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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Forward to Baseball History: My Method



















Photo:  Player/manager of the East Portland Pioneers, an amateur team sponsored by the J.W. Cook Co. in 1866.  In 1883, Buchtel founded the Portland Willamettes, the first semi-professional team in Portland.


Forward
 
   This book is partially sourced from a six-part series I wrote for the monthly Northwest Neighbor newspaper in 1980.  At the time, I delved into the archives of the now defunct Oregon Journal and The Oregonian, reading everything I could find about the early days of baseball in Portland in the microfiche files at Portland’s Multnomah County Central Library. The reading repeatedly brought me to the work of legendary Portland sportswriter L.H. Gregory (1885-1975), whose long career included stints at both newspapers and many years as sports editor and columnist at The Oregonian.  No other writer in Portland had his depth of knowledge, perspective or experience covering baseball in Portland at the time of his death. His reminiscences and game stories provide the bulk of the information in this narrative. The few quotes contained herein, with a couple of exceptions, are gleaned from his articles and are duly noted in the text.
   Throughout, readers will discover that I have placed thoughts and possible motives for such thoughts in the minds of several focal characters, as well as in the minds of the fans. I do so unapologetically in the interest of creating something expressly more historical than a mere list of events and the common over-reliance on names and dates that is the bane of historicism.   Wherever possible, I attempt to fit such material into the context of both the game of baseball and the timeline involved in the story. The level of success I achieved in this endeavor is yours to decide.
   For source material beyond 1980, I have also consulted some of my friend Buddy Dooley’s scribbling about baseball in Portland, most notably his 2010 essay “Henry Aaron” (from People, Polemics & Pooh-Pah: Notes from Under the Bar) regarding David Hersh’s purchase of the Beavers. Though no L.H. Gregory, Dooley once had a keen interest in the game. His account of the Hersh years rings true—if somewhat cynical—so I've used him. I've adapted Dooley’s facile anecdote about once meeting Aaron from his essay as well.
   In addition, I've used online material liberally throughout the text. I can say only that I wish the Internet had been around when I wrote my series long ago.  Scholarly historians—and I happen to be a history graduate of Portland State University, so I can verify this—rightfully scorn Wikipedia. The most obvious reason is because the online source is often flawed, or plain wrong.  In my research, comparing people and dates attached to my 1980 effort with those I found at Wikipedia and other online sources, there were indeed discrepancies. I have smoothed these over to the best of my ability by assuming that my own original primary-source research trumps the Wiki guys,' though I did find instances wherein I was plausibly wrong.  I only hope that someone who was around in 1903 doesn't see a mistake I have made and chastise me from the grave.
   You as readers are of course free to do that at any time before we all go to baseball heaven.
   One final note:  The italicized material that I've used to introduce each of the book’s chapters is grazed from an article I published in 1979 prior to beginning my original research.  I include it here in a hopeful attempt to give the text extra breadth.

Terry Simons
June, 2014
Portland, Oregon


TS

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