Larry Dierker Chapter meeting recap – 7/20/2020

The third virtual meeting of the Larry Dierker Chapter was attended by 31 members on July 20, 2020.

Chair Bob Dorrill was happy to report that our chapter continues to grow, with membership now at 144 fans of the game. SABR membership continues to expand as well, and SABR has agreed to support an initiative by Joe Thompson and Jimmy Disch to recruit young members to join.

Our first speaker, coming to us virtually from New York, was D.B. Firstman who spoke to us about their new book Hall of Name: Baseball’s Magnificent Monikers. D.B.’s lifetime interest has resulted in articles and blog posts on a variety of baseball topics. In reviewing years of research Firstman became interested in some of the more unusual names of those who have played our national pastime. Eventually this unusual topic became the theme for a self-published book. Four characteristics shaped the choice of those to be included: alliterative or rhyming names; names that sounded “naughty”; names that are fun to say; and those which caused you to wonder “what were the parents thinking??” Years of research continued, through genealogy sites, old newspaper, the Baseball Bio Project, etymology reference books, census records, and personal appeals. Ultimately the field was narrowed down to 100 players. For each of those, Firstman provides as comprehensive a look as possible at the player’s individual history, statistics, and trivia. D.B. was happy to respond to our questions and comments and will autograph any copies ordered directly; the book can also be purchased through Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Our second presenter was Brett Dolan, noted sportscaster now splitting his time between Houston and Arkansas. With collegiate sports on hold, he is currently commenting on some of the games in the Sugar Land Summer League. Because of the abbreviated college season and the canceled Minor League season, a variety of players tried out for the four teams playing at Constellation Field. The Covid-19 situation has drastically altered their career plans and this opportunity allowed them to continue playing. There are several with connections to the Astros: two of Roger Clemens’s sons, Trei Cruz, Shane Reynolds’s son, and Greg Swindell. Earlier this summer, Brett worked with Geoff Blum to call the games for a three-day tournament in College Station that drew collegiate players from around the country. Brett noted that this “bizarre, crazy year” has certainly been unique and that even limited baseball has brought some hint of normalcy. We were all very glad to have Brett join us to share his experiences and observations.

A brief discussion of the plans of MLB to reorganize the Minor Leagues and the Independent Leagues in 2021 followed. There are many ideas being floated, none of which sound positive to the fans of the game in attendance.

Tony Cavender reported that many articles have been submitted for the inaugural issue of the Houston Astros Shooting Star Express newsletter. It is expected to be published around the first of August.

The trivia quiz presented by Scott Barzilla focused on franchise names and nicknames from the past. The winner, Maxwell Kates, will provide a trivia quiz for the next meeting, which is scheduled for Monday, August 17, and our guest speakers will be author Tom Stone who wrote “Taking the Field” which compares players across time and Kris Gross Director of Amateur Scouting for the Houston Astros.

The July meeting was recorded and soon will be available online.

— Marsha Franty