SABR Bibliography Committee
Research Guide No. 2: Baseball Figures in Who’s Who in American Sports
Editor’s note: This guide was first published by the SABR Bibliography Committee in 1986. To download the original in PDF form, click here.
By Frank Phelps
Who’s Who in American Sports, edited and published by National Biographical Society, Washington DC, 1928, 964 pages, weight: five pounds, presented alpha- betically biographical sketches of 4,000 amateur and professional athletes, officials, patrons, etc. of thirty-seven sports plus ninety-nine photographs. The subjects were selected from 12,000 who submitted wholly or partly completed questionnaires out of 32,000 to whom questionnaires were sent. The sketches contain data supplied by the subjects themselves, a point to remember in judging accuracy and completeness. One appendix lists 1927 sports’ champions and another spells out textual abbreviations; example, baseball = B.B.
In selecting the subjects the unidentified editor was aided by thirteen arbitrary qualification rules and an editorial advisory board comprised of seventeen sports leaders and nine sportswriters. These included Clark Griffith, for baseball, Warren Brown, and Grantland Rice. College athletes predominated. Some far better known in fields other than sports were General Douglas MacArthur, flyer Jimmy Doolittle, baby doctor Benjamin Spock (crew), perpetual presidential candidate Harold Stassen (rifle), crooner Lanny Ross (track), and Senator George Wharton Pepper (crew, football, track, cricket).
The preface mentions that many outstanding athletes were omitted, not due to oversight, but because of the staggering difficulties of tracing, contacting, and gaining cooperation from vast numbers of past and current sports figures. Even such standouts as Ty Cobb, Red Grange, Willie Hoppe, Babe Ruth, Gene Sarazen, Earle Sande, and Bill Tilden were not included. The society promised to acquire many more questionnaires and publish additional data in future editions – but, unfortunately, no later editions resulted. Nevertheless the sheer wealth of biographical information amassed in this volume provides a gold mine for serious sports researchers and a delight for interested browsers. It is not generally considered a rare book. Some libraries have it and occasionally copies surface in book stores and sales.
There follows an alphabetical roster of 222 men whose entries indicate activity in organized professional baseball. Asterisks precede the names of the 137 who either played in the majors according to The Baseball Encyclopedia or were involved in the bigs in other capacities. The other 85 were minor leaguers. The # symbol after some names denote non-players (officials, owners, umpires, scouts, etc). Asterisks are omitted for some players whose sketches mention major league team affiliations but, according to The Baseball Encyclopedia, did not actually play in big league games (but probably these men had tryouts or were owned by the teams mentioned or their farm clubs). A few names are included even though their sketches leave doubt as to whether they played in the minors or only in semi-pro ball.
The listed names are written exactly as they appear in the text, including Fred Hoffman instead of Hofman. Notably, thirty-four birth dates and sixteeen
birth places differ from those in The Baseball Encyclopedia. These instances are marked after the listed names by “(bd)” for birth date, “(bp)” for birth place, and “(bdp)” for both. In Who’s Who, only Frank Frisch is stated as older (by one year). Most of the others are indicated as younger by exactly one year but J. Howard Berry, Dan Jessee, Billy Rhiel, and Fred Schulte appear younger by exactly three years, a testimony to the practice of players or their clubs shaving off years to enhance marketability and longevity of careers. Still, these discrepancies suggest more investigation as The Baseball Encyclopdia does not show the sources of vital facts.
Click on the image below to view samples of some of the biographical sketches of ballplayers:
To view the full index to professional baseball figures in Who’s Who in American Sports (1928), download the original PDF:
To go back or view other Bibliography Committee Research Guides, click here.