Groundbreaking Research

Dorothy Seymour Mills helped make the study of baseball history a scholarly pursuit

March 16, 2012
(NBHOF Library)

“I love the process of discovery.  I‘m constantly looking for more to learn and new places to search for material I’m curious about,” says Dorothy Seymour Mills, a woman who labored in behind the scenes in baseball for almost 50 years.

Married to Professor Harold Seymour, she worked with him as a literary team that helped put baseball on the academic map.

While a graduate student at Cornell University, Harold Seymour selected the early history of baseball as his dissertation topic. This selection was cause for discussion and amusement, as the game was not yet seen as a topic for serious academic review.  However, he pushed for approval and the result was an eye-opening history book and the creation of a new academic field.

The work was not his alone, however, as Dorothy quietly labored behind the scenes.

“I was not only performing all the research and organization of material, I was doing all the writing. I was doing it all,” Mills said.

Her contributions to this ground-breaking effort were immense, but unattributed.  The wives of graduate students even had a name for this, it was called the Ph.T:  ‘Putting Hubby Through.”

As noted by McFarland Press editor Gary Mitchem, “If Harold was the first to publish an academic history of the game, Dorothy was the first woman to work toward that end.”

As the years passed and times changed, women began to demand proper recognition for their efforts, and Dorothy was no different.  In 1996 when the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) created the Harold Seymour Award as their highest honor, she stepped forward and objected, noting that she was his full co-author and colleague.  As noted by Sporting News editor Steve Gietschier, “They legitimized baseball history as an academic field of study.”

Her contributions were fully accepted and the award was renamed the Dr. Harold and Dorothy Seymour Award. 

In 2010, Oxford University Press took the next step when they republished the three-volume history of baseball, fully crediting her as a co-author.  Today, with dozens of graduate students of both genders laboring away at baseball related dissertations, they can all thank Dorothy Seymour Mills for her efforts, as a research and writer, for making this an accepted field of study.

Jim Gates is the Librarian at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum