Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Nemec's latest project brings game's pioneers to life

David Nemec's obsession with 19th-century baseball dates back to his junior year of high school in the mid-1950s. His history teacher attempted to dissuade him from writing his class project on the early days of the sport, reasoning he'd never find enough information to reach the 10,000-word minimum for the paper. The determined youth proved his teacher wrong, digging up enough facts about the game's pioneers to earn an A+ on the assignment. With that, a baseball historian was born.

Nemec's fascination hasn't wavered in the half century since. With more than two dozen books to his name, he's earned a reputation as one of the foremost students of the game's early years. His latest project, a two-volume set entitled Major League Baseball Profiles, 1871-1900, is a collection of biographies of every player, manager, or front office type to play a significant role in the first three decades of professional baseball. Nemec had plenty of help from renowned historians including Peter Morris and John Thorn, though he steered the project from birth through completion and had a hand in most of the writeups.

I had an opportunity to talk with Nemec, who impressed me with his amazing breadth and depth of 19th century baseball lore. Ask him about anyone and he could tell you their story right off the top of his head. My feature on him and MLB Profiles is now available on BaseballAmerica.com.

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