On Thursday night, tons of baseball fans in attendance at SABR 45 flocked into the Palmer House Grand Ballroom to see a concert performance by the Baseball Project. The group got together in 2007, and was founded by two members of famous rock band R.E.M.
The group writes and performs songs that are all baseball-themed, such as “Box Scores,” and “Stuff.” In fact, “Stuff” was being debuted at the SABR 45 concert, and this crowd was an appropriate first audience.
Can you guess what “stuff” is? The song title is the nickname used by pitchers for =what they illegally put on the ball to make it move unpredictably, making it more difficult for the batter to hit. This “stuff” can range from Vaseline to pine tar to a thumbtack. Apparently, the members of the group had asked a former major league pitcher how many pitchers doctor the ball like this. They were shocked to hear him estimate that 90 percent of pitchers do just that.
Before the concert, the members of the group joked that the audiences they perform for are usually not big baseball fans, so they were excited to finally perform for a group that would understand the baseball references.
Here is a clip of the band playing debuting “Stuff,” which they were so cool and gave us consent to post here at SI Kids for you to enjoy:
After the show, I had a chance to catch up with Linda Pittman, the drummer. She described her favorite gig performing for The Baseball Project, which was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art when it was celebrating having the largest ever baseball card collection. You can learn more about The Baseball Project at thebaseballproject.net
The next day, the theme of women and their many roles in baseball continued as SABR Board member and History Professor Leslie Heaphy moderated a panel featuring women who have different roles in sports.
Martha Jo Black, Christie Spisak, and Caroline Phillips spoke about how much they love working in baseball. Spisak plays in female baseball tournaments, while Black and Phillips help teams with customer service matters. They all shared how they’re proud to be where they are today, despite the challenges they faced. Spisak made a point of adding that when she played baseball as a kid, she was told to switch to softball because she had no future in baseball, but she didn’t listen. She followed what she believed in and is glad that she did.
I caught up with Spisak afterwards to ask her what advice she would give girls who want to be involved in baseball but are told they are too young or can’t because they are girls. Here is her advice:
Finally, another highlight of the past 24 hours was a panel Friday morning that featured former MLB pitcher Steve Trout and Joe Berton, the man who portrayed Sidd Finch in a prank done by Sports Illustrated for April Fool’s Day 1985. The panel was moderated by MLB.com's Barry Bloom.
The story of the prank is that Sports Illustrated ran an article saying the Mets had a pitching prospect named Sidd Finch who could throw 168 m.p.h. The world was shocked by this news, and for a few days fans and scouts alike wanted to see the phenom pitch. Of course, they all felt quite silly when they realized the story was made up.
On this panel, they discussed this story and the way it came to be. In fact, several attendees had copies of the SI issue that featured the story about Finch. It was a great panel that resulted in lots of laughter.
I caught up with Finch — I mean, Berton — afterwards to ask him a few questions.
The last 24 hours at SABR 45 were very enjoyable for panelists and fans alike. It’s been great to see how the sport’s history and future offer so much for fans, players and professionals of so many backgrounds.
Max Mannis is a special correspondent for sikids.com and a member of SABR. Check out his contributor page to catch up with his past stories on baseball and SABR events.
Photos: Max Mannis, Lane Stewart/Sports illustrated (Sidd Finch)