By all accounts, SABR 40 in Atlanta was a big success although registration was below the total in recent years. I know I sure had a good time.
SABR is clearly in a time of transition. Executive Director John Zajc is resigning to pursue other interests. His replacement is Marc Appleman who has had an extensive and varied career in communications related to sports, particularly baseball. John received numerous, well-deserved accolades at the convention and will be staying on until the end of September to ease the transition. Mark was present for the entire convention and made a very favorable impression.
There was a great deal of discussion at the Annual Business Meeting about SABR’s demographics. Ten years ago, the average age of SABR members was 49. Now it is 59. Obviously, SABR is not attracting many younger members. This was discussed in some depth at a special, open meeting Thursday night and will be a high priority item for the Board and the new Executive Director. They are looking for ideas for attracting and retaining new members.
Probably the highlight of the convention was the Worst to First panel featuring Atlanta Braves Bobby Cox, Phil Niekro, Mark Lemke and Ron Gant. It centered on the rise of the Braves from last in 1990 to first in 1991 and what it took to keep them at the top. Former Braves broadcaster, Pete Van Wieren, did an excellent job as the moderator. Braves President John Schuerholz was the speaker at the Awards Luncheon and was very well received.
Other highlights included a Black Sox panel featuring retired sportswriter, Furman Bisher and several authors and attorneys who had done research on the case. The consensus was that, while Jackson did not return the money ($1,000) that Lefty Williams left in his room, he did not do anything to throw any games.
Another highlight was a one-man play featuring Norm Coleman as Ty Cobb, which was very entertaining.
As always there were some outstanding oral (41) and poster (14) presentations including some that didn’t mention Ty Cobb and Shoeless Joe Jackson. Research was presented that made strong cases for Billy Wagner as the best ever left-handed relief pitcher; Kirk Reuter as the best fielding pitcher of his era; and the ages of 29-31 as the years when hitters reach their peaks.
The Rogers Hornsby Chapter was well represented. Cy Morong, Tom Wancho and Bill Gilbert were in attendance and Monte Cely was recognized at the luncheon as one of the judges for the Sporting News Award. Norman Macht contributed an excellent article to Baseball in the Peach State, the Convention Publication of The National Pastime. The article is entitled “Memories of a Minor-League Traveler” about his years with Ernie Harwell and his experiences as a minor league business manager. A highlight for me was being part of the winning four-man team in the Trivia Contest for the first time in 16 years. In the finals, we won on a tiebreaker which was to name the nine players in the starting lineup when the Atlanta Braves played their first game in 1966. We identified six and our opponents came up with four. Anybody want to take a shot at it (without looking it up?)
The game we attended was not one of my best baseball experiences. Our bus parked a long way from the stadium and then we experienced a two-hour rain delay before the game started. The game went into extra innings when the Giants scored a run without a hit off the greatest left-handed closer in the ninth inning and another one without a hit in the eleventh inning to win it. After the long walk back to the bus and some traffic delays, we arrived back at the hotel at 1:30 a.m.
The convention will be in Los Angeles in 2011 and Minneapolis has been officially announced as the site in 2012. Houston is being considered as a potential site in 2013. Since putting on a convention is very labor-intensive, there should be some volunteer opportunities for Hornsby Chapter members if Houston gets it.