On Saturday, August 20, 2016, the Bob Broeg St. Louis SABR Chapter hosted its second annual Research Conference at the Indian Trails Branch of the St. Louis County Library in St. Louis, Missouri.
Four 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 everyone and then stepped to the podium as the first presenter. Brian’s subject matter was “Racial Bias in Hit by Pitch Data.” His research began, of course, with the integration of baseball in 1947. The data he presented showed a marked increase in the frequency of being hit by a pitch across all of baseball early after integration. It remained elevated for four decades, with a few peaks and valleys when it showed another dramatic increase in the early 1990s.
However, he was able to determine that in those first years there did appear to be some racial bias in the category of hit by pitch. He calculated a league average and showed that, for instance, Larry Doby was 2.8 times more likely to be hit than the average player. On average, over the first 10 years of integration, black players were 1.4 times more likely to be hit. Since then it has leveled out, where it is just slightly above average for blacks, but more frequent for Asian players. He admitted more in-depth research was ahead for his project, perhaps breaking it down according to the race of the pitchers involved.
Next up was Robert Tiemann. The title of his presentation was “Rating Today’s Ball Parks – A Whirlwind Tour.” Tiemann recently was able to complete his quest to observe a ball game in all 30 current Major League parks by going to Seattle and then to the 2016 SABR Convention in Miami. He prefaced his presentation by stating that he used none of the latest sabermetric measurements and that his ranking relied on memories and first impressions. The guiding principle of his ranking was “The Game’s The Thing.”
He passed out a copy of his rankings with the number of games attended at each park, with single games at 17 of the parks. He shared memories of the game(s) from each park and admitted if it was not a particularly memorable game it affected his ranking. At the bottom of his list was Tropicana Field in Tampa. His top five rankings were #5 – Oakland Coliseum (he saw roughly 40 games when he lived in the Bay Area for a while), #4 – Camden Yards, #3 – Dodger Stadium, #2 – Bank One Ballpark in Arizona (the lone game he saw was the Jose Jimenez (StL) no-hitter against Randy Johnson during the SABR Convention in 1999, and #1 – Busch Stadium, where he has attended more than 300 games.
Ron Wolf was the third presenter. Ron’s presentation was on “The 1886 National League Kansas City Cowboys.” He detailed the struggles of Kansas City to be admitted into the National League on a one season trial basis and then the further struggle to field a team. The team existed for only that one season and finished with a dismal 30-91 record. Ron passed out a roster of the team, which consisted of a total of 15 players. Included were such stellar players as catcher George Baker who played just one game, allowed six passed balls and six stolen bases and was released for inebriation. Utility player Dan Dugdale was released after twelve games for the same cause, and another player was released for “rowdy carousing and drinking.” The team led the league with 482 errors.
The final presentation of the afternoon was by Tommy Schaff, who is the CEO of a local consulting firm and uses baseball to help train company sales teams. His presentation was titled “Getting Maximum Leverage from All-Star Game Attendance.” He told of his experiences attending several All-Star games and the quest to obtain memorabilia from the games. Most notably he presented his vast collection of All-Star replica jerseys and how he has purchased many jerseys of the game MVPs. He also spoke of his participation at last year’s All-Star Game at the Field of Dreams movie site over Labor Day weekend. He was able to play alongside such greats as Wade Boggs, Rickey Henderson, Jim Rice, Jim Palmer, Paul Molitor, and Pete Rose.
All four presentations were very enjoyable and informative and the panel of judges chose Brian Flaspohler as the recipient of the Jim Rygelski Research Award. Brian received a monetary award of $200 and will receive the Rygelski Award at the chapter’s annual Hot Stove Luncheon in January. Congratulations, Brian. Well done!
The next regular monthly chapter meeting will be Monday, September 19, 2016, at The Original Crusoe’s Restaurant in south St. Louis.
— Jim Leefers