Saturday, May 12, 2012

Research Challenges

For as much as I enjoy this project, and I really do, there are some challenges and frustrations. I'll share a few:

1) No first names - baseball recaps in the late 1900s usually omitted the first name of the player, and not just in the box scores (which still remains common practice today). Typically, a player was referred to by his position and his last name. My most frustrating example of this is "Catcher Hartman". Hartman played for Fargo for the entire 1897 season, yet not one account in either the Forum or Sunday Argus mentioned his first name. This is especially frustrating because I suspect he was from the area. Finding out a player's first name becomes an exciting discovery. Sometimes, even just getting the first and middle initials (as I have found with A. J. Hessler), is a nice accomplishment. First names help greatly in finding different paths for research.

2) No comprehensive index of the Forum - somewhat surprisingly, no useful searchable index of the Fargo paper exists. The Grand Forks Herald does have a searchable index, which is nice. Though the search mechanisms for older versions of newspapers are not always fully reliable, having something would be nice. Instead, I need to go through each individual newspaper edition that may provide some information. This is fun at times, but tedious, too. As it stands, these are the publications I have searched, page by page:

Fargo Forum - daily editions from April 1 - September 21, 1897, along with some of the mid-June to mid- July of 1896 and some of the summer of 1898
Fargo Sunday Argus - weekly editions May - October 1896, April - August 1897
Grand Forks Herald - daily editions May 19 - June 6, 1897 (still in progress...)
The Sporting News - weekly editions March - October 1897
The Sporting Life - several editions from the summer of 1897
The Spectrum - North Dakota Agricultural College's monthly newspaper 1897-1898
St. Paul Globe - just the daily sports page from May 22 - June 15 1897 (still in progress...)
That's over 300 editions of papers. Wow. If I only could get paid for this. (At least the Forum daily was usually just 4 pages!)

There are many more papers I am interested in searching. More to come.

3) My last complaint is similar to #1 and concerns Fargo's baseball park. I have no idea where it was. Well, I have some idea, but the Forum and Argus do not specify its location. Not even reference to nearby landmarks that would help my cause. The papers do call it a "park" and sometimes the "baseball grounds". Based on some vague clues like these and my moderate knowledge of Fargo's history, I do have a theory. I really do think they played at Island Park. However, they also could have played at Oak Grove Park, and possibly could have had a makeshift baseball park somewhere else in the city. I hope it's Island Park - I have always loved that place.

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