Whether they’ll examine early baseball memorabilia isn’t certain, but a new panel has been formed to help piece together the story of how baseball began.
John Thorn, the recently named Official Historian of Major League Baseball, will serve as chairman of the “Baseball Origins Committee” as his first official task in his new capacity, Commissioner Bud Selig announced Tuesday.
Major League Baseball has established a panel of 12 experts and historians that will seek to determine the facts of baseball’s beginnings and its evolution. The Committee will compile and evaluate information that pertains to the game’s founding and its growth.
Following the study period, the panel will seek to tell the story of baseball’s beginnings and explore not only the game’s broadest origins, but also its development in local communities.
Thorn also will incorporate opportunities for public participation in the project, allowing the panel to hear the first baseball stories from individual fans and families. A special section of MLB.com will be dedicated to the project, serving as a hub of interactivity throughout the effort.
Thorn will lead the panel and also will serve as the representative to the public, and Commissioner Selig will be a formal member of the panel. The 10 members joining them will be:
- DAVID BLOCK, an early baseball historian, author of Baseball Before We Knew It: A Search for the Roots of the Game, and a member of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).
- JAMES EDWARD BRUNSON III, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs at Northern Illinois University and author of The Early Image of Black Baseball: Race and Representation in the Popular Press, 1871-1890.
- ADRIAN BURGOS, JR., Associate Professor of History at the University of Illinois; author of Playing America’s Game: Baseball, Latinos, and the Color Line and Cuban Star: How One Negro League Owner Changed the Face of Baseball; a consultant to Ken Burns’s Baseball: The Tenth Inning; and a member of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).
- KEN BURNS, award-winning filmmaker of Ken Burns’s Baseball, Ken Burns’s Baseball: The Tenth Inning, The Civil War, Jazz, The War, and many other highly acclaimed documentaries.
- LEN COLEMAN, the former President of the National League.
- DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN, Presidential Historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, and Wait Till Next Year: A Memoir.
- STEVE HIRDT, Executive Vice President of the Elias Sports Bureau, the official statistician of Major League Baseball, and a member of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).
- JANE LEAVY, Former staff writer of the Washington Post; author of Sandy Koufax: A Lefty’s Legacy and The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and The End of America’s Childhood; and a member of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).
- LARRY McCRAY, a researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who, since 2005, has coordinated “Project Protoball,” a record of print references to baseball and parallel bat and ball games prior to 1860, and a member of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).
- GEORGE F. WILL, Pulitzer Prize-winning commentator, Washington Post and Newsweek columnist, ABC News analyst and author of Men At Work: The Craft of Baseball.
“I am thrilled that John Thorn and our decorated panel will take on this ambitious endeavor,” said Selig. “In so many ways, our game is a reflection of American history, and I am glad that Major League Baseball can now contribute to the findings and celebrate our unparalleled tradition.”
“In no sport is the past as important to the present moment as it is in baseball. That’s why so much interest attaches to how our great game began – in America, in communities, and in our family histories.”
Thorn’s new book, Baseball in the Garden of Eden: The Secret History of the Early Game, published by Simon & Schuster, is available beginning today. Commissioner Selig appointed Thorn as Official Historian on March 1st.