SABR Salute: Emil Rothe

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. Emil Rothe (1908-1996) received the SABR Salute in 1983; the following biographical sketch appeared in that year’s membership directory.

As a youngster, Emil Rothe sat at his father’s side, listening to tall tales of Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance. As a lifetime Cub fan, Emil has even endured through the era — or was it error — of Terwilliger-to-Smalley-to the dugout.

A native Chicagoan, Emil was born March 30, 1908, the year his beloved Cubbies won their last World Series. He attended the North Side’s Lakeview High and then went on to Northwestern University in Evanston, where he received Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts degrees. He began his teaching career in 1929 at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. That same year he also married Louise, his childhood sweetheart.

Seeing Chuck Klein batter the right-field wall of Baker Bowl and Grove, Cochrane, Foxx and Simmons shine at Shibe Park was not enough. Lonesome for Chicago, they returned home in 1930, where Emil taught physical education at local junior high schools. One of his students was former Detroit Tiger outfielder Dick Wakefield. He was assigned to Lane Technical High School in February 1936, and for the next 34 years he served as physical education instructor and assistant principal until his retirement in 1970. Several of Lane’s students made it to the majors, including Art and Orville Jorgens, Phil Weintraub, and Phil Cavarretta. The latter went up to the Cubs while still in high school, and never actually graduated from Lane, according to Emil.

Although Emil had not been writing baseball articles in his prime work years, he had been accumulating a great deal of baseball research information. Much of this research was initiated by his primary interest in the Cubs. After all, he has seen more than 1,000 Cub games. He recalls the bear cub in a cage on the corner of Addison and Sheffield which was used for the 1916 opener at Wrigley Field.

His first Cub hero was a nimble shortstop named Charlie Hollocher. But when it comes to selecting his all-time hometown team, he opts for Ernie Banks at short. Rounding out his squad are Charlie Grimm at first; Billy Herman, second; and Stan Hack, third. In his outfield are Billy Williams, Hack Wilson, and Kiki Cuyler. Behind the plate is Gabby Hartnett, taking the assorted offerings of Grover Alexander, Hippo Vaughn, and Bruce Sutter (right, left, and relief). Joe McCarthy is skipper of this crew.

Emil laments the fact that he never saw a no-hit game. He did see some unusual ones, however. His favorite was the contest with the Cardinals where two balls were in play and Stan Musial, sliding into second base, was called out and safe.

In 1971 Emil went to Baseball Digest editor John Kuenster, showed him his large volume of research material, and offered his services. John suggested that Emil submit some articles, and he did. He specialized in “Games that wrote the Record Book,” and started with Jim Bottomley’s 12-RBI game in 1924, which was published in May 1972. He was a regular contributor after that, putting out 32 articles in ten years. Emil was one of the first writers to emphasize great fielding efforts in his articles.

Emil joined SABR in 1973 and has been an annual contributor to the Baseball Research Journal. He served as vice-president in 1975-76 and co-hosted the 1976 National Convention in Chicago.

Emil had open-heart surgery in 1979 and was seriously ill again earlier this year. His wife, Louise, a familiar face at many SABR conventions, died suddenly in 1981 after 52 years of marriage. In November 1982 Emil married Mrs. Dorothy Klein, a close family friend. Emil and Louise had two children, Audrey, a nurse, and Robert, a nuclear physicist. His only great-grandchild, born on his birthday, was named Emila (what else?).

At 75, Emil keeps active with the Retired Teachers Association. He was president in 1979-80, and still writes a column in the Association’s quarterly journal. In 1981 he received his greatest honor when he was named by then-Mayor Jane Byrne to the Chicago Senior Citizens Hall of Fame. Here’s another honor, Emil, a salute from your fellow SABR members for your contributions to baseball research.

Postscript: After Emil Rothe’s death in 1996, SABR’s Chicago-area chapter — which he founded on November 10, 1976 — was named in his honor.


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