Kuhn collection

Papers documenting the career of former Commissioner Bowie Kuhn now available to researchers at Hall of Fame

April 02, 2012

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – Bowie Kuhn served as the Commissioner of Baseball during a 16-season period that saw massive changes to the National Pastime.

Now, thanks to Kuhn’s historic donation to the Hall of Fame’s A. Bartlett Giamatti Research Center, the record of those changes will be available to researchers in Cooperstown.

Kuhn, who served as commissioner from 1969-84, donated his papers from his four decades of work with Major League Baseball to the Hall of Fame in 1997 – asking only that the archives be made public no sooner than five years after his death. Kuhn, baseball’s fifth commissioner, passed away on March 15, 2007.

He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2008.

“He was a man with a deep love for the game,” said Hall of Fame director of research Tim Wiles, who helped organize the collection when it was first donated, spending nearly a month with Kuhn at the Hall of Fame. “That comes through in his papers and just being around him.”

In all, more than 109 boxes – one of the largest single Hall of Fame Library donations in the Museum’s history – are now available for researchers. File subjects range from official Major League Baseball dispatches to scrapbooks to stamp collections (Kuhn was an avid philatelist) – and also include what Kuhn called “Chrons,” which are binders that track his career chronologically.

Upon obtaining his law degree in 1950, Kuhn immediately went to work for a law firm that represented the National League. He served as a lawyer for MLB until he was elected commissioner.

“If you had this kind of donation from every commissioner, you’d have the entire history of baseball,” Wiles said. “It’s an unparalleled resource.”

Kuhn’s collection also included three-dimensional artifacts, such as his desk, as well as photographs.

“It took two summers – a total of six to eight months – to go through everything and organize it,” said Claudette Scrafford, the Museum’s manuscript archivist. “It’s really a unique collection, documenting the organization and operation of Major League Baseball.

“By looking at this collection, you can tell what a great ambassador he was for the game. When it first came in, it was one of the best organized collections I’ve seen.”

Researchers who would like to make an appointment to see Bowie Kuhn’s files can call the Hall of Fame Research Center at 607-547-0330.

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum