Thursday, August 8, 2013

Authors having their say: Dorothy Mills

Did you ever play "telephone" as a kid? You know, the game where there's a line of people and the message starts off as one thing but ends up as something different by the time it reaches the last participant?

It's kind of like that with authors and readers. The writer knows his or her true meanings, plus all the "back story" that went into publication, that the reader is not privy to. I picked books for 501 without regard to any politics, gossip, or other information outside the works themselves.

In the spirit of education and understanding, I have invited authors to send in their comments of the entries about their books that have been included in 501.

The following comes from Dorothy Mills, widow of the late Harold Seymour, who was in attendance at the recent SABR Conference in Philadelphia. Except for the omission of the opening paragraph of greetings, I have not edited her correspondence.

* * *

I'm very grateful for being recognized in this volume, Ron. I think you perform valuable work for baseball writers, and we all appreciate it. I just want to make a few remarks that may lead you to make some changes in the pieces about Harold Seymour and me.

On page 97 you recognize my autobiography, A Woman's Work. In this book I explain that instead of the "assistant" that other historians thought I was, actually I was Harold Seymour's co-author, right from the beginning (not just for Volume 3). I performed almost all the research and a large amount of the writing. Starting as Seymour's in-house editor, I gradually took over the writing as well. At first he wrote from my outlines of each chapter; then he began using my words from my outlines, and the result usually ended up being the final version of the chapter.

As for the third volume, it was my idea to write such a book (completely about the amateurs--something that had never been done before), and I did all the research and most of the writing for this book, so it is primarily my book.

In the first paragraph you state that in 1995 SABR created an annual award in Seymour's honor. Not really. By 1995 SABR had already realized that I was Seymour's co-author and named the award for both of us. The title of the award is The Dr. Harold & Dorothy Seymour Medal,  and it displays the profiles of both of us on the obverse side of the medal. Each year I present a copy of this medal to the winner of the award.

In 2010, I learned that SABR was about to posthumously give Harold Seymour posthumously the Chadwick Award with a mention of me only as his assistant.  I objected to this, explaining that my "assistant" status probably lasted a few months in 1949; after that, I was a full partner in the work. SABR then issued a Chadwick Award crediting us both and gave it to me.

That year, at the request of  SABR members, Oxford University Press decided to change the author attribution of the three books we wrote for OUP known as the Seymour trilogy on baseball, to demonstrate that we were co-authors of these books. Oxford designed new front and back covers and placed my name with Harold Seymour's on the covers and the title page of all three books. For the third book, my name was positioned first, since I was the primary author.

In addition, Oxford  published a boxed statement about the change in authorial credit, displaying the box in the front matter of each book. The statement explained  that the company had learned that I was "a full partner in the composition of the first two volumes and primarily responsible for the third."

Oxford told me that to the knowledge of its editors, OUP had never made such a change  before. The change was announced in Publishers' Weekly. This public recognition via Oxford's announcement was very gratifying.

On page xii you list Harold Seymour as the only author of these books. I'd appreciate recognition of my co-authorship there. Here, and on several of my baseball books, I use the name Dorothy Seymour Mills.

On page 149- 50 you list the Seymour books as though Harold were the only author. I'd appreciate your changing this reference, too.

You say here that Seymour was "the patriarch of the scholarly baseball history genre." That's only because he kept my full co-authorship under wraps. He didn't want anyone to know that he wasn't doing this work alone. He let everyone believe that he was doing it by himself.

You state that "Seymour's work has comes [sic] under a cloud of scrutiny in recent years; his lack of documentation has led to allegations that he might have misappropriated the research of other writers and scholars." I have never seen any such allegations.

What has been questioned is the lack of footnotes. And the reason that the books came out without footnotes is that Oxford refused to publish them. We were working on the notes for the third chapter of the first volume when Oxford informed us that the book would be too long with footnotes, so we stopped including them in the manuscript. I think Oxford also believed that the company could not sell a baseball book with scholarly additions like footnotes. The reason I say this is that Oxford refused to add the Ph.D. to Harold's name  on the title page, saying that the company felt it could not sell a baseball book by a scholar with a Ph.D. Remember, this was the first such book ever. No scholar, and no scholarly publisher, had ever published a baseball book before. Oxford was entering new waters and just finding its way. The company didn't quite know how to handle such a book.

To make up for the footnotes we had planned to include, for each book we wrote extensive bibliographical notes discussing our sources. In addition, when we wanted to cite another historian's work, we did so right in the text, often explaining exactly where the article or book appeared so that other scholars could find it. We made sure that, despite the omission of footnotes, we could never be thought of as appropriating other scholars' work.

Another thing that amazed SABR people was the huge amount of research. How could he possibly have done so much research? they wondered. Did he really do all that? The answer, of course, is that he didn't. He had my help. In fact, I did most of the research for all the books, since I loved doing research and he did not enjoy it. Those who have examined our notes in the Harold and Dorothy Seymour Collection at Cornell University have discovered that most of the notes are in my writing.

You point out that Spitball Magazine honored Baseball: The People's Game. That was one of the four awards the book won. Our Oxford editor, Sheldon Meyer (now deceased), remarked that this book "swept the field" of honors. Remember, the book was my idea in the first place (as I explained in A Woman's Work) and I am primarily responsible for it. But Seymour took the credit for it.

* * *

Unfortunately, I am unable to effect any changes in 501 at this point, so I hope Ms. Mills' e-mail will serve those purposes. 

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