Larry Dierker Chapter meeting recap - 9/16/2019

SABR's Larry Dierker Chapter held its monthly meeting on Monday, September 16, 2019, at the Spaghetti Western Restaurant in Houston. A variety of presentations provided an interesting evening.

President Bob Dorrill reported on the annual SABR 49 convention in San Diego which was attended by three of our members. He noted the superior accommodations as well as the proximity to the ballpark and other attractions. Although there have been 6 new chapters added, there has been a loss of 300 members overall in the past year. The new officers have initiated a Friends of SABR group which is raising funds for some new programs, such as Negro League grave markers, Women in Baseball, 19th Century Baseball, and the future of analytics. Bob reviewed some data on other chapters and stressed the importance of a commitment by the national office to the promotion of chapters. Leslie Heaphy is taking responsibility for dealing with chapter concerns. The 2020 SABR convention will be held in Baltimore.

In regard to our local chapter, we were reminded that Bob Dorrilll has developed and maintained this chapter for 16 years as well as spearheading the hosting of the 2014 SABR Convention. At a summer meeting, a group gathered to focus on the need to share the load and to expand our outreach. The plan for leadership succession is that Joe Thompson will be our next President, followed by Bob McCann. Other members committed to working on correspondence, membership, special projects, and speakers. Joe Thompson has established a Twitter handle (@HoustonSABR) for us to further our social media presence. Additional effort will be made to update and enhance our website at SABRHouston.org.

Ed Henderson, the artist who created the Astrodome animations, was scheduled to speak, but found himself in the hospital. We hope for his recovery and look forward to having him join us at a future meeting. Matt Remanjiak and his brother Ron brought in some of Ed’s original artwork for us to see.

Continuing with our look back into history, Mike Vance presented an interesting overview of the life and work of Judge Roy Hofheinz, the mastermind behind the Astrodome. He was a colorful character whose contributions to Houston were many and varied.

Andrew Gillingham brought us up to more contemporary matters in reviewing his recently completed Master’s Thesis (University of Oklahoma). His research concentrated on how the characteristics of the “Batter’s Eye” in 29 different parks influence hitters and the process of hitting. He noted the variable factors of the “Batter’s Eye”, such as color, composition, dimensions, and slant/angle. His data analysis showed a very narrow range of differences. Related research in the future might look at similar data for the Home Run Derby. Greg Lucas suggested that an interesting corollary would be to ask hitters about this matter.

The final agenda item was the announcement that Larry Dierker would be inducted into the Houston Astros Media Wall of Fame on Sunday, September 22, at the last home game of the season. This date just happens to be Larry’s birthday! Larry noted that this recognition is particularly meaningful to him in that it celebrates the hundreds of broadcasts he did, the newspaper columns he produced, and the books he has written. In response to a wide variety of questions, Larry commented on some of the new policies, such as use of the clock and instant replay. He also elaborated on some of the fine points of learning different pitches and philosophized about the relative importance of hitting/offense versus pitching/defense and about the difficult and subjective choices a manager must make regarding the use of his pitching staff, particularly during the playoffs. We are so grateful that, in retirement, Larry plays an active, engaged role in his namesake chapter. The wisdom and insights he shares with us enrich our knowledge and appreciation of the game ... thanks, Larry!

Due to the late hour, the quiz was postponed until the October 21 meeting.

— Marsha Franty