Stilley: Q&A with Scott Simkus, author of “Outsider Baseball”

From SABR member Aaron Stilley at Royals Review on March 3, 2014, with SABR member Scott Simkus:

Scott Simkus has a fantastic new book out called Outsider Baseball. I recommend it to all people who like things that are good. Simkus has conducted a massive amount of research into baseball played outside the realm of “organized” ball, meaning anything that isn’t MLB and their affiliated minor leagues. I asked Scott to do a Q&A, and here it be:

Congrats on finishing up a great book, one that obviously took a huge amount of time to research. When did you start doing the research, and when did you actually make it a goal to write the book?

First off, thanks for the kind words, I really appreciate it. The origins are difficult to pin down. I mean, I read Only The Ball Was White by Robert Peterson back in 1982 or ’83, and that was certainly part of the research, although I never would have realized it at the time. I was twelve years old. In the middle 1990s I began looking at microfilm, mostly sports stuff and family history and that was certainly part of the research as well. Learning how to navigate old newspapers.

In the early 2000s, the internet was maturing and I noticed there were Strat-O-Matic baseball fans who were posting things online about wanting a Negro league set and the company would always respond in the negative. SOM, of course, is a baseball board game and computer simulation that has been around since the early 1960s. I loved the game as a kid and I realized with the new online portals, giving us access to thousands of historical newspapers, that it would be possible to compile a small set with credible statistical profiles and produce something in conjunction with the game company. So I called them and told them about my idea and they said no. And then I called them later with another pitch and they said maybe. And so I called them later on, and sent them a bunch of my material (taking a leap of faith) and they finally said yes. At that point, I’m not thinking about writing a book yet. I wanted to put together a database for a game company.

After signing the contract with Strat, I had to collect Negro league box scores and I had to weed out a lot of games—a lot of the games published in the papers for the Homestead Grays, for instance, are NOT Negro league games. They were non-league games against white semipros, featuring stories about the Grays playing against the all-white Brooklyn Bushwicks, and the Jewish All-Stars, and the House of David. I stumbled across newspaper articles about these interesting teams from Japan and Hawaii touring the U.S. In the 1930s. And I was like, whoa, who are all THESE teams and why hasn’t anybody written anything meaningful about them? And so it was during the research for Strat that I became interested in writing a book about independent professional baseball teams—of all colors. These teams and players are what I started to think of as “outsiders,” they’re not part of the historical record but many of these teams were as good, or better than, Triple-A clubs.

Read the full article here:

Originally published: March 3, 2014. Last Updated: March 3, 2014.