SABR Salute: Bob Lindsay
Editor’s note: The SABR Salute, first bestowed upon writer Fred Lieb in 1976, was designed as a manner of recognizing the contributions of some of the older members of the Society. Subsequent SABR Salutes appeared in the SABR Membership Directory and honored members who had made great contributions to baseball historical research. Bob Lindsay received the SABR Salute in 1987; the following biographical sketch appeared in that year’s membership directory.
One measure of a SABR member’s research is how much of it gets published. Not so with Robert W. (Bob) Lindsay, 75-year-old professor at Penn State University. You won’t find him listed in the Ten-Year Index of the Baseball Research Journal. However, if you talk to a cross section of members you will find that he has supplied them with indepth data on the Red Sox, biographic/demographic information on former players, or unpublished minor league stats. Eventually some of this material, gets published, but in someone else’s book or article, in a media guide, in a biographical research report, or in Minor League Baseball Stars. Professor Lindsay delves into baseball research, not for recognition, but for personal enjoyment. He had his share of recognition in science and engineering and, while he still may apply those basic research techniques to baseball pursuits, he is doing the latter in a more relaxed way.
Bob Lindsay, an avid Red Sox fan, was born in Boston May 22, 1912, one month after the opening of Fenway Park. He attended the Boston public schools and graduated from Tufts University in 1933 with a degree in chemical engineering. He entered graduate school at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, receiving a doctorate in metallurgy in 1938. M.I.T. was a long walk from Fenway, but allowed a retreat every now and then from academia into the relaxation of baseball.
During this time span, he saw the change in Fenway from a concrete-and-steel grandstand with wooden bleachers which included the famed Duffy’s Cliff, to the present modern structure with its renowned Green Monster. There also was a change in team makeup from untried kids brought up from the low minors (Ruffing, Russell, Rogell, Rothrock) to stars like Grove, Foxx, Chapman, and the Ferrells in a vain attempt to buy a pennant.
In 1938 Bob moved to the Midwest (Chicago and Michigan) for five years of employment in the metallurgical industry. Baseball interest continued with visits to Comiskey Park, Wrigley Field, and Tiger Stadium. He made occasional visits back to the mecca known as Fenway during his long exile. On one such occasion, he remembers, the Red Sox celebrated his return by scoring 17 runs in one inning!
He joined the faculty of the Department of Metallurgy at Penn State University in 1943 and was to spend most of his remaining professional career there in central Pennsylvania. He moved up the academic ladder to Professor and Department Head prior to retirement in 1972. His long-time association with the University was recognized in establishment of the Robert W. Lindsay Scholarship Award in Metallurgy.
University Park, the location of Penn State, has proven to be an ideal place for retirement for a baseball buff. Live baseball is accessible in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and several minor league parks. Baseball in print is available on the excellent microfilm collection at the University, which includes the standard baseball weeklies and major city dailies. That facility, plus his own library, and trips to Cooperstown made it easy for him to settle into a retirement life of baseball research.
He expanded his accumulated data on the Red Sox and established an extensive set of records on each of the approximately 1,000 Boston AL players from 1901 to the present (Don Aase to Bill Zuber). Since he has compiled the minor league records of all these players, this work has been extremely valuable-to the Minor League Committee. The demographic data goes to the Biographical Research Committee. One small example of his work has been the “Al Olsen Case.” Olsen has been listed in Macmillan and other enyclopedias as appearing in one game for the Red Sox (his only major league game) in May 1943 as a pinch hitter, who walked and stole a base. Bob established that this could not be Olsen, a pitcher released by Boston to San Diego after spring training. Other SABR members have gotten involved and it still has not been established whether the phantom Olsen was Leon Culberson or Ford Garrison.
Bob has expanded his original work to many non-Red Sox players, both majors and minors. What makes the soft-spoken professor so important to SABR is that he makes his research available to clubs, to the media, and to other SABR members without restriction. Since joining the Society in 1975, he and his wife, Virginia, have made almost all the national conventions. For those of us who have not had the opportunity at those gatherings to thank him in person for his contributions, we salute him here.
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