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Harold Seymour

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Harold Seymour (Cy)

[edit] Biographical Information

Harold Seymour graduated from high school ranked 299 in a class of 303 but nonetheless talked his way into Drew University and then Cornell University, where he earned his PhD. His doctoral dissertation was on the history of baseball and its impact on American Society, centering on the year 1891.

At Drew, Seymour was "the centerpiece of the college's first baseball team, actually the first baseball coach and the first polished player and first baseman at the same time. At Drew, Seymour also wrote sports for the college paper, was a member of the first student athletics committee and became a council representative in the student government.

The team's first captain (1931), he also hit the first run ever scored by a ball player for Drew. Seymour was also Drew's star hitter. His four-year average was .425; in two years he hit .500, and one year .514. After Seymour graduated in 1934, the local newspaper columnist recalled his career, stating that Seymour "loved the game and knew more about baseball than anyone who has ever been at Drew," adding that he "could sing in four languages and swear in a dozen."

He became a "bird dog," unofficial scout, for the Boston Red Sox. His principal discoveries were Bill Lohrman and Harry Eisenstat.

Seymour's experience at Drew inspired one of his best education articles, "Books Before Baseball," published in SABR's magazine, The National Pastime, in 1982. It derives largely from his experience as a college student who learned that academics should be placed ahead of athletics. Another is "Call Me Doctor!" written for the Educational Record in 1958. In this article Seymour recommended that holders of the highest degree that can be awarded, the Ph.D., should stop hiding it and permitting physicians, whose degree is actually a lower-level degree, to benefit almost exclusively from the public recognition of its value. Seymour also wrote "A Communist in the Classroom" for the Journal of Higher Education, revealing that he had invited a communist (and a capitalist) to his college class for students to question and learn from.

Before he was able to find a teaching position at the college level, Seymour taught junior high school history in Norwich, NY. 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."

Fenn College in Cleveland became Seymour’s second college-level teaching position; he had taught at Presbyterian College in South Carolina, and during World War II he left teaching to run his father's marine contracting business in New York City.

In the fall of 1956 Seymour accepted a post as Vice President and Director of the State University of New York at Buffalo's Office of Information Services, succeeding Sloan Wilson, author of the bestseller The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit. Seymour also gave many radio and TV interviews and becames vice president of the Business Bureau in Cleveland, OH.

Seymour is best known for his groundbreaking three-volume History Of Baseball. Volume I is Baseball: The Early Years (1960); this first volume covers the earliest play in the United States and baseball's development from an amateur pastime into a professional sport, with establishment of the National Commission in 1903. It wa expanded and revised from Seymour's Ph.D. dissertation for Cornell University. Volume II, entitled Baseball: The Golden Age (1971), covers the development of the major leagues, clubs, and players to 1930, including all the important baseball events of the period, like the Black Sox Scandal of 1919. Volume III, Baseball: The People's Game (1990), gives the full story of the growth of amateur baseball in America as played in schools, colleges, prisons, women's groups, black clubs and leagues, industrial leagues, even Indian schools. This book won three prizes.

The Seymour Medal is named in honor of Dr. Harold Seymour and wife Dorothy Jane Mills. In 2001, Seymour was one of the first winners of the Henry Chadwick Award.

[edit] Further Reading

  • Dorothy Jane Mills: A Woman's Work: Writing Baseball History with Harold Seymour, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2004.
  • John Thorn: "Harold Seymour and Dorothy Seymour Mills", in The Baseball Research Journal, SABR, Volume 39, Number 1 (Summer 2010), p. 130.

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