Thirty-eight members and guests of the Larry Dierker Chapter met on Monday, February 17, 2020, at the Spaghetti Western restaurant in Houston for an enjoyable evening of presentations and discussions.
In his introductory remarks, Chairman Bob Dorrill noted the passing of Raymond Lacy, a Negro Leagues player who had spoken to our chapter a few years ago, and of Ed Henderson, who had designed the electronic graphics used in the Astrodome. He reminded members that the SABR 50 convention will be held in Baltimore in mid-July. You can now register online at https://sabr.org/convention. Also, he polled the members regarding who had interest in attending a Sugar Land Skeeters game and an Astros game as a group, as we have done in the past. Due to the interest expressed, Mike McCroskey will organize the Skeeters event and Michael Lombard will organize the Astros event.
The keynote speaker of the evening was the very entertaining Scipio Spinks, former MLB pitcher and scout and newly-appointed coach of the University of Houston Downtown baseball team. He warmed up the crowd with a fun quiz of baseball nicknames, then took us back to his boyhood days in Chicago when he would go at 7 AM to sit on the stoop of Ernie Banks’ home and wait to accompany “Mr. Cub” to the ballpark. On one such day, Scipio met George Altman whom he would later face and strike out with three fastballs. Scipio was traded by the Houston Astros to the St. Louis Cardinals where he found himself in the pitching rotation with the great Bob Gibson. Initially Scipio was very intimidated by Gibson, but eventually was greatly influenced by the Hall of Famer. When his playing days came to an end, Scipio was hired by Tal Smith and Gerry Hunsicker to be part of the first “pro” scouting staff to be on the scene in April at the very beginning of the season. Soon other teams recognized the value in that and followed suit. He also related his role as a “double” for Lou Gossett Jr., in “Don’t Look Back,” the film about the great Satchel Paige, whom he met during the course of the filming. Currently, in addition to his coaching position, Scipio is active in the movement to revise the rules for how long former players must have played in order to be eligible for an MLB pension. All in attendance were very engaged by the memories and ideas Scipio shared, and were glad that his wife Jeannette was present as well.
The second presentation was led by our own Bill Brown, former Astros announcer. He spoke about how differently journalists cover the game today and about the pervasiveness and influence of 24/7 social media coverage. He offered a comprehensive review of the Astros’ 2017 hitting statistics. Greg Lucas joined Bill to review and evaluate potential rule changes. Larry Dierker, Tal Smith, Scipio Spinks, and others joined in a spirited discussion of these matters and of the issues currently confronting our hometown team. It was definitely a “hot stove” evening!
Bob McCann introduced his suggestion of members participating in a fantasy/rotisserie baseball league. Several attendees expressed an interest in participating, and information will be distributed to all Chapter members. This is an activity which Bob believes could get off the ground in time for the start of the season.
Scott Barzilla reported that he has nearly completed an update of his Hall of Fame Index. He expects that it will be available on Amazon within a few months.
The Tom White Memorial Quiz prepared by Fred Rodgers was won by the team of Tony Cavender, Wesley Story, Mike McCroskey and Tal Smith. Wesley agreed to write next month’s contest.
Our next meeting is planned for Monday, March 16 at 7:00 p.m. at the Spaghetti Western on Shepherd Drive.
— Marsha Franty