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SABR-51 Produced Many Memorable Moments
ALSO: JACK CLARK HITS HOME RUN OFF THE FIELD TOO
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Did you know…
Rob Manfred and Bud Selig, the current and former commissioner, drew the only boos during Baseball Induction Weekend . . .
Asked the difference between playing in the U.S. and playing in Canada, Fred McGriff answered with one word: “Taxes” . . .
Scott Rolen never said he could fill Mike Schmidt’s shoes in Philadelphia. “At no point did I try to play like Mike,” he said. “To me, he’s still the great third baseman ever to play the game.” . . .
In a two-hour conversation with Dave Winfield, the College World Series MVP as a pitcher, the former Yankees slugger told McGriff that the two of them were similar players — other than the fact that McGriff batted left-handed . . .
Entering play this week, the Braves had 187 home runs — 25 more than the second-place Dodgers (162) and 32 more than the third-place Angels (155) — and are on pace to top the 2019 Twins, who hit 307, for the single-season record . . .
Hard-throwing rookie reliever Daysbel Hernández struck out 20 of the first 27 batters he faced for Double-A Mississippi, Triple-A Gwinnett and Atlanta over 7 2/3 innings between June 30 and July 23 and not yielded a run since May 2. Not bad for someone who missed all of the 2022 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery.
SABR 51: People Sharing a Passion for Baseball
Story and Photos by Bill Pearch
Imagine every possible way to love baseball: the game’s rich history, legendary ballparks, baseball cards, Hall of Fame debates, analytics and more. That list woefully undersells the range of activities on display at Chicago’s iconic Palmer House Hilton during SABR 51, the Society for American Baseball Research’s 51st annual convention.
“It was an honor to celebrate good times at SABR 51,” said Nancy Faust, legendary Chicago White Sox organist, who provided entertainment during the convention’s welcome reception. “Fun and friendliness abounded among those sharing a passion for everything baseball – its past, present and future. It was a wonderful opportunity to connect with old friends, and to discover new ones.”
Long-time White Sox organist Nancy Faust dazzled guests during SABR 51’s welcome reception. Left to right are Chris Kamka, Sean Kolodziej, Ralph Carhart, Nancy Faust, Andy Terrick, Bill Pearch and Jason Schwartz.
For five days earlier this month (July 5-9, 2023), Chicago was the hub of baseball discourse. Hundreds of baseball fans from around the world enjoyed a plethora of diverse player and historian panel discussions, insightful member research presentations, poster presentations, walking and bus tours, an inspiring awards luncheon with Jason Benetti and even a come-from-behind White Sox victory over the St. Louis Cardinals. Recordings for all sessions are available on SABR’s website: https://sabr.org/convention/
“SABR 51 was an all-you-can-eat buffet of all things baseball, complete with amazing presentations, VIP guests, and a super cool Chicago backdrop,” said Jason Schwartz, SABR Baseball Cards Research Committee co-chair. “The highlight for me was simply spending time with people I’d either never met before or only knew online. Just an amazing turnout of baseball fans talking baseball and doing baseball things 24/7. The only thing missing was sleep!”
Both Faust and Schwartz knocked it out of the park. Some of the game’s most dynamic thinkers and personalities like Mike Veeck, Ozzie Guillén, Maybelle Blair and Louis Moore shared captivating stories about cutting-edge promotions, the current state of baseball, the AAGPBL, and Chicago’s Black Baseball legacy. But the moments I’ll cherish most involve trading tales with fellow baseball fans while wandering the hallways or opening packs of baseball cards after hours.
Just a couple of dozen SABR members eager to open assorted packs of baseball cards to wind down a successful annual convention.
My favorite personal SABR 51 experience commenced with back-to-back tours by Chicago Cubs Team Historian Ed Hartig and SABR’s Director of Editorial Content Jacob Pomrenke. Hartig provided a fascinating behind-the-scenes tour of Wrigley Field as he discussed the historic park’s humble beginnings, its evolution throughout the decades and its recent re-imagination. Pomrenke led a unique two-mile walking tour of downtown Chicago highlighting many of its most significant baseball sites including notable Black Sox Scandal locations.
Prior to her session highlighting the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, SABR Board Director and CEO of Rockford, Illinois’ International Women’s Baseball Center Dr. Kat Williams, introduced me to 96-year-old Maybelle Blair. I enjoyed hearing a few personal stories from the former member of the 1948 Peoria Redwings squad and current social media star. Her passion for baseball continues to radiate.
Dr. Kat Williams, Bill Pearch and Maybelle Blair at SABR-51 in Chicago
Each research presentation I attended provided unique insights. Sports Reference’s Product Director Adam Darowski discussed the impact of recognizing the Negro Leagues as Major Leagues two years following the launch. SABR members Michael Haupert and John Bauer examined Adrian “Cap” Anson’s inglorious departure from baseball, and the maneuvering that allowed the White Sox to move from old Comiskey Park to what is today’s Guaranteed Rate Field.
One of my favorite moments occurred during Friday night’s White Sox game. Several friends and I spent a few innings visiting with award-winning British artist Andy Brown. While documenting that evening’s game on canvas, he shared stories about spanning the globe to paint various ballparks and individuals who play the game.
Enjoying the White Sox game are Sean Kolodziej, Andy Brown, Bill Pearch and Jason Schwartz
But the essence of SABR 51 was about reconnecting with long-time friends and establishing new connections. I’m still in awe of the impromptu baseball discussion I had with Dick Kramer, Sean Kolodziej, Dan Evans, Bill James, Scott Bush and Jason Schwartz. How often do you get an opportunity like that?
Between stops on the Chicago walking tour, I enjoyed swapping small-town baseball stories with Bob Broeg chapter (SABR St. Louis) member Tom Best. Best beamed about his Monmouth, IL baseball research and he developed his poster presentation. He even shared next steps about publishing his findings in an upcoming book.
Left to right at SABR-51 are Dick Kramer, Sean Kolodziej, SABR Director Dan Evans, Bill James, SABR CEO Scott Bush and Jason Schwartz
John Racanelli, Sean Kolodziej and I were delighted to see our research included in The National Pastime: Heart of the Midwest, SABR’s convention-focused publication edited by Publications Editor Cecilia Tan. We shared details we uncovered while researching and writing our stories about Hack Wilson’s off-field entanglements, Ernest Hemingway catching a White Sox game before shipping off to war, and Col. Frank L. Smith and his Dwight, Illinois’ baseball history.
Here are links to some of the articles included:
“My first SABR convention was even better than I ever could have imagined,” said John Racanelli, SABR Landmarks Committee co-chair. “I was able to immerse myself in baseball talk and wide-ranging research topics for nearly a week and loved every minute of it. If you love baseball, you should be a SABR member!”
Also at SABR-51 were (l to r) Jason Schwartz, John Racanelli and Chicago Cubs Team Historian Ed Hartig
“My expectations were high, and the convention exceeded them greatly,” said Sean Kolodziej, SABR Chicago member. “I can’t wait to go to next year’s convention.”
Bill Pearch, a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan, serves as secretary/newsletter editor for SABR’s Emil Rothe Chapter (Chicago). He has contributed to SABR’s publications about old Comiskey Park and the 1995 Atlanta Braves. He will have stories about Tommy Brown and Eddie Mathews in SABR’s upcoming publication, Ebbets Field: Great, Historic, and Memorable Games in Brooklyn’s Lost Ballpark. Follow him on Twitter @billpearch
SABR 51 photo gallery (https://sabr.org/convention/sabr51-photos)
SABR 51 Research Presentations (https://sabr.org/convention/sabr51-presentations)
SABR 51 Poster Presentations (https://sabr.org/convention/sabr51-posters)
SABR 51 Committee Meetings (https://sabr.org/convention/sabr51-committees)
Making Friends With Jack Clark
By Dan Schlossberg
For me, the highlight of 2023 Hall of Fame Induction Weekend was spending hours with Jack Clark.
Though not a Hall of Famer as a player, he is certainly a Hall of Famer as a person.
Although he hit .267 with 340 homers during a fine career as first baseman and rightfielder for five different teams from 1975-1992, Clark was a four-time All-Star widely regarded as a dangerous right-handed slugger.
For some reason, our paths had never crossed before now –- even though we had been to several of the same All-Star games.
Still viewed with affection by the fans of the St. Louis Cardinals, the 67-year-old Clark was in Cooperstown to sign baseballs, cards, and photographs for fans attracted by the induction of former Cardinals third baseman Scott Rolen.
He and I wound up seated side-by-side in front of Willis Monie books, the best source of old baseball books and programs outside of the Baseball Hall of Fame itself.
Clark and I actually made a trade: a copy of my book The New Baseball Bible for a baseball bearing a very personalized signature. Both of us, it seems, made a joke out of the bar of soap Clark brought to my hotel room after we both complained about the tiny bar of soap provided by the flea-bag property we both chose by accident because it had proximity to Cooperstown without the usual price.
I have never had a major-league player –- especially a star –- knock on my hotel room door to bring me a much-needed, much-appreciated, and most practical gift.
On top of that, Jack graciously took time away from the fans buzzing around his table to give me a lengthy, anecdote-filled interview for a forthcoming Memories & Dreams article on baseball card photography.
For the uninitiated, that’s the handsome, full-color official magazine of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
With Hall of Famers Goose Gossage, Rollie Fingers, and Joe Torre signing just across Main Street Saturday, Jack Clark and I were speculating over who might reach the Hall of Fame next.
We mentioned such names as Adrian Beltre, Joe Mauer, Todd Helton, Billy Wagner, Andruw Jones, Gary Sheffield, and even former managers Lou Piniella, Davey Johnson, and Jim Leyland.
I also noticed how cordial Clark was to anyone who approached his table, even a heavyset local who monopolized far too much of his time.
The man once known as “Jack the Ripper” was especially good with kids, giving them free autographed cards and patiently posing for pictures.
He posed with me too, making me think back to my last baseball cruise and whether the ship’s captain who posed with me did it for me or whether he intended to keep the photo for himself.
A great clutch hitter, Clark once led the National League with 18 game-winning hits. He is best-remembered for the three-run, ninth-inning homer he hit to win Game 6 of the 1985 National League Championship Series. It marked the biggest blunder in the career of Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda, who had Dodgers closer Tom Niedenfuer pitch to Clark –- the only home run threat in the St. Louis lineup –- with first base open.
Clark had his share of controversy, including a short-lived feud with Ozzie Smith, but seemed genuinely delighted to see Smith, Whitey Herzog, and other former teammates in the Parade of Legends that passed directly in front of his signing table. He also lamented those lost recently, including Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, and Bruce Sutter, also Cardinal Hall of Famers.
In addition to Clark, other borderline Hall of Fame candidates also showed up to share the spotlight with new Hall of Famers Fred McGriff and Rolen. They ranged from Doc Gooden to Pete Rose, the career hit king who can’t shake his lifetime ban from baseball for allegedly gambling on the game.
Personally, I was happy to visit with John Schuerholz, creator of the Atlanta machine that won a record 14 consecutive division titles, and Jim Kaat, the veteran left-hander whose quest for 300 wins went awry when the Cardinals confined him to the bullpen at the end of his career.
But even though I was honored to hear how humble, grateful, and graceful McGriff was on the podium at Clark Sports Center Sunday, Jack Clark made my weekend even more memorable.
I told I wished all ballplayers could be as nice as he is. I think he was genuinely pleased by the comment.
As former Cardinal Joaquin Andujar once said in his one-word description of baseball, “Youneverknow.”
Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ often signs books on Main Street during Induction Weekend. He’ll be back next year with his new Hank Aaron book. His profiles of Fred McGriff and Scott Rolen appeared in the USA TODAY Sports Weekly Hall of Fame issue. Contact him by emailing email@example.com.
“Crushed the ball with consistency for 19 seasons using smooth left-handed swing to amass 493 home runs and 1,550 RBI. Hit 30 or more homers 10 times, the first to do so for five different teams. Finished among his league’s top five in long balls and OPS in seven straight seasons, 1988-1994, topping the AL in homers in 1989 and the NL in 1992. Delivered heroics as clean-up hitter for the 1995 World Series champion Braves and hit .303 in 50 career postseason games. Three-time Silver Slugger at first base and five-time All-Star earned 1994 All-Star game MVP honors.”
— Fred McGriff’s long-overdue Hall of Fame plaque
McGriff’s final comment at the Monday Roundtable: “I’m looking forward to getting some sleep now. I have a big birthday (60) coming up in October and we may go to Alaska for vacation” . . .
Before this seasons ends, the Phillies will induct Scott Rolen into their Hall of Fame … An upcoming personal project for Rolen is moving his daughter into college for the first time . . .
McGriff sat with fellow sluggers Chipper Jones, Eddie Murray, and Ken Griffey, Jr. at one of the Induction Weekend dinners . . .
Both men liked playing in Toronto. “Toronto was awesome except for the cold,” McGriff said. “Being from Florida, I couldn’t wait for the game to end so I could head for the shower and make it as hot as it could get. But I’ll never forget Toronto gave me my chance to play in the big leagues.” . . .
Rolen’s reaction? “I was there almost two years,” he said. “My family was young and the travel was tough. You just bang around the U.S. but you have to do an extra step with customs if you play in Canada.”
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HERE’S THE PITCH is published daily except Sundays and holidays. Benjamin Chase [firstname.lastname@example.org] handles Monday and Tuesday editions, Elizabeth Muratore [email@example.com] does Wednesday and Thursday, and Dan Schlossberg [firstname.lastname@example.org] edits the weekend editions on Friday and Saturday. Readers are encouraged to contribute comments, articles, and letters to the editor. HTP reserves the right to edit for brevity, clarity, and good taste.