders, or that George Mikan would be a great star in today’s NBA. Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, and Ted Williams were great hitters in their day. Cy Young and Walter Johnson were great pitchers. Yet the best baseball ever played is all around us today.


Read the full article here:

Originally published: October 20, 2011. Last Updated: October 20, 2011.