Larry Dierker SABR Chapter members:
Our good friend Maxwell Kates from Toronto did an excellent job at our meeting on Monday, November 12, 2018, in front of 38 chapter members by first introducing us to his new SABR book, “Time for Expansion Baseball.” In fact this was the world premiere of the book (which will be available at SABR.org/ebooks soon) and we were honored that it was done in Houston.
As Maxwell stated, 22 members of our chapter were involved with the publication, especially the part on the Houston Colt 45’s. Besides Maxwell, individual chapters were written by locals Joe Thompson, Mark Wernick and David Skelton, while the foreword was penned by Tal Smith.
Maxwell started his presentation by reviewing the performance of all 14 expansion teams since their arrival from 1961 on and compared the initial 10 years of performance of each team in a variety of statistical measures. Maxwell studied player drafts, World Series appearances. won-loss analysis, and individual player accomplishments using aggregate WAR numbers.
The majority of the book features individual articles by accomplished SABR writers covering all aspects of expansion baseball. If you missed getting a copy of the book, I will have copies at our next chapter meeting in December.
Maxwell then shifted gear and moderated a lively panel discussion by former Colt .45’s players Bob Aspromonte, Larry Dierker, executive Tal Smith, and local historian Bill McCurdy.
Bob Aspromonte told us how inspiring and yet terrifying it was to take infield with Pee Wee Reese, Jackie Robinson, and Gil Hodges, and then play for the Brooklyn Dodgers, his boyhood heroes. Bob mentioned how Jackie Robinson, during an infield drill, took off his glove, and gave it to Bob for his use. He mentioned contract negotiations with the Astros including a request from the team he couldn’t (wouldn’t) comply with and told us an inspiring story of his lifelong relationship with a young blind boy who asked Bob to hit a home run for him 3 different times. Guess what happened.
Larry Dierker told us many stories about his career starting with his first major league game at age 18, how he transitioned from broadcaster to manager while not initially understanding the culture in the clubhouse and dugout at the outset. Towards the end of the panel discussion Dierk joined Maxwell Kates to sing a portion of Larry’s famous song “Proud to be an Astro” — the PG version anyway.
Tal Smith reflected on his career coming from Cincinnati and working with Gabe Paul, how he had to quickly research and find a playing surface for the Astrodome since grass wouldn’t grow indoors, his 21-month relationship with George Steinbrenner, and his feelings about today’s use of analysts and scouts.
Bill McCurdy represented Jimmy Wynn, who was unable to attend, and spoke about the excitement of Houston in receiving a major-league team and all that entails up to and including the culmination of a World Series championship in 2017.
For a more detailed review of the meeting please check out Bill McCurdy’s blog today where Maxwell describes his “Best Day in SABR”: https://bill37mccurdy.com/2018/11/15/my-greatest-day-in-sabr/
All in all, it was a great meeting and we will welcome Maxwell back whenever he can make it.
However, it must also be reported that after our session Houston received its first November snow in years. Maxwell????
The trivia contest generated by Mike McCroskey, Tal Smith, and Dick Bily was won by Tom White and his team.
Next meeting will be at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, December 3 at the Spaghetti Western restaurant on Shepherd Drive with Sports Illustrated writer Ben Reiter as our guest. Come join us for another fun and interesting evening!
— Bob Dorrill