Keeper of history

Former Hall of Fame historian Cliff Kachline passes away at 88

June 29, 2010
Cliff Kachline passed away Monday at the age of 88. (Milo Stewart Jr./National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – Not many people will know a subject so well during their lifetime that they are referred to as a “walking encyclopedia” by their colleagues.

But that was what Cliff Kachline was to baseball.

Kachline, the former reporter and editor of the Sporting News and historian at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, died Monday at the age of 88.

Born July 25, 1921 in Quakertown, Pa., Kachline grew interested in baseball at a young age and purchased a lifetime subscription to the Sporting News in 1941 for $25. Before the internet and “Baseball Tonight,” the Sporting News served as the primary source of information about the game for millions of baseball fans.

After Kachline pointed out a few factual errors and typos in the magazine, the Sporting News began to send him work editing and by 1943, he was working there full-time.

“”I loved baseball, and I had a pretty good mathematical mind,” Kachline said.

Kachline served as a reporter and editor for the magazine from 1943 to 1967, editing all of the Sporting News’ standard reference books over the years. He also served a two-year term as the president of the St. Louis Chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, the first Sporting News representative to do so.

In St. Louis, Kachline was described as “an authority on rules and structure of organized baseball.”

In 1967, he left baseball to serve as the public relations director for the North American Soccer League. The league folded just two years later and Kachline was named the historian for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. He helped found the Society of American Baseball Research in 1971, edited the World Series programs from 1974 through 1977 and continued to write the main story in the annual guide for the Sporting News during the 1980s.

“Cliff was instrumental in the founding of SABR here at the Library in 1971 and continued to do baseball research at the library until he moved away from Cooperstown just a few years ago,” said Gabriel Schechter, library associate at the Hall of Fame.

A plaque in the Museum's A. Bartlett Giamatti Research Center marks Kachline's contributions in founding SABR. He was an active member of the Rotary Club of Cooperstown and was very supportive of local high school athletics by attending as many events as he could.

Upon retiring from the Hall of Fame in 1982, Kachline was elected the first full-time executive director of SABR by the board. He served at this post until retiring in 1985.

"Cliff was a lifelong baseball man, and an integral part of the Hall of Fame Library staff for more than a decade,” said Tim Wiles, director of research for the Hall of Fame. “His editorial and writing work with the Sporting News and other publications was read by millions of baseball fans in the 20th century, and will continue to be read. He truly loved the game."

Samantha Carr is the manager of web and digital media for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum