SABR Bibliography Committee
Research Guide No. 6: Baseball Figures in Dictionary of American Biography
Editor’s note: This guide was first published by the SABR Bibliography Committee in 1987. To download the original in PDF form, click here.
By Frank Phelps
Dictionary of American Biography presents authoritative biographies of deceased notable Americans. The biographies usually range from 500 to 1,000 words and each concludes with a bibliography. Sponsored by the American Council of Learned Societies and published by Charles Scribner’s Sons, an original twenty volume set, issued from 1928 to 1936, and seven supplemental volumes, produced intermittently from 1944 to 1981, cumulatively cover 17,656 subjects, who died before January 1, 1966. A “Brief Account of the Enterprise”, prefaced to volume XX, provides a comprehensive review of DAB’s origins, development, characteristics, and selection-of-subjects criteria. A separate paperbound index supplies a single alphabetical list of the subjects’ names.
“Baseball and the DAB” by David Voigt, former SABR president, in the 1976 SABR Research Journal, pages 65-69, notes the non-recognition of sports figures which maintained at first, traces the very slow pace of later admissions of baseball persona, and lists the twenty-eight men included or planned to include by 1976: seventeen players or managers; owner Wrigley; executives Barrow, Ban Johnson, and Landis; writers Chadwick and Ring Lardner; and “peripherals” Bulkeley (businessman), Grey (author), Sunday (evangelist) and Thorpe (football and track).
Subsequently DAB has unbent but slightly although the seventh supplement surpasses the earlier volumes by admitting thirteen diamond personages. David Voigt had hoped DAB might pick up some bypassed earlier, like John Montgomery Ward, Charles Comiskey, Chris Von der Ahe, and Charles Radbourne. That has not happened. I tally the following total numbers of representatives for various sports (excluding those involving other animals or powered vehicles), counting Jim Thorpe thrice and Amos Stagg twice: baseball, 59: football, 18; boxing, 14; lawn tennis, 8; golf, 5; rowing, 4; basketball, billiards, figure skating, and wrestling, 1 each; collectively about 0.6% of the grand total.
Identification of the fifty-nine prime and twenty-one “peripheral” (by my definitions) baseball-related subjects follows in two tables which furnish for each subject: name; years of birth and death; number of volume in which found; author of the biography; and main baseball occupation or activity or event for which known and, in parentheses, the occupation, activity, or event, if any, for which the person was better known generally.
Probably some persons have been overlooked. And, the following, more closely allied with boxing or horse racing, were considered but omitted as little involved with baseball:
“Tad” Dorgan, sportswriter (cartoonist); Richard K. Fox, National Police Gazette; Howard Garis, some Baseball Joe juveniles for the Stratemeyer syndicate; A.J Liebling, sportswriter (journalist); “Bat” Masterson, sports ed. (gunfighter); “Clem” McCarthy, radio announcer; William T. Porter, Spirit of the Times.
The eighty subject biographies listed on pages two and three below are most useful to baseball researchers. The only major flaw I have spotted is the unqualified acceptance of the Doubleday myth, considering that the essays were supposedly based on original research at a time when the challenges by Chadwick and others to the conclusions of the Mills Commission were publicly available. The baseball connections of Camp, Gorman, Stratemeyer, Whitney, and Wolfe are not mentioned at all in their biographies.
To view a list of baseball-related DAB subject persons, click the link below to download the PDF (list begins on page 2):
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