On Saturday, August 26, 2017, the Bob Broeg St. Louis SABR Chapter hosted its third annual Research Conference at the Emerson Library on the campus of Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri. Six speakers presented a variety of subjects, hoping to capture the Jim Rygelski Research Award bestowed by the local chapter.
The award is named for the late, past president of the chapter who had a great passion and love for the research portion of our organization. “It is part of the organization’s name,” he would say and tried to stress that one or two research presentations be given at the monthly chapter meetings.
Chapter president Brian Flaspohler welcomed the approximately thirty members and guests who were in attendance. He thanked Allison Levin, SABR member and Professor of Sports Communications and Management at Webster University, and her student assistant Alexis LaMarsh for their help in setting up the presentation room, designing the flyers and programs, and also providing refreshments.
Flaspohler then introduced Jim Leefers as the first presenter. Jim’s presentation was entitled “Grand Slam Shares.” His research involved examining over 6,000 grand slams from 1930-2016 to find which players have been on base most often when a teammate connected for the ultimate homer. His research has discovered that Derek Jeter is the all-time leader, with 55 instances of reaching base in order to score on a grand slam. By also adding the number of grand slams a player has hit to the number of times a player was on base for a teammate’s slam, Leefers created a new stat called Grand Slam Shares. The all-time leader of this new category is Alex Rodriguez with 25 grand slams and being on base 43 times to have 68 Grand Slam Shares. Jim stated there are some gaps that still need to be researched, along with the years prior to 1930, which will be another 800+ grand slams.
The next presentation was given by Allison Levin and was entitled “All in Good Fun?” Levin examined the, hopefully in the past, practice of the emasculation of ballplayers by primarily rookie hazing. Several of these rituals required the players to dress in traditionally recognized female outfits such as cheerleaders, maids, nurses, etc. in order to humiliate and degrade the player’s masculinity. She presented the hope that the current practice of some teams creating unity by involving the entire team in thematic wardrobes for a road trip, or joining together in various charity endeavors will become more commonplace. Allison also presented a few videos with college students speaking of the efforts toward accepting the LGBTQ community, especially in athletics.
Next up was Mike Mitchell with “Birds, Bombers, Beer & Baseball”, which studied the shared and parallel histories of the St. Louis Cardinals and the New York Yankees. Some of the comparison’s included the obscurity of both teams in the early twentieth century, their rise to prominence in the 1920s, star players (primarily Babe Ruth & Rogers Hornsby), ownership by powerful beer barons such as Chris von der Ahe & August Busch, Jr. (Cardinals), and Jacob Ruppert (Yankees), and of course becoming the most successful franchises in their respective leagues.
Next up was Robert Tiemann. The title of his presentation was “Major League Attendance 1889-1909.” Tiemann’s research covered the St. Louis franchise’s final 3 years in the American Association and it’s first 18 years in the National League. He compared St. Louis’s attendance to the league average and the league leader and showed how the average correlated with how the team was doing in the standings. Tiemann also showed, with his research, the increase for doubleheaders and Sunday games and also how St. Louis ranked with their road attendance. Their highest single day attendance, for all 21 years, always occurred on a Sunday. He also presented bar charts that compared St. Louis’s average attendance with MLB averages by the month and the day of the week.
After a short refreshment break with sandwiches and beverages Ed Wheatley stepped to the plate for the next presentation “Why The Browns Matter.” He detailed the history of the St. Louis Browns, which included the first season of the franchise in Milwaukee, in 1901. The team then remained in St. Louis through the 1953 season. While it was mostly a second division team, Wheatley highlighted the star players, like George Sisler and Ken Williams, along with some of the characters, like Satchel Paige, Eddie Gaedel, and Bill Veeck. He also lamented the reluctance of the current keepers of the franchise, the Baltimore Orioles, to embrace the history of the Browns. He displayed how the all-time top ten lists of the franchise, in several batting and pitching categories, would be drastically changed with the inclusion of Browns players. Wheatley also announced he has authored, along with Bill Borst and Bill Rogers, a soon to be released book entitled The St. Louis Browns: A Story of a Beloved Team.
The final presentation of the afternoon, “A Tale of Two Championship Seasons, 1926 and 2011,” was by Rick Zucker. Rick identified many surprising similarities between the St. Louis Cardinals' first World Series championship team and their most recent. He compared the top stars on both teams (Rogers Hornsby and Albert Pujols), the secondary stars (Les Bell and Lance Berkman – note the similar initials), and how their statistics paralleled in several categories. Zucker also pointed out how the winning managers were gone the following season, player-manager Rogers Hornsby was traded and Tony La Russa retired. There were also some eerily similar statistics in some of the World Series games that he pointed out.
All six presentations were very entertaining, enjoyable, and informative. The panel of judges chose Rick Zucker as the recipient of the Jim Rygelski Research Award. Rick received a monetary award of $200 and will receive the Rygelski Award at the chapter’s annual Hot Stove Luncheon in January. Congratulations, Rick! Well done!
The next regular monthly chapter meeting will be Monday, September 18, 2017 at Cardinals Nation Restaurant in Ballpark Village, downtown St. Louis. We will have dinner off the menu and an abbreviated chapter meeting at 5:30. We will then be given a free after-hours tour of the Cardinals Hall of Fame and Museum. All baseball fans are welcome to attend. Click here for more details.