That Baseball Ph.D.

Harold Seymour

At the time Seymour was about to be awarded his Ph.D. for the first dissertation on the history of American baseball, he was interviewed by the Cleveland News. After all, “The Rise of Major League Baseball to 1891” was a highly unusual title for a doctoral dissertation! News reporter Joe Madigan quoted Seymour as explaining, “No historian has ever deemed the subject worthy of scholarly investigation, despite the fact that baseball is a reflection of the development of American life. Learned men are sometimes very stuffy, you know.”

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Coaching Wrestling, Not Baseball

Harold Seymour

History and Wrestling

Before he was able to find a teaching position at the college level, Seymour taught junior high school history in Norwich, New York. He accepted the position with the assurance that he would also be coaching baseball, but when he arrived to start work he learned that the chemistry teacher had been given the baseball position and that he, Seymour, was to coach wrestling-about which he knew nothing! So he enlisted the star wrestler to help him, learned the moves and how to help his boys, coached them and traveled to meets with them, and produced a winning team, popularly called “The Purple Matmen.”
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Who’s On First?

Harold Seymour

Plans for a Ceremony

In a trip to visit the National Baseball Library at Cooperstown in 1994 I delivered Seymour’s ashes to Tom Heitz, then the Library’s Director, in the hope that he could arrange for interment in Cooperstown. Tom planned a ceremony to take place during the annual Cooperstown Symposium on American Culture, which attracts about a hundred scholars each year to the Otesaga, a beautiful resort hotel on Lake Otsego in the heart of Cooperstown.

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Cornell Baseball Bequest

Harold Seymour

Thanks to the University

In his will Seymour arranged to honor Cornell, which was first to recognize baseball as a legitimate subject for academic inquiry and awarded him the Ph.D. degree for his dissertation on the early history of baseball. His bequest took several forms. He set up a fellowship in American history for a graduate student to study sports history. He also planned an annual invitational lecture on sports history at Cornell, called the Harold “Cy” Seymour lectureship in Sports History.

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Echoes of Ring Lardner

Harold Seymour

Harold Seymour’s proteges wrote to him when they entered organized baseball to tell their mentor about their exciting experiences, especially their successes, as young professionals. You can tell that these boys gloried in their chance to make it in the bigs. And if you’ve read Ring Lardner’s A Busher’s Letters and You Know Me Al, you’ll be amazed at the similarity between the way these fellows expressed themselves and Lardner’s supposed fiction.
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Final Fans

Harold Seymour

Invitation to Fans

Seymour had always received fan mail, but when he was in his final years I determined that he would receive even more. Through the SABR newsletter I announced that because of poor health he was receiving therapy at the McKerley Center in Keene, New Hampshire, and asked that people write him. A flood of mail came in, mostly appreciative letters from readers but some also from other authors. In my daily visits to Seymour at the Center, I took these letters with me and read them to him, hoping that, as well as giving him pleasure, they would keep his mental faculties functioning.

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