SABR Salute: Vern Luse
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. Vern Luse received the SABR Salute in 1987; the following biographical sketch appeared in that year’s membership directory.
Vern Luse joined SABR in 1972, being the 91st member enrolled. At that point in time he had already been involved with baseball research for more than 35 years and he continues amazingly productive today in his 52nd year of baseball research. Luse was born the day after Independence Day in 1922 at Lawrence, Kansas. He became interested in baseball records at age 14 when his mother brought home a 1936 Baseball Guide. He was troubled that the figures were not always accurate nor were they always complete, especially on those who played less than 10 games. He began compiling his own averages from boxes published in The Sporting News. Such is a common early experience of SABR stalwarts.
Luse, even earlier, began playing baseball. He was good enough that, after graduating from Maywood High School near Chicago in 1939, he played two years of minor league baseball. He caught for Palatka (Florida State) in 1939 and Dayton (Middle Atlantic) in 1940 before World War II intervened. After the war he played several years of semi-pro baseball.
Luse graduated from Wichita State University in 1955 with a degree in physics. He later attended Cal State at Long Beach and became a registered professional engineer. Much of his engineering career was spent with Dupont and North American Aviation and its successor companies. He was also a consulting engineer with several overseas companies and during the early years of SABR captured the imagination of the membership with his frequent moves to often exotic locations.
An early SABR Bulletin labeled Luse the “Bobo Newsom of SABR” and it is probably as apt a nickname as any. During the early 1970s, Luse became the first member of SABR to reside in Yugoslavia and then, later in Saudi Arabia. He has also resided several times in Houston, Kansas City, California, plus Kansas, New Jersey, and Arizona. Most recently he lived in Parkersburg, West Virginia, before retiring this summer to California.
Despite his many moves, Luse has maintained a consistent involvement in SABR affairs. He was elected Secretary in 1980 and 1981 and also served 2 years on the SABR Board of Directors. He was Chairman of the Minor League Committee for 2 years and remains active in that committee and the Nineteenth Century Committee. He was a major resource for the Minor League Stars series and has contributed to several SABR publications.
His research has been centered on the minor leagues and more recently on the leagues and players of the nineteenth century. He has compiled averages and standings on virtually every league of the 1883-97 period and has established a card file of some 10,000 players of the period with their complete playing record. One visualizes Luse hunched over his old microfilm reader in some foreign country meticulously compiling the figures on some forgotten league such as the Illinois-Iowa League of 1890.
Among Luse’s many important discoveries was the 300-plus minor league wins of pitcher Willie Mains and the identification of Snap Lange and Leo Smith as the first two 10-year men in the minors. Luse has developed such breadth of knowledge and expertise in his field that one is caused to restate that which was said of Plato and say, “Wherever I went in my investigations, I met Luse coming back.”
In retirement from formal employment, Luse plans continued research and perhaps publication in book form of some of his research.
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