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Take Me Out to the Ball Game: Researching Baseball Players

Have a professional baseball player for an ancestor or family member? Try the following web sites to learn more about the player and his game.

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Type: Article
Resource: GenWeekly
Prepared by: Gena Philibert-Ortega
Word Count: 744 (approx.)
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The great thing about researching someone who may have gained some fame, even a small amount, is that they are more likely to have left records and documentation for us to find, much more so than our average ancestor. Someone who played baseball professionally would have been mentioned in newspaper articles and he may have been on a baseball card or other baseball related ephemera. When researching an "infamous" family member, start as you would with any ancestor, look for resources such as vital records, census records, probate records, etc. But also widen your search to include newspaper articles and interviews, articles and books written by experts. Make sure to track your research carefully and thoroughly, since there is the possibility for such a large collection of information, it can be easy to become overwhelmed.

When you are using Ancestry.com, www.ancestry.com to look up your player in the U.S. Federal Census, make sure to also utilize the Professional Baseball Players, 1876-2004 database. This database includes over 15,000 players and the player's information is linked to either a digitized picture or a baseball card.

The Society for American Baseball Research, http://www.sabr.org/, was established in 1971 to foster the study of baseball past and present, and to provide an outlet for educational, historical and research information about the game. The organization has 24 different research committees that members can join. These committees include a biographical committee, Negro Leagues, Latino Baseball, Asian Baseball and Women in Baseball. The listing for each committee includes contact information for members on that committee and web links. Their online Baseball Biography Project currently has 513 biographies that you can view.

The web site, Baseball Almanac, http://www.baseball-almanac.com, can provide stats on your player as well as obituaries, newspaper articles, biographies, quotes and interviews. Each player listed has some information about birth date and place as well as death date and place.

Bill Lee's web site, The Baseball Undertaker at http://www.baseballundertaker.com/, provides information about his book, The Baseball Necrology. This book provides information on 7,000 baseball players and their lives after baseball, including their deaths. His web site states that his book, "includes all of the following information I could locate for any deceased person who every played in a major league game, as well as umpires, managers, owners, administrators, announcers, sportswriters and those who played in the Negro Leagues." The book's biographies include: number of years in the major leagues and primary position played; Hall of Fame indication; date and place of birth and death; military service; after baseball career; cause of death and burial place. Information for ordering the book is found on the web site.

A keyword search through the Family History Library catalog, www.familysearch.org, for the word "baseball" provides such results as The Baseball Necrology; The Baseball Encyclopedia; Biographical Dictionary of American Sports; The Independent Carolina Baseball League, 1936-1938; the Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues; and the Women of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League: A Biographical Dictionary.

If your family member played for the Negro Leagues, you may want to check out the web site www.blackbaseball.com, which includes a history of the League and biographies and pictures of players inducted into the Hall of Fame. The web site, Negro League Baseball, http://www.negroleaguebaseball.com/, includes interesting historical articles, biographies, team index, timeline and fax. The Negro League Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri has a web site, http://www.nlbm.com/, that includes a short history, online gift shop, and information about events at the museum.

Is your baseball playing family member a woman? Then you might be interested in the web site, All-American Girls Professional Baseball League at http://www.aagpbl.org/. This web site provides a comprehensive history of the League including information on the charm school the girls had to attend, rules of conduct, and the official song. League history, biographies, and team information round out this site.

If you are told that your ancestor played for a baseball team but you can't find any mention of them in the above sites, don't forget that baseball teams could be found at universities or on community teams. Information about these teams might be found in newspapers, alumni directories, yearbooks, and community histories. Baseball teams, like today, existed in all realms of life. Even in prison. Chris Enss' book, Playing for Time: The Death Row All Stars (ISBN: 0738533084) is an interesting look at the Wyoming State Penitentiary All Stars who were made up of death row inmates. Interesting history may be found in the most unlikely of places.

Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2007.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.

*Effective May 2010, GenWeekly articles that are more than five years old no longer require a subscription for full access.

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