This month, the Baseball Caucus is delighted to interview Paul Dickson, author of author of Bill Veeck: Baseball’s Greatest Maverick, published by Walker & Co. in 2012.
What is your typical research process/methodology:
It depends on the book and how deeply I hope to delve into the subject. For my 2012 biography of Bill Veeck I did a the largest share of my library research in Cooperstown at the National Baseball Library and in Washington at the Library of Congress. I also conducted more than 100 interviews for the book.
To what extent do you use: books, articles, databases, archival material, etc.?
I use all of these but I still tend to give primacy to primary sources. Two of my most valuable resources for the Veeck book were his FBI file, his military service record and a trove of over 300 short radio shows which Veeck had recorded for Armed Forces radio. The recordings were housed in the Library of Congress.
How often do you use libraries (in-person or online); archives (in-person or online); material in your personal collection?
On average I spend one day a week working at the Library of Congress which is still the anchor for all my books. I visit the National Baseball Library on average of several times a year and use resources such as data bases which I obtain through the Enoch Pratt Library in Baltimore and Arlington Public Library in Virginia. I am a great lover and exploiter and in fact once published a book entitled The Library in America in which I claimed to carry more Library cards than credit cards. As for my personal collections, I create collections for each book and then deposit it in a library or archive when I am done. The Veeck collection included over 200 recorded interviews and these are now part of the holdings of the Baseball Reliquary in Pasadena. I don’t believe one should create primary research material and then not make sure it becomes available to others when the work is done.
To what extent do you get assistance from a librarian, archivist, research assistant?
The Veeck book was dedicated to my wife and Dave Kelly who for many years was the sports “go-to” guy at the Library of Congress. Dave was just one of more than a dozen librarians and archivists thanked in the back of the Veeck book. I do not use research assistants per se but employed three college students as interns while working on the book. I say employed because I pay interns a small hourly wage for their work to do otherwise would be exploitive.
Was there anything you could not find?
I don’t think so. If there was something important that I missed I am not sure what it would be.
What is your favorite book? (baseball and non-baseball)
That’s like asking who is your favorite grandchild, but I guess if I was pushed I would have to say it was Veeck’s own Veeck as in Wreck in baseball and I am fascinated by Mark Twain’s Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court which Twain regarded as his masterpiece. I have been working on annotation of Connecticut Yankee for several years.
Are there any authors you admired?
Growing up I was deeply influenced by Vance Packard whose ability to tackle new topics and write about them with clarity was inspirational. This came full circle when I published my first book, Think Tanks, and Packard was willing endorse (blurb) the book.
What are you currently reading? (fiction and non-fiction)
Just finished David Stewart’s biography of Aaron Burr, American Emperor, which is one of the best biographies I have read in years. In terms of fiction I am in a time warp re-reading things I loved when I was younger—for instance, have been dipping into John Dos Passos’ USA trilogy.
What was your first game?
September, 1943 when I was five and my uncle who was on leave from the Navy took me to a Yankee game. He was heavily decorated and wore his uniform and we did not pay for a thing all day. We met Tommy Heinrich who was in Coast Guard uniform and we all sat in the owner’s box. I told my uncle as we left the stadium “I love this game.”
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