An Astros broadcaster, a major league scout, a sabermetrician, a baseball grave hunter and others shared their baseball stories and research at the 4th Annual SABR Rogers Hornsby Chapter Winter Meeting, held Jan. 16, 2010, at Texas State University.
Bill Brown, Houston Astros play-by-play broadcaster for 23 years, shared an essay titled “The Greatest Game in Astros History,” which was about the thrilling 18-inning Astros playoff win against the Atlanta Braves in the 2005 National League Division Series. He also shared stories about how he got his start in broadcasting with the Cincinnati Reds and his approach to broadcasting games. In addition, Brown was generous with his time, answering a wide range of questions for more than an hour.
Jan Larson, who helps maintain the Hornsby Chapter website, moderated a lively panel discussion with Gene Watson, coordinator of professional scouting for the Kansas City Royals; Mike Capps, the voice of the Round Rock Express who won the 2009 Broadcaster of the Year from BallparkDigest.com; and Jim Baker, former columnist for ESPN.com and Baseball Prospectus. They discussed the use of instant replay, whether international players should be included in the amateur draft and what Mark McGwire’s admission means for his Hall of Fame chances.
Other presentations included one by Dr. Fred Worth, a mathematics professor from Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. He shared stories and photos of baseball player gravesites, including several notable ones in Central Texas. He also brought a binder with photos of graves he has visited. His endeavor is to visit, photograph and mark by GPS gravesites of players, managers and umpires associated with Major League Baseball.
Scott Barzilla, an active member of the SABR Larry Dierker Chapter in Houston, talked about his research, which combines statistical measures of baseball players such as win shares (WS), wins above replacement player (WARP), wins above replacement (WAR), plus those values at the player’s peak. The result is a list of players by position that attempts to quantify a player’s value as compared to other players. Barzilla said his goal isn’t to rank the top X number of players by position; instead, he hopes that those who vote in Hall of Fame balloting might use his tool to see that his method shows how some players have been overvalued or overlooked. He’s writing a book about his statistical rankings and hopes to have it published next year.
Norman Macht, author of “Connie Mack and the Early Years of Baseball,” talked about his interesting visit with former major league player Ted Lyons, who played 21 seasons with the Chicago White Sox and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1955. Macht played audio excerpts of his interview with Lyons. Macht also kicked off the meeting with a creative and challenging baseball quiz that entertained and stumped the audience.
Hornsby Chapter member Michael Bass brought several pieces of memorabilia to share with the group, including a "knobless" bat used by Bill North, who had a 10-year MLB career, mostly with the Oakland A’s. Bass also shared a pennant and a program from the Baltimore Orioles’ inaugural season in 1954.
Thirty-four people attended the winter meeting, which included a drawing for items brought by Gene Watson. Prizes included baseballs signed by Kansas City Royals Manager Trey Hillman and Royals first baseman Billy Butler and two copies of the Baseball America 2010 Almanac. Watson also brought some Royals T-shirts, yearbooks and signed cards by some Royals minor league prospects.
For the third consecutive year, the winter meeting was held in historic Old Main, the oldest building on the Texas State campus and home to the School of Journalism & Mass Communication and the College of Fine Arts & Communication. It was the fourth year the winter meeting was held on the Texas State campus.