Baseball Diehards Gather For 50th SABR Confab (Special from the IBWAA)
By Dan Schlossberg (Special from the IBWAA)
This article was featured in “Here’s The Pitch” the newsletter of the IBWAA and is shared with permission. This article was published in August 2022.
This column is coming straight to you from SABR 50, the 50th annual conference of the Society for American Baseball Research.
I joined in 1981 — before I found out that this organization consists of people who are even more rabid baseball fans than I am.
Since I follow baseball 12 months a year and have absolutely zero interest in football, basketball, or hockey, finding these people — both men and women — was a revelation. Many of them can cite 19th century baseball history as if it happened yesterday.
Don’t get me wrong: I love talking baseball. I also love sharing face time with friends who eat, sleep, and think baseball 24/7, 365 days a year.
SABR has contributed much to the sport — starting with the advent of analytics, which traces its origin to the intricacies of SABRmetrics. Mathematics professor Bill James is both the godfather of SABRmetrics and the guru behind the best baseball reference book on the planet, The Bill James Baseball Handbook.
Published about a month after the end of the World Series, it is the one book no writer can be without. In addition to detailed team stats, it has alphabetical year-by-year player records of everyone who played at least one major-league game in the preceding year.
SABR has succeeded in changing long-standing baseball records, from Ty Cobb’s batting average to Walter Johnson’s victory total, and has had enormous influence in team operations, even convincing general managers involved in contract and trade negotiations. CEO Scott Bush suggests membership could reach 10,000 within the next five years.
The SABR convention puts some 600 members in the same place at the same time, always includes a major-league game, and invariably features presentations, posters, lectures, and appearances by authors, writers, broadcasters, team officials, and others who either love the game or earn their living from it.
This year, headliners include former Orioles slugger Boog Powell; authors Tim Kurkjian, Mar Armour, Brad Snyder, and Bill Jenkinson; baseball broadcasters Kevin Brown (Orioles) and Joe Castiglione (Red Sox); former Orioles president Larry Lucchino; ballpark design director Janet Marie Smith; Orioles team historian Bill Stetka; Orioles director of field operations Nicole Sherry; Babe Ruth Museum historian Mike Gibbons; and Curt Flood’s widow Judy Pace Flood, who will speak about the Flood vs. Kuhn case 50 years later.
There’s also a Vendors Room where publishers, editors, and author will sign and sell their books from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. I’m bringing three of my books, including The New Baseball Bible and the 2021 World Championship edition of When the Braves Ruled the Diamond. Yes, Ron Blomberg’s Designated Hebrew will be there too.
The SABR 50 schedule also includes a historic ballparks bus tour, an awards luncheon, a Women in Baseball Leadership panel, and a Red Sox-Orioles game at Camden Yards.
SABR produces publications, including The Baseball Research Journal, and has the respect of many baseball insiders, especially those from the Baseball Hall of Fame. It helps that the organization was founded in Cooperstown, where the late Cliff Kachline, the Hall of Fame’s historian, was an original member in 1971.
Kachline once said SABR’s main contribution to the game was correcting old records, such as the 1910 batting race between Cobb and Napoleon Lajoie. “We’ve added to the so-called trivia of the game,” he once said, “and pointed out things that intrigue even the very casual fan.”
The late Bowie Kuhn, who surprisingly reached the Hall of Fame gallery himself, refused to recognize SABR’s well-documented findings that Lajoie’s .383 mark in 1910 topped Cobb’s average by a point — stopping the latter’s streak of nine titles in a row.
At the convention, presentations last 10 minutes and often cover little-known aspects of baseball. The group has even awarded retroactive Rookie of the Year and Cy Young Awards, recognizing freshmen before 1947 and pitches before 1956.
Meeting in Baltimore for the first time since 1982, SABR makes its meetings dovetail with the baseball schedule. If there’s a work stoppage, an impromptu softball game makes a great substitute; the 1981 Toronto convention featured a game between American and Canadian members.
This year, that won’t be an issue, although time could be.
The hotel is on the waterfront, not far from the National Aquarium, B & O Railroad Museum, Babe Ruth Museum, and the bustling harbor, with its omnipresent water taxis.
Tonight, the SABR group will walk en masse from their Inner Harbor hotel to nearby Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the 30-year-old ballpark that started the trend toward new stadia with retro looks.
Because it has numerous local chapters and committees, getting involved with SABR in simple. To learn more, check out www.SABR.org.
Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has been a SABR member since 1981. He’s also been an active baseball writer since 1969, when he joined The Associated Press [AP]. Dan’s byline appears on forbes.com, Latino Sports, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, Sports Collectors Digest, and 40 baseball books.