John Thorn

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For other people named John Thorn, see John Thorn (disambiguation).
John Thorn
John Thorn 2010 CROPPED.jpg
John Thorn, August 2010
Born (1947-04-17) April 17, 1947 (age 68)
Stuttgart, West Germany
Occupation Author, historian, publisher
Language English
Alma mater Beloit College
Genres Sports, history, film, cultural affairs
Subjects Baseball, football, basketball, New York, history

John Thorn (born April 17, 1947) is a sports historian, author, publisher, and cultural commentator. Since March 1, 2011, he has been the Official Baseball Historian for Major League Baseball.[1][2][3]

Personal profile[edit]

Thorn was born in Stuttgart, West Germany,[3] where his Polish Jewish parents had come as refugees.[2] Less than two years after Thorn was born, his family immigrated to the United States, and settled in the Bronx, New York. “I fell in love with [baseball] cards before I loved the game, when I discovered that baseball was something that all the kids on my street corner cared about," Thorn said in a 2013 profile. "I was an immigrant kid and was looking for a way into America. With my background I saw myself as an underdog, and so Brooklyn had to be my team. I began watching the game seriously when I was eight, in 1955, on my Admiral television, but I had already begun to follow their exploits in the daily newspapers my father brought home with him each night.”[4]

As a teen he played baseball and basketball. However, at age 19 he suffered a stroke. "It was severe," he said, "knocking out my left-side function for months as well as patches of personal memory—though not the powerful visual memory I retain for images and facts and statistics." The stroke left him with a limp and precluded his further participation in athletic activities.[5]

Thorn graduated from Beloit College in 1968.[2][6] He is married to Erica Freudenberger, director of the Red Hook, New York, Public Library. He and his wife live in Catskill, New York,[7] where they moved in 2010. He claims to have been drawn to the town because of its "slow pace," which suits him because, Thorn asserts, "I pride myself on being the world’s most boring man."[8]

Thorn has three sons from two previous marriages. [9]


Thorn is the author and editor of numerous books, including Total Baseball: The Official Encyclopedia of Major League Baseball,[2] Total Football: The Official Encyclopedia of Major League Football, Treasures of the Baseball Hall of Fame, The Hidden Game of Baseball,[2] The Glory Days: New York Baseball 1947–1957, and The Armchair Book of Baseball.[2] His 2011 book, Baseball in the Garden of Eden: The Secret History of the Early Game, published by Simon & Schuster, was an in-depth chronicle of the seminal development and pioneers of the sport.[10] A New York Times review of the latter book referred to Thorn as "a researcher of colossal diligence."[11]

Thorn is also the co-author with Pete Palmer and Bob Carroll of The Hidden Game of Football and with them co-editors of Total Football. His book New York 400, a graphical history of the city timed for its quadricentennial, created with the Museum of the City of New York and Running Press, was published in September 2009. Thorn is a columnist for Voices, the publication of the New York Folklore Society.

He founded Total Sports Publishing and served as its publisher from 1998–2002.

Role as historian[edit]

Thorn served as the senior creative consultant for the 1994 Ken Burns documentary Baseball.[6]

In 2004 Thorn discovered documentation that traced the origins of baseball in America to 1791 in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.[12] He has also attempted to shed light on the contributions of 19th century pioneers of the game, while debunking common misconceptions. "I don't want anyone to think of me as a crusader on behalf of causes," he wrote. "I'm only interested in setting the story straight, and in recognizing other stories for what they are, some of which are legend."[13] Despite the claims of various localities to being the "birthplace of baseball," Thorn simply follows facts. "Abner Doubleday, Santa Claus and Dracula," he notes, "are equally mythic figures."[14]

In June 2006, the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) bestowed on Thorn its highest accolade, the Bob Davids Award.[15] The award honors those whose contributions to SABR and baseball reflect the ingenuity, integrity, and self-sacrifice of the founder and past president of SABR, L. Robert "Bob" Davids.

On March 1, 2011, he was named Official Baseball Historian for Major League Baseball.,[6] succeeding the late Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times baseball writer Jerome Holtzman, who served from 1999 until his death in 2008.[1]


  1. ^ a b "John Thorn Named Official Baseball Historian". Press release March 1, 2011. Retrieved March 8, 2014.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  2. ^ a b c d e f Mike Shannon (2002). Baseball: The Writer's Game (2 ed.). Brassey's Books. ISBN 1574884212. [page needed]
      "Baseball: The Writer's Game". Google Books. Retrieved March 30, 2011.
  3. ^ a b Robinson, George (March 29, 2011). "Batter Up, Historically Speaking". The Jewish Week. Retrieved March 30, 2011. 
  4. ^ Kahrl, Christina, Henry Chadwick Award: John Thorn, Society of American Baseball Research's Baseball Research Journal, Fall 2013
  5. ^ Jaffe, Chris, "Interview: John Thorn," The Hardball Times, December 4, 2007
  6. ^ a b c "Q&A with John Thorn, baseball historian". Star Tribune ( March 27, 2011. Retrieved March 30, 2011. 
  7. ^ Post, Paul, "John Thorn: An Interview with Major League Baseball Historian, Hudson Valley (Catskill, NY) Resident, and Author of Treasures of the Baseball Hall of Fame", Hudson Valley Magazine, October 2011
  8. ^ Post, ibid.
  9. ^ Jaffe, ibid.
  10. ^ Baseball in the Garden of Eden homepage
  11. ^ Weber, Bruce, "The Prehistory of Baseball," New York Times Sunday Book Review, April 8, 2011
  12. ^ Litsky, Frank, "Now Pittsfield Stakes Claim to Baseball's Origins," The New York Times, May 12, 2004
  13. ^ Singer, Tom, "MLB historian sheds new light on game's origin,",, March 13, 2011
  14. ^ Litsky, ibid.
  15. ^ "Bob Davids Award – John Thorn". Society for American Baseball Research (SABR). Retrieved March 18, 2012. 

External links[edit]