At the fourth annual SABR/IWBC Women in Baseball Conference on September 18, 2022, a panel discussion on Twenty-First Century Baseball Research: Much More Than Box Scores included Allison R. Levin, Roberta J. Newman, Laura Furman, and moderator Catherine Forslund.
Allison R. Levin is an Associate Professor of Sports Communication at Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri; she is on the Board of Directors of the Society for American Baseball Research and serves in an advisory role for the NINE Spring Training Conference. Roberta J. Newman is a Clinical Professor of Liberal Studies at New York University and the author of Here’s the Pitch: the Amazing, True, New, and Improved Story of Baseball and Advertising. Laura Furman is the Chief Curator of Collections and Education at the Midway Village Museum in Rockford, Illinois. Moderator: Catherine Forslund is a Professor of History and Women’s Studies and chair of the History and International Studies Department at Rockford University in Illinois.
- Video: Click here to watch a replay of the 2022 SABR/IWBC Women in Baseball Conference 21st Century Research Panel (YouTube)
Here are some highlights:
On the Peaches’ long-term impact on the Rockford community
- Furman: “We still have a lot of photos that were taken by local families. A lot of people come into the museum and say, ‘You know, there was a Peaches player that was staying with a family that lived across the street from me or down the block, and we used to talk to her all the time and we used to go to the games to watch her play.’ Those stories have been a point of pride that people really enjoy being able to bring to us. We have a lot less in our archives that has to do with the team management and a lot more to do with the community impact and the individual experiences with these women.”
On the influence that A League of Their Own has had on the museum
- Furman: “Most of what was donated to us has come since the release of A League of Their Own (in 1992). It really wasn’t until the ‘90s that the public woke up again and remembered the story and the impact, and said, ‘Oh wait, I wonder if the museum would be interested in these things.’ However, what I would say is that interest has long since outpaced the movie. There’s never a year that goes by that I don’t have people calling who want to offer us artifacts, photographs, documents, and souvenir items.”
On researching the business side of baseball
- Newman: “I am interested in the business communities that supported teams in small towns, in big cities. I did a whole bunch of work on the Negro Leagues, as well as a larger project on a history of baseball and its relationship to advertising. I’m fascinated by the fact that, as industries, they emerged at the same time in the same place, and to see how they’ve been connected throughout and how they continue to be. It drives me crazy when people say “Well, baseball’s a children’s game.” No, it’s not [laughs]. It’s always been a business enterprise from the very get go.”
On Effa Manley, Hall of Fame owner of the Newark Eagles
- Furman: “Here, we have a woman in baseball, a woman very much in charge of an important business operation. … What did she spend on promotion? Who did she make business deals with? Everyone took her seriously in Newark, I’ll tell you that. Who were her sponsors, and did she have relationships outside of her own community. I will tell you yes. Most of the sponsorship deals that Manley had … were local white business owners because there was a lot of interest in baseball in general in Newark. There was a lot of interest in supporting her team because they drew well. All that is in her business papers. … She was very big on being compensated for the players she sold to the major leagues because the Eagles were a major source of some very great major league players, like Larry Doby (and) Monte Irvin.”
On how to discover and start new research projects
- Levin: “I start from the perspective that literally anything can be a research question. If I find it interesting, and I keep thinking about it, I’m going to research it. I don’t really care what field it’s in. I don’t care where somebody would pigeonhole it. If it’s interesting to me and I have the techniques and the ability to research it, I’m going to research it. … One year, I went to a lot of Cardinals games and the players’ walk-up music got stuck in my head. I was singing peoples’ songs and I had no idea what I was singing, but I’m singing along to them and I thought, ‘Huh, that’s really interesting.’ So I built this huge database of every player’s walk-up music that they use over the entire season and started analyzing different factors of it. Did players from certain countries use different types of music, different genres? What were the most popular genres? Did it go by where they lived in the country? It was just one of those things where it was just a passion project. If I’m sitting at a stadium singing along to music and noticing the differences between what players are playing different music, somebody else is doing the same thing. Ever since that project, I still get people on Twitter and everywhere sending me notes like, “Did you hear that so-and-so is walking up to this song?” That’s like 6 years ago but it’s still in everybody’s head.”
Transcription assistance by Dominic Varela.
For more coverage of the 2022 SABR/IWBC Women in Baseball Conference, visit SABR.org/women-in-baseball-conference.
Originally published: September 26, 2022. Last Updated: September 26, 2022.