Halsey Hall Chapter meeting recap – 4/21/2012

By Stew Thornley

Twenty-four members—Howard Luloff, Gene Gomes, Art Mugalian, Mendal Mearkle, Scott Cummings, Gary DeSmith, Wayne Leebaw, Lee Temanson, John Swol, Barry Bengtsson, Kevin Hennessy, Brenda Himrich, Cary Smith, Jerry Janzen, Jed Levitt, Fritz Reeker, Dave Jensen, Roger Godin, Ray Luurs, Dan Levitt, Doug Skipper, Lloyd Kepple, and Terry Bohn—attended the Halsey Hall Chapter spring meeting on April 21. Clark and Sima Griffith also attended.

Four members gave research presentations:

  • Scott Cummings, a student at the University of Minnesota, presented his college senior paper, Sabermetric Defense in Baseball, and examined ways of measuring defensive performance with a focus on the differences between Adam Everett and Derek Jeter.
  • Terry Bohn came from North Dakota and talked about the early history of Dakota baseball, replete with names that later became prominent in Minneapolis baseball: Walter Wilmot, Joe Cantillon, and Deacon Phillippe.
  • Mendal Mearkle presented on Boston’s worst day in the majors, May 15, 1894, when the Great Roxbury Fire destroyed the South End Grounds, where the fire started while Baltimore’s John McGraw and Boston’s Tommy Tucker fought on the field.
  • Gene Gomes talked about Abner Powell, who pitched in the Union Association and American Association and then pitched and played for New Orleans in the Southern League for many years. He eventually become manager and owner and contributed to the popularity of Ladies Days. His other innovations included the rain check and the infield tarpaulin. Powell involved in an “inside-the-bark homer” when he played center field for Cincinnati in 1886 and a dog interfered with a hit by Louisville’s Chicken Wolf.

Former Twins executive Clark Griffith (above) was the keynote speaker in the afternoon. He said he found SABR “intimidating” although he was an early computer user for analyzing baseball statistics, using a hand-held calculator for determining fielders’ range and determining the best statistics for judging a player. He finally concluding that he couldn’t do it, that there were too many variables, and that a scout was the best way to find out how good someone was. “Statistical analysis is used as a first filter, ” he said. “After that, you have to look at the player. ”

Born in 1941, Clark talked about growing up in a baseball culture with his dad, Calvin, and four uncles/great uncle who played in the majors—Joe Haynes, Sherry Robertson, and Hall of Famers Clark Griffith and Joe Cronin. He rode home from games with Clark and Calvin, listening to them analyze the game and then getting quizzed by the pair about what had happened in the game.

Clark said he was a good enough player in high school that Yankees manager Casey Stengel said to him, “You better come play for me, young man, because your dad can”t afford you. ”

Clark graduated in college and joined the Twins’ front office in 1966, which was also the first year the players had a viable union. He spoke well of Players Association Marvin Miller and was frank in his criticism of the business practices of management. Clark was a member of the Major League Baseball Players Relations Committee and became enamored with the law. He entered law school and was in school in 1984 when his dad sold the team to Carl Pohlad.

Clark was instrumental in Major League baseball licensing its logos, modernizing the trading-card business to allow companies besides Topps to produce them, and helped develop the weekly program, This Week in Baseball, using video clips from the previous week’s games. Clark said he was at a meeting in New York to discuss centralizing baseball’s cable revenues in November 1984, but his quest was cut short when he got a phone call with the news he was being fired from the Twins by the Pohlads.

Asked about Billy Martin, Clark said his dad had to fire Martin because of all the trouble he caused during his year of managing the Twins and that the players didn’t like Martin.

Clark concluded his talk by reading an essay he wrote several years ago, Baseball’s Timeless Appeal, printed here.

During the semi-annual business meeting, Jerry Janzen, Howard Luloff, and Dave Jensen were elected to two-year terms on the chapter board of directors, succeeding outgoing members Janzen (succeeding himself), Cary Smith, and Bob Tholkes.

In the evening, members gathered to watch the Twins-Rays game at a downtown watering hole.

For more information on the Halsey Hall Chapter, visit our website at HalseyHall.org.