2011 Event Recaps

November 27, 2011 - Vancouver, B.C.

Written by John Henshell

Our annual meeting in Vancouver, B.C. was attended by 39 members and guests. It was held Saturday, August 27 at Nat Bailey Stadium, home of the Vancouver Canadians. Max Weder organized and hosted the meeting. Simon Pond and Brent Crowther, both from North Vancouver, were our guest speakers.

Brent Crowther, a burly 6’4” right-handed pitcher, progressed to AAA in the Colorado Rockies organization in 1995. Earlier that season, he won a dozen consecutive games in A ball. He threw four shutouts that year.

Crowther was a tenth-round draft choice by the Rockies from Simon Fraser University in 1994. His pro career began with Bend in the Northwest League.

Crowther told the entire story of his career to date. He asserted that he has no regrets about ending his pro career at 24. His life as a pitcher and involvement in baseball continued after that.

Brent pitched well for Team Canada in the Baseball World Cups from 1998 to 2005. He told us many stories from his career. He pitched for Canada's National Baseball Institute from 1990-1994. They played an exhibition series against the eventual world champion Toronto Blue Jays during a Labatt festival in Regina. Crowther said John Olerud was hitting .415 at the time (he hit .346 in August and .300 in September to win the batting title at .363). Olerud was not pleased when the big, nervous young righty unintentionally hit him. Other members of the Blue Jays were ready to attack him, but after the game, the fiery Todd Stottlemyre commended him for his moxie. We learned that several of the most interesting events of Brent’s career involved hitting batters.

Simon Pond was a corner infielder and outfielder. He was drafted out of North Vancouver High School by the Montreal Expos in the eighth round in 1994. After a long, slow climb through the minor leagues, he played in 16 games for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2004. He also played in the Cleveland, Boston, Pittsburgh, and San Diego organizations. Pond was a left-handed hitter with a smooth, line-drive swing. He says he especially benefitted from the tutelage of hitting coach Merv Rettenmund in the Toronto organization.

Simon said that the mental part of the game was always tougher than the physical part for him. He was extremely focused on his goal of getting to the major leagues, and made all his career decisions with his objective in mind. Pond pressed when he got his big league shot, and infrequent playing time increased that pressure. He did hit a home run.

After a disappointing season in AA, Pond ended his career at age 29. He was a teammate of Crowther on the Canadian team in the 2004 Olympics.

Max recommended new books with a regional connection. "Pitchers of Beer: The Story of the Seattle Rainiers" by Dan Raley is illustrated with many photographs from the collection of Dave Eskenazi, who attended the meeting. The book has received many favorable reviews.

Max and Jennifer Ettinger hosted a get-together at their home following the meeting. The day’s activities concluded with a return to the ballpark for the Canadians game.

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November 5, 2011 - Seattle, WA

Written by Mary Groebner

The Northwest Chapter of SABR met on Saturday November 5, 2011 from noon to 5 at the Seattle Pacific University library. Attendance ranged from 25-35 members and guests throughout the meeting.

Chapter vice president Rick Solomon discussed planning and scheduling the late spring Seattle meeting that we try to coordinate with a Mariners home game. Chapter treasurer Tim Herlich noted that the chapter currently has $116 in the bank, and that proceeds from a book sale (books donated by chapter members to be sold at 20% of cover price during meeting breaks) would go into the treasury. Tim thanked those who donated.

SABR member and meeting host Bill Woodward made the first presentation. Bill is a professor at Seattle Pacific University and is teaching a course in the history of baseball for the twelfth consecutive year. This meeting was an official session of the course; many of Bill's students attended all or part of the meeting. Bill reviewed and discussed John Thorn's recent book “Baseball in the Garden of Eden.” He credited Mark Armour, who in a prior chapter meeting had noted that stories are told for many reasons, not just historical accuracy. Thorn's book addressed some of the stories that were about the competing creation myths of the game of baseball (e.g. Abner Doubleday, Alexander Cartwright) and their relationship to the larger narrative of baseball history. Bill noted that Thorn unearthed stories that were previously suppressed, specifically the embracing of baseball by the working class, who played it in an "ungentlemanly" manner. As with any work by John Thorn, Bill noted that the book is tremendously well-researched and documented, with such gems as the original 20 rules of baseball written down by the Knickerbockers. Thorn merged the true stories with the ones that are told for other reasons. Bill discussed how we need creation myths and how baseball's creation myth (Doubleday) served a larger purpose, establishing that baseball was a truly American game invented by a true American hero.

Bill then compared the myth with the actual reality, which was also exaggerated as an "urban adult innovation." Bill said the three steps of the creation and evolution of baseball were: 1) writing down the rules in 1845, which was the actual Knickerbockers contribution to the game; 2) The "N.Y. game" spreads, helped along by Civil War soldiers from the North playing the game ane introducing it to others; and 3) enclosing the fields, which made charging for admission possible. The written rules established foul territory, nine players, and nine innings. Cartwright's actual contribution was that he was the scribe and organizer, but Bill noted that there were really four founding fathers of baseball. These were William Wheaton (who wrote the rules based on an earlier set he had written for the Gotham club), Doc Adams (revising the rules to create nine innings), William Tucker (who assisted Wheaton), and Louis Wadsworth (set on nine innings and nine players, while the Knickerbockers wanted seven and seven). Bill concluded that "history changes all the time" because it is based on our analysis of the available evidence.

Our guest was Jon Wells, founder/writer/editor/publisher of Grand Salami. Jon specialized in entertainment law before moving to the Seattle area. As the Mariners only published a program three times a year, he believed fans wanted more information and it needed to be more up-to-date. He started publishing Grand Salami in 1996. Grand Salami is not sanctioned by the Mariners and often has articles critical of them. At times, it has faced challenges such as off-duty policemen trying to kick the Grand Salami sales staff (who work on commission) off public sidewalks. Even so, Grand Salami has become successful and is well-known and much appreciated by Ms fans. Jon is writing a book about Mariners history for Epicenter Press, which will be out in March 2012. The book will be titled "Shipwreck: A People’s History of the Seattle Mariners" and starts with Mariners history from the Seattle Pilots.

Jon took many questions from attendees. Topics ranged from the Ms payroll (the reduction from 120 million to 90 million is one of the greatest reductions ever, and it followed a 20 million reduction in 2009), the ownership (which he noted focuses more on the team value off the field than on the field), Ichiro (who wants to get to 3,000 hits), and the dismal draft history of the franchise (losing first round picks and wasting others; he pointed to the 2001 draft as being particularly awful).

Steve Steinberg, bringing Horace Fogel to life
Steve Steinberg, bringing Horace Fogel to life

Steve Steinberg, chapter member, gave the third presentation, which was about early Phillies owner Horace Fogel. Fogel was banned from baseball in November 1912 as a result of what sports columnist Hugh Fullerton called "conversation in the first degree." Fogel had been dedicated to the honor of baseball, and had spoken publicly about "inside baseball" things that were threatening that honor. Those included an umpire bias in favor of the N.Y. Giants, favoritism in selecting umpires for the World Series, and an alliance between John McGraw and Roger Bresnehan where Bresnehan would rest his best players when the N.Y. Giants were the opponent. He also hinted at the wide prevalence of gambling in the game.  Once banned, Fogel was villainized by those inside baseball and columnists as a forsaken fanatic and a man who had been "trying to wreck baseball." Billy Voltz offered to give Fogel an exclusive column titled "Inside Baseball," but Joe Jackson and Ban Johnson conspired to prevent newspapers from carrying it. Fogel threatened to provide evidence of gambling and baseball improprieties to the Gallagher Commission in Illinois that was investigating baseball. After the Black Sox scandal, Fogel’s reputation should have been somewhat redeemed. A N.Y. Herald headline reported that up to $150,000 had been offered to the Phillies in 1908, according to players Red Dooin and Kitty Bransfeld. Both asserted that they had been offered money by a notable Giants catcher. Fogel had a stroke in 1922, and was bedridden from then until his death in 1928.

Robert Garrett, discussing Horace Stoneham and the Giants
Robert Garrett, discussing Horace Stoneham and the Giants

Rob Garrett's presentation coincidentally continued the theme of owners named Horace. Rob is writing a book about the Giants that covers their move to San Francisco from New York, shepherded by Horace Stoneham. The move of the Giants has not been as publicized or researched as much as that of the Brooklyn Dodgers to Los Angeles, and unlike Walter O’Malley (who was often vilified for the move), Stoneham was viewed as an affectionate, bumbling man who liked to drink. Rob documented that this widespread characterization was inadequate and inaccurate. Stoneham’s involvement with the Giants began in 1919 when his father Charles worked for the team. At the age of 32, Horace took ownership of the team until he sold it to Bob Lurie. Unlike the more media-friendly O’Malley, Stoneham preferred to shy away from the spotlight and work deals in the side room. Stoneham had expressed interest in moving to the West Coast before O’Malley when he voted to accept a petition by the PCL’s Seals team. The myth has O’Malley as the mover/shaker and Stoneham playing a gullible partner, but the reality is that Stonheam was determined to leave New York as early as 1955 (three years before the actual move) and that he signaled his intent two months before O’Malley announced, when he traded his Minneapolis rights for rights to San Francisco.

Rob discussed Stoneham’s other achievements: founding the Cactus League in Arizona and helping break down racial barriers. Stoneham aggressively recruited and signed players from the Negro Leagues (in 1957, the Giants fielded the first all-black outfield) as well as Latin players and in 1964, he became the first owner to sign a player from Japan.

Meeting attendees mused about why the move of the Dodgers has been more talked about than the move of the Giants. Unlike the Brooklyn Dodgers who embodied a particular borough of the city, the Giants fan base was more regional and therefore not as attached to the team. While individual Giants fans felt the loss, Dodgers fans formed more of an angry, hurt collective when their team moved. San Francisco was slow to warm to the Giants, however, as it had long supported the Seals (who had their own big stars) and didn’t need the Giants to move there to grant them "big league" status.

Stan Opdyke, talking about Pat Rispole and his legacy of recorded Dodger broadcasts
Stan Opdyke, talking about Pat Rispole and his legacy of recorded Dodger broadcasts

Stan Opdyke's presentation focused on the huge collection of audio recordings made by Pat Rispole, including thousands of baseball games. Rispole lived in Schenectady, New York. He taped Brooklyn Dodger broadcasts in 1957, then switched to recording Yankee broadcasts after the Dodgers moved. When the Mets and Expos came along in 1962 and 1969 , he bought more reel-to-reel recorders and began taping them, too. Stan described Pat as “one of us.” He convinced other people to tape games, and began trading tapes with them. Stan says the quality of these tapes has held up over time. Rispole died at just 53 in 1979. John Miley bought the baseball tapes from Rispole’s estate, and the Library of Congress acquired them this year. Some are available online, and more will be.

John Henshell concluded the day’s activities by revealing the results of the just completed NWSABR poll with the topic “past and present changes in baseball.” Response was terrific: of the 317 people who received invitations, 99 members participated. John said if we had any stereotypes about SABR members, we should toss them in the recycling bin on our way out of the building. He asked the group, “What percentage of members do you think identified themselves as purists?” The consensus was two-thirds, with no one willing pick a much higher or lower figure. In fact, we were evenly split on the question. Other results were also surprising. Members who didn’t attend the meeting will receive them this week. We briefly discussed the results. In particular, John wanted to know why so many people chose integration/internationalization as the most drastic change in baseball history. The thoughtful answers were compelling and convincing.

After the meeting, many attendees went to a nearby sports pub for more baseball discussion.

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August 27, 2011 - Vancouver

Written by John Henshell
Our annual meeting in Vancouver, B.C. was attended by 39 members and guests. It was held Saturday, August 27 at Nat Bailey Stadium, home of the Vancouver Canadians. Max Weder organized and hosted the meeting. Simon Pond and Brent Crowther, both from North Vancouver, were our guest speakers.

Brent Crowther, a burly 6’4” right-handed pitcher, progressed to AAA in the Colorado Rockies organization in 1995. Earlier that season, he won a dozen consecutive games in A ball. He threw four shutouts that year.

Crowther was a tenth-round draft choice by the Rockies from Simon Fraser University in 1994. His pro career began with Bend in the Northwest League.

Crowther told the entire story of his career to date. He asserted that he has no regrets about ending his pro career at 24. His life as a pitcher and involvement in baseball continued after that.

Brent pitched well for Team Canada in the Baseball World Cups from 1998 to 2005. He told us many stories from his career. He pitched for Canada's National Baseball Institute from 1990-1994. They played an exhibition series against the eventual world champion Toronto Blue Jays during a Labatt festival in Regina. Crowther said John Olerud was hitting .415 at the time (he hit .346 in August and .300 in September to win the batting title at .363). Olerud was not pleased when the big, nervous young righty unintentionally hit him. Other members of the Blue Jays were ready to attack him, but after the game, the fiery Todd Stottlemyre commended him for his moxie. We learned that several of the most interesting events of Brent’s career involved hitting batters.

Simon Pond was a corner infielder and outfielder. He was drafted out of North Vancouver High School by the Montreal Expos in the eighth round in 1994. After a long, slow climb through the minor leagues, he played in 16 games for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2004. He also played in the Cleveland, Boston, Pittsburgh, and San Diego organizations. Pond was a left-handed hitter with a smooth, line-drive swing. He says he especially benefitted from the tutelage of hitting coach Merv Rettenmund in the Toronto organization.

Simon said that the mental part of the game was always tougher than the physical part for him. He was extremely focused on his goal of getting to the major leagues, and made all his career decisions with his objective in mind. Pond pressed when he got his big league shot, and infrequent playing time increased that pressure. He did hit a home run.

After a disappointing season in AA, Pond ended his career at age 29. He was a teammate of Crowther on the Canadian team in the 2004 Olympics.

Max recommended new books with a regional connection. “Pitchers of Beer: The Story of the Seattle Rainiers” by Dan Raley is illustrated with many photographs from the collection of Dave Eskenazi, who attended the meeting. The book has received many favorable reviews.

Max and Jennifer Ettinger hosted a get-together at their home following the meeting. The day’s activities concluded with a return to the ballpark for the Canadians game.

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August 6, 2011 - Eugene OR

Written by John Henshell

NWSABR held a meeting Saturday, August 6 from 1:00 to 5:00 in a suite at PK Park in Eugene. As the Eugene Emeralds were our hosts, registration was required, and 13 of the 17 people who registered attended the meeting.

Jim Watson and Dan Schlewitz made member presentations. Matt Dompe and Onalee Carson of the Emeralds spoke about their careers and job duties and enthusiastically answered our many questions.

Jim is a member of SABR’s Ballparks Committee. He is also involved in a local organization that is trying to save Civic Stadium (see http://savecivicstadium.org/). He shared several lists of ballparks built between 1910 and 1946. Civic Stadium is one of the few wooden parks that were built with WPA assistance and haven’t been demolished. Civic Stadium was built in 1938 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It could be sold or preserved for a variety of possible civic uses. Jim showed pictures of how historic parks have been preserved for uses other than pro baseball after they had been replaced for that purpose.

PK Park opened last year. It is shared by the Emeralds and the University of Oregon baseball team. Onalee informed us that the Emeralds are drawing well– a 14-game winning streak helped. The team experienced growth in sponsorships and ticket sales both years. We concurred that the stadium and setting are very attractive, and it has been successful.

On the other hand, it has artificial turf and brown carpeted baselines. Jim and other members pointed out that it is away from downtown and out of walking distance for many residents. Civic Stadium has charm and historical significance, including serving as a home park for many future major league stars, such as Mike Schmidt, Mario Soto, Larry Bowa, Eric Davis, and Mike Sweeney.

Some of the preserved wooden ballparks are being used for amateur sports. Those of us from the Portland area winced when Jim mentioned soccer as a possibility. Jim has mixed feelings about certain possible uses and welcomes your thoughts.

Dan analyzed the post-WWII rosters of the original 16 teams to determine if player movement is greater in the free agency era than in the pre-agency era. He said, “The research started out of hearing people say, ‘Well, in my day, we always knew the lineups for every team and players didn't hop around from team to team like they do today.’ The research involves finding out much of that is true and how much of that is really conventional wisdom.”

Dan Schlewitz and Jim Watson
Dan Schlewitz and Jim Watson

Dan focused on teams that had the same regular player at a position for three or more years. He looked at the same number of seasons before and after free agency. His conclusion is that roster churn has not increased. In fact, team consistency is a tad greater in the latter era.

Dan also found that teams are most likely to retain players at key defensive positions and least likely to retain players at the opposite end of the defensive spectrum. History shows that supply-and-demand is a factor in player retention.

Not surprisingly, Dan also learned that teams with the greatest consistency were successful. However teams with the greatest churn weren’t necessarily unsuccessful.

Matt and Onalee wear Emeralds shirts and many hats. Each is a jack or jill of many trades, with both having heavy responsibility for sales.

Matt’s title is Director of Corporate Sales. He is also the PA announcer and will get to broadcast some games. He has spent six years in professional baseball. His interesting experience includes high-level work for the Australian baseball league. This is Matt’s first year in Eugene. Matt said many people break into professional baseball by attending the job fair at the winter meetings.

Onalee Carson
Onalee Carson

Onalee has loved baseball since she was a little girl. Her enthusiasm and knowledge of the game delighted us. She is Director of Tickets and Community Outreach. She works directly with the players, handles public relations, makes presentations in the community, and can be seen helping throughout the park before and during games. Onalee is in her second season with the Emeralds after working for the Boise Hawks. As a reporter, she had an opportunity to cover the St. Louis Cardinals in spring training. She was intimidated by the prospect of interviewing Tony LaRussa, but found that working with him was easy. Albert Pujols was pleasant to interview, too.

Mark Brunke talked briefly about his baseball history blog: http://baseballintherain.blogspot.com/. It covers the Seattle Indians’ 1924 season.

John Henshell previewed a presentation about the 1970 NY Yankees. He told the details of how Horace Clarke broke up three no-hitters in the ninth inning in a one-month span.

We concluded the meeting with live trivia. Dan Schlewitz served as quizmaster and Ken Ross and Mel Poplock umpired. Many of us correctly answered several questions.

This was our first meeting in Eugene was since 2000 and our first south of Tigard since we met in Salem in 2002.

After the meeting, 16 members and family members watched the Emeralds play the Tri-City Dust Devils. Those of us who were interested stood in a long line to get free Mat Latos replica jerseys. Latos won 14 games and finished eighth in the NL Cy Young voting last year. He won just three games in a couple of stints with the Ems, but his statistics were good.

Emeralds Game
Emeralds Game

The home team lost 1-0. Weather was perfect, the game was short, and the Emeralds remarkably professional operation is typified by the fact that the complete play-by-play is on the team’s Web site: http://web.minorleaguebaseball.com/milb/stats/stats.jsp?sid=t461&t=g_log&gid=2011_08_06_triasx_eugasx_1

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May 7, 2001 - Seattle

Written by Tim Herlich
Twenty members and a guest gathered at the Fremont Public Library in Seattle for an afternoon of NWSABR presentations before the evening game at Safeco Field between the Mariners and White Sox. Chapter Vice-President Rick Solomon organized the meeting.

Stan Opdyke led off the meeting by taking us back to New York City in 1953, when the three major league clubs assembled arguably the greatest collection of baseball announcers ever in one city. The Dodgers' broadcast booth featured veterans Red Barber and Connie Desmond, plus a young Vin Scully in only his fourth year behind the Ebbets Field microphone. The Giants had the tandem of Russ Hodges and Ernie Harwell in the Polo Grounds, while across the Harlem River Mel Allen, Jim Woods and Joe E. Brown covered the Bronx Bombers in Yankee Stadium. Stan recounted the often intersecting careers of these top announcers, starting with Barber's arrival in Brooklyn in 1939. The Dodgers were first to broadcast baseball games in the New York market. In June of that year, Allen, who was already at WCBS-Radio, was hired by both the Yankees and Giants to broadcast their home games. In 1946, the teams ended their shared arrangement, and Allen began to work full time for the Yankees, joined by Hodges. Desmond worked with Allen in 1942 before joining Barber in Brooklyn the following year. In 1948, when Red missed some games due to an ulcer, the Dodgers brought in Harwell from the Atlanta Crackers to replace him. Harwell stayed in Brooklyn through 1949. Both Hodges and Harwell were hired away from their respective teams by the Giants. Scully, fresh out of Fordham University, was hand-picked by Barber to replace Harwell. Woods, who had succeeded Harwell in Atlanta, was brought in to team with Allen in 1953. Allen and Woods were joined in the Yankee Stadium broadcast booth by movie star and avid baseball fan Joe E. Brown.

The alignment of these great announcers in one city lasted only one year. In 1954, Harwell left for Baltimore to cover the fledgling Orioles, before moving on to Detroit to become the voice of the Tigers. The same year, Barber left Brooklyn to join Allen and Woods with the Yankees. Desmond was taken off the air by the Dodgers one year later. Woods left the Yankees in 1957 and joined Hodges for the Giants last year in the Polo Grounds before moving on to team up with Bob Prince in Pittsburgh. Hodges and Scully relocated to California with their respective teams for the 1958 season. Allen and Barber continued to cover the Yankees until the mid-'60's. Barber, Allen, Hodges, Harwell and Scully are all recipients of the Ford C. Frick Award presented by the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Mark Armour, presenting at NWSABR 5/7/11
Mark Armour, presenting at NWSABR 5/7/11

Mark Armour followed Stan with an analysis of the trade of Joe Morgan from Houston to Cincinnati forty years ago, when SABR was founded. The Reds won the NL pennant in 1970 but finished tied for 4th Place with the Astros in the West Division in 1971. GM Bob Howsam and Manager Sparky Anderson coveted Astros second-baseman Morgan for his speed, high OBP, and occasional power. Morgan did not get along with manager Harry Walker and seemed to be available in the right trade. After Howsam convinced his counterpart, Houston GM Spec Richardson, that the Astros needed a powerful bat in their lineup, Richardson offered Morgan for Reds 1B Lee May straight-up. Howsam countered and the two sides kept adding players until they agreed on an eight-player deal. Houston sent 2B Morgan, SP Jack Billingham, INF Denis Menke, and OF's Cesar Geronimo and Ed Armbrister to the Reds for 1B May, 2B Tommy Helms and UT Jim Stewart. Morgan went on to a Hall of Fame career as the Big Red Machine won 502 games over the next 5 years, winning two World Series. Morgan amassed more career Win Shares than all the other players in the trade combined.

Mike Rice followed with an examination of Similarity Scores, the formula developed by Bill James to measure the similarity of player offensive performance over the course of a season or a career. Mike noted that the career of Edgar Martinez is most similar to that of Todd Helton, while Ken Griffey Jr.'s career up until he was 24 years old was most similar to Mickey Mantle's at 24. A Similarity Score of 950 is considered extremely similar. Ron Cey and Robin Ventura have the most similar offensive careers in baseball, with a Similarity Score of 960. Pete Rose and Rickey Henderson have the most unique offensive careers with Similarity Scores of 678 and 715, respectively. The formula does not take into account ballpark factors, era adjustments, or any other advanced metrics, but is a useful and entertaining tool to use when comparing one ballplayer to another.

Chapter President John Henshell followed with chapter business, covering the results of the NWSABR member survey that was conducted earlier this spring, and presenting an appropriate plan of action. One conclusion drawn from the survey was that most members do not attend chapter meetings because of geographic distances involved or personal conflicts, rather than due to the content of the meetings. For now, we will stay with the meeting schedule as it is, although further review will be conducted. Because a good number of members were strongly opposed to renaming the chapter after Dave Niehaus, such action will be tabled for the time being. John also reported the results of the chapter survey naming the all-time Mariners team. Only RP Felix Hernandez, C Dan Wilson and DH Edgar Martinez were unanimous choices.

Vice-President Rick Solomon then led the group in a discussion of the Seattle Mariners season so far. The M's were 16-17 but many in the group felt the near .500 record was unsustainable. One of the hot topics was whether Wedge was fielding his best keystone combination in placing Wilson at 2B and Ryan at SS. Several felt that Adam Kennedy should be the regular 2B and Wilson the SS, which would improve the enemic offense. The meeting concluded at 4:30pm, with many heading to Safeco Field to watch the White Sox beat the M's, 5-0.

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May 1, 2011 - Tacoma Fan Go-Round

Written by John Henshell

Rick Solomon, Stan Opdike, and John Henshell staffed a SABR table at Tacoma Fan Go-Round. The event was held Sunday, May 1 at Cheney Stadium from 1:00-5:00. Billed as "A celebration of Tacoma/Pierce County’s baseball and softball history," the main attraction was autograph sessions with former Tacoma AAA players. Gaylord Perry and Don Larsen headlined the long list of former Tacoma players who went on to have major league success, and signed autographs at the event.

Cheney Stadium is newly remodeled for this season, and looks nice, clean, and new. The luxury boxes are much more like the ones at Safeco Field than those at the recently deceased PGE Park in Portland. All seats are reasonably close to the field.

We discussed baseball and SABR with people who stopped at our table. Some took membership brochures and cards with the URL of this site.

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February 19, 2011 - Portland

Written by Mary Groebner
The Northwest Chapter of SABR met on Saturday February 19, 2011 from noon to 5pm at the Hillsdale library in Portland. Twenty-five members and guests were in attendance.

Chapter president John Henshell announced that Rick Solomon has agreed to serve as Vice President.

After introductions, member John Simpson made a presentation about his third published book, "The Greatest Game Ever Played in Dixie”. It’s about the Nashville Vols 1908 season and championship game. While working on his book about Edith Pope, John encountered an article written by Grantland Rice about the Vols championship game. Rice’s quote spurred John’s interest and became the title of his third book.

John Simpson with photo of the 1908 Nashville Vols
John Simpson with photo of the 1908 Nashville Vols

The book begins with the last games of the 1907 season, and continues through the championship game of the 1908 season and beyond, as the last chapter notes what later happened to the players of the Vols. John also discussed the Southern Association, owners, stadiums, and teams within the league. Research included accounts from three local newspapers, the Sporting News and Sporting Life, and interview. John shared many interesting photos from his book.

The Vols played were managed by Bill Bernhard, who John didn’t feel ever got his due. Bernhard was one of the earliest foes of the reserve clause and a close friend of Napolean Lajoie. The Vols played in a unique ballpark named Sulphur Dell; it was only 265 feet to the RF wall, but the last 40 feet of that rose at an incline and the city dump was on the other side of the wall. The field was reversed in 1927, moving homeplate out to where center field had been, and then finally torn down in 1963. It was extremely hard to play RF, but Doc Wiseman played it so well that one of his nicknames was ”The Goat.”. As part of his research, John was able to locate three of Wiseman’s children and spent eight hours with them, listening to their memories and also sharing stories that he had uncovered during his research. This was a special experience for John and the Wisemans.

John gave brief profiles of many of the players on the 1908 Vols, including Swede Jansing (who played in Aberdeen, WA later in his career), Pryor McElveen, Jake Daubert (who was league MVP in 1913 and an outstanding defensive 1B), Hub Perdue (John’s personal favorite), Harry Bay (known as ‘Deerfoot’ for his speed), . We look forward to the biography John is writing about Perdue, and hope that he will favor the chapter with another presentation when that book is out.

Next, member Mike Rice hosted the Mariners Roundtable, a discussion about what we can expect from the 2011 Seattle Mariners. In recent years, Mike’s presentations had been titled ‘The 2009 Seattle Mariners: They Have to Be Better, Don’t They?’ and ‘The 2010 Seattle Mariners: They’re Contenders?’. This year’s presentation continued the theme with ‘The 2011 Seattle Mariners: Some Years It’s Hard to Get Excited'

Mike looked at the Mariners Pythagorean prediction results from 2007-2010. They over-performed in all years but 2008. Mike showed the 2010 ABs, OPS+, and WAR for the projected 2011 team. Few of the players in the potential starting lineup had full seasons of major league ABs last year and few of them would, based on their 2010 WAR, rate as starters (WAR of 5 generally indicates MVP status, 3 generally indicates All-star status, and 2 generally indicates starting lineup status).

On a more upbeat note, Mike looked at how good Felix Hernandez really was last year. Felix had the best performance of any 24 year old pitcher in the American Leagues during the DH era for ERA+, OPS+, WHIP and Win Percentage, and was 4th highest for RSAA. Mike noted that at least once every five starts, Mariners fans do have reason to be excited.

Mike showed Ichiro’s WAR trend line over the past 10 years. Ichiro is a very consistent player with incredible preparation and work ethic.

As always, each attendee predicted how many wins the Mariners would have in 2011; predictions ranged from 56 to 80 with most members predicting between 65 and 73 wins.

Dwight Jaynes
Dwight Jaynes

Following Mike, Oregon sports journalist– and a recent inductee to the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame– Dwight Jaynes spoke to the chapter. Dwight first spoke about growing up in a baseball family, and how a trip to the Portland Beavers spring training camp in 1959 led to his 3-year stint (’61-’63) as a batboy. As was then typical, he worked his way up in the organization until he was head of Group Sales when the Beavers left Portland. Dwight speculated that no one spent more time in Multnomah/Civic/PGE park than he had, as he never missed home games. He recalled the days of pitchers Sam McDowell and Luis Tiant, and how catcher Buddy Booker kept McDowell in line (and perhaps should have been called up with McDowell). Dwight also recalled the close connection that the Beavers had with their community, such as when around 19K fans showed up for a sudden-death playoff game against Spokane in ’67. The Beavers left Portland in 1973, and during that time, Bing Russell brought the Portland Mavericks to town and showed how to sell baseball. A new AAA Beavers team started in Portland in 1978 and Dwight recalled a glorious 5-year run under owner David Hersh. For a few years, Dwight traveled with the team as a writer which was unique for a AAA ballclub (one of the problems with minor league ball is a lack of media coverage, partially due to the fact that newspapers will not hold the print deadline in order to allow minor league games to complete as they will for major league events). 2010 was the last season for the Portland Beavers, as owner Merritt Paulsen is converting PGE Park into an MLS facility for the Portland Timbers. Dwight noted that Paulsen had tried very hard and was willing to put significant amounts of his own money into finding or building a facility so that the Beavers could stay in the area, but that political realities with Portland largely prevented this from happening.

With respect to media and sports journalism, Dwight noted that he expects that box scores in newspapers will become smaller, as newspapers have largely conceded to online coverage. Coverage is greater with many more folks covering a team, but you have to look for it online. Furthermore, coverage in a newspaper leads you to articles you might not otherwise read, while online coverage only takes you directly to what you are seeking. Dwight recalled the book, ”Percentage Baseball,” and the days when Bill James’ abstracts were barely known, and how surprised he was when he walked into a major bookstore and saw them prominently displayed on a shelf.

Dwight made time for a few questions. One question was whether college sports have bumped out coverage of minor league ball; Dwight responded that newspapers do not have an easy time of trying to decide/predict how much interest there may be in a particular thing and also noted that baseball doesn’t do the greatest job of selling itself to the next generation, noting the uniformity of duration of NFL games while baseball games can go on forever. This is one of the charms of baseball, but it also makes it hard to sell. When asked about memories of when Satchel Paige played for the Beavers, Dwight responded that Paige had only pitched at home twice, but that while he walked slowly and was older, he ”could still bring it” and it would have been impressive to see the younger Satchel Paige perform.

Next, John Henshell led a discussion of chapter business. We discussed the suggestion by member/secretary Mary Groebner to rename the chapter the ”Dave Niehaus Chapter.” Response was mostly strongly in favor, but inconclusive. John showed a draft of a planned chapter survey and asked for feedback and suggestions. Treasurer Tim Herlich distributed notebooks that he had received as a result of the recent collaboration between SABR and Bloomberg Sports.

Steve Steinberg talking with Tim Herlich after Steve's presentation
Steve Steinberg talking with Tim Herlich after Steve's presentation

Member Steve Steinberg, who co-authored the book “1921: The Yankees, the Giants, and the Battle for Baseball Supremacy in New York” with Lyle Spatz, gave a presentation on some of the key figures in baseball and specifically the World Series in 1921. Steinberg noted that Ty Cobb exemplified the Deadball era because Cobb was always doing whatever he could to scratch out a run.

Newspapers portrayed the series as a face-off between Giants manager John McGraw, Yankees manager Miller Huggins, and Babe Ruth. The czar-like McGraw liked to steal but hated to bunt or give up outs. Newspapers at the time sometimes claimed that John McGraw is baseball. Huggins faced a big challenge in managing Ruth, who often socialized with Yankees co-owner Col. Ruppert. Ruth staged a not-so-subtle rebellion against Huggins.

Steve was asked about the 9-game series and whether in researching the book, he and Spatz had found contradicting newspaper accounts. Steve noted that the 1921 series was the last of the 9-game World Series to be played; baseball had experimented with 9-game series in order to benefit from the extra paydays, but it was not sustainable. In researching the book, Steinberg and Spatz sometimes found conflicting stories in the 9-10 newspapers that were covering the series, but they mostly attributed these conflicts either to personal favorites of the writers, or to the fact that viewers of the games at that time only saw a given play a single time and didn’t have the benefit of reviewing it. One questioner wondered what Ruth’s best season was; Steve suggested that Mike Rice analyze whether it was 1920, 1921 or 1923.. Mike later e-mailed the chapter that 1920 was the Babe's best season. He only played 142 games that year, but had his highest OPS+, OWP, RC/Game, ISO, SEC & BPA0.

Our final activity was a review of the circular trivia quiz. Neal Traven and Mike Rice both aced the quiz. Stormy Winters did well enough to win the Rookie of the Year award. All three members won design-your-own logo caps. The results were accompanied by general baseball talk and additional trivia.

John concluded with a list of baseball people who died during the offseason, and focused on Seattle’s Dave Niehaus and Ron Santo. After the meeting, many of the attendees adjourned to the nearly adjacent Hillsdale Brewery and Public House, the first of the McMenamin’s establishments, to raise a glass in memory of those people, and talk more baseball.

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NWSABR Booth at 2011 Mariners FanFest

Written by Mary Groebner
Mariners FanFest 2011 took place at Safeco Field in Seattle on Jan 29-30. Jan 29 was also National SABR day.

The Northwest Chapter of SABR once again staffed an informational booth at FanFest, handing out baseball cards to kids and conversing with adults about the mission of SABR and local chapter activities.

Volunteers staffed the booth, which was located on the main concourse near third base, from 8:30am to 4:00pm Saturday and from 11:00am to 4:00pm Sunday. We don’t have a total count of how many individuals stopped by, or how many baseball cards we distributed, but 29 people signed up and requested more information about the organization.

NWSABR member Dave Eskenazi set up a display of historical Seattle baseball photos, which was very popular with fans, near the Dave Niehaus memorial.

Thanks to the Mariners, former chapter president/current treasurer Tim Herlich for dealing with the logistics of booth setup and volunteer coordination, Dave Eskenazi for once again sharing his amazing collection, and to the volunteers: Bill Woodward, Chuck de Grasse, Herm Gilman, John Henshell, Mark Brunke, Bob Webster, Stan Opdyke, Stephanie Hall, Tim Herlich, and Tim Jenkins. Special thanks to those who staffed the booth during the NWSABR chapter meeting!

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January 29, 2011 - Seattle

Written by Mary Groebner

The Northwest Regional Chapter of SABR (NWSABR) met on Saturday January 29, 2011 from noon to 3pm at the Ellis Pavillion at Safeco Field in Seattle. Our meeting was part of the Mariners FanFest 2011, a weekend event.  About 35 members and guest attended.  NWSABR also staffed an informational booth for FanFest (see separate recap).

Meeting Attendees
Meeting Attendees

We thank Kevin Martinez (Vice-President of Marketing) and the Seattle Mariners for providing an excellent facility and an incredible lineup of speakers.

Speakers were: Special Assistant to the GM Tony Blengino, GM Jack Zdurenciek, Assistant GM Jeff Kingston, Director of Player Development Pedro Grifol, and Manager Eric Wedge.

Chapter president John Henshell opened the meeting by thanking the Mariners and former chapter president Tim Herlich for his work in coordinating the FanFest booth and meeting. John said we still need a Washington-based chapter vice-president and encouraged members who were interested to contact him.He gave a summary of the agenda for the February meeting in Portland and introduced a new program: member-host-a-member. Because NWSABR is the chapter for a very large geographical area, meetings are typically held in Portland, OR (Feb), Seattle, WA (Jan, May, Nov), and Vancouver B.C. (Aug). John encourages members to offer spare bedrooms or couches to out-of-town members.

Tony Blengino at NWSABR
Tony Blengino at NWSABR

Our first speaker was Tony Blengino, who spoke briefly and then took questions for almost an hour. Tony is a longtime SABR member and a member of the NWSABR chapter. Tony noted that from 1993-2002 he believed he gave a member research presentation at every chapter meeting; this was before he ”got into baseball.” Questions asked by meeting attendees focused on the performance of last year’s team and expectations/marketing, and the expectations for the team and specific players for 2011.

Expectations were very high for the 2010 Mariners, but the front-office never really felt comfortable with those expectations. After the season, Tony reviewed work done by Tom Tango (who consults for the Mariners) and could not find another team where every position player had performed lower than expectations (sometimes significantly lower). Just ”regressing to the mean” for 2011 would produce better results. Last year, the Mariners underperformed offensively and were inefficient at driving in runners. He hopes that players new to the team and an increased focus on fundamentals such as plate discipline and situational hitting will result in the team scoring about 150 more runs than they did last year.

Tony encouraged fans to ”hang with us” after such a dismal season. He recalled going through a similar experience in Milwaukee around 2000 when that team was coming off of a 100-loss season and had few minor-league prospects. They spent 2002-2003 rebuilding the minors. He used the analogy of building a house – 80% of the work is not seen, people are driving by and looking at a big hole in the ground or foundational work. It’s hard to get excited about that but it is critical to the success of the effort. That last 20%, the ”framing” or bringing up players to the big leagues, is what people notice. In Milwaukee, that took several years, but he remembered when Corey Hart made his major league debut after fans had heard of him in the minors for years. He hit a foul ball 420 feet and the fans gave him a standing ovation. The Mariners farm system is in fairly good shape (8 of 9 Ms farm teams were in the playoffs last year) and we are beginning to see those players join the big league team. Tony says, ”We need our Corey Hart moment,” while acknowledging the sometimes cyclical nature of stocking talent and that we may hit another ”trough” along the way.

Tony answered questions about specific prospects, players recovering from injuries, and players acquired in trades. When asked about who will lead the clubhouse, Tony cited Felix and Ichiro, who are both quiet, but lead by example with their work ethic, preparation, and dedication to team.

Tony noted that the Mariners organization at all levels understands and emphasizes the importance of customer service and how a family of four may have scraped and saved to attend a single Mariners game in the season. Everyone in the organization should make sure that family has a good experience. This philosophy was repeated by Jack Zdurenciek and Eric Wedge.

Jack Zdurenciek at NWSABR meeting
Jack Zdurenciek at NWSABR meeting

Mariners GM Jack Zdurenciek addressed the group and took questions for approximately 45 minutes. Jack also tackled the issue of high expectations for 2010, aided in part by the team having overachieved in 2009. He spoke of balancing ”going young” with meeting expectations and obligations to fans and to players like Felix and Ichiro, who have committed to this team. In the off-season, Jack interviewed several managerial candidates and hired Eric Wedge after being impressed by Wedge’s energy and take-charge nature. The coaching staff also discussed. Jack echoed Tony’s earlier comments in the importance of building the farm clubs, saying “‘you have to have a foundation to succeed at anything in life.”

Questions for Jack varied from the length of Ichiro’s contract, his opinion of the Greinke trade, how the Mariners handle issues such as when players show chemical dependencies etc., what he thought of the recent action by Gil Meche in walking away from guaranteed contract money in KC, and his philosophy regarding the draft (pick the best player available, regardless of position). Before he left, Jack noted the organization and his personal commitment to the fans and said ”We want to deliver for you.”

Following Jack, Pedro Grifol and Jeff Kingston took questions for about 45 minutes. Pedro is the Director of Player Development and also assists Bob Engle as needed for International signings/scouting. Jeff is the Assistant GM in charge of options, outrights, DFA, payroll, etc. Jeff formerly worked for Kevin Towers and the San Diego Padres.

Pedro Grifol and Jeff Kingston answer NWSABR member questions
Pedro Grifol and Jeff Kingston answer NWSABR member questions

Questions for Pedro were about the psychological testing that the Mariners do (once before signing, once after with the second test helping provide insight to how best to coach the player). Pedro spoke about the minor league teams and how bullish he is on them, again repeating how competitive the teams were last year and how important it is for the players at each level to gain experience in playoff situations as well as for the affiliate cities to be able to watch competitive teams. Previously, the Ms organization had focused on getting the players to the big leagues quickly; focus is now on ensuring that once the player has moved to the next level they can play there from then on. Pedro also described what happens when a player is drafted, as well as how the role of the scout fits into player development.

Questions for Jeff were about the success of the 2010 San Diego Padres, contract issues such as what situations a team may be able to void a contract with a player, when and why players insert no-trade clauses into their contracts, the relationship of each team with MLB and whether MLB’s establishment of a league office in Phoenix is helpful to the West Coast teams, and the general mix of contracts/salaries on a given team. Jeff noted that teams that spend too much of their payroll on a few players are generally not successful. Jeff noted that players often have a short shelf-life and there is much risk involved; trying to achieve a balance within a given payroll is challenging.

New Ms manager Eric Wedge speaking at NWSABR meeting
New Ms manager Eric Wedge speaking at NWSABR meeting

The final speaker was new Mariners manager, Eric Wedge. Wedge said that his philosophy is to be ”firm, fair, and consistent,” and that intangibles are important and help to establish the identity of the team. He likes the diversity of the Ms team, a mix of proven talent, young kids, and players trying to make comebacks. Wedge had been involved in a rebuilding effort in Cleveland, but didn’t see the current Ms situation as a rebuild as much as a ”build on what’s here” situation. He believes his biggest challenge is to change the mindset of the club to ensure that they work together as a team and as professionals; players owe their best performance to the fans. He noted that during the interview and in general, he is blunt and honest and will take responsibility and will also hold players accountable.

 

Questions for Eric covered ”small ball” and chemistry and leadership within the clubhouse. Wedge noted that players have difficulty becoming vocal leaders because they fear confrontation, not being liked, taking risks, etc. From the new acquisitions, he noted that Miguel Olivo is known for being tough and fiery, Brendan Ryan is a ”young old school kid” and Jack Cust can always be counted on for good ABs. He noted that coaching is real-time, but management means thinking ahead and assessing opportunities/risks. Eric would have loved to have played for Bobby Cox, and Johnny Bench was his favorite player. He learned a great deal from Buddy Bell when Buddy was his bench coach. Wedge assured us that we would be impressed with the quality of the coaching staff and then detailed their strengths. Like Jack Zdurenciek, we were impressed with Wedge’s energy.

The Seattle Mariners organization and its speakers provided us with a fabulous FanFest meeting on National SABR day.