Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Research Made Simpler

Every generation reaches a point where they start telling the next generation how much more difficult their lives and experiences were compared to the present day.  The classic example is the parent telling the child, that he (it was usually a he) walked ten miles to school each day, uphill both ways.  The same thing is true of doing research, but the dramatic changes in technology, especially Internet related have changed research so much that one doesn't have to be that old to remember the bad old days.  In doing genealogical research, for example, finding census information from England meant finding a library that had it on microfilm and then searching rolls and rolls, trying to find one's ancestors.  Today all the census data is a few clicks away, albeit for a price, on various genealogical web sites.

Similar advances have benefited base ball historians, but two thus far in 2014 have made the work infinitely easier.  The first took place when the Illinois Digital Newspaper Collections made available the full run of the surviving issues of the New York Clipper  ( an incredibly user friendly format.  A lot of what has been posted on this blog since February has been drawn from that resource.  If that wasn't enough, the Brooklyn Public Library has not only completed the digitization of the full run of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle ( which previously has been available only through 1902, but it too in an what seems like an unbelievably easy to use format.

Last night while browsing through the Eagle looking for something total unrelated (which is usually the way), I found the below picture from the July 3, 1949 issue of the paper, headlining a story by long time Eagle writer, Tommy Holmes, about sport in Brooklyn.  The original picture, however, was from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper from November 4, 1865 highlighting the end of the base ball season

Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper - November 4, 1865

Looking more closely at the players portrayed in the picture, I noticed two with New Jersey connections.  Charles Thomas of the Eureka Club of Newark and A.J. Bixby of the Eagle Club of New York.  Thomas was a founding member of the Eureka and the highly regarded shortstop of what was the premier New Jersey club of the period.  The 1865 season was the Eureka's best year as they twice came within a single run of knocking off the champion Atlantics.  Bixby is, of course, more well known as a pitcher for the Eagle Club and being in the New York lineup for the first two of the Fashion Course games.  Before playing for the Eagle Club, however, Bixby played for the Pioneer Club of Jersey City in that club's first and only season in 1855.  There appears to have been a significant representation of Jersey City residents on the Eagle Club through the 1860's which may merit more attention.

 Detail of picture from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper November 4, 1865

 Both of these "new" resources, or perhaps new access to old resources, will make research significantly easier going forward.  There is still, however, a place for doing research the old fashion way which I look forward to resuming in Cooperstown this Friday.

Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper - November 4, 1865

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