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Monday, January 13, 2014

SoE: Graham Womack: Race Against Time

Graham explains…“A couple years ago, a longtime minor league statistician named Bill Weiss died with a house full of priceless historic baseball artifacts. A fellow I know through SABR spent two years going through the collection so that it could be preserved and donated.”

At first glance, the thing that jumps out about the questionnaire is the neatness and precision of penmanship. In ornate cursive, on a legal-sized sheet dated July 18, 1977, about a month after the San Diego Padres drafted him, Ozzie Smith details his amateur career and life to this point. Asked for his most exciting moment, Smith mentions winning Most Valuable Player in a tournament in Taiwan the year before. He talks of being two quarters shy of completing his bachelors degree at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Asked about other clubs he’s played for, Smith writes of his summer of 1976 with the semi-pro Clarinda Iowa A’s; he’ll reference Clarinda again in his Hall of Fame speech 25 years later.

Every time a player joined a team in a minor league Bill Weiss worked with, Weiss would have him fill out such a survey within 10 days. Think of a noteworthy player who debuted in the minors between the late 1940s and 2006, and there’s a good chance Weiss got a handwritten questionnaire from him. Through two visits to Weiss’s home after his death, this author located questionnaires for Smith, Wade Boggs, Dennis Eckersley, Rickey Henderson, Paul Molitor and many other players. Toward the end of his life, Weiss would occasionally sell an original questionnaire, such as Jose Canseco, though he always kept a photocopy. By the time of Weiss’s death, it’s estimated he had questionnaires for more than 100,000 players.

The questionnaires are but a small part of Weiss’s collection. He also kept official stats, player files and draft records. He kept correspondence from players, managers and league officials who would write to complain about his scoring decisions. He kept records on high school and college baseball. He kept material from a circuit he helped found and run for 25 years, the Peninsula Winter League that featured the likes of Willie Stargell and Joe Morgan. Weiss’s personal library of baseball books would eventually fill more than 125 banana boxes with selections dating to the 1860s. That’s just the stuff the executor of Weiss’s estate Mark Macrae said was fit for donation, about 26,000 pounds of material.

Repoz Posted: January 13, 2014 at 05:27 PM | 1 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history

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   1. Elvis Posted: January 14, 2014 at 11:38 PM (#4639192)
This is a wonderful article about a guy who not every baseball fans knows but that they probably should. Bill was a great guy, his passion was incredible and he was kind to everyone who was a fan of baseball.

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