SABR Announces Chadwick Award Inaugural Class

The Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) is pleased to announce the inaugural class of recipients of the Henry Chadwick Award, which was established in November 2009 to honor the game’s great researchers—historians, statisticians, annalists, and archivists—for their invaluable contributions to making baseball the game that links America’s present with its past.

The first nine recipients of the award are:

Lee Allen (1915-1969) once said, “I care very little for statistics as such. My concern is the players. Who are these men? What are they? What problems have they faced? Where are they now?” To Allen, all major league players had a story and none should be forgotten. He parlayed his passion into several books, including his 1955 classic The Hot Stove League, and “Cooperstown Corner,” a column he wrote for The Sporting News for many years. When he became the historian at the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1959, he began trying to discover the date and place of death for 19th century major league players, a task which took him to cemeteries and courthouses up and down the East Coast for the next ten years. His death in 1969, at age 54, predated by two years the formation of SABR, an organization which continued much of his work. He also did not live to see publication of The Baseball Encyclopedia, for which his lifelong research was an integral part.

Bob Davids (1926-2002)
was the founder of SABR, the Society for American Baseball Research. Begun on August 10, 1971, when he beckoned a handful of top researchers to join him in a meeting at Cooperstown, SABR grew under his leadership to become the preeminent group of baseball researchers in the world. Bob’s personal contributions to baseball research go well beyond the founding of SABR. He was a regular contributor to The Sporting News in the 1950s and 1960s and authored Baseball Briefs, a compendium of interesting events originally published on a monthly basis. His personal research interests were reflected in his SABR published books: Great Hitting Pitchers, This Date in Baseball History, and the three-volume Minor League Baseball Stars. He also edited a commercially published anthology of SABR writings, Insiders’ Baseball, for Scribners. He was the primary editor for most SABR publications in the Society’s early years. He had high standards for the conduct of research and had tremendous impact, both direct and indirect, in facilitating meaningful baseball work.

Bill James (b. 1949) is the best known baseball analyst in the world and he has been a prolific author (Baseball Abstracts, Historical Abstract, Handbook and many other works). He is the innovator of a plethora of performance measures such as Runs Created, Major League Equivalency for minor league players and Win Shares, just to name a few. He coined the term “sabermetrics” to capture this new philosophy of analysis and to honor SABR. His respected status has been earned through his insightful approach and wry prose. James commonly approaches complex baseball situations with probing questions such as “How can a catcher’s effect on a pitching staff be quantified?” or “What is the value of a sacrifice bunt?” The value of his approach and predictions led to his position as a Senior Advisor on Baseball Operations for the Boston Red Sox.

Peter Morris (b. 1962) Although he came to prominence by winning the first World Scrabble Championship in 1991, Peter Morris’s enduring fame is likely to come from his contributions to baseball research and literature. In these he has exhibited a combination of inventiveness, thoroughness, and clear love for the old ball game. Morris’s first book, Baseball Fever, was a detailed look at Michigan baseball from its beginnings up to the 1870s. His second book, the two-volume Game of Inches, examined the origins of every aspect of baseball, from the game itself to the first use of an exploding scoreboard. But Didn’t We Have Fun? recreated the spirit of bygone days in the words of old-time players and fans, reminding us how and why baseball became our game. A prolific author of scholarly articles, a detective skilled in all the ways of internet sleuthing, and a maestro of collaborative efforts, Morris points the way for the coming generation to make its contribution to baseball history.

David Neft (b. 1937) was the driving force behind The Baseball Encyclopedia, affectionately known to a generation of baseball fans as “Big Mac.” It was published by Macmillan in 1969, totaling 2338 pages and weighing six and a half pounds. Working for Information Concepts, Inc, David led the work that produced the Big Mac, which was the first computer-based compilation of baseball records, setting the stage for much of what has come since. The three-year task filled in many gaps in the official data from the early years of baseball history, especially from the 19th century. After leaving ICI, David established The Sports Encyclopedia: Baseball with partner Richard M. Cohen, creating an annual publication updated each spring. He broadened his research to include basketball and football encyclopedias, but it is his precise and painstaking baseball investigations which established his reputation.

Peter Palmer (b. 1938) A mathematician and analyst; an encyclopedist and author; a historical sleuth and statistical innovator; a researchers’ invaluable guide and friendly collaborator—Pete Palmer has been at the forefront of the new approaches to how we think about the game. He has devised new stats—On Base Plus Slugging, Linear Weights, and more—and retraced the steps of statisticians of yore to correct their tabulations. His contributions to the game have been as particular as correcting Ty Cobb’s hit total and as grand as restating and evaluating all the game’s historical records through the prism of modern statistical measures. He was the first to recognize the mathematical relationship between runs and wins, and the one most responsible for the introduction of On Base Percentage into common parlance. The Hidden Game of Baseball, co-authored with John Thorn and published in 1984, remains a touchstone for sabermetric thought. Palmer’s encyclopedic work commenced in the 1970s when he edited the venerable Turkin-Thompson Official Encyclopedia of Baseball, originally issued in 1951. From 1989 through 2001 he and Thorn published seven editions of the groundbreaking encyclopedia Total Baseball. Beginning in 2004 he and Gary Gillette combined to issue The Baseball Encyclopedia, endorsed in subsequent years by ESPN.

Lawrence Ritter (1922-2004)
an economics professor at New York University, drove 75,000 miles in the mid-1960s to research his classic 1966 baseball oral history The Glory of Their Times. Ritter wrote that he got the idea from the 1961 death of Ty Cobb—the great players from the turn of the century were old men, and he wanted to hear their stories before they died. Before Ritter, no one had undertaken the effort to interview old ballplayers on such a grand scale, and his efforts led to dozens of oral history collections in the ensuing decades. Ritter did not ask probing questions or delve into the details of their careers—instead he turned his tape recorder on and stayed out of the way, allowing his subjects to go where their memories would take them. Ritter later wrote other books of baseball history, but it is for his groundbreaking first effort that all baseball historians owe him a great debt.

Harold Seymour (1910-1992)
If Dr. Harold Seymour was a stickler for referencing his doctorate when addressing him, it may have been because his was the first ever awarded in connection with a thesis on baseball history. The Rise of Major League Baseball to 1891 was accepted by Cornell University in 1956, but it is his subsequent work, as published by Oxford University Press, that won for him not only professional stature but also the gratitude and debt of the thousands of scholars who have followed in his path. Seymour came to his calling by way of the Brooklyn Dodgers, for whom he had been a batboy, and Drew University, where he had played on the varsity nine. This common touch infused his later serious approach to the history of baseball and made his prose lively as well as learned. Aided by his wife, Dorothy Jane Mills (Seymour), he wrote a three-volume history, each bearing the title Baseball: first, The Early Years (1960), next, The Golden Age (1971), and finally The People’s Game (1991). No one may call himself a student of baseball history without having read these indispensable works.

Jules Tygiel (1949-2008) made his most lasting research contribution for his classic 1983 book, Baseball’s Great Experiment: Jackie Robinson and His Legacy. A sweeping history of the integration of the game focusing on Robinson through the 1950s, with a firm grasp of the American narrative as well as a central baseball personality, the book is often cited as one of the best in sports literature. A professor of history at San Francisco State University, Tygiel wrote in the introduction to The Great Experiment, “Writing this book has allowed me to combine my vocation as a historian and my avocation as a baseball fanatic.” Tygiel wrote books and articles on many subjects, but often returned to his favorite sport. His book Past Time: Baseball as History (2001) won SABR’s Seymour Medal as the best book of baseball writing that year.

More information on the award and the complete citations for each awardee are available here.

SABR Executive Director John Zajc notes that such an award is a much-needed balance to the baseball landscape. “Everyone knows who the best players are, because they’re in the Hall of Fame. The best managers and most influential executives are also honored with induction. There are awards for the best baseball broadcasters and sportswriters. Now baseball researchers get their due with The Chadwick Award, which honors those individuals whose diligent research has enhanced our understanding and appreciation of the game.”

By honoring individuals for the length and breadth of their contribution to the study and enjoyment of baseball, the Chadwick Award will educate the baseball community about sometimes little known but vastly important contributions from the game’s past and thus encourage the next generation of researchers.

The criteria for the award reads in part: The contributions of nominees must have had public impact. This may be demonstrated by publication of research in any of a variety of formats: books, magazine articles, websites, etc. The compilation of a significant database or archive that has facilitated the published research of others will also be considered in the realm of public impact.

The inaugural Chadwick Award Committee consisted of David W. Smith, John Thorn, and Mark Armour.

SABR (pronounced “Saber”) is an international organization headquartered in Cleveland, OH. The Society's mission is to foster the study of baseball, to assist in developing and maintaining the history of the game, to facilitate the dissemination of baseball research and to stimulate interest in baseball.