Stuff I Learned at SABR Day in San Diego

I’ve been a SABR member for a few years but never made it to a meeting until this past weekend. When I wondered aloud on Twitter what took me so long, one person quipped, “Because they’re at 9 a.m. on a Saturday.”

Yeah, that might have something to do with it.

Now that I’ve been, though, I’m convinced that sleep can wait its turn. The entire program lasted four hours, but I could have stayed all day listening to stories. I cannot remember the last time I geeked out that hard.

I won’t rehash everything that happened — it would take too long — but here is some of what stuck with me:

  • Although Roberto Clemente is regarded as an icon and many current players don’t recognize the name Maury Wills, it wasn’t always that way. During their playing careers, Wills was the more popular of the two.
  • Ernest Hemingway loved baseball. At age 13, he penned a charmingly awful poem that references Frank Chance, Johnny Evers, Frank Schulte, and Heinie Zimmerman of his hometown Chicago Cubs.
  • Later in life, while living in Cuba, Hemingway set up a makeshift ballfield where local kids would play and he would pitch to them. We got to see a photo of kids playing on that field (as well as a handwritten copy of the poem).
  • During my presentation, audience members informed me that Jack Harshman, the great minor-league slugger (192 home runs) who later took part in the best pitchers duel of the 1950s, attended San Diego High School.
  • One woman remembered well the Padres’ 21-inning loss to Houston in 1971 (best duel of the ’70s). She recalled that in the nightcap, the home club received a little help from the fog to salvage the split. About 500 fans (herself included) remained at the conclusion, eight hours after the first pitch of the first game had been thrown.
  • Since this wasn’t a media event, I won’t get into specifics of what Jason McLeod said during his talk. I will say that he was candid and incredibly accommodating. McLeod answered every question we had, whether it was about the ballclub’s direction, industry trends, draft issues, international markets (plural, because Latin America and Asia are very different), or what have you.
  • Having seen Jed Hoyer and McLeod speak in person in the last week, I’m feeling good about the Padres now and into the foreseeable future. These are smart cats who appear to be more interested in getting things done than in blowing smoke up everyone’s… well, they like to get things done.
  • Emmett Ashford, MLB’s first black umpire, worked the Pacific Coast League from 1954 to 1965. Some audience members recalled watching him at Westgate Park and noted his showmanship. Ashford was known for throwing himself into his work and left an impression on everyone who watched him.
  • Several members spent an entire game watching only the umpires and reported on their experience. They talked about position and movement on certain plays, knowledge of the rules and how to interpret them, and everything else that goes into officiating a baseball game. Unless you are specifically focusing on the umpires, you may not be aware that most of this is even happening. My two takeaways were this: First, umpiring is a lot harder than we may think it is. Second, I’m going to try spending at least a few innings during a game this year watching only the umpires. Who knows, I might learn something.

Thanks again to everyone at the Ted Williams Chapter for attending and listening to my ramblings. It was great to be a part of the festivities.

If you are a SABR member who hasn’t attended a meeting, I encourage you to come down and join us. If you aren’t a SABR member, go fix that.

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And in other news…

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5 Responses »

  1. re: umpiring is a lot harder than we may think it is

    It sure is! If you don’t think so, I bet there are a lot of little leagues which would be happy to give you an on-the-job experience.

    I did that a couple of years ago … here’s my story …

    No way was that “fun” … but it was an intense and amazing experience that has made me sure that I will NEVER think an ump to be a bozo.

  2. I like the new site theme. Congrats on the change.

    Was stuck in Chicago for SABR day so I appreciate the post about the meeting. Thanks!

  3. That someone is a pretty smart dude.

  4. Hello,

    Wills more well known than ‘The Great One’. If this is even reasonably possible as a ‘thinking adult’ you have to say it has to do with casual fans from metro LA and nothing to do with people within the game. Google: Roberto Clemente Br bullpen. There, you’ll find Wills even stating his preference of Clemente over Mays. Clemente is rated the most valuable player ever if there were NO outfield walls.