March 31, 2006
Prologue Magazine Offers a Guide to Researching Baseball at the National Archives
Washington, DC…If you thought you knew everything about baseball-ERAs and RBIs, accounts of pennant-winning plays, and stories of the legends and near-legends-think again.
The National Archives, the nation's recordkeeper, has a wealth of information about baseball, as it does for many other subjects. From court briefs and patent applications to military files and Presidential documents, records in the holdings of the National Archives add substantially to the story of the dominant recreational and professional sport of the 20th Century.
"To overlook the National Archives as a source of baseball information is tantamount to a rookie hitter going up to the plate without a bat because he doesn't think he can hit major league pitching," write archivists David Pfeiffer and John Vernon in an article in the Spring issue of Prologue, the agency's quarterly magazine.
In "Beyond the Box Score," Pfeiffer and Vernon take readers on a tour of the best and brightest examples of the Archives' baseball holdings. And there are documents of court and administrative law cases, involving everything from the U.S. Supreme Court's decision that paved the way for free agency to a battle before the Federal Trade Commission over market share in baseball cards. You'll also find patent applications for improvements to the bats, balls, and gloves used in the early 20th century.
There are many, many photographs. Some are from World War II, when many of baseball's greats traded one kind of uniform for another and served in the Army or Navy. There's Joe DiMaggio and Pee Wee Reese signing baseballs before a game in the South Pacific. And you'll even find a shot of legends Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig together during a visit to West Point.
Pfeiffer and Vernon write that while there are a considerable number of baseball records in the Archives, it does take some digging because there are no discrete collections of baseball records in the National Archives.
"The scouting process for locating these and many other undiscovered records is similar to that employed in baseball for scouting players," they write. "It takes determination, strategy, resourcefulness, planning, and an open mind to discover can't-miss prospects."
The Spring Prologue also includes an article, "When an American City Is Destroyed," that recalls how the U.S. military units stationed in the San Francisco area became the "first responders" when the historic earthquake struck that city a century ago in April.
Another article, "A Founding Father in Dissent," examines the life of Elbridge Gerry, whose action as governor of Massachusetts in approving a politically manipulated legislative redistricting plan inspired the term "gerrymander," but whose earlier work as one of the architects of the Constitution gets little notice from historians.
Other articles in the Spring issue include:
- "Hemingway on War and Its Aftermath," which draws on the Hemingway papers at the Kennedy Library in Boston to show how war changed not only the author but American literature as well.
- "VIPs in Uniform," a look at the military files of some of the famous and famous-to-be, including Elvis Presley, Steve McQueen, George S. Patton Jr., and Jack Kerouac.
- "An Extraordinary President and His Remarkable Cabinet," in which Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin talks about researching her new book, Team of Rivals, at the National Archives.
Prologue's regular feature, Genealogy Notes, examines the World War II Army enlistment files that are available online through the National Archives' Access to Archival Databases.
For nearly four decades, Prologue has shared with readers the rich resources and programs of the National Archives, its regional archives, and the Presidential libraries. Each issue features historical articles-drawn from National Archives' holdings and written by noted historians, archivists, and experts-as well as articles explaining and describing many of the National Archives' activities and programs as the nation's recordkeeping agency. The Washington Post said, "Prologue… can be regarded quite literally as an invitation for further study. It is also consistently absorbing reading."
A 1-year subscription to Prologue costs $20. To begin a subscription, call 301-837-1850 or 1-800-234-8861, or print out the order form found on the web site at www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/order/. Mail orders to Prologue, P.O. Box 100684, Atlanta, GA, 30384.
You can also fax credit card orders to Prologue at 301-837-0319.
Single copies of Prologue are available at the Archives Shop or at the Cashier's Office in the National Archives Building in Washington or at the Publications Sales Office at the National Archives at College Park. Back issues are also available at the College Park location.
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Contact the National Archives Public Affairs Staff for a press copy of "Beyond the Box Score" at 202-357-5300.
Selected articles from the Spring Prologue will soon be posted at: www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/.