Say it ain’t so

By Derek Barichello

While the White Sox were busy making history, winning their first World Series in 88 years, two rare and historical baseball volumes that were property of the University’s library became history.

Four volumes from Collyer’s Eye and Collyer’s Eye and The Baseball World, were discovered missing from the Univesity’s library stacks after the White Sox won the World Series in October.

The magazine, printed out of Chicago from 1913-1948, was famous for breaking the news on the Black Sox scandal and popular as a gambling tabloid for horse racing fans.

“We received questions as far as Texas about the volumes,” said Karen Schmidt, associate University librarian for collections. “Collyer’s eye was a vanguard of telling the story of the Black Sox Scandal. Collyer’s was the only one that had a lot of that information.”

The missing volumes are numbers 6-7 and 10-11, published from April 1920 to April 1921 and April 1924 to April 1926.

The library staff conducted stack sweeps of more than three million publications to find the missing artificats, but when nothing turned up, the staff presumed the volumes stolen.

Schmidt said volumes 6-7 were especially significant because they covered the scandal itself and the grand jury investigation of the eight White Sox players indicted for throwing the 1919 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds.

She could not figure out what significance volumes 10-11 would have, but said there is a lot of nostalgia in the old papers used as gambling tip sheets.

“These are just so interesting to even look at,” Schmidt said. “They have a great deal of sports history.”

Schmidt guesses it was early summer when the volumes were stolen.

“People started asking reference questions as early as August, when the White Sox were doing well,” Schmidt said. “Usually when the answers aren’t on our shelf, we go to another library for an interlibrary loan. And we couldn’t find it.”

The missing volumes, marked with the library ownership stamp and display of the Dewey classification number Q.796.05CO, were more rare than the library staff expected.

Schmidt believed she would be able to find answers from private collectors owning volumes identical to the missing ones, and she speculated the Baseball Hall of Fame would have a nearly complete run of Collyer’s, but her search of WorldCat, a comprehensive database of 30,000 libraries, turned up no other accessible copies.

“We’ve always had them,” Schmidt said. “We just didn’t realize how rare they were.”

The University library had the most complete run of Collyer’s issues.

They had been shelved in the main stacks, which are open only to the library and University staff, graduate students, faculty members and Illinois residents with courtesy cards. Most of the journals in the stacks can be checked out.

Since the discovery of the missing volumes, the remaining copies of Collyer’s Eye have been moved to the non-circulating stacks in the Illinois Historical Survey Library in room 346 of the Main Library.

Because the tabloid was printed on newspaper which is acidic in nature, members of the Historical Survey staff said the pages are starting to erode and the fold in the middle of the paper has caused many of the pages to tear.

The library anticipates the current volumes will draw more attention and plans to preserve them, most likely with digital images.

One of the current volumes has the greatest historical significance. Currently in the Historical Survey Library is the Oct. 18, 1919 edition, breaking the story of the Black Sox Scandal.

“The Hall of Fame doesn’t even have it,” Schmidt said. “We will probably scan that and give it to them. They will likely have interest in it.”

Schmidt said the library will not part with its current issues.

“They’d have to beat down the door,” Schmidt said.

The University Police Department is currently investigating the matter. Members of the Historical Survey staff said it is likely someone would try to sell the rare item on eBay or to a sports collector.

Schmidt said the library just wants the volumes returned.

“This is a special loss to us,” Schmidt said. “It is not like we lost a business book that we would just buy a replacement copy. That is why this is so special.”

The Black Sox scandal has cultural significance. It inspired Eliot Asimov’s novel, “Eight Men Out,” which was later made into a movie starring John Cusack.

“What is fascinating is that you don’t have to know much about the White Sox to know about the scandal,” Schmidt said. “It is a compelling part of our history.”