|Writers, historians and baseball buffs gather for SABR|
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on July 14, 2003
The Society For American Baseball Research had its thirty-third annual meeting for baseball fans, writers, historians and analysts in Denver last week (July 10-13). With close to 600 in attendance the Marriott World Center became, at least for several days, a baseball mecca, with a non-stop buzz of discussions of America’s game.
The conference is very broad in scope taking in almost any aspect of the game that a fan could imagine. Presentations on topics such as approaches to building a team and talent evaluation were mixed in with the history of baseball, baseball and music, baseball and poetry, and of course a lot of baseball history and analysis.
Some of the more interesting topics attended by At Home Plate Staff included: the decisions of Judge Landis from a jurisprudent view (he’s the commissioner who expelled the Black Sox from baseball), Early Baseball Music, When to Intentionally walk Barry Bonds, Two approaches to team building, Do good teams win more close games?, Beyond Eight Men Out, and when or if relief pitchers belong in the Hall of Fame and how to evaluate their performance, an analysis on lead-off hitters and a study of the origin of the word ‘fan’.
In addition to this, a number of fascinating panel discussions were held including subject matter such as relief pitching, the future of baseball (what will it look like in 2020), baseball simulations/games, and much more.
Beyond that were informational board presentations, which included topics from “Should Gil Hodges be in the Hall of Fame” to a comparison of home runs, decade by decade and the emergence of the rabbit ball in the modern game, an analysis of the Oakland A’s strategy as put forth by the book Moneyball, Patriotism in Baseball, and so much more (a lot of statistical stuff). There was also a very impressive video presentation on Curt Flood and his lawsuit against baseball - which is a topic we have covered extensively here. What was really impressive was that the video was made by a 13 year old.
A number of former players and umpires were in attendance. Also present were a large number of authors including Bill James who is currently serving as a special consultant to the Boston Red Sox.
And of course there was baseball! And not just the major league stuff; during the conference the Rockies played 5 home games, which were well attended by SABR members who got to watch the Rockies sweep the Giants (and Barry Bonds hit two home runs), then take 2 of three from the LA Dodgers. However a large group of SABR members, myself included, ventured to Colorado Springs to watch some AAA baseball. We saw the Colorado Sky Sox (Rockies affiliate) take on the Salt Lake City Stingers (Angels affiliate). The Skysox won 4-3 in an eighth inning home run by Garret Atkins. We’ll talk more about minor league ball in an upcoming story.
The conference however kicked off with a totally different type of baseball - the old time game - using 1866 rules. The game is played in period costumes with the rules that were still evolving into the modern game and it is really fun to watch (we’ll be covering that in the next few weeks).
All in all, the conference was great fun and a great success. I would urge all serious fans, writers, and researchers to think about joining SABR (www.sabr.org) and attending the conference next year in Cincinnati. In the meanwhile, we’d love to hear from you if you have that writing/researching bug.