SABR Salute: David Quentin Voigt

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. David Quentin Voigt received the SABR Salute in 1993; the following biographical sketch appeared in that year’s membership directory.

David Voigt was one of those early SABR members who significantly enhanced the stature of the Society just by joining. He had already published two important volumes on the national pastime. In 1966 it was American Baseball: From Gentleman’s Sport to the Commissioner System. In 1970 it was American Baseball: From the Commissioners to Continental Expansion. Both were published by University of Oklahoma Press, and both were reissued in 1983 by Penn State University Press.

Born in Reading, Pennsylvania, on August 9, 1926 (Babe Ruth celebrated the event by hitting his 345th career homer), Dave graduated from the Hershey, Pennsylvania Industrial School where he played sandlot ball, and Albright College in Reading, where he received his BA degree. He gained his master’s at Columbia University in 1949. His thesis was not on baseball but on the political relationship of President Lincoln and New York Herald editor James Gordon Bennett. However, his Ph.D. dissertation at Syracuse University in 1962 was on “Cash and Glory: The Commercialization of Major League Baseball as a Sports Spectacular.” After teaching high school history for six years, he began teaching at Millersville State College in 1956. He has been professor of Sociology and Anthropology at Albright College since 1964. He plans to retire in 1995.

Dave was elected President of SABR at the Philadelphia convention in June 1974. He served until the convention in Boston in July 1975. During his time there was expanded publicity about the Society in the media. A front-page article in the Wall Street Journal drew considerable attention, and published results of the SABR survey of the best players born in each state (Williams beat out DiMaggio in California and Aaron edged Mays in Alabama) were carried by the wire services. Dave, who also was a member of the North American Society of Sport History, was personally responsible for attracting some of their academic members into SABR.

At the Boston convention, Dr. Voigt displayed his vigorous speaking style when he dramatized baseball as a sociological and cultural institution in a sparkling presentation opening the convention. That was the year when research presentations were initiated at these gatherings, and the Albright Professor was a star participant at later conventions, as well as at regional meetings in Philadelphia, Reading and Washington.

Dave had numerous articles in SABR publications. The first was in the 1973 Research Journal and dealt with a century of owner-player conflict culminating in the nine-day player strike at the start of the 1972 season. That article was revised and updated for Baseball Historical Review, which was published in 1981 during the more drastic 50-day, mid-season strike. In the meantime, he was moving forward with more books and articles. In 1976 his book America Through Baseball was issued by Nelson-Hall Press of Chicago. The third volume of his American Baseball series — From Postwar Expansion to the Electronic Age — was published by Penn State University Press in 1983. Baseball: An Illustrated History came out in 1987.

His long list of scholarly journal/reference book articles included biographical profiles of Kenesaw Landis, Walter Johnson, Babe Ruth, Cy Young, Ed Barrow, Connie Mack, Branch Rickey, and Eddie Cicotte in the Dictionary of American Biography; John M. Ward, Marvin Miller, and Walter O’Malley in Biographical Dictionary of American Sports; and Henry Aaron in Sports Encyclopedia North America. Dave also was called upon to write the chapter on History of Major League Baseball for Total Baseball, with subsequent updatings.

He also wrote many reviews of books, such as Dr. Harold Seymour’s Baseball: The Golden Years in 1972, and Dr. Gene Murdock’s Ban Johnson, Czar of Baseball in 1983, Dave served as a consultant on Commissioner Fay Vincent’s Committee on Historical Accuracy, and continues to serve as a consultant for Ken Burns’ PBS film project on Baseball in America, which is scheduled for release in 1994.

David Voigt is not one of those non-athletic types interested in baseball. In addition to playing sandlot ball as a youngster, he coached Little League and Junior League teams from 1962 to 1977. As you might expect, this lead to a book, A Little League Journal, published by Bowling Green University Press in 1976. In 1978 he founded an over-40 softball team, the Mifflin Codgers, and played first base for them for ten years.

He and Virginia B. Voigt have been married for 41 years. They have two sons, both ballplayers, and one a high school coach. The energetic baseball historian/sociologist is currently working on a book entitled The League That Failed, a reference to the 12-team NL of 1892-99. He is also continuing research toward a fourth volume of his American Baseball series. He hopes to have it published by the year 2000. Here’s a SABR member who can look back and forward at the same time!


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