I started to draft a message to the Wikipedia folks, and then noticed this sentence in the header of Wally’s article:
“Following this brief baseball career he became a successful mycologist who worked primarily at Brown University for the next 60 years.”
It really was him!
I knew of Snell mainly as an expert on the boletes, one half of the “Snell and Dick” team. Esther Dick had been a graduate student of his, and they married after Snell’s wife Adelaide died in 1975. Snell was born in 1889, and would live for five more years.
The Snell and Dick magnum opus was The Boleti of Northeastern North America, published in 1970. For many years it was the standard reference work on boletes. In college, when a local mycologist retired and sold his library, I managed to snap up his copy, which I still have. As of the moment that I’m writing these words, it sells on Amazon starting at $137, even though I’m not sure how useful it is anymore. It is illustrated with watercolor paintings by Snell, who taught himself the skill in grade school, about 70 years before the publication of the book.
It’s a funny thing, the way our society handles obscure vocations like mycology: his baseball “career” of six major league games and two seasons of part-time play in the minor leagues gets about twice as much space as his career in mycology in the Wikipedia article – a ratio of column inches to years at the job of about 250 to one.
On the other hand, his SABR (baseball statistics) biography is by far the most detailed account of his life. I’ve linked to it below, along with the Wikipedia article and his official MSA obituary by David McLoughlin (who I met as the resident myco-guru in the department at the University of Minnesota).
Still, that Wikipedia article is mighty skimpy, and it’s the most public face for him now. Maybe I’ll have to add a few mycological details. In the meantime, he’s probably the only professional mycologist to have served as the athletic director of a Division I school.