On a nasty, icy say in New York City, when the talk of the town seemed to be the Patriots and their deflated footballs, many New Yorkers gathered to discuss our national pastime at the New York Public Library.
Saturday was the sixth-annual SABR Day, which takes place at chapters across the country, including in New York. The conference opened with some sadness. Chicago Cubs legend Ernie Banks passed away the night before. But there was excitement, too, as folks SABR’s Casey Stengel Chapter began to settle in to hear a great lineup of speakers. The three panels on the agenda included one about baseball legend Frank Robinson, another about what it's like to be an MLB scorekeeper, and a presentation about new information about Babe Ruth.
The first panel, on Robinson, featured ESPN’s Peter Keating and Willie Weinbaum. It was particularly special because this year is the 40th anniversary of Robinson becoming the first black manager in Major League Baseball. He was hired to manage the Cleveland Indians in 1975, but was on the team as a player-manager, which meant he coached the ball club as well as played for it. Keating and Weinbaum showed a short clip from an ESPN Outside the Lines special that highlighted moments of Robinson’s career. He was known as a diligent manager who always wanted to get the very best out of his players. He even had Reggie Jackson live with him for a while so that he could focus on baseball more at a critical time in his life. Robinson was inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame, and to this day is the only player to win the MVP award in both the American and the National Leagues.
After a short lunch break, we regrouped to learn about MLB scoring from official scorers Billy Altman and Jordan Sprechman. Each of these fantastic scorers has recorded some of astounding moments in baseball history, ranging from Derek Jeter's 3,000th hit to the game where the Yankees hit three grand slams to the first no-hitter in Mets history, thrown by Johan Santana. That’s a copy of Sprechman's scorecard from Derek Jeter's 3,000th hit game in July 2011 at the top of this page.
The two of them told the audience about the art of scoring. They said that one of the most difficult aspects to judge is whether a play should be called a hit or an error. Sometimes they need to guess whether a run would have scored had the play been made successfully. They said that sometimes the MLB rulebook is not so specific and that judgment is put solely in their hands because the rulebook doesn’t directly address an issue.
The final panel of the day was also very entertaining. The speaker was Michael Gibbons, the Executive Director of the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum in Baltimore. Ruth of course is considered by many to be the greatest ballplayer of all time, and was inducted as part of the original Hall of Fame in 1936, with 95.13 percent of the vote. But the museum focuses on his pre-MLB days and features parts of the home where Ruth grew up before being whisked off to boarding school by his parents at the age of seven. (The museum is undergoing renovations and will be reopened this summer.) Gibbons said that one of the great parts of his job is that he almost gets to work with "The Bambino" every day. Just to emphasize how important a person Ruth is in American culture, Gibbons said that when he has gone into classrooms to speak to students, the first question he asks them is always, "How many of you have heard of Babe Ruth?" Gibbons said that over decades, only one student has not heard of Ruth, and that was a student from Nigeria.
The sixth annual SABR Day was a lot of fun and it was a thrill to attend. If you missed your city’s SABR Day event, don’t worry! There are other SABR events throughout the year, both locally and nationally, that are exciting for kids and adults alike. I will be reporting from the upcoming 2015 SABR Analytics Conference in Phoenix, where kids and students are encouraged to attend for a range of exciting panels, such as ones featuring Tony La Russa and Dave Stewart. The conference takes place in March, and to find out more it visit sabr.org/analytics.
Max Mannis is a special correspondent for sikids.com and a member of SABR. Catch his posts on advanced baseball statistics. To learn more about SABR and to join, visit www.sabr.org.
Photo courtesy Max Mannis