The scholarship of sports


“You have to have the best occupation in the planet!” men and women often say to George Rugg. He’s curator of the Joyce Sports Analysis Assortment in Rare Books &amp Particular Collections in the Hesburgh Library.

Rugg has a background in artwork background and for a time studied and taught programs in Early Present day European painting just before joining the library. But considering that he was a boy he says, “I was often profoundly interested in sports activities, particularly baseball. Playing it, reading through about it, watching it. I was obsessed with it. And that interest extended to several other sports activities, such as football and hockey.”

Above, an original, glass negative portrait of Canadian-born, 5-foot 7-inchlightweight boxer Young Sam Langford, c

The Joyce Assortment is an internationally acknowledged resource in the historical past, sociology, economics and culture of American sports activities and their antecedents, Rugg notes, incorporating that the collection holds no Notre Dame sports-associated material—everything University related is held in the University Archives on the 6th floor of the Hesburgh Library.

The collection contains 5,000 book titles alone, plus hundreds of periodicals, photographs (including an essential collection of boxing photographs), and tens of thousands of pieces of printed ephemera on athletic sports activities, physical culture, recreation and leisure, as well as sports activities literature and journalism. The emphasis is on American sports up to about 1950.

At right, an original, glass negative portrait of Canadian-born, 5-foot 7-inchlightweight boxer Youthful Sam Langford

“People believe, ‘Oh, sports activities,’ Rugg says. “But sports activities have been a subject of scholarly interest for decades, in sociology, anthropology and history. A researcher might be interested in subjects such as the economics of football in the 1930s—what were ticket and concession rates?

“It’s a ‘destination assortment,’ a quite deep analysis assortment that attracts scholars from around the world. But consumers might also be journalists and filmmakers in addition to scholarly researchers—all varieties of different individuals use the collection. On the website ( two-thirds of the hits are for sports activities.”

The collection is also known for its breadth, with several sport-certain sub-collections of national stature, such as those committed to boxing, wrestling, American football, billiards and golf.

“We have the ideal boxing-associated collection in the world, and the greatest baseball assortment soon after Cooperstown,” he says.

The book collection consists of several scarce early titles, ranging from the physician Girolamo Mercuriale’s treatise on physical culture in classical antiquity (“De arte gymnastica,” 1573) to Walter Camp’s 1892 introduction to a game newly popular on university campuses of the Northeast U.S., “American Football.”

The collection’s hundreds of periodical titles include Sporting Magazine, the earliest acknowledged sports journal, published in London from 1792 to 1871, in addition to ephemera this kind of as guides, rulebooks, game packages, and typewritten or handwritten manuscripts.

A program from the first Max Schmeling--Joe Louis heavyweight fight in 1936

Ephemera (transitory written resources not meant to be preserved) are especially important, Rugg says, due to the fact they could be the only surviving copy.

The collection has been assembled more than the previous 40 years, with essential donations and purchases each big and modest.

The University started collecting sports supplies in the 1960s, prompted by alumni groups. The collection as it exists right now evolved from the 1977 obtain of the total stock of Goodwin Goldfaden, the first sports publication dealer in the nation.
“The Goldfaden assortment incorporated close to thirty,000 books and 300,000 additional pieces of printed matter,” Rugg says, who was tasked with sorting and cataloging the collection when he joined the University in 1994.

“It proved to be as great an investment as the University’s ever produced. The obtain came at just the proper time—before folks started out collecting baseball cards and other sports memorabilia. Memorabilia, amongst 1980 and 1990, enhanced in value exponentially. At the time the Goldfaden assortment was obtained, the 1st concern of Sports activities Illustrated only had nostalgic value.”

At right: A system from the initial Max Schmeling—Joe Louis heavyweight battle in 1936. The two contests, among an African-American and a German of the Nazi era came to represent to Americans the struggle in between democracy and Fascism.

The purchase was also prescient, Rugg adds. “It anticipated the subsequent decade’s new interest in the application of scholarly methodologies to the review of sports.”

In 1987, the assortment was endowed in honor of Rev. Edmund P. Joyce, C.S.C., the University’s longtime executive vice president. The endowment, and another funded by John and Dessa Campbell, permit for continued development and advancement of the assortment.

The library not too long ago acquired the assortment of Nat Fleischer, the most critical boxing editor of the 20th century and editor of Ring Magazine.

“When you are collecting unusual books and manuscripts, you’re at the mercy of the market,” he says. “A guide we acquired final yr was about what are referred to as the Negro Leagues. It dates from about 1905, and is one particular of only 5 copies recognized. If you bid at auction, possibly you get it, possibly you really don’t. You cannot anticipate what’s going to be available.”

Due to the fact the collection is so properly identified, people also offer you collections—but these days, he adds, “it’s less about discovering benefactors than finding things we do not have.”

When the library is interested in producing a buy to include to the collection, “We have to have ironclad provenance. We only deal with reliable men and women, individuals we’ve identified and worked with a extended time.

The sports collectibles market place is a viper’s nest. Forgeries are rampant. Individuals doctor baseball cards to enhance the worth. You’d require wonderful skills to authenticate items—you’d need to have to be a Babe Ruth signature professional.”

Though there is a Babe Ruth-autographed baseball in the collection (a single of 30 or so the assortment received as presents), there’s one particular sports activities-relevant issue Rugg does not gather for the library. “No baseball cards,” he says.

Visiting Unusual Books and Particular Collections

Unusual Books &amp Unique Collections, 102 Hesburgh Library, is open to any interested consumer with ID—visitors, faculty, employees or students—from 9 a.m. to five p.m. Monday via Friday.

You will be asked to assessment and sign the studying room guidelines before making use of or viewing materials. Site visitors need to sign in and out no meals or drink is permitted hands need to be washed prior to dealing with resources and cell phones must be silenced.

In addition, pens are strictly prohibited in the Reading Room—only pencils may be used. Individual laptops or use of the workstation are permitted. No photography is allowed, but if the issue of the materials permits, scanning by librarians is possible. Email or get in touch with in advance ( or 631-0290) so supplies can be prepared when you arrive. Most things can be retrieved while you wait, but some make consider up to two business days.

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