Yesterday I stumbled upon a great resource for baseball fans and researchers: the Luis J. Botifoll Oral History Project digital collection at the University of Miami. The collection includes several videos of oral history interviews that were conducted with “members of the first generations of Cubans to leave the island after the Cuban Revolution.”
The online collection contains two baseball-related interviews. The first is an oral history interview with Andres Fleitas, former player for the Almendares Blues of the Cuban baseball leagues. The University of Miami libraries blog includes a summary of the interview, and the online collection has a video of the interview. The other interview is with Rafael “Felo” Ramírez, the Spanish-language broadcaster for the Miami Marlins. The online collection contains a video of his interview, as well.
I’m sensing a future blog post on these two!
I decided to jump on the band wagon and see what all the fuss is about the 1940 Census. My first thought was, should I really care? My second thought was, how can we use it for baseball?
Until a name index is created, you have to know a person’s enumeration district – i.e., where a person lived – to find them in the census. In the case of Babe Ruth, who lived in New York City, it can be rather daunting. That place is kind of big. (Fortunately, someone else already found him!) I first tried searching for Bob Feller, Brooks Robinson, and Willie Mays, but Cleveland, Little Rock, and Birmingham are also kind of big.
However, sometimes its easier to guess a person’s 1940 address. For example, I knew Walter Johnson had lived was somewhere in Montgomery County, MD, I just wasn’t sure where. With a little bit of reach on Wikipedia, I was quickly able to find out that he moved to Germantown, MD, after he retired from baseball. Fortunately, Germantown wasn’t that big in 1940. The entire city was contained in only two enumeration districts. It was just a matter of going through page by page looking for the former Washington Senators’ pitcher. After going through about 50 pages, I found him! He was a 53-year old dairy farmer living on a farm in Germantown with his mom, Minnie, and his five kids. Cool!
So, what would be the point of looking up baseball players in the 1940 Census? Either serious historical baseball research… or just plain nosiness. Happy searching!