2012 Chadwick Awards.
Apart from honoring individuals for the length and breadth of their contribution to the study and enjoyment of baseball, the Chadwick Award educates SABR members and the greater baseball community about sometimes little-known but vastly important contributions from the game's past and thus encourage the next generation of researchers.
The roster of the previous fifteen Chadwick honorees includes researchers from the past and present and the current class is no different. Some are our colleagues, others our predecessors. All have contributed greatly to the field. This year we add five names to the ranks, and present their biographies, written by SABR members, here.
by Dan Levitt
Robert Creamer (1922-2012) wrote the first truly modern biography of an American sports personality. Roger Angell called Babe: The Legend Comes to Life, "perhaps the best portrait yet struck of an American sports hero." In his meticulous research, Creamer uncovered and fleshed out many of the Babe's more unsavory moments, and he did not shy away from including them in all their sordid detail. But the book was not an expose; it was a full characterization of one of America's best known and most beloved heroes, fully capturing Ruth's humor, generosity, insecurities, and sophisticated sense of his own place in America.
Born in Bronxville, New York, Creamer grew up in nearby Tuckahoe and realized at a young age that he loved writing. "I found out when I was quite young that writing was something I could do," Creamer told interviewer Graham Womack just months before his death. "Other kids could do things well that I couldn't do well, like whistling through your teeth or shooting marbles or drawing pictures or singing in harmony or doing push-ups ... But I could write."
After leaving the service after World War II, Creamer spent several years as an advertising copywriter and encyclopedia editor. When Sports Illustrated announced it was coming on the scene in 1954,
Creamer, a big sports fan, jumped at the chance to sign on as a sportswriter, joining the magazine's staff several months prior to the first issue in August. Creamer spent over 30 years at Sports Illustrated and was a senior editor when he retired in 1985, although he remained active in his sports writing for the magazine and elsewhere.
A decade after the release of his Ruth biography, in 1984 Creamer came out with a second highly acclaimed biography. In Stengel: His Life and Times Creamer captured another American sports icon who, as Jonathan Yardley remarked in his review, "was an enormously funny man, but he was also a shrewd student of baseball and human nature ... It's a life precisely suited to the talents of Robert Creamer." Yardley concluded that Creamer's "biography of Babe Ruth is the best ever written about an American sports figure. Now it can be said that Creamer has written the two best American sports biographies."
Creamer also wrote a couple of other well-received books: Baseball in '41 and Season of Glory: The Amazing Saga of the 1961 New York Yankees, written with manager Ralph Houk. He further collaborated with several baseball personalities on autobiographies and memoirs, notably Jocko Conlon, Red Barber, and Mickey Mantle.
Creamer was known for his generosity and support of other authors and writers. Sports Illustrated's Jack McCallum recently recalled Creamer's assistance and encouragement in his pursuit of a job at the magazine. In my own correspondence with Creamer relating to my biography of Ed Barrow, he was always enthusiastic and supportive in his responses. Despite the fact that it had been a long time since he had researched Ruth's life, Creamer took the time to respond and point me in a couple of potentially helpful directions, and regretted he couldn't do more: "I wish it were 35 years ago; I could have helped then. Time, you thief ..."
by STEVE GIETSCHIER
Tom Heitz (b. 1940), lawyer, librarian, town ball enthusiast, and friend to hundreds of baseball researchers, ran the library at the Baseball Hall of Fame from 1983 to 1995. During that time, he oversaw a construction project that transformed an old-fashioned library into a modern research institution. "Up to that point," he told Rafael Alvarez of the Baltimore Sun in 1994, "it was a private hunting preserve for scholars and the privileged. The standard was that you had to be a serious researcher to get into our files, but who can tell that by looking at someone?" Heitz's changes opened the library to everyone. "We don't care how serious or whimsical you are, whether you're doing your dissertation or looking up Uncle Charlie's batting average when he was in the Piedmont League," he said. For this revolution, SABR members will be forever grateful.
Heitz was born in Kansas City. He played baseball as a child, but also tried to master the violin. "I had to practice my scales for three to four hours before I could play baseball, and my violin instructor was in some anxiety over my baseball career," he recalled. "He didn't have to worry. I was too near-sighted to be a hitter."
Heitz gave some thought to becoming a law professor like his father, but his goals changed when he joined the Marines in 1966. After his discharge, he attended library school at the University of Washington and worked as an assistant law librarian at the University of Puget Sound. He applied for the job at Cooperstown while working as a law librarian for the attorney general of the state of New York. Officials at the Hall of Fame "appreciated the fact that I was a fan, but you don't have to love your subject to do a good job," he said.
Heitz did love his subject, of course, and he quickly became recognized as an expert on baseball, its history, and its rules. While the contributions of librarians and archivists to scholarship often remain behind the scenes, such people occasionally let their scholarly lights shine, as Heitz did in compiling the monumental rules chronology, "Rules and Scoring," first published in the first edition of Total Baseball. (Later editions also acknowledge Dennis Bingham.)
Moreover, he promoted playing town ball, thereby at least indirectly encouraging the growth of the vintage baseball movement. Heitz helped organize the Leatherstocking Club that played town ball every weekend at Cooperstown's Farmers' Museum for more than a decade, and for many years he organized the town ball game at the Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture. This conference, which he co-founded as baseball's first annual academic symposium, will celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2013.
The library's expansion, completed in 1995 at a cost of six million dollars, increased the facility's square footage from 7,000 to 29,000. It provided archival storage for the collection, adding temperature and humidity control, proper lighting, and enhanced security. The construction also created an interior connection between the library and the museum, a boon to visitors and scholars. The new Bullpen Theater became a space for movies, talks, book signings, and other events. Heitz hired additional professional librarians, and he began a preservation program to care for the Hall's documents. Under his leadership, the library expanded the scope of its collection beyond what earlier generations had envisioned.
Simultaneously, Heitz was a member of the North American Sports Library Network (NASLIN) and SABR. With Bob Davids and Steve Gietschier, he sat on the inaugural committee to decide the Macmillan-SABR Baseball Research Awards from 1987 to 1995, at which time he helped reconstruct the research awards program, redefining the Macmillan Award and creating the Seymour Medal and the Sporting News-SABR Baseball Research Award.
by Rob Neyer
Ferdinand Cole Lane's (1885-84) professional career was, to say the very least, unorthodox. After spending most of his childhood on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, "F.C." performed a "variety of odd jobs" while attending Boston University--next door to Braves Field, and just a few "T" stops away from Fenway Park--first as an undergraduate, and later as a graduate student. During the latter years, he also worked part-time as an assistant biologist for the Massachusetts Commission of Fisheries and Game.
What might we expect from a bright young man with that sort of educational and professional history? Probably not a few decades as the editor of Baseball Magazine ... yet that's exactly what happened, and quickly.
While Lane was working as a biologist, he was diagnosed with "weak lungs" and embarked for a therapeutic stay in Alberta, Canada. After "six months in a log cabin on the remote frontier," Lane returned to Boston and found a job with Baseball Magazine.
Lane arrived in 1910 or '11, just two or three years after the monthly magazine had been established. Within roughly a year--beginning with the January 1912 issue--Lane had taken over as editor, a position he would hold for twenty-six years. During those twenty-six years, Lane's writing and editing turned Baseball Magazine into both a successful business enterprise and a treasure trove for future baseball researchers and writers.
In 1937, Lane gave up his Baseball Magazine post. In 1955, he wrote, "While I loved the thrill of the game and prized the many interesting characters I was able to meet, sportswriting was always a vocation, never an avocation." He returned to Cape Cod, his boyhood home, and lived for nearly five more decades, traveling widely and writing a number of books--none of them remotely related to baseball--before his retirement.
Of course, if Ferdinand Lane had done nothing but edit Baseball Magazine for more than a quarter of a century, anyone interested in those years would owe him a huge debt of gratitude. But Lane was so much more than an editor. He also was an extraordinary journalist and a sort of proto-sabermetrician.
Instead of spending all his days in New York--the magazine moved there from Boston shortly into Lane's tenure--he regularly visited the game's top players at their offseason homes, and penned long profiles of Deadball Era stars like Sam Crawford, Eddie Collins, Jake Daubert, and Grover Cleveland Alexander (or "Dode," as Alexander's family and friends back home in Nebraska called him).
It's Lane's biographical research that we find most useful today. But while his statistical wonderings probably had little impact in their time--the sporting world just doesn't seem to have been interested in any but the already traditional statistics--Lane surely deserves some credit for his originality and his prescience. To wit, all the way back in 1916, Lane penned an article titled "Why the System of Batting Average Should Be Changed" ... and, even more extraordinary, subtitled "Statistics Lie at the Foundation of Baseball Popularity--Batting Records Are the Favorite--And Yet Batting Records Are Unnecessarily Inaccurate." And within the article, Lane essentially invented something akin to Pete Palmer's Linear Weights and Bill James's Runs Created; for example, according to Lane's calculations, a triple was worth 0.90 run, a home run 1.16 runs.
Near the end of his long article, Lane expressed hope that with earned-run average recently having been introduced to the masses, a sophisticated method of measuring a hitter's production would soon take its place in the statistical pantheon.
Lane lived for nearly 70 more years, long enough to read both Bill James and Pete Palmer's work in popular books. But we have no indication that Lane took any special interest in baseball during the last few decades of his long life.
Not that we can hold that lack of interest against him. During those 25-odd years when Lane was interested in baseball--however professionally--he gave us more than nearly any other editor or writer has given us in a lifetime.
by Mark Armour
At the time of SABR's founding, Ray Nemec (b. 1929) had already spent 30 years tracking minor league statistics and box scores, often traveling throughout the Midwest to do so. Longtime Hall of Fame historian Lee Alien once called him "the foremost authority on minor league players." So it was only natural that he would be one of the first people Bob Davids contacted about his idea of forming a society, and that Nemec was on hand in Cooperstown for SABR's first meeting on August 10, 1971. He soon became the first chairman of SABR's Minor Leagues Research Committee, and he has been one of SABR's most valued and productive researchers ever since.
Nemec was born in Chicago on June 19, 1929, which happened to be Lou Gehrig's 26th birthday. The doctor who delivered Nemec, apparently a Gehrig fan, declared the new baby "a future ballplayer." Nemec never reached the major leagues, but the natural lefthander would make his mark on the game he grew to love. He bought his first Reach Guide in 1939, which served to hook him for life. He began reading The Sporting News in 1940 and a year later was compiling statistics for minor league teams in lower classifications. He kept up this hobby throughout his high school years, and by 1950 had established contacts with other researchers around the country who shared his passion.
Among his new friends were Paul Frisz, Willie George, Karl Wingler, and Lee Allen, and they encouraged Nemec to continue his work on statistics for long-ago minor leagues, circuits that had not published their own year-end records. Nemec undertook such efforts as the 1915 Bi-State League (Illinois-Wisconsin) and the 1885 Western League, and it just kept going. He focused on leagues from the Midwest, allowing him to travel to nearby libraries to dig through newspapers. He told the Chicago Tribune in 1969: "I've been in almost every library of every town that's had a minor league team in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin. I covered more than 2,000 miles compiling statistics of the 1884 Northwestern League."
As newspaper microfilm became more accessible, Nemec was able to reduce the driving and work at home with his own film reader. Allen, who worked at the Hall of Fame by the 1960s, began referring old players who wanted to know their own long ago statistics to Nemec. In exchange, the players could supply Nemec with names and other information about other minor leaguers. His files continued to grow. By this time he was supplying minor league data to The Sporting News for many versions of the book Daguerreotypes of Great Stars of Baseball.
Nemec first came to the attention of Bob Davids in 1963 when he mailed a correction to an article Davids had written for The Sporting News. The two men began a correspondence, and eight years later Nemec received Davids' famous call to meet in Cooperstown. SABR established the Minor Leagues Research Committee, and Nemec became its chair. In 1978 it published Minor League Stars, statistical records for dozens of former heroes, many of them little known even within SABR. In a way, Nemec had been working on the book for more than 30 years. Two other volumes followed, and SABR had firmly established the importance of the minor leagues to the history of baseball.
Ray married Loretta Majerczyk in 1954 and the couple raised four children. While still in high school be began working for Corn Products Company International (now Ingredion Inc.) and worked there for 45 years, involved in production planning and scheduling for such products as Mazola Corn Oil and Karo syrup. On the side, he made his mark as one of baseball's greatest researchers.
by Lyle Spatz
Dave Smith had a dream when he founded Retrosheet in 1989. It was to collect play-by-play data for every game in Major League Baseball history. It seemed an impossible task and the naysayers were many, but as of 2012 more than 120,000 play-by-play accounts have been posted on Retrosheet's website. Now it seems impossible to imagine how researchers managed before what has come to be called the Retrosheet Era. "We are doing this to preserve history. We're not doing it for any other reason." Dave and his site are available to all, free of charge, and have been a go-to resource for every big league team, countless media outlets, and many thousands of baseball researchers. The Hall of Fame calls on a regular basis. Need help finding something? Dave will direct you to it, always with a kind and encouraging word. "He'd be perfectly happy to stay down in the basement for days on end, weeks on end, and come up for food occasionally," his wife Amy said.
And while answering a request from a big league team, like his beloved Dodgers, continues to give him great satisfactionihe remembers when some teams wouldn't even return his calls--equally satisfying is being able to supply an aged fan the play-by-play of the first game he saw decades ago. "Every game is someone's first game," Dave says. "The stories can be very touching. I almost want to cry reading the notes. One man was looking for a box score from his first game to frame and give to his dad for Father's Day. His father died two months later."
Alan Schwarz devotes five pages to the organization in his book The Numbers Game: Baseball's Lifelong Fascination with Statistics, praising Smith for both taking on the task and making sure the information would be free and accessible to the public. "In the end," Schwarz wrote, "Retrosheet has become a celebration of baseball built by fans for fans. Their sense of community and love for their favorite sport pulse through every web page."
A noted baseball historian himself, Dave has written and presented numerous papers based on his research. His work has been widely praised as a huge boon to baseball research and he has received a number of awards for his work, including The Sporting News-SABR Baseball Research Award in 2001 for his co-authorship of The Midsummer Classic: The Complete History of Baseball's All-Star Game, and most notably the Bob Davids Award in 2005. But Dave is more than a baseball researcher. Since 1975 he has been a professor of biology at the University of Delaware, and is director of the Department of Biological Sciences' undergraduate program. He won the university's Excellence in Teaching Award in 1977.
That Retrosheet has been such a success is attributable to the efforts of its cadre of volunteers. Dave has always been the first to acknowledge this, but as Retrosheet's secretary David Vincent has said: "He will never admit to this, but Dave is Retrosheet."
"This has all worked out ridiculously well for me," Smith says. "I never would have believed things would turn out to be this wonderful." That it has worked out so well has benefited thousands of researchers, all of whom owe a debt of gratitude to Dave Smith.
Please note: Some tables or figures were omitted from this article.
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|Publication:||The Baseball Research Journal|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2012|
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