Saturday, June 10, 2006

Report from the latest Northwest SABR meeting

My dad sends me this report of the latest Northwest SABR (Society for American Baseball Research) meeting. The report summary is Mike Rice, with my Dad's comments in italics (I interject things in brackets for explanation) . One important thing to note is that the 36th National SABR convention is being held in Seattle at the end of June. Click here for more details.

On Saturday May 20th, over 30 SABR members and guests gather at the Renaissance Madison Hotel, site of SABR36, for the May meeting of NWSABR. As President of the chapter, I have to say it was a great meeting.

Anthony Salazar led off the meeting with a convention update. 6 weeks out and we are ready to go.

Salazar is a great promoter, a researcher of Latinos in baseball. It looks like it will be a fascinating convention, which I hope to attend some of. Not mentioned by Rice is that Mark Armour showed galley proofs of the book he edited, to be released at the convention, titled (wonderfully) “Rain Check: Baseball in the Pacific Northwest.” Only two of the articles are about major league teams, one on the Pilots and one on the Mariners. The rest is mostly about minor league experiences. I’ve decided I’m going to use it in my baseball seminar next fall. [My dad teaches a seminar on the history of Baseball at Seattle Pacific University, where he is a history professor]

Mike Carter, who has umpired for over 30 years, passed out a very challenging rules quiz. We had till the end of the meeting to work on it and many of the questions left most of us stumped. You realize how little you know about this game, when you get quizzed on the rules.

Some examples: What is the difference between a foul ball and a foul tip? Both starting pitchers throw a complete game and face the minimum number of batters: who won the game and what was the score? When a National League manager turns the order (“double-switch”), when do they go to umpire first to make the change? What defines a catch in baseball? When is a balk ignored? Who was the Executive Officer of Union Forces at Fort Sumter during the bombardment that started the Civil War? There was also one about batting out of order that was too complex to repeat here. I got 5, maybe 5.5. right out of 21.

We then did introductions. Everyone introduced themselves and told the group what their favorite, earliest or most lasting baseball memory. As you can imagine the 1995 Mariner playoff run got several mentions, but what stood out most was just the love of the game that the people in the room shared.

Many started with some quick things they WEREN’T going to mention (wink, wink), so I did likewise. I said I wasn’t going to cite the last game (loss to Cleveland) of 1995 when everyone stayed in the stadium demanding a curtain call, nor my childhood agony in 1964 as the Phillies were losing 10 in a row, tuning my radio to KMOX St. Louis after the Phils lost again to hear Harry Carey describe the Cardinal game to find out if they won again. Cardinals eventually edged the Phils for the NL title, ruining my childhood and warping me for life—at least until the Phils’ World Championship of 1980[My dad grew up just outside of Philadelphia, and yes, he was, incredibly, able to get KMOX out of St. Louis on his old radio. I had a similar experience in Santa Barbara...near the water one evening, I picked up a faint signal of the Mariner broadcast on 710 AM, all the way from Seattle]. What I did relate was the story in September 1998 when Will and I went to Camden Yards, got standing room only seats, and standing behind the right field seats caught a T-shirt fired from a giant slingshot that went a little farther than intended. It was a Cal Ripken T-shirt, and the next day we read that Cal would sit, i.e. the game we saw was the last of the Streak. (I also jotted down but didn’t mention: seeing my first MLB game—an 8-1 Robin Roberts victory over Pittsburgh--in stunningly green Connie Mack stadium with my father--and Griffey making a home-run-preventing catch in the very last game at the Kingdome.)

Alex Cartwright (yes, of the baseball Cartwrights) then talked about his efforts to get a Vintage Baseball League going in the Northwest. This league will be playing 1880's rules. See if you want more information.

Very weird to be sitting next to the great-great grandson and namesake of the man who wrote the first set of rules for the game of baseball for the NY Knickerbockers club in 1845. He passed out equipment; the glove looked and felt like biker leather gloves. There are enough of these vintage leagues, especially in the Northeast, that there are specialty manufacturers that make the equipment.

We had a very special guest. Mariner General Counsel Bart Waldman spoke. Bart gave a talk about what his duties are, how he got to be General Counsel and how much he loves his job. Bart them took questions from the group and was very candid and open with the group.

I’ve had Bart guest-speak in my class; he’s very articulate. He also is a pitcher in a local senior hardball league that reached the national championship tournament last year.

Jeff Angus spoke about his new book, "Management by Baseball". It is a book where Jeff shows how the worst MLB Manager (say Don Zimmer) is a better manager than 95% of the top managers in Fortune 500 companies. It seems like a very interesting topic.

There’s mention of this book in the PI, apparently ( He’s a consultant, and this is actually a serious book on management. His line, which he says baseball has long known and business is just now discovering, is that “talent IS the product.”
[The general premise of this seemed absurd--the worst manager is better than 95% of the top business managers? Jeff Angus obviously hasn't been paying attention to Hargrove. Here in Kansas City, we've seen some pretty dumb decisions by Buddy Bell, too. In both cases, these managers have been inhibiting the talent they've been given (see Jose Lopez and Justin Huber). How is that a good model for business? It's like promoting your 65-year old chief mechanic a database administrator, while telling your 24-year old assistant database admin that the copiers out of toner, and could he please figure out how to make the coffee pot brew automatically in the morning?]

Jeff Bower then spoke about the demise of minor league baseball in Buffalo, New York in the late 1960's and early 1970's. Jeff grew up in that area and had always wondered what the story was. Jeff did a great job and it is now safe to say that NWSABR knows more about the history of Buffalo baseball than we thought possible. The best is that Jeff has promised to give a talk in November about the return of minor league baseball to Buffalo.

This was a lot more interesting than it sounds. Buffalo was a possible choice for the expansion team that went to Montreal.

Jonah Keri of Baseball Prospectus spoke briefly to the group about BP latest book, "Baseball Between the Numbers". As with all BP efforts, this book is very well researched and very well written. The book answers questions like, "Why Billy Beane's Stuff Doesn't Work in the Playoffs" and "Is A-Rod Overpaid?" among other questions.

Saving the best for last, The Savvy Girls of Summer, Jackie and Diedre gave a very entertaining and informative talk about their project to write a book about baseball that is directed to women on an intelligent and entertaining level. As it has turned out, they have had such great response form women just wanting to do baseball related events and talk baseball that they are having a hard time actually writing the book!!!!

These are savvy girls of marketing. Seattle women and long time friends, they have been juicing up the attention to their project with press kits, interviews etc as a way to attract a big publishing house when (and if) they finally get their book written. And of course they have a website: Despite the orchestrated approach, they were interesting to listen to, as much for their stories of winning the attention of the Mariners and other groups as their insights about what women want to know about baseball.
Anyway, I thought it was interesting, and thought I'd share it. It's tough finding things to say about the M's these days in part because they're so confusing due to their inconsistency.