November 1, 2014 - Seattle
Written by Mark Brunke
The Pacific Northwest Chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research conducted its Fall chapter meeting after the conclusion of yet another Fall Classic.
The Chapter was very excited to have guests and member presentations. The meeting was hosted at the Library Conference room of Seattle Pacific University by Professor Bill Woodward, a longtime SABR member. Professor Woodward attended the meeting along with many of his students.
The first presentation of the day was from Joe Staton, member of the 1972 and 1973 Detroit Tigers. Joe had a great amateur career in Seattle and Washington State, and brought along many artifacts from his time in high school and college baseball. These artifacts illustrated a highly competitive environment in the area. Joe had great stories of his managers with Detroit, Billy Martin and Joe Schultz, as well as his winter ball manager in the minors, Jim Leland. Joe's minor league adventures had even included time playing in Mexico with future Mariner Enrique Romo. Aside from his playing accomplishments, Joe helped start the Seattle RBI program. The program is in its 21st year, and has helped 180 kids, 14 of whom have gone on to be drafted.
Next up was Ocean Shores based author, SABR member, and statistician Merrianna McCully. Merrianna has self published a book about her second career providing stats research to Jim Kaat for his broadcast work. Kaat had hired McCully while he worked as a TV analyst for the Minnesota Twins, as well as CBS and ESPN, and he also wrote the book’s foreword. Merrianna's book centers around her concepts of Swing Runs as well as her own story with baseball. Its a fascinating read with lots of great numbers to back up the concept which looks at how many runs a given team needs to win a gam.
Steve Steinberg was up next, delivering a presentation on the 1931 Dixie Series of Houston versus Birmingham. Steve presented a great narrative of, as he put it, the wiley veteran against a brash youngster. In this case the veteran was Ray Caldwell, who place in the minors was on his way down, against Dizzy Dean, whose star was ascendant. It was a fascinating story, including not just the great characters of the legendary players, but the interesting details, such as Caldwell being struck by lightning and then finishing a game.
SABR Member Frank Workman delivered his concept for realignment next. This restructuring looked at creating three leagues of 10 teams, an East, Central and West. Each would then be divided into a north and south division. There would be no interleague, instead teams would focus on geographic rivalries during a regular season with a balanced schedule of 162 games against the other 9 teams in their league. This would also allow games to always be played at night in a single time zone, accommodating tv. An 8 team playoff would have two seeded teams get a break while the others play a series of one game playoffs, then a quarter finals, then a World Series. It was a very interesting proposal which sparked a lot of debate.
Finally, Mark Brunke presented some recent audio and video finds. The main part of Mark's presentation was audio from reel to reel tapes of interviews conducted during the Seattle Mariner's 1978 Spring Training. These interviews, by Dave Niehaus and Ken Wilson, were of players such as Julio Cruz, Enrique Romo, Dan Meyer and Bruce Bochte. A real treat was hearing Dave Niehaus interview team owner Danny Thomas.
The next PNWSABR chapter meeting will be during Mariners Fan Fest on January 25, 2015. This meeting is a closed meeting for SABR members and guests. There will also be a meeting for members in Victoria, BC area that weekend, as part of the SABR Day activities. That meeting is at 11 AM at John's Place, 723 Pandora Avenue, Victoria. The next regular chapter open meeting will be in Portland on February 14, 2015. Please look at our events page information on this and other meetings.
February 16, 2014 - Tigard
The Pacific Northwest Chapter of SABR held its regular chapter meeting in Oregon on Sunday, February 16 at 12 Noon. The venue for the event was Max's Fanno Creek restaurant in Tigard.
There were 22 SABR members there, plus about 10 guests. Most of the attendees were from the Portland area, but many members also made the trip down from Washington State. The meeting started with introductions and a general welcome were made by chapter vice-president Mark Armour.
Peter Hepokoski gave the first presentation, providing a nice overview of his personal history of taking ballpark tours across the United States and Canada. For the last 20 years Peter has taken tours with Jay Buckley's Baseball Tours out of LaCrosse, WI. Peter grew up in Minnesota as a Dodgers fan. He attended the University of Minnesota. Peter began at first going on his own trips, but after awhile sought out tours as a way to see games across the country. Peter had many stories to share of his many years taking tours. He has been to 54 MLB ballparks over the years, 55 if Puerto Rico is included.
Tom Leip of the Salem Keizer Volcanoes was the next speaker. Tom has had a long career in baseball operations in the minor leagues. He spoke at length about many of the unique things he has seen in the minors, and especially about the peculiarities of running a minor league club. His time in the minors goes back many years in the Northwest League and includes time spent working for George Brett and his brothers, as well as his many years in Salem.
John Simpson spoke next on deadball era player Hub Perdue. John has a recently published book on Hub which is available for purchase. John said he became interested in writing a book about Hub because of the rarity of published work on Southern Deadball Era players, and then as he researched Hub, the story became more and more intriguing. Perdue got his first shot at playing pro baseball in Vincennes in 1905. His 1919 numbers set a Southern League record with a 1.56 era. Hub was a fun loving character, and Simpson's book should provide some much needed scholarship on Deadball players from the South.
The next presentation was from a guest of SABR, Marie Jessup. Marie was a veteran of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, having played with the Fort Wayne Daisies in 1953. Marie was accompanied by many members of her family, and in addition great stories of her time in the league, presented a slide show with personal photos. Marie said that throughout most of her life, the only people who remembered the AAGPBL were people in the midwest. As a young woman, her brother-in-law, who she said was a really good baseball player, saw an ad for tryouts for a women's professional baseball club. Marie said she practiced in the winter in Maine, where she was from, and when the snow cleared she jogged to get in shape. Then the local Rotary gave her $50 to take a bus to Michigan for the tryouts in the spring. She was there for three days, and then saw her name on the wall. The team travelled through the midwest by bus, stayed in hotels, and had chaperones. Marie was the backup catcher, and had played the same position in high school on her softball team. She said one of the players she liked most growing up was the old Detroit and Boston catcher Birdie Tebbetts. After her time in the AAGPBL, Marie moved to Arizona and played semi-pro softball before hanging up the cleats.
The next presentation was from John Henshell on clutch hitting. First John described a definition of clutch which he separated from situational hitting. John looked for pressure situations where pitching performance would also be clutch. This was key to John's presentation, as he stated if you perform with runners in scoring position, you are performing against clutch pitching. John emphasized that context is also important. His presentation included a summary of 30 to 40 studies of clutch hitting.
The final presentation of the day was Mike Rice's annual preview of the Mariner's season. Mike looked back at the previous season and covered the Mariner's off season, looking at the possibility of improvement in returning players and the pitching staff. Some of the questions that came up were the impact of Robinson Cano, and where players such as Corey Hart and Logan Morrison will fit in and impact existing players such as Justin Smoak. At the end of Mike's presentation, SABR members present went around the room and gave their predictions of wins for the coming season.
The meeting was concluded at 5 PM and a few remained behind to continue the discussions of the upcoming season in the main dining area of the restaurant. The next Pacific Northwest SABR meeting will be on Saturday, April 26th. This will be an open meeting at which all can attend.