The 1954 National League Rookie of the Year and three-time World Series Champion Wally Moon (pictured above) and MLB.com national correspondent Alyson Footer spoke at the Ninth Annual Winter Meeting of the Rogers Hornsby Chapter of SABR on Saturday, Jan. 17, 2015.
Thirty-five members and guests gathered at Texas State University’s historic Old Main building in San Marcos to talk baseball, reminisce about the 2014 season, gripe (and, for some of us, celebrate) the Hall of Fame vote and share baseball memorabilia.
A World Series Champion with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1959, 1963 and 1965, Moon said he was impressed with Madison Bumgarner’s pitching performance with the San Francisco Giants in the 2014 World Series, but he said Sandy Koufax’s three pitching appearances in the 1965 World Series were better. Koufax’s performance included a complete-game shutout of the Minnesota Twins in Game 5, and, on two days rest, another complete-game shutout to clinch Game 7 and the Series.
Moon also shared that as a young boy, he used to listen to baseball games on the radio with his grandfather. He remembered that his grandfather used to turn down the volume between innings. When Moon asked why, his grandfather told him, “I don’t want to hear no god-damn beer commercials!”
Moon also recalled vividly his first major league at-bat. In fact, he didn’t get a warm reception at Busch Stadium, mostly because he was replacing the future Hall of Famer Enos Slaughter, who was a favorite player of Moon’s growing up. He said he heard the crowd booing and chanting, “We want Enos!” as he went to bat. After taking the first two pitches, he hit a homerun. By the time he rounded second base, he said, the boos had turned to cheers.
Moon also took the opportunity to express how much the fans meant to him. He said he has some fans who have kept in touch with him for 50 and 60 years, ever since he played minor league ball in Omaha, Nebraska. He said he still gets letters and holiday cards from some every year, and that one of his longtime fans even named her parakeet Wally Moon.
Moon also sold and signed copies of his book, “Moon Shots.”
After Moon’s recollection of the 1965 World Series, the group heard about another memorable postseason 40 years later from Alyson Footer (pictured below), a national correspondent for MLB.com and former social media manager for the Houston Astros and former beat reporter covering the Astros for eight seasons, including their playoff runs in 2004 and 2005.
Footer remembered clearly how close the Astros were to reaching the World Series in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series in 2005. Because MLB.com requires game stories to be posted within five minutes of the last out, she had written much of the story about the Astros, who were leading in the ninth inning. But when the Cardinals’ Albert Pujols crushed Brad Lidge’s slider, not only did it silence the deafening crowd in the stadium, but Footer said she had to delete her story and start from scratch. “Not one word was relevant at all,” she said.
She also recalled that – after the Astros went on to win Game 6 at the very last game at Busch Stadium II and punch their ticket to the franchise’s first Fall Classic – she worked late into the night and early morning. Once her work was done, she poured herself a Budweiser beer in the sportswriters lounge at 3 a.m. – perhaps the last beer drunk at that ballpark, she said.
Footer also talked about the changes in sportswriting. She said she’s doing more video now and writing shorter stories because videos get four times the clicks online than articles.
In addition to Moon and Footer, attendees were treated to “Crop Shop,” a warm-up presentation by Hornsby member Jim Baker (pictured below). He shared zoomed-in portions of famous baseball photographs and images to see if the group could recognize them. Though the group caught on quickly and recognized most of the images, Baker stumped everyone on a few images.
Hornsby Chapter founder Bill Gilbert gave a 2015 Houston Astros Preview and predicted a break-even season for them. He summarized the additions to and subtractions from the big league club and discussed promising prospects that may make it to the big leagues later this year or in the next few years.
New Hornsby member Jim Kenton (pictured below) talked about a successful program in St. Louis called the Baseball Reminiscence League in which volunteers spend time helping Alzheimer’s patients by discussing baseball players and games from earlier in their lives. Kenton is working with local groups who help Alzheimer’s patients in Austin in hopes of creating something similar here and recruiting volunteers.
Dan Walsh (pictured below), a 30-year SABR member and active Hornsby chapter member, shared some research he did on Starting Pitchers Game Score and described some of the greatest pitching performances in MLB history. A Bill James metric, game score determines the strength of a pitcher’s performance in a particular game.
Also, members brought sports memorabilia and participated in a baseball book exchange. Hornsby Chapter member Jeremy Schmidt (pictured below on right) shared a collection of Craig Biggio baseball cards and a signed ball, and donated a mint Biggio rookie card as a door prize, which was won by Ira Siegel (pictured below).
The Winter Meeting also featured something new. Jan Larson (pictured below), on the Hornsby Chapter leadership team, led the audience through a discussion about next year’s Hall of Fame vote, and then allowed everyone to place their own ballot. For better or worse, our group’s voting results matched the Baseball Writers Association of America pretty closely on players who have been on a the ballot for at least a year. Judging by our results, only Ken Griffey, Jr. (93 percent of the vote), will be elected to next year’s HOF class. Three who were close included Mike Piazza (73 percent), Jeff Bagwell (67 percent) and Tim Raines (60 percent). Other notables in our voting were Barry Bonds (57 percent), Edgar Martinez (53 percent) and Roger Clemens (50 percent).
Much thanks to Wally Moon, Alyson Footer and all of our presenters and visitors. We’re glad that the weather cooperated fully on Jan. 17, especially after we had to reschedule from the previous Saturday after icy conditions in Central Texas.
It was another great day of baseball talk at Old Main. A big thank you to our speakers, and also to Monte Cely, a member of the Hornsby Chapter leadership team who worked tirelessly to organize much of the winter meeting. We also thank Raeanne Martinez for her assistance in organizing the lunch orders.
Also, many thanks to Hornsby Chapter member Ryan Pollack who volunteered his time to take photos during the Winter Meeting. All photos on this page are used by permission and owned by Pollack. Here’s his website: www.ryanpollack.com
More photos from the Winter Meeting are below. See you next year!