Getting into the Cracks of History

Recently I made cool little discovery using an internet search site called NewspaperArchive.com, a subscription service which has been worth the cost, especially lately. It allows people who are interested in using old newspaper accounts to really get into the cracks of history. This service provides access to many smaller newspapers around the country (The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette) and some of the larger ones as well (The Wisconsin State Journal, The Indianapolis Star).

As part of my 1910-12 Minneapolis Millers project, I’m studying the performance of the Millers against left-handed starting pitchers. Finding out which pitchers were left-handed was easy for the vast majority of them, but the other 20% weren’t as easy. At first I employed the services of Ray Nemec, a sort of guru of baseball research who assists people with locating files on the more obscure players. Then I learned how to use NewspaperArchive.com to conduct searches on obscure ballplayers, some of whom I don’t even have a first name for. After entering search criteria (which varies, depending on the success I have), a listing of several articles appears. Often, way too many articles are listed, so I refine my search, a process that is made easy on the website.
For example, take the pitcher John Schultz who played for Toledo. He started in one game against the Millers in 1911, performing well, according to local newspaper accounts which did not, however, mention whether Schultz was a lefty or a righty. By default, it is likely that if an article which has any notable discussion of a pitcher in its text does not mention him being left-handed, he probably was not. But this can be a difficult presumption to make. It’s best to find a direct quotation. In the case of Schultz, I was able to find a rare quote stating he was a right-handed pitcher. At the time the article was written (July 11, 1911) Schultz was a star performer for Zanesville (OH) of the Central League, a prominent feeder of the American Association. The irony is that the quote was written with respect to the center fielder of the opposing team who had been in a hitting slump. The article mentions it was a good thing he was facing a right-hand pitcher. I had my evidence. John “Red” Schultz was definitively a righty and I could now enter that elusive “R” into my record. Had I relied only upon references to pitcher Schultz and not read the entire article, I would have missed this vital fact. Another irony in the Schultz case stems from the fact that he was with Toledo. In 1944 Ralph LinWeber published a book containing the complete (and I mean complete) rosters of each Toledo team from 1883 until 1944 called the Toledo Baseball Guide of the Mud Hens. This book was one of my principal motivators for getting started on serious baseball writing. LinWeber has Schultz was listed as a pitcher for 1911, but his throwing arm stats was omitted, the only pitcher of some two dozen pitchers the Mud Hens used all season for whom LinWeber did not provide a record of his lefty or righty persuasion. Ralph!!!!!
Taking the time to go through each article was rewarding. The Schlutz search took roughly an hour. I’ve spent up to two hours on one search. I’ve also had some incredible luck and found the info I was looking for within five minutes. It can actually become very addicting. To date I’ve discovered the throwing arm of virtually all of the 15-20 pitchers who were in question. This has been another “project within a project” and I hope it gives a constructive dimension to my study of the Millers and their three-straight pennant winning years. This allows my research to be as complete as possible, which can only enhance my writing. And besides, it’s fun!

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