James A. Riley '61
2000 Award of Honor
Jim Riley knows baseball. He is, in fact, the leading expert on the Negro Baseball Leagues. From a love for baseball and his passion for history, he began looking for books on the subject of the Negro Leagues. Finding none, he began traveling abroad and conducting interviews of former players, most of whom are in their 70s and 80s. His research found a part of history that was on the verge of being lost.
Riley grew up in Elizabethton and attended Elizabethton High School, where he played football for the Cyclones. Attending East Tennessee State University, he received a bachelor's in math in 1961 and a master's in education in 1966. After graduating from ETSU, Riley embarked on a 30-year career as a teacher, coach, and administrator in Florida's public education system.
Since retiring from teaching, he has concentrated his efforts on being a baseball researcher and author, with specialization in the Negro Leagues. His efforts resulted in the publication of his landmark volume, The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues, in 1994. Currently, he holds the position of Director of Research of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Mo., and serves as president of the Society of American Baseball Research (SABR).
Riley has now authored six books, with two more forthcoming, and has contributed to over 20 books, compilations, magazines and journals. He has appeared on PBS's Safe at Home Plate, ESPN's "A League Second to None" from its Outside the Lines series, Nickelodeon's Nic News, and a Japanese television documentary on the Pittsburgh Crawfords. Riley has served as the editorial consultant for both Smithsonian Magazine and the University of Nebraska Press and was a consultant on the Exhibit Committee for The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum cultural facility. He composed the lyrics to the song "The Saga of Dandy, Day and the Devil" and compiled statistics for the Negro League Series.
Additionally, Riley has received several awards and honors, including the SABR-Macmillian Research Award in 1990 and 1994, being listed in the International Authors and Writers Who's Who, SABR's Negro League Committee's Tweed Webb Lifetime Achievement Award, and SABR's Negro League Committee's Robert Peterson Recognition Award.
Riley currently maintains the award-winning web site on Negro Leagues (www.blackbaseball.com) and is serving as a consultant for YABBA BIRI Production, Inc., of Los Angeles, Calif. He is also a SABR committee member of Negro Leagues, 19th Century Baseball, Latin America, Biographical Research, and Statistical Analysis; and is a current lecturer for the Florida Humanities Council Speakers Bureau.
Riley and his wife Dorothy reside in Rockledge, Fla. They have two sons, Josh and Jubal.