Thirty-two loyal chapter members — who still have power — from at least five different states plus Canada met via Zoom on February 22, 2021, for our monthly get-together of the SABR Larry Dierker Chapter. We welcomed two new members Michael Tantillo and James Land. Click here to watch a replay of this meeting on YouTube.
After announcements, we turned the meeting over to Tom Gilbert who discussed in great detail his book How Baseball Happened: Outrageous Lies Exposed! The True Story Revealed, which includes many truths and myths that have been generated about the beginnings of the sport. He relied on his extensive research going as far back as the 1840s, covering the first teams which began as social clubs, the three popular versions of early baseball games and their origins (the Massachusetts Game, Town Ball and the New York Game) and how baseball adapted to the times before turning into a professional enterprise.
Gilbert argued that although different versions of the game were played throughout the country in the pre-Civil War period, the version of the game that would come to dominate would be the version that originated in New York City. Tom also pointed out that one player who deserves to be acknowledged for his role in impacting the history of baseball was pitcher Jim Creighton who to this day is not enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Tom did a great job answering questions about his research and book from chapter members. His book, with an introduction by MLB official historian John Thorn, should be a great read.
Next came MLB.com reporter Brian McTaggart and the latest developments for the upcoming season. Brian speaks to Dusty Baker every morning at 7:30 AM and reports Dusty’s extremely enthusiasm about this year’s club. He explained that all eyes will be on the progress of young players like Forrest Whitley and potential new leadoff hitter Myles Straw. Brian explained that although Myles was no George Springer, his defense prowess as a defensive center fielder will make the transition away from Springer a little easier for Astros fans. Brian also spoke about slugger Yordan Alvarez. Yordan’s bat in the lineup is like adding a brand new player with power.
Our own Chris Chestnut batted clean-up and delivered a grand slam with his presentation on the fourteen Houston Astros players who made the team from 1963 before their 20th birthday. Several players we knew about included Larry Dierker, Rusty Staub, César Cedeño and John Mayberry but several players in Chris’ presentation were not widely known to the Astros fans. Players like Gene Ratliff, who had four major league at bats and struck out four times. Two other players, Jay Dahl and Candy Harris, got into only two MLB games. Then there was John Paciorek who played in one game, went 3 for 3, walked twice and drove in three runs. He retired as the only non-pitcher in MLB history with multiple at bats who had a lifetime batting average of 1.000. What a debut? Unfortunately, he never played again in the majors due to injuries.
Bob Dorrill presented the trivia contest, which focused on spring training. Mark Wernick and Herb Whatley tied with the most correct answers with Herb agreeing to write the next trivia contest.
Our next meeting is on Monday, March 15 with guest speakers David King and Stephen Bratkovich. It will also be time for members to guess how many wins the Astros will have in 2021. Please don’t forget to write an article for the chapter’s Spring Newsletter.
— Bob Dorrill