SABR Meeting Highlights

The San Diego Ted Williams Chapter of SABR had its latest meeting this past Saturday, at the Mission Valley library. Presenters included Petco Park groundskeeper Luke Yoder, Padres official scorer Jack Murray, SABR bio project biographer John Green, and local TV personality/book author Jane Mitchell.

Yoder, who holds a degree from Clemson University in Horticulture Turfgrass Management, oversaw field construction at PNC Park in Pittsburgh before doing the same at Petco Park when it opened in 2004. He noted that his first priority is the safety of the playing field, with playability and consistency (aiming for “a true hop every time”) being another key concern.

Yoder provided additional fascinating insights into an aspect of baseball that often gets overlooked, discussing the differences between Pittsburgh (65 tarp pulls a year) and San Diego (3-5 pulls), the view of the game from his seat next to the visitors dugout (he enjoyed listening to Bobby Cox and Lou Piniella when they came to town), and how the grounds crew can affect playability (e.g., by making the front of home plate “soft” to help a ground ball pitcher).

Murray has been scoring games for the Padres off and on since the ’80s. He discussed the politics that sometimes come into play when representatives of a team have a vested interest in seeing a play ruled a certain way (e.g., if the ruling affects whether a pitcher’s runs allowed are charged as earned or unearned) and shared some amusing anecdotes about unusual plays.

One such play occurred on July 17 of this season, when Everth Cabrera struck out swinging against Giants right-hander Matt Cain but reached first base because the ball hit the dirt and Cabrera ran down the line while San Franciso catcher Eli Whiteside argued with home plate umpire Marvin Hudson that he’d caught it cleanly rather than throw to first to complete the putout.

By rule, Murray had to charge Whiteside with a passed ball even though the ball didn’t pass him. (Rule 10.13 states that “a passed ball is a statistic charged against a catcher whose action has caused a runner or runners to advance.” Whiteside’s action of arguing with Hudson rather than throwing to first caused Cabrera to advance.)

Green discussed the career and life of right-hander Joe Oeschger. I had a special interest in Oeschger, having written about his role in a 26-inning game in 1920 in which he and Leon Cadore both worked the entire contest.

Mitchell read from her book, One on One, which features interviews of celebrities conducted for her Emmy Award winning television show of the same name. She shared stories about Ken Caminiti, Ted Williams, Ryan Klesko, Dave Stewart, and others.

As always, the presenters added to our knowledge of and love for the game of baseball. It was a pleasure learning from them all. If you aren’t a member of SABR, you are missing out on some great stuff. Fix that (here comes the hard sell) by joining and attending meetings.