Q&A: Joe Santry, Columbus Clippers historian

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From the April 3, 2014 edition

Joe Santry doesn’t want to talk stats, he wants to talk stories.

The Columbus Clippers’ historian has dedicated nearly 30 years to America’s pastime, and though he could tell you the batting average of any player, it’s the folklore surrounding the Columbus institution that tells the real story for Santry. From reading the sports page to his mother as a boy, to taking his granddaughters to their first game at Huntington Park, there isn’t a facet of Santry’s life baseball hasn’t touched. With his warm demeanor and sincere love for the game, Santry is as much a part of the Clippers’ folklore as the folklore is of him.

Baseball has been a part of my life forever. I love all sports, but there is something about baseball that just connects with me. When I was a kid, I won a pair of game tickets from my barber. Being one of eight children, “alone time” with Dad didn’t happen often. At that game, he shared stories with me from his childhood I had never heard. Baseball is a great game for conversations like that. Sometimes I look out at the stadium seats and think “thanks, Pop.”

When I was a kid, I was very bashful. I hated speaking in public. One day at school, I wasn’t paying attention to the long division lesson; I was looking at the baseball cards in my pocket. I got caught, but instead of punishing me, my teacher showed me the batting averages on the cards. She told me long division was how they were calculated. From then on I was to calculate all the batting averages for the Cincinnati Reds and report to the class who was “hot” and who was “not” every week. Now I help with stats and I speak publicly about the Clippers almost every day. Funny how those things happen.

Baseball cherishes its history more than other sports. I am not sure why that is, but I think that is partly why the sport is so popular. Baseball has a strong heritage here in Columbus that goes all the way back to 1886. Some of the former players became famous inventors and some of them became mailmen, but they all played a part in shaping the game and their communities.

You can’t live a life without having a few stories to tell. I would read baseball books I got from the library and just absorb all the information. At the bottom of the pages were these notes about what happened at that particular game. For instance, one described a player being ejected from the game at gunpoint by an umpire! I wanted to hear all these stories, and started collecting them over the years. I keep trying to prove or disprove all the lore, and make it part of our history. It’s so much fun. Stories are the very best part of life.

Even on my worst day, I get to go to the ballpark. The hardest party of this job is the time [myself and the staff] put in. Sometimes I come in at around 8 a.m. and don’t get to leave until midnight. But even with the long hours and hard work, we are a family [at Huntington Park] and I can’t wait to get up and come to work every single day. I can’t wait until tomorrow because every day here is even better than the last.

Photo by Meghan Ralston