SABR Salute: Ralph LinWeber
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. Ralph LinWeber received the SABR Salute in 1986; the following biographical sketch appeared in that year’s membership directory.
When Jackie Robinson made his debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers in April 1947 there were some who said he was the first black in the major leagues. Ralph LinWeber of Toledo knew better because some years before he had researched the careers of brothers Moses and Welday Walker, who had played with the Toledo club in 1884 when it was a member of the major league American Association. In fact, Ralph had compiled a 385-page history of the Toledo Mudhens from 1883-1943. Almost all of that history, published in 1944, was of the minor league club as Toledo was in the majors only in 1884-1890.
Born in the Toledo suburb of Rossford on March 6, 1908, Ralph says that “baseball has been my hobby since I was about ten years old. That’s when I began collecting miscellaneous data on the sport. This included records of the thousands of players along with the game’s early history.” The early history was important because Ralph bad a relative who was the catcher on the 1888 Toledo team. The youngster’s research work continued after high school when he began a 35-year career as an assembler with the old Willys Overland Automobile Company, now known as American Motors.
Ralph spent about 15 years working on the records of the 1,340 players listed in his Toledo history. His favorite among all those players was Bobby Veach, who had some great years with the Toledo club after he left the majors in 1925 (he led the AA with a .382 bat mark in 1928 at the age of 40). Tony Mullane and Moses Walker of the 1883-84 teams also rank high on his list of favorites, as does Ed (Dummy) Dundon of Coumbus.
After Toledo history, his next major project was working on the records of the revised editions of the Barnes Official Encyclopedia of Baseball published originally by Turkin and Thompson in 1951. He has a letter from former Commissioner Ford Frick thanking him for his work. Ralph says one of the primary features of his demographic research was finding that many of the old-time players were one to four years older than the birthdate they provided when playing. He also has been a continuing source of baseball information for the Toledo club program and the local newspapers.
Ralph joined SABR on November 1, 1974, and assisted in the research for both volumes of Minor League Baseball Stars. He continues as a recognized baseball authority in his area, although without the company of his wife, who died in 1976. Ralph observed his 78th birthday in March.
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