A leading source for news and analysis about Mexico and the U.S.-Mexican border.

Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014

San Diego Public Library gets William Weiss baseball archive, which has some history associated with Mexico

Book is forthcoming on Hall of Fame umpire Doug Harvey, who grew up in El Centro and umpired some games in Mexico

By David Gaddis Smith, MexicoPerspective

     william weiss baseball archiveThe San Diego Ted Williams chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research held a session at the San Diego Public Library on Saturday to discuss the library's acquisition of statistician Bill Weiss's baseball archive — a 15-ton treasure trove of baseball memorabilia, statistics and information.

     Some of the collection involves Mexicans who played in the major leagues. A handout at the event said, "By 2007, Bill had accumulated more than 100,000 questionnaires covering players in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, as well as parts of Latin America and Asia."

     Weiss lived from 1925 to 2011. Archive executor Mark Macrae said that unfortunately, much of Weiss's archive of Mexican baseball magazines such as Hits and Strike were damaged in a flood at his San Mateo house.

John Freeman Richard Lister Doug Harvey book     Doug Harvey book: Among the speakers at the Society for American Baseball Research meeting was former San Diego Union-Tribune writer John Freeman (at right in picture), who along with Richard Lister (left) did the research for a forthcoming curse-word-filled book on umpire Doug Harvey being published March 25 under the author names of Harvey and noted sportswriter Peter Golenbock.

    they called me god book coverThe book is They Called Me God. Freeman and Lister passed out a handout titled "The God of All Umpires." It says Harvey, who already was doing a lot of sports officiating, decided to become a major-league umpire while watching Don Larsen's 1956 World Series perfect game at the San Diego bar Harvey worked at (the Playhouse Bar). He said the patrons laughed him out of the place, but then got to see him umpiring a World Series the next decade (1968).

      While Freeman and Lister did not mention it in their talk, a 2009 article by Baseball Hall of Fame official Craig Muder about the possibility that Harvey would be voted into the hall said Harvey began umpiring at age 16 and was asked by his father, a sometimes minor-league umpire, to work a series of games in Mexico at age 19.

      Harvey, who was born in March 1930 and grew up in El Centro, contracted oral cancer in the 1990s as a result of his tobacco chewing and although he attended his 2010 Hall of Fame induction, his speech was pre-recorded as a result of the disease. The emotional taped speech concluded with him telling all true baseball fans to touch the "home plate" of Cooperstown "before the end of the game," and that "I'll be watching to make sure you do." Harvey then stood and noted to the crowd sitting outside, "I want you to notice that I stopped the rain."

     Freeman said that Harvey "still is quite ill."

      Emmett Ashford-Harvey-Mexico connection: An account by Emmett Ashford, who broke baseball's color barrier for umpires, said he was given a minor-league umpiring tryout of sorts in 1951 but that he had to do it outside the United States, in Mexicali, for a series between Mexicali and Tucson teams. Ashford said in The Men in Blue that the white umpires he was supposed to work with refused to be on the same field with him, and that officials had to send to nearby El Centro to get Harvey's father to work the game with Ashford. After years of laboring in sabr baseball room san diego public librarythe minors, Ashford became an American League umpire in 1966.

     The Weiss collection: 583 boxes of materials: The Weiss collection will be housed as part of the new central library's Sullivan Family Baseball Research Center on the eighth floor (pictured).

      Members of the Society of American Baseball Research, which is a co-donor of the collection, said the San Diego library collection and the Hall of Fame library in Cooperstown would now be the biggest two baseball libraries in the world. The San Diego chapter of SABR said the donated Weiss collection:
baseball memorabilia on display at weiss session• Weighs 15 tons.
• Has materials dating to the 1870s.
• Has 583 boxes of books, publications, files, and papers.
• Has 152 file drawers containing player index cards.
• Has 120,000 player questionnaires.

At right are some of the baseball items on display at the meeting about the Weiss collection on Saturday. At top left is an issue of the Mexican baseball magazine Strike.

Sam Rice book      The San Diego Public Library has numerous books about Mexico and baseball. Jeff Carroll's book about Sam Rice, the outfielder who helped lead the Washington Nationals (Senators) to victory in the 1924 World Series, talks about how he participated in the 1914 U.S. invasion of Veracruz while a member of the U.S. Navy. Michael and Mary Oleksak's Béisbol: Latin Americans and Grand Old Game says former Mexican President Abelardo Rodríguez played second base when he was a student at the University of Arizona and was offered a contract with the Pacific Coast League's Los Angeles Angels in 1920. Rodríguez, who also served as governor of Baja California and Sonora states, died in La Jolla in 1967.

Update, April 16: U-T San Diego's Nick Canepa writes about Harvey.