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Stritch faculty member discusses minor league baseball research

Dr. Daryl Webb

The story of how Dr. Daryl Webb, professor of history at Stritch, came to love baseball isn’t all that different from the stories you hear from thousands of other people who came to love the game as children.

“I fell in love with baseball when I went to a game in the early 1970s when I was about three or four years old,” Webb said. “The grass was so green and the lights were so bright illuminating the field.”

There’s one slight difference in Webb’s story that’s more “Bull Durham” than “Field of Dreams” though.

“The thing that stuck out to me the most though is that they auctioned off a pony. That can only happen in minor league baseball.”

Webb took his love of baseball and his interest in small Midwestern towns — towns that often had a minor league team as a focal point of civic pride — and integrated that into his career in academia.

“When I worked at Dacotah Prairie Museum, one of the first exhibits I put together was about the history of the Aberdeen Pheasants,” he said. “That project was really special because I got to work with my dad who was a professor at the Northern State University.”

Webb has also written two academic articles on minor league baseball. Both “‘Keep Pro Ball:’ The History of the Aberdeen Pheasants Baseball Team, 1946-1971” and “The Baseball Blues: Minor League Baseball’s Struggle for Survival in Superior, Wisconsin, 1930-1942” examine the histories of small-town minor league baseball.

“A lot of the written work on minor league baseball has been done by people from cities that don’t have the personal connection to small town America,” Webb said. “Some of the research that is out there is misrepresented because of that.”

Baseball is clearly a passion of Webb’s and being passionate about something — even if it’s traditionally not something that would be published in an academic journal — is key to studying history. Webb makes that clear to his students at Stritch where he encourages them to research and study things that they’re passionate about.