Friday, November 4, 2011

David Ball

I'm absolutely devastated to hear about the passing of my friend, David.  I was looking forward to talking to him this week about one of his favorite subjects, the Mullane case, which had come up again in my coverage of the Maroons' 1884 season.  There is no doubt that he would have had something interesting and informative to add to what I had found.

In the most recent edition of SABR Notes, they published David's obituary:

David Ball, 60, a member of the Hoyt-Allen Chapter in Cincinnati, died peacefully in his sleep of heart failure on October 26. Ball was born in New York City, where his passion for baseball developed at an early age while attending games with his father. He worked at the Classics Library at the University of Cincinnati after receiving an undergraduate degree in philosophy and both a master's degree and a Ph.D. in Ancient History from Cincinnati. Ball was recognized as the foremost authority on nineteenth-century baseball transactions and was also a leading authority on nineteenth-century Cincinnati and Indianapolis major league teams. An author who combined depth and sensitivity with a wry wit, he wrote numerous player and owner biographical sketches and was the book editor of Base Ball at the time of his death. Ball's most recently published works were his contributions to the business of baseball and player transactions as well as many biographical sketches in MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL PROFILES: 1871-1900, vols. 1 & 2, published in 2011 by the University of Nebraska Press. In addition, he was a major contributor to the forthcoming book The Rank and File of 19th Century Major League Baseball: Biographies of 1,081 Players, Owners, Managers and Umpires, to be published by McFarland in 2012. Ball's closest surviving relative was his sister, Sandra Ball. An online guestbook through which condolences may be expressed to the family has been posted at

When I first started researching and writing about 19th century baseball in St. Louis, David was one of the first members of the 19th century research community to reach out to me and encourage my efforts.  I'll never forget his kindness.  He was a brilliant man who took a novice under his wing and gently helped to get him on the right path.  While I can never repay David for the help and encouragement that he offered me, one of the reasons that I've always tried to help others in the community and those who come to me with questions and requests is because of the way that David treated me when I was first starting out.  For me, David was one of the main reasons why I consider the 19th century research community to be a true community.  He made it seem like a group of peers and friends working together on a grand project.

Last year, David sent me a chapter of the book he was working on and asked me to take a look at it, fact check it and offer any thoughts.  I jumped at the opportunity because I just wanted to see what he was working on.  Of course, it was great and I told him that he needed to write faster and finish the thing because this was a book I wanted to read.  Sadly, that book will never be finished and we're to be denied David's opus on 19th century player transactions.

We've lost so much with his passing.  As his obituary noted, he was without a doubt the leading expert on 19th century player transactions and 19th century baseball in Cincinnati.  Whenever someone ever came to me with a question about 19th century baseball that touched on Cincinnati, I always referred them to David.  And I have no doubt that he was as helpful and generous with them as he always was with me.  David was also very active online and there are several 19th century baseball websites, including this one, that will feel his loss.  He was always a quiet, respected voice amidst the angry storm of the internet who simply enjoyed sharing his knowledge of baseball.

My heartfelt condolences go out to his family and friends.  I'm so very sorry for your loss and all of you, and David, will be in my prayers.          

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