It’s taken 50 years but Dorothy Jane Mills, formerly Dorothy Z. Seymour, wife of the late baseball historian Harold Seymour, has received long overdue acknowledgment as coauthor along with her late husband of three seminal books on the history of baseball that are considered the scholarly standard in the field. In a formal announcement by Oxford University Press executive editor Tim Bent, Mills was given formal credit and her name will now accompany her late husband’s on the books' covers and title pages.
Changing the authorship of a major scholarly work is unusual to say the least and OUP publisher Niko Pfund told PW that to his knowledge the press has never done it before. In addition to finally having her name included alongside her husband’s on the cover and title page, Mills along with her late husband, was recently honored by the Society for Baseball Research, receiving the society’s Henry Chadwick Award which honors the great researchers and historians of the game.
“I am happy to announce that at long last Dorothy Seymour Mills will be given formal credit on the books she wrote with her late husband,” OUP executive editor Tim Bent said. “I know this news will be warmly welcomed by those familiar with those books and their genesis. We’re keen and delighted to officially set matters straight.” Unfortunately these extraordindary books do not sell very many copies but they all remain in print thanks to print-on-demand technology. So while OUP does not plan a new print run, all the books are available for purchase and the OUP art department has created new cover art and title pages for the POD editions.
The first of the books, Baseball: The Early Years, was published in 1960 and was followed by Baseball: The Golden Age (1971) and Baseball: The People’s Game (1991). The book’s authorship has long been credited solely to Harold Seymour, a pioneering historian—his doctorate from Cornell is the first ever awarded anywhere for a thesis on baseball. The books are considered indispensable to the scholarly study of the game and have been acclaimed as much for their lively and graceful writing as for their groundbreaking and comprehensive research into the origins and development of baseball in America.
But there’s been big a secret looming over these books for the last 50 years--the research and indeed much of the writing of the books was performed by Seymour’s wife, Dorothy, who met him as student in the 1940s and became his secretary and eventually his researcher and writer. In a phone interview with Mills, she said that while she had asked her late husband to receive credit for her work, he had refused. She said, however, that that didn’t become a sore point in the marriage. “That’s how I was raised. In those days a girl was supposed to be a helper and an assistant.”
Mills said that she was a co-author on the first two books and that the third book, The People’s Game, which won four literary prizes, was written primarily by her. Over the years, she said, “I realized I was being exploited. I had the research and writing skills that he lacked. But I also realized that if I pulled out the project would fail.” Harold Seymour, who eventually suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, “backed out completely by the third book,” Mills said. “I did everything but I got no credit for it, though friends knew or certainly suspected.”
After Seymour died in 1992, she approached longtime Oxford University Press editor Sheldon Meyer, who she said became aware of her contributions and lack of credit, “and was appalled,” but OUP refused to make the change at that time. In 2004 Mills, who has written more than 25 books and is now a recognized baseball scholar as well as an editor and children’s book author, published her memoir, A Woman's Work: Writing Baseball History with Harold Seymour (McFarland), outlining her contributions.
After reaching out to other female baseball historians in SABR (she also credits a story in the New York Times as well as phone calls to OUP from Publishers Weekly), Mills was delighted to finally receive her long overdue credit for writing these books. In addition to SABR’s Henry Chadwick Award, presented to her at SABR’s annual meeting in Atlanta earlier this month, she was also honored at The Seymour Conference, sponsored by SABR and the Cleveland Indians, which awards The Dr. Harold and Dorothy Seymour Award to the best baseball biography or history book published in the previous year.
Mills continues to write and is active in the study of baseball. She is the baseball book reviewer for the New York Journal of Books and published, Chasing Baseball: Our Obsession with Its History, Numbers, People and Places (McFarland) this year. And She will be interviewed on NPR on September 14 about her life and work. NPR will also publish an excerpt from Chasing Baseball in its magazine, Expressions, in connection with the upcoming broadcast of filmmaker Ken Burns 10th Inning, a new two-part four hour PBS documentary that will take his 1994 documentary Baseball--which was aided by contributions from Ms. Mills--up to the present.