December 1, 2023

UMW Libraries to Celebrate Bales’ Cubs Book Release

Reference and Humanities Librarian Jack Bales

Reference and Humanities Librarian Jack Bales

UMW Libraries will hold a gathering to honor Reference and Humanities Librarian Jack Bales in celebration of the recent publication of his book Before They Were the Cubs: The Early Years of Chicago’s First Professional Baseball Team. The festivity, which promises baseball, books and even hotdogs, will be held Monday, April 15, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Jepson Alumni Executive Center located on Hanover Street.

Bales, who grew up near Chicago and became a diehard Cubs fan, covers the team’s  rarely addressed formative years. In true librarian style, he cites thousands of original sources—though the amazing read isn’t limited to baseball lovers.

“Comments have been positive and gratifying, especially from people who don’t particularly enjoy baseball,” says Bales, who’s assisted generations of students with research and taught hundreds of library classes in his nearly four decades at UMW. “They’re getting caught up in the stories and the vignettes of the players, as well as just the whole period that is covered—19th-century America.”

To view the invitation and RSVP, go to:

Students Rake in Good Will on Good Neighbor Day

When volunteers arrived at her house on Sylvania Avenue in downtown Fredericksburg, Betsy Valentine greeted them with rakes, trash bags and fresh scones. Valentine says the service day symbolizes the commencement of spring in her gardens, and she signs her home up for the University of Mary Washington’s Good Neighbor Day each year. “It has […]

Shelby Orlando: ‘All In’ One Day

When the leaderboard ticker started counting down days – then minutes and seconds – to next Tuesday’s Mary Wash Giving Day, Shelby Orlando’s blood pressure started going up.

Assistant Director of Annual Giving Shelby Orlando. Photo is by Norm Shafer.

Assistant Director of Annual Giving Shelby Orlando. Photo by Norm Shafer.

There’s a website to maintain, challenges to set up, matches to secure, groups to meet with, vidoes to make … and that’s just for starters.

Three years ago, after just weeks on the job as director of Annual Giving, Orlando joined a brainstorming session for UMW’s first-ever 24-hour online donation event. Since then, it’s grown like wildfire, from 1,218 gifts in 2017 to a goal of 3,500 this year.

But Mary Wash Giving Day – themed “All In” this year; use #MaryWashDay and #AllinforUMW – it’s not all about the numbers. “It’s all about our love for Mary Washington,” said Orlando, a 2014 UMW grad. “We want everyone, alumni, faculty, staff, students, parents to show their pride for the place we all love.”

Q: If you could only use five words to encourage people to give to UMW, what would you say?
A: Can I have six? Give back to pay it forward.

Q: Is there any program you’ve supported for giving day?
A: Giving to any area is a great way to support our current students, faculty and staff, and our future students, as well. I give to the Fund for Mary Washington because that is our area of greatest need. These gifts go to work immediately to support critical needs across the University, touching each student’s experience.

Q: With so many clubs submitting so much information and so many materials, how do you manage it all?
A: We have a lot of excel sheets and folders, and a Google workbook that has been extremely helpful.

Q: How does it feel to watch the numbers on the leaderboard representing more and more money being raised?
A: It’s very exciting! I remember last year at the Fredericksburg Alumni Network Giving Day Celebration at the Underground, we had reached our goal of 1908 donors during the event and the numbers kept climbing!

Q: What’s something people would be surprised to learn about you?
A: This July, I’ll be traveling to Standing Rock Indian Reservation for my 11th summer in a row. I’ll be working with teens on completing scholarship and college applications, and discussing self-worth.

Q: What one thing in your office is the most special to you?
A: I’d have to say a few of the pictures that I have of me and some kids/teens I’ve built relationships with during my time at Standing Rock. Every time I look at them, they make me smile.

Q: Do you have any mottos you live by?
A: My father always said, “Tomorrow is a promise to no one.” That’s one that has always stuck with me.

Jack Bales: Covering the Bases

On a hot June day, UMW Reference and Humanities Librarian Jack Bales left Illinois in a U-Haul truck with no AC. After grad school and jobs at two college libraries, he’d accepted a new one at Mary Washington. But, as he rounded the I-95 beltway near D.C., he thought he’d made a mistake. So far from home, he didn’t know anyone. He didn’t plan to stay long.

UMW Reference and Humanities Librarian Jack Bales has written a new book, "Before They Were the Cubs: The Early Years of Chicago’s First Professional Baseball Team." It's due out this spring. Photo by Karen Pearlman.

UMW Reference and Humanities Librarian Jack Bales has written a new book, “Before They Were the Cubs: The Early Years of Chicago’s First Professional Baseball Team.” It’s due out this spring. Photo by Karen Pearlman.

Nearly four decades later, surrounded by “marvelous, wonderful colleagues,” Bales claims his job at Simpson Library is the best one on campus. Like a good read, he devours Mary Washington, answering questions for students, faculty and staff, teaching library classes, and tending to Simpson’s collection of books. He works out in Fitness Center and eats lunch in the UC.

But Bales lives and breathes something else, too: The Chicago Cubs.

His writings about the major league team have been published far and wide, and his new book, Before They Were the Cubs: The Early Years of Chicago’s First Professional Baseball Team, is due out any day. Published by McFarland & Company, it covers the Cubs’ rarely addressed formative years. And in true librarian style, it cites thousands of original sources.

Next up? Another Cubs book, this one about a woman who shot her ex-boyfriend, a Chicago Cubs player, in 1932. “We’re talking attempted murder, stolen love letters, blackmail, a burlesque show, sex and, of course, baseball,” he said. “What else is there?”

Bales' new book covers the Cubs' formative years.

Bales’ new book covers the Cubs’ formative years.

Q: What inspired Before They Were the Cubs?
A: I grew up outside of Chicago and had followed the Cubs here and there. I thought I’d dig around and see if there was a Cubs era that hadn’t been covered in great detail. I’ve written quite a few articles, essays and books, and after my last big project I was thinking about branching off into an entirely new area, one more popular in nature than my previous works of literary research and biography.

Q: How long did you work on it?
A: I got the idea in 2004 and wrote the first sentence in July 2012. It took years of research and writing (remember, I have a full-time job), and since some of the newspapers I needed to consult aren’t available online, I spent years going through microfilm page-by-page. I’d spend every Christmas vacation camped out by the library’s microfilm reader-printers. One of my colleagues still remembers coming in to find my CD player, sweater, water bottle, snacks – even my bedroom slippers – all neatly arranged beside reels of microfilm. My colleagues’ interest and support have helped keep me going.

Q: Anything stand out to you during your research?
A: My favorite example is a previously unknown drawing of the team’s 19th-century ballpark that I happened to find by going through microfilm of the old Chicago Evening Post newspaper. I have it in the book.

Jack Bales (left) with twin brother, Dick, at their sister's wedding in 2013.

Jack Bales (left) with twin brother, Dick, at their sister’s 2013 wedding.

Q: How has Simpson kept up with rapidly evolving technology?
A: It’s not a question of libraries keeping up—libraries have been leading the way! In UMW’s Digital Archiving Lab, staff and students digitize unique materials, work on data projects and preserve digital content. Special Collections and University Archives maintain a variety of print and digital collections, including honors papers, yearbooks and the student newspaper. They also archive UMW websites, social media pages and campus blogs. And students explore 3D design and printing in the library’s ThinkLab.

Q: How many requests for help do you get?
A: In just 2018, library staff members answered more than 2,600 reference questions and conducted 572 consultations on research and other projects with 851 students.

Q: What one thing people would be surprised to learn about you?
A: I have an identical twin brother. We used to go out with the same girls.

Mike Hall: Enforcing Student Success

Keeping a 5,000-person community safe can be overwhelming. But UMW Chief of Police Michael Hall does it all (well, almost all) with a smile. Don’t mention each semester’s rash of microwave fires.

UMW Chief of Police Mike Hall. Photo by Karen Pearlman.

UMW Chief of Police Mike Hall is committed to the UMW community, especially students. Photo by Karen Pearlman.

With a passion for service, both near and far – he spent 25 years in local and state law enforcement before coming to Mary Washington in 2009 – Hall leaves today for his annual mission trip to build pro bono structures in Africa.

Back home on Campus Walk, the chief stops to talk to any and all passersby, especially students. Fellow officers rush him along so he won’t spend all day socializing.

“I love interacting with people,” Hall said. “There is so much to learn from people.”

He loves anything that brings them to campus. At Orientation, he greets students at the front gate and asks them their names. He wants them to know that he cares. He wants to help them succeed.

Q: How does your job at UMW compare to your past work?
A: There’s much more community involvement and interaction. If I make an arrest today, I could see that individual for four more years. Our goal is to bridge the gap from the campus lifestyle to the outside world. We have conversations and discuss their mistakes. We give them the opportunity to go through judicial affairs and do community service to reflect on their choices, which can have a lasting impact.

Q: How does the stress on a college campus compare to other types of policing?
A: The stresses are higher. You’re under scrutiny and subject to the opinions of guests, faculty, staff and administrators. The volume of calls may not be as high, but the inherent danger in today’s society is high. Students are impressionable, and we want them to have a safe environment. These young people are our future. This is the next generation. We want to support that.

UMW Police Chief Mike Hall, left, and Office M. Jackson, with students on Move-In Day. The agency became only the fifth campus department to receive accreditation.

UMW Police Chief Mike Hall, left, and Officer M. Jackson with students on Move-In Day. This summer, the agency became only the fifth campus department to receive accreditation.

Q: UMW is one of only a handful of colleges to earn accreditation from the Virginia Law Enforcement Professional Standards Commission. What does this mean for campus police?
A: It makes law enforcement more transparent because we will be under evaluation, and that puts the public at ease. It also helps us stabilize recruits by providing salaries to retain them. For the past three years, no one has left the department. I attribute that to a more professional department, policies and procedures, fair salaries for what they do and interaction with the community.

Q: What’s the oddest thing someone has burned in one of those microwave fires?
A: Tennis shoes. They were trying to dry them off.

Q: What’s the funniest call you’ve ever gotten?
A: At Grad Ball, a student decided to leave the restroom and vacate the building with no clothes on. They had to come to the police department to pick up their pants before graduation rehearsal.

Q: What’s the deal with the blue lights around campus?
A: We’re addressing the lights and deciding where to redistribute them. They could serve as a deterrent. I don’t know if the blue lights have stopped anyone from doing something wrong or cautioned them to be more aware. It’s an unmeasurable system.

Q: What’s the most important thing students can do to ensure their own safety on campus?
A: Always be cognizant of your surroundings and take caution. Unfortunately, we live in a world where bad people do bad things to good people. I want to see our students successful and, more importantly, safe. I don’t want to see anyone become a statistic.

Q: What would people be surprised to learn about you?
A: The chief can cook. I love to cook with my 10-year-old daughter Madison. We have a pressure cooker we saw on TV, and we make ribs, wings, pineapple upside down cake, butterscotch pies.

Q: Any mottos you live by?
A: Always give back, enjoy life and know you’re never too old to dream.