According to this story, the Society for American Baseball Research is trying to determine if William Edward White, who played one game with the National League's Providence Greys in 1879, was the first black man to play in a major league game.
The Wall Street Journal reported Friday on the White case.
Until now, it was generally accepted that the first two black players were catcher Moses Fleetwood Walker and his brother, Welday, an outfielder. Both played for the Toledo Blue Stockings of the American Association, then a major league, in 1884.
After that, no black player appeared until Jackie Robinson with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.
White attended Brown University, was born in 1860 and was the son of A.J. White of Milner, Ga., according to school records.
Peter Morris, an SABR researcher, got in contact with Civil War historian Bruce Allardice, according to the Journal, and Allardice found the only A.J. White in Milner in 1880 was Andrew J. White and that the 1880 census said his household included a 35-year-old mulatto woman, Hannah White.
Mark Arslan, a genealogist of the White family, told Allardice that the 1880 census reported A.J. White owned 70 slaves. Allardice and Arslan found that the 1870 census showed Hannah White was living with her mother and three children, including a 9-year-old mulatto boy, William White.
Morris found that A.J. White's will, in a courthouse in Zebulon, stated he left the balance of his estate to "William Edward White, Anna Nora White and Sarah Adelaide White, the children of my servant Hannah."
Jim Gates, library director of the Hall of Fame, has been aware of SABR's research on the project.
"We don't have a lot on William Edward White," he said. "Several SABR people had been through and indicated this was one of the people they were searching on, so we gave them all we had.
"Hopefully they will continue to find more information."