SABR BioProject: April 2021 newsletter

High and Inside
The Newsletter of the BioProject Committee

Society for American Baseball Research (SABR)
April 2021

Past newsletters

Editor: Andrea Long


From Co-Directors, Rory Costello and Gregory H. Wolf

A word of caution – A: Plagiarism

We had to deal with a sticky situation recently. During the review process, it was determined that a couple of bio submissions were drawing directly from Wikipedia articles on the subject.

This breaches SABR’s policy about plagiarism (see the detailed discussion under BioProject Authors’ Guidelines). What’s more, Wikipedia is not accepted by SABR as a source.

A similar case also came to light after a final story was posted. Links to Wikipedia pages were visible. It was determined that these had been imported into the draft because Wikipedia material was cut and pasted into the draft Word file, but the color and underlining of the link field were changed to what appeared to be normal text. Thus, the links escaped attention during the review process.

Please exercise utmost caution, express individual thoughts, and credit external sources appropriately. Do not use Wikipedia as a template while drafting.

To our volunteer reviewers involved in vetting: please keep a sharp eye out for this issue.

The integrity of the BioProject as a whole is at stake here. The effect could be devastating. We have to protect the Project and thus must have a “zero tolerance” policy. It’s very important for SABR’s future credibility as a trusted source for us to strike a hard line on any instances of plagiarism that we uncover, regardless of whether they’re intentional or just sloppy/careless sourcing.

Stories in breach of policy will be rejected, and their authors may be subject to temporary or even permanent loss of the privilege of contributing.

This message is endorsed by SABR’s President, Mark Armour, and Director of Editorial Content, Jacob Pomrenke.

In Memoriam: Chris Rainey

Chris Rainey (COURTESY OF THE AUTHOR)Longtime SABR member Chris Rainey, who served as the BioProject’s chief fact-checker, died on December 12, 2020 after suffering a heart attack. Or, as his lovely obituary put it, he “stepped onto the Field of Dreams.”

Chris loved all sports, but his greatest love was baseball. He was a devoted Cleveland Indians fan, a dedicated historian, and an avid collector of baseball cards and Indians memorabilia. He was also deeply devoted to SABR, authoring over 80 biographies. In fact, his bios were being posted online in the weeks right up to his death and his final one (Johnny Bates) was posted posthumously. In a story for our May 2020 newsletter, Chris said he had turned his focus to players who are mentioned in another player’s bio but who don’t have a biography of their own. He said, “If I can find an obituary on that player, I’ll add him to my list. My friends will tell you that I specialize in guys who had very short careers.”

Chris is survived by his wife Janelle, his son Brian, his grandchildren, and other family members. He will be missed not only by his family, friends, and community, but also by all of us who had the pleasure of knowing and working with him through SABR. For those seeking a way to honor Chris, his family has requested donations to the Chris Rainey Memorial Scholarship Fund, which benefits a college-bound senior at Yellow Springs High School where Chris taught for many years.

Welcome, Alan Cohen!

Alan, a SABR member since 2010, graciously agreed to take over the role of chief fact-checker. He was the first choice, in view of his skills and diligence, and the transition was as smooth as one could hope.

Alan attended his first SABR convention in 2012 in Minneapolis, and he is the vice president/treasurer of the Connecticut Smoky Joe Wood Chapter. He’s also the datacaster (MiLB First Pitch stringer) for the Hartford Yard Goats, the Double-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies. His biographies, game stories, and essays have appeared in more than 40 SABR publications. Since his first Baseball Research Journal article appeared in 2013, Alan has continued to expand his research into the Homestead Grays and Josh Gibson who in 1943 had more home runs at Griffith Stadium in 38 games than the Washington Senators had as a team had in 76 games. Alan has four children and eight grandchildren and resides in Connecticut with wife Frances, their cats, Morty, Ava, and Zoe, and their dog, Buddy.

A word of caution – B: Length

We’ve noticed a general tendency toward expanded length in BioProject submissions. In fact, some have come in at 10,000 words and up. We’ve told the authors that these are simply out of scope for the BioProject.

Please bear in mind the suggested maximum of 4,000 words.

The 4K mark was conceived primarily with readability in mind. We’re not writing books or even long magazine articles – bios are meant to be concise high-level stories. It’s harder to cut back than it is to build up.

However, there’s another factor: volume. The flow of submissions remains very heavy. That trend shows no signs of abating – if anything, it’s picking up. Our volunteer corps is stretched as it is, and overlong submissions tax the team even further.

We do note again that 4K words is not a hard cap – but let’s aim to come in under it unless there are noteworthy reasons to exceed it. Foremost among these would be input from the subject.

The limit does exclude endnotes – but let’s not use notes as a “halfway house” for excess material.

Rory and Gregory will continue to judge exceptions on a case-by-case basis. Please be aware that just because a particular bio may have been published at a given length, it does not have a bearing on whether it’s okay for anything else to run long.

And now on to lighter topics.

We are very sociable!


Very sociable, that’s what we are
Very sociable, though near or far
Just a post or tweet we’ll bring to you
Look at us—we’ll even sing to you
Never before have we been more  

Very sociable, on every day
And forevermore
That’s how we’ll stay
So dear readers, it’s incredible
Truly, it’s downright regrettable
If you won’t join us—we miss you, we do!

You don’t have to sing about baseball like Nat King Cole, but you’ll be singing our praises when you connect with fellow SABR members and researchers on our social media platforms!

On Facebook, where we’re over 3,300 members strong, J.G. Preston frequently posts informative notes on bios. On Twitter, Gregory H. Wolf tweets on behalf of the BioProject to more than 13,500 followers. In February, we had over 5 million impressions and more than 20,000 profile visits generated. That means 20,000+ people clicked on the BioProject website. Twitter is by far our best advertising!

Update on BioProject Submissions

As of this newsletter, the total number of biographies in the BioProject stands at 5,504. Since the last newsletter, we’ve posted 221 new bios online, including seven by first-time authors.

From the Editor

Welcome back! Welcome to spring and to the return of a full season of major league baseball and a partial season of minor league ball! To be sure, we’re still in strange times with only scattered fans in the stands and broadcasters staying in their home cities while the teams have played in spring training pods in Florida and Arizona. But adjustments notwithstanding, I’m looking forward to seeing this season unfold. And even though I’ve tried to use my time at home productively (including being caught up on household chores for the first time in a long time), I am beyond ready to get back to live, in-person baseball with my hometown club.

No one makes me iron at the ballpark (ANDREA LONG)

No one makes me iron at the ballpark.

So here’s to a brave new season and a wish and a prayer that we all—players, personnel, and fans—stay safe, healthy, and well. As always, we appreciate your emails and ideas for the newsletter. Let’s keep in touch!

— Andrea

Project Team