SABR 51: Research Presentations
Learn more about our SABR 51 research presentations on this page. Abstracts and presenter bios will be available soon. Click here to learn more about the poster presentations on display at SABR 51.
Visit SABR.org/convention to learn more or to register for the 2023 SABR convention. All baseball fans are welcome to attend SABR 51.
Thursday, July 6
1:00 p.m.-1:25 p.m. (Grand Ballroom, 4th Floor)
RP01: Gambling and the National Pastime, 1935-1950
Steven A. Riess
The mythology has it that gambling was completely removed from baseball in 1920 by Judge Landis. Perhaps it disappeared from the field and the clubhouse, but Riess demonstrates that betting on baseball became big (illegal) business in the 20th century. Between the mid-1930s and 1950, baseball betting became nearly as popular as (largely legal) thoroughbred wagering. A nearly-forgotten month-long investigation by the New York Post in 1949 laid out the mechanics as well as the monetary volume of baseball betting, including extensive bookmaking during the late 1940s in New York City public schools.
Steven A. Riess <email@example.com> (Ph.D., University of Chicago), has studied American sport history for over fifty years, and taught the history of sport for 37 years. He has written five monographs, including Touching Base: Professional Baseball and American Culture in the Progressive Era, rev. ed., (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1999) and City Games: The Evolution of American Society and the Rise of Sports (Urbana; University of Illinois Press, 1989). He edited over thirty books for the Syracuse University Series on “Sport and Entertainment,” and edited the Journal of Sport History for eight years. His research has been awarded by various national prizes and supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities. In 2022 the North American Society for Sport History recognized him with the Guy Lewis Award for Contributions to the field of sport history.</firstname.lastname@example.org>
1:00 p.m.-1:25 p.m. (State Ballroom, 4th Floor)
RP02: All the Way: The Baseball Life of Maybelle Blair
A role model in every sense of the term, Maybelle Blair continues her baseball-for-women activism well into her 90s. As a longtime friend of Blair’s, Kat Williams is the ideal person to profile this baseball (and social) pioneer at SABR 51. A child of the Great Depression, player in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, and inspiration for both the 1992 movie and recent Amazon series A League of Their Own, Blair also helped to create the International Women’s Baseball Center in 2014.
Kat Williams <Williamskath@marshall.edu> is a Professor of Women’s Sport History at Marshall University, CEO of the International Women’s Baseball Center, author of several articles about women’s sport including “Sport: A Useful Category of Analysis” and two books, The All-American Girls After the AAGPBL and Isabel “Lefty” Alvarez: The Improbable Life of a Cuban American Baseball Star. Through teaching, scholarship and advocacy Kat is dedicated to the preservation of women’s sport history, and to helping girls become independent, confident leaders.
1:30 p.m.-1:55 p.m. (Grand Ballroom, 4th Floor)
RP03: A Fresh Scent of Scandal: The O’Connell-Dolan Affair
The lesson of the Black Sox Scandal lasted less than half a decade. In the last week of the 1924 season, it was alleged that a New York Giants player had offered the Philadelphia Phillies a bribe to tank the clinching game. Although the facts were (still are) murky, accusations and demands flew throughout MLB. Garratt uses this sordid affair to reflect on the extensive history of Giants corruption, and to shine a light in particular on owner Charles Stoneham and his reputation for shady business practices and legal troubles.
Rob Garratt <email@example.com> is an Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Puget Sound and has been a member of SABR since 2011. His research has focused on New York and San Francisco Giants history. His book Home Team: the Turbulent History of the San Francisco Giants considered the Giants’ move from New York in 1957 and their subsequent history in California. His latest biography on Giants owner Charles A. Stoneham, Jazz Age Giant: Charles A. Stoneham and New York City Baseball in the Roaring Twenties, was recently published by the University of Nebraska Press. Rob has contributed to a number of SABR projects, including the Team Ownership Histories, the BioProject, and collected essays.
1:30 p.m.-1:55 p.m. (State Ballroom, 4th Floor)
RP04: The Inglorious Exit of Adrian Anson
Perhaps the greatest of baseball’s early stars, Adrian “Cap” Anson starred on and managed numerous championship teams. The first member of the 3,000-Hit Club, winner of four batting titles, and 1939 inductee to the Hall of Fame, Anson even had an ownership share of the Chicago White Stockings. Yet he left the club on bad terms in 1897. Using team financial records, newspaper reports, and Anson’s own words, Haupert describes the reasons for this falling-out as the sharp conflict between on-field heroism and business decision-making. In baseball, as is true almost everywhere, business wins out.
Michael Haupert<firstname.lastname@example.org> is Professor of Economics at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, Executive Director of the Economic History Association, and has been co-chair of SABR’s Business of Baseball Committee since 2012. He has presented and published numerous papers on the business of baseball. He was awarded the Doug Pappas Award for best presentation at the 2014 SABR convention and in 2020 he received SABR’s Henry Chadwick Award for lifetime contributions to baseball research.
2:00 p.m.-2:25 p.m. (Grand Ballroom, 4th Floor)
RP05: No Return to Normalcy: American Baseball Confronts the Postwar World
Collective memory paints the years right after World War II as a “golden age” of baseball, starring Jackie Robinson and New York City powerhouses. Removing the rose-colored glasses, however, reveals numerous challenges within baseball, from the rebel Mexican League through the difficulties of desegregation to the decline of the Rust Belt, the deterioration of many ballparks, and the rise of suburbanization. Gietschier marshals a wide range of primary and secondary sources to present a more nuanced (and more accurate) picture of the game in post-war America.
Steve Gietschier <email@example.com> became a SABR member in 1987 just after The Sporting News hired him to establish and manage its archives. He created The Sporting News Research Center and remained with TSN until 2008 when the company moved from St. Louis to Charlotte. In 2009, he joined the history department of a local university where he taught US history, the history of sport, and baseball history among other courses. In 2021, he rejoined TSN as archival consultant. He is the author of Baseball: The Turbulent Midcentury Years, published by the University of Nebraska Press (2023).
2:00 p.m.-2:25 p.m. (State Ballroom, 4th Floor)
RP06: Dan Uggla: History’s Most Unlikely Hitting Streak?
Hitting streaks of 30 or more games are extremely rare. With all-time greats (DiMaggio, Cobb, et al.) on the list, it seems obvious that such streaks require real batting prowess. Of course, there’s luck involved as well; how else to explain the likes of Jerome Walton and Andre Ethier? And then there’s Dan Uggla, a low-BA guy in the middle of a horrid 2011 season who, out of nowhere, had hits in 33 straight games. The utter improbability of Uggla’s feat offers Firstman the opportunity to apply statistical methods to the problem, complementing the historical and biographical aspects.
David Firstman <firstname.lastname@example.org> is a Data Analyst for the city of New York. His work has appeared at ESPN, Bronx Banter, Baseball Prospectus, The Hardball Times, and in The Village Voice. His research on the history and impact of “Three True Outcomes” won the best poster presentation award at SABR 48, and was included in the SABR 50 at 50 anthology book. He presented his findings on whether foul balls lengthened ballgames at SABR 50 in Baltimore. He is the author of Hall of Name, a book profiling 100 of the most memorable monikers in baseball history, and is currently working on a book profiling the players with the longest hit streaks since 1941.
2:30 p.m.-2:55 p.m. (Grand Ballroom, 4th Floor)
RP07: Ernest Hemingway: Chicago Baseball Mysteries
That Ernest Hemingway was a baseball fan probably doesn’t surprise you. But that he grew up as a Chicago baseball fan, in the shadow of the Chicago Whales and the Black Sox Scandal, will be of interest to everyone with even a passing interest in perhaps the greatest American writer of the 20th century. He left us clues, from a 1918 ticket stub, to items in his personal library, to allusions in his fiction (especially in The Old Man and the Sea), to the children’s team he created in Cuba, and more. Hemingway scholar Hamilton is our guide.
Dr. Sharon Hamilton <email@example.com> has a Ph.D. in English and has taught classes on writing and literature at universities in Canada, Italy, Austria, and the US, including at Georgetown University. She is a member of the international Hemingway Society Board and the chair of SABR’s Century Committee, which celebrates important milestones in baseball history.
2:30 p.m.-2:55 p.m. (State Ballroom, 4th Floor)
RP08: Shining Light on the Smiling Stan Hack Mirror
Tracking down the origin of a Bill Veeck tale? Sounds like something right in Herm Krabbenhoft’s wheelhouse. When lifelong Cubbie Stan Hack died, Veeck spun the story of a game where he sold mirrors with Hack’s picture on them … and then suggested that fans should reflect sunlight into opposition players’ eyes; all havoc broke loose. But Veeck didn’t offer any details – not even the date of the Hack mirror game. Using multiple sources – from newspapers to interviews with Hack and Veeck relatives – Krabbenhoft meticulously explores the event, uncovering the true story of one of Veeck’s most outrageous baseball promotions.
Herm Krabbenhoft <firstname.lastname@example.org> is a retired research chemist who has been a SABR member since 1981. Among his numerous baseball research accomplishments are: (a) Restoring the 1912 NL Triple Crown to Heinie Zimmerman; (b) Establishing, in collaboration with Keith Carlson, David Newman, and Dixie Tourangeau, the accurate ML record for most runs scored in a single season by an individual player — Billy Hamilton, 196 runs for Philadelphia in 1894; (c) Creating, in collaboration with Jim Smith and Steve Boren, the definitive SBK Triple Play Database. Herm is the author of Leadoff Batters, published by McFarland in 2001. He has been the recipient of three SABR Baseball Research Awards (1992, 1996, 2013).
Friday, July 7
8:00 a.m.-8:25 a.m. (Grand Ballroom, 4th Floor)
RP09: Lessons from 30 Years Researching Baseball and the Color Line
As a columnist and feature writer at a newspaper in Daytona Beach, Florida. Chris Lamb thought he knew everything about baseball. After interviewing Billy Rowe in 1993, all of that changed. Rowe had worked as a photographer with the Pittsburgh Courier, accompanying Courier sports editor Wendell Smith to Daytona Beach to cover the story of Jackie Robinson’s first spring training in 1946. Rowe spent six weeks with Smith and Jackie and Rachel Robinson. In the months and years after his conversation with Rowe, Lamb realized he knew little about either baseball or about America. This conversation with Rowe sent him on a 30-year journey to study baseball, race, and the press.
Lamb shares lessons learned from his research, and posits that you can’t understand the history of race in America without understanding the history of race in baseball. He describes the mistakes he made believing what journalists wrote and what historians repeated. Lamb discusses how White sportswriters participated in what one Black sportswriter called a “conspiracy of silence” about the color line in baseball, including the campaign to integrate baseball in the 1930s.
Chris Lamb<email@example.com> is chair of the Journalism and Public Relations Department at Indiana University-Indianapolis. He is a historian, lecturer, satirist, and columnist, and the author of 12 books, including Stolen Dreams: The Cannon Street Little League All-Stars and Little League Baseball’s Civil War; Jackie Robinson: A Spiritual Biography; Conspiracy of Silence: Sportswriters and the Long Campaign to Desegregate Baseball; and Blackout: The Untold Story of Jackie Robinson’s First Spring Training. His columns and articles have appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Sports Illustrated, USA Today, The Undefeated, Los Angeles Times, ESPN.com, NewRepublic.com, and The Nation.
8:00 a.m.-8:25 a.m. (State Ballroom, 4th Floor)
RP10: Luke Appling Versus The White Sox: September 1967
On August 21, 1967, the Chicago White Sox are tied with the Twins for first place in the American League. The Red Sox and the Tigers are close behind. The White Sox are in pursuit of what would be only their second pennant since 1919. The same day, the tenth-place Kansas City Athletics take the field under their new manager, legendary White Sox shortstop Luke Appling, who took over from the fired Alvin Dark. The ambitions of Appling and his former team collide on September 27 as the White Sox play a doubleheader in Kansas City. The Athletics seem to be merely a speed bump on the way to a possible White Sox flag. Lesch brings together the dramatic 1967 pennant race, the last days of the Athletics sojourn in Kansas City, and the brightest moment in Luke Appling’s sole campaign as a major-league manager.
R.J. Lesch <firstname.lastname@example.org> is a business analyst living in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, with wife Laura Rumley. He has been a White Sox fan since the Harry Caray days and a SABR member since 1998. He is delighted to be a member of the Deadball Era and Baseball and the Arts committees. He is also an avid fencer and certified fencing coach, his specialty being sabre. This can be confusing to family and friends.
8:30 a.m.-8:55 a.m. (Grand Ballroom, 4th Floor)
RP11: Replacement Spring: Baseball on the Brink in 1995
Matthew J. Prigge
The players’ strike of 1994-1995 is a landmark event in recent baseball history. The “replacement player” rosters cobbled together by an ownership body intent on breaking the players’ union were less than two days away from becoming Major Leaguers when the strike was ended. Prigge recounts baseball’s path from the devastating cancellation of the 1994 World Series to the doorstep of opening the 1995 season with rosters of strikebreakers.He examines how the strike and the MLB players’ union fits into the larger narrative of American labor history, and how the union’s exclusion of minor league players led many of them to justify their defiance of the union’s decrees while still considering themselves backers of organized labor. He also discusses the 1995 season that nearly was and the odd rules and quirks of a campaign that would have seen the Toronto Blue Jays playing home games in Florida, the Baltimore Orioles refusing to participate, and teams around the league facing possible pickets from sympathetic unions and local legislation aimed at shutting down replacement ball before it ever started.
Matthew J. Prigge <email@example.com> is a historian and author from Milwaukee. His fifth book, Opening Day in Milwaukee: Brewers’ Season-Starters, 1970-2022, was released in April 2023 by McFarland and Company. He works in the Milwaukee area as a librarian and archivist.
8:30 a.m.-8:55 a.m. (State Ballroom, 4th Floor)
RP12: The Success and Setbacks of Bill Veeck
1977 was a historic year for the Chicago White Sox. The South Side Hitmen set a franchise attendance record that lasted until 1983 when the Sox won their first division title. However, Bill Veeck financially couldn’t compete in the free agent market. So he would trade for Rent-a-Players, which drew Veeck praise when the 1977 team won 90 games. In the long run, it didn’t work. White Sox fans became disillusioned. They saw free agent movement all over MLB, but no impact players were coming to their team. Veeck tried to sell them on the hope of young players, but fans were not impressed with rebuilding. They went from excited to bored and attendance dropped. All of this set the stage for the low point of Veeck’s career: Disco Demolition Night. Helpingstine presents the two-sided version of Bill Veeck. First, he bought the team in 1975, saving it for Sox fans as it appeared to be moving to Seattle and creating the 1977 team. But then he and his team were remembered for all the wrong reasons. His credibility suffered. Bill Veeck sold the team in 1981.
Dan Helpingstine <firstname.lastname@example.org> is a freelance writer who has published seven books, five on the Chicago White Sox. He has a BA in Political Science from Indiana University. He also has worked as a stringer for three different newspapers.
9:00 a.m.-9:25 a.m. (Grand Ballroom, 4th Floor)
RP13: Baseball – The Dominican Way
The Dominican Republic is a hotbed country where many MLB ballplayers hail. In November 2022, Kanter traveled to the Dominican Republic to experience, first-hand, the Dominican Way of baseball. Buscons, or finders, scout ballplayers from a very young age, training the young players to attempt to get them signed by MLB teams. Kanter visited a scouting combine, akin to the NFL scouting combine, where American agents were attempting to discern which players had the ability to eventually attain MLB status. He saw players in teams and leagues at the buscons’ camps, watching players as young as 5 or 6 up to the age of 14 play ball in the middle of Santo Domingo under electrical lines. He experienced, in several different venues, how fans fully immersed themselves in the game experience. He also discusses his experience visiting the fledgling Dominican Hall of Fame and meeting poet (and ex-major leaguer) Miguel Batista.
Mark Kanter <email@example.com> grew up in Bristol, Pennsylvania where he became a lifelong Philadelphia Phillies fan. He got the itch watching the last few outs of Jim Bunning’s perfect game against the Mets on Father’s Day in 1964. As a member of SABR since 1985, he has made numerous presentations at SABR meetings and national conventions, as well as writing articles for the Baseball Research Journal, The Northern Game and Beyond, The National Pastime: From Swampoodle to South Philly, and several SABR BioProject biographies. He was the editor of The Northern Game and Beyond, the 2002 Boston SABR convention journal. He has won 12 SABR Team Trivia Contests since 1997.
9:00 a.m.-9:25 a.m. (State Ballroom, 4th Floor)
RP14: The Ultimate Tear Down and Rebuild: The White Sox, 1921-28
There is nothing new about baseball organizations “rebuilding” their teams, or at least attempting to. Perhaps the earliest famous example of a “tear-down and rebuild” was when a cash-starved Connie Mack, faced with aging pitchers and the threat of the new Federal League luring his stars away, dismantled his 1914 pennant-winning Philadelphia Athletics. The result was a swift and near-total collapse. The Chicago White Sox in 1920 finished 96-58 and subsequently lost seven suspended players (including four starting field players and two starting pitchers) without compensation. This can be considered the ultimate tear-down. Allardice focuses on how owner Charles Comiskey rebuilt his decimated team. It will focus on the difference between 1920s player acquisition rules and today, and compare the Sox’s rebuild with that of other clubs. Using modern sabermetrics such as WAR, the presentation will show that the Sox, after this unprecedented loss of talent, actually did a fairly good job rebuilding the team to the point that within five years, they had a winning record.
A professor of history, Bruce Allardice <firstname.lastname@example.org> edits the newsletter of the SABR Origins of Baseball Committee. He has authored or co-authored seven books, and over 100 articles, on American history and the history of baseball, and is a frequent contributor to the SABR Black Sox Research Committee Newsletter. His article in the Baseball Research Journal on baseball from 1866-70 won the McFarland-SABR Research Award for best baseball history article of 2021.
9:30 a.m.-9:55 a.m. (Grand Ballroom, 4th Floor)
RP15: The Coming of the Farm System and the Manipulation of Player Control Rights
Daniel R. Levitt
In the late nineteenth century, baseball’s owners put in place the infamous “reserve system” to control player movement and salaries. Once implemented, they needed to fashion a whole set of rules to govern player movement. As soon as these rules were in place, teams often did whatever they could to skirt them. Initially, teams used their often one-off relationships with minor league franchises to evade player control rules. In the early 1920s, with the costs of acquiring star players from the minors skyrocketing, St. Louis Cardinals GM Branch Rickey devised a strategic idea to circumvent some of the player control and cost constraints: the farm system. Only a few years after Rickey’s innovation, other big-league teams followed and signed up their own minor league franchises. Predictably, an organized farm system offered even greater opportunities to duck the rules. Levitt delves into these manipulations and offers a fascinating look into how baseball executives tried to gain an unfair advantage and the consequent attempts to police them. In fact, Commissioner Landis’s first court challenge stemmed from just such an action.Levitt discusses how widespread cheating has been and how nearly all teams and owners tried to get away with something—depriving players of their right to advance and unfairly controlling players beyond prescribed roster limits.
Daniel R. Levitt <email@example.com> is the author of several award-winning baseball books and numerous essays. He is the Treasurer of SABR and co-chair of SABR’s Business of Baseball committee. Dan is a recipient of the Bob Davids Award and the Henry Chadwick Award. His most recent book, Intentional Balk: Baseball’s This Line Between Innovation and Cheating, received the 2023 Seymour Medal.
9:30 a.m.-9:55 a.m. (State Ballroom, 4th Floor)
RP16: A Clash of Playing Styles: The 1959 World Series
Barry Mednick and Steve Krevisky
While much has been written about the 1959 White Sox and the 1959 Dodgers, including their World Series clash that year, Krevisky and Mednick focus on the rarely addressed aspect of how these teams represent different playing styles. The White Sox relied on small ball, while the Dodgers relied on power. They will document what these differences were through sabermetric methods, illustrating how two different playing styles led to World Series appearances. Chicago won its first pennant in 40 years with a style that was a throwback to the Dead Ball era, in contrast to the power game of the 1950s that the Dodgers brought with them into this first World Series on the West Coast.
Barry Mednick <firstname.lastname@example.org> is a leader of the Allan Roth SABR chapter in Los Angeles. He has been very involved in fantasy and simulation baseball leagues, such as the Great American Baseball League, and Replay Baseball. He has attended and presented at numerous SABR conventions.
Steve Krevisky <email@example.com> is a math professor, and is in the same leagues as Barry. He is President of SABR’s Connecticut Smoky Joe Wood Chapter, and has also attended and presented at many SABR conventions. He has been on seven SABR trivia team championship teams.
1:00 p.m.-2:00 p.m. (Grand Ballroom, 4th Floor)
RP17: The Three-Batter Rule: Demise of the LOOGY?
David W. Smith
Mid-inning pitcher changes consume over two minutes each. To address pace of play, MLB implemented a rule in 2020 to limit these changes by requiring pitchers to face at least three batters or pitch to the end of the inning. Smith examines the effect of the new rule and relief pitcher usage in a larger historical context, using all games from 1901 to 2022 from the Retrosheet database. He addresses significant changes in relief appearances with a large effect on the so-called LOOGY (Left-Handed One Out Guy). The last three seasons have seen longer average stints by starters and shorter ones by relievers, but the total number of batters faced by relievers has decreased as well. Smith reveals the impact of these changes on the number of mid-inning pitcher changes and game length,and notes some surprising trends that predate the implementation of the three-batter rule.
David W. Smith <firstname.lastname@example.org> joined SABR in 1977 and has multiple papers in the Baseball Research Journal. He has made research presentations at 24 national SABR conventions and many more at regional meetings. He is a two-time winner of the Doug Pappas Award, in 2001 and 2016, for best research presentation at the SABR convention. In 2005 he received SABR’s highest honor, the Bob Davids Award, and in 2012 he was honored with the Henry Chadwick Award. He is the founder and first President of Retrosheet and is an Emeritus Professor of Biology after 40 years of service at the University of Delaware.
2:00 p.m.-2:25 p.m. (Grand Ballroom, 4th Floor)
RP18: Wreckers in Hawaii: The Army Team that Became the Heart of the Kansas City Monarchs
While writing the SABR biography for Oscar “Heavy” Johnson, Darowski became fascinated by Johnson’s time with the U.S. Army’s 25th Infantry Wreckers, an all-Black baseball team that dominated the Hawaiian baseball scene in the years preceding World War I. Johnson’s teammates on the Wreckers included Wilber “Bullet” Rogan, Walter “Dobie” Moore, and Lemuel Hawkins—all of whom would join him on the Kansas City Monarchs in the 1920s. Darowski pieced together season statistics for the Wreckers, and shares his greater understanding of this important team in Negro League history, while shedding new light on both the 14 Wreckers who played in the major Negro Leagues, and the many other players, some of whom were just as good. Darowski also discusses the Wreckers’ opponents, including the all-star team Casey Stengel brought to Arizona in 1919 to face the Wreckers.
Adam Darowski <email@example.com> is the Product Director for Sports Reference, makers of Baseball Reference and Stathead. Adam has been a SABR member since 2013 and serves as co-chair of the 19th Century Overlooked Legends Committee. He created the Hall of Stats in 2012 and is the host of two podcasts: Building the Ballot (about the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Era Committees) and The Outsider Baseball Notebook (about baseball outside of the major leagues before integration). Adam tweets about baseball history at @baseballtwit.
2:00 p.m.-2:25 p.m. (State Ballroom, 4th Floor)
RP19: Harnessing the Power of Building Information Modeling to Preserve Chicago’s Baseball Palace of the World
Chicago’s old Comiskey Park met the inevitable wrecking ball six months after the final pitch in 1990, leaving no trace of the ballpark that hosted four World Series and three All-Star games while enduring two world wars and social change along the way. Since that time, the advancement of digital tools in architectural software has provided an ideal platform to use Building Information Modeling to merge eight decades of information extracted from elusive blueprints thought to be lost to time. Powers demonstrates how he developed and uses an interactive 3D model to enter and extract data for research, cataloging historical elements and simulating a virtual architectural experience. He demonstrates how he identifies relevant data and embeds it into predefined modeling elements, showing how this data can be used for valuation of old stadium seating through “artifact tracing.”
Brian Powers <firstname.lastname@example.org> is a Chicago architect with dedicated experience in the preservation of historic sporting facilities of amateur and professional teams across the country. Brian’s work has been featured in many publications in addition to exhibits in the Baseball Heritage Museum in Cleveland and the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. In 2019, Brian founded Bandbox Ballparks as a platform to share his specialized research in digital preservation of historic ballparks. Brian is a member of SABR and the American Institute of Architects, and a Life Member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
2:30 p.m.-2:55 p.m. (Grand Ballroom, 4th Floor)
RP20: Turkey Stearnes: One-Man Wrecking Crew in 1930s Negro Leagues
From 1930 to 1940 when he retired, slugging outfielder Turkey Stearnes put together an incredible streak of playing for multiple pennant winners and postseason teams in the Major Negro Leagues. In the 1930s, if you were a Western Negro League team and you wanted to win, you hired Turkey Stearnes. Stearnes was a “player’s player” in the parlance of the game. A true superstar and a five-tool player, he did not receive the recognition he deserved during his career, though Black baseball historians have elevated Stearnes’ status in the past three decades. Gillette shows the amazing impact Stearnes had in the 1930s Negro Leagues, especially on two of the most famous Negro League teams of all-time: the Chicago American Giants and the Kansas City Monarchs.
Gary Gillette <GGillette@HiddenGameSports.com> is an historian and consultant who has written, edited, or contributed to dozens of baseball books, encyclopedias, and websites. As founder and chair of the nonprofit Friends of Historic Hamtramck Stadium, he led the successful campaign to restore the historic site, one of only five remaining Major Negro League home ballparks. He founded SABR’s Detroit Chapter and is currently president of SABR’s Southern Michigan Chapter. He served on SABR’s Board of Directors from 2009 to 2012 and is a past co-chair of the Business of Baseball Committee and the Ballparks Committee. He received the Tweed Webb Lifetime Achievement Award in 2021 from the Negro Leagues Committee.
2:30 p.m.-2:55 p.m. (State Ballroom, 4th Floor)
RP21: Jacks (and Césars, and Shanes, and Martíns, and …) of All Trades
Neal D. Traven
While much has been written about the five players who appeared at every position in a single game – Bert Campaneris, César Tovar, Scott Sheldon, Shane Halter, and Andrew Romine – there is very little literature on those who did so over their careers. Using the Baseball-Reference Stathead search engine and fielding logs, Traven identified every player with at least one appearance at every fielding position during his career in the major leagues (including the Negro Leagues) and when the player first played each position. He discusses career lengths, near-misses and other oddities, while interspersing anecdotes.
Neal Traven <email@example.com> retired from the Washington Department of Health in 2019. He earned his A.B. at Dartmouth College and his Ph.D. in epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh. He joined SABR in 1984, and has served the organization as its Secretary (2002-2009), co-chair of the Statistical Analysis Committee (1996-2013), and as the designer (in 2002) of SABR’s blind-review process for convention research presentations. He rues that he was out of the country when his Phillies won their first World Series in 1980. Neal and his wife Elizabeth live in Seattle, with a view of Elliott Bay and the Olympic Mountains from their rear deck.
3:00 p.m.-3:25 p.m. (Grand Ballroom, 4th Floor)
RP22: 8 Strong Men: The Chicago Cubs’ First Move Toward Integration (1949)
Although Jackie Robinson made his debut in the non-Negro Major Leagues in 1947, it took until 1959 before all 16 American and National League teams had had a Black player on their rosters. The Chicago Cubs were in the middle of pack in MLB integration with Ernie Banks late in 1953—despite the facts that Chicago had a large Black population; that the city had been one of the centers of Black baseball since the 19th century; and that the crosstown White Sox had successfully integrated their team with Minnie Miñoso two years earlier. Zminda describes the experiences of the eight Black players the Cubs assigned to their farm teams in 1949 that kicked off the Cubs’ integration process. His telling of the story of these racial pioneers who were the first Black players in cities like Visalia, California; Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Janesville, Wisconsin; and Springfield, Massachusetts provides important insights into their experiences and the general indifference the Cubs showed towards theses players who never reached MLB (although three did play in the Negro Leagues).
Don Zminda <firstname.lastname@example.org> has been a SABR member since 1979. As director of publications for STATS, Inc. (now STATS Perform) from 1988-2000, he co-authored or edited a dozen annual sports publications. His book, The Legendary Harry Caray: Baseball’s Greatest Salesman, was a 2019 CASEY Award nominee; his most recent offering, Double Plays and Double Crosses: The Black Sox and Baseball in 1920, was a 2021 SABR Larry Ritter Book Award nominee. Born and raised in Chicago, he is retired and has lived in Los Angeles since 2000.
3:00 p.m.-3:25 p.m. (State Ballroom, 4th Floor)
RP23: Miles Wolff and the Rebirth of Independent Baseball
John Burbridge Jr.
Miles Wolff Jr. grew up as a baseball fan in Greensboro, North Carolina. In 1979 he had an opportunity to become the owner of a new baseball franchise in Durham, North Carolina. The new team in town was an instant success and its popularity grew with the popularity of the movie Bull Durham. Wolff, however, was unable to get the City of Durham to build a new stadium. As a result, he decided to sell the team, while continuing his ownership involvement with other minor-league teams. Burbidge describes Wolff’s frustrations as part of a minor league executive committee negotiating with MLB, his resulting participation in the creation of the independent Northern League, his journey as a leader of the independent leagues, and his impact on the sport of baseball.
Dr. John J. Burbridge Jr.<email@example.com> is currently Professor Emeritus at Elon University where he was both a dean and professor. While at Elon he introduced and taught Baseball and Statistics. He has authored several SABR publications and presented at SABR conventions, the NINE Conference, and the Seymour Medal Conference. He is a lifelong New York Giants baseball fan. The greatest Giants-Dodgers game he attended was a 1-0 Giants’ victory in Jersey City in 1956. Yes, the Dodgers did play in Jersey City in 1956 and 1957.
3:30 p.m.-3:55 p.m. (Grand Ballroom, 4th Floor)
RP24: The 1949 Project: The Negro Leagues After 1948, and the Early Years of Boys Named Willie, Henry, and Ernie
Alan D. Cohen
By consensus, it has been deemed that the Negro Leagues died in 1948. The last Negro League World Series was played that year, and many sources only look at the Negro Leagues going backwards starting from that year. As we begin to look at the statistics of Black ballplayers who broke into the American and National Leagues and view their records on Baseball-Reference.com, there is a gap. With Willie Mays, we know his record with Birmingham in 1948, and we know his record with Trenton in 1950. What happened in between? Cohen tells the story of Mays, Ernie Banks, Hank Aaron and dozens of others who integrated the American and National Leagues, but first traveled the roads of America by bus in the Negro Leagues after the leagues supposedly had died in 1948, as few took notice of these players’ emerging greatness.
Alan D. Cohen <firstname.lastname@example.org> chairs the SABR BioProject fact checking committee, serves as Vice President-Treasurer of the Connecticut Smoky Joe Wood Chapter, and is a datacaster (MiLB first pitch stringer) for the Hartford Yard Goats of the Class AA Eastern League. His biographies, game stories, and essays have appeared in more than 65 SABR publications. He is currently involved with the Retrosheet project to add Negro League box scores from 1920 through 1948. He has four children, nine grandchildren, and one great-grandchild, and resides in Connecticut with wife Frances, their cats Ava and Zoe, and their dog Buddy.
3:30 p.m.-3:55 p.m. (State Ballroom, 4th Floor)
RP25: From Comiskey Park to Comiskey Park
There is often a complex web of social, political, and economic considerations related to ballpark construction and financing, particularly where public resources are involved. Bauer discusses the White Sox’s efforts to replace the original Comiskey Park, with a particular focus on the acceleration of such efforts in the 1980s under the Reinsdorf/Einhorn ownership group. He reviews proposals and efforts related to a new stadium in the Chicago area and the reasons for the lack of success until 1988. He also considers the related threats of potential relocation that culminated in a near move to Florida, along with the construction of the new Comiskey Park that commenced in May 1989, including the design elements that the White Sox sought to import from the original Comiskey Park, and criticisms of the new stadium design.
John Bauer <email@example.com> resides with his wife and two children (although one is now at college) in Bedford, New Hampshire. By day, he is general counsel of an insurance group headquartered in Manchester, New Hampshire, with specialties in corporate and regulatory law. By night, he spends many spring and summer evenings staying up too late to watch the San Francisco Giants, and he is a year-round avid reader of baseball, history, and baseball history. He is a past and ongoing contributor to various SABR projects.
Saturday, July 8
9:00 a.m.-9:25 a.m. (Grand Ballroom, 4th Floor)
RP26: The Celebrification of the Game: Examining Player Media Personas from ‘What’s My Line’ to ‘Late Night with Jimmy Fallon’
Allison R. Levin
Today, when anonymous uncredentialed individuals can be social media “influencers,” every skilled athlete is an easily-recognized celebrity. That was definitely not the case “back in the day,” as evidenced by how many star players stumped the panel on the 1950-1967 CBS program What’s My Line. Levin performed a content analysis of those appearances, determining themes that differentiated successful from unsuccessful questioning. With those themes in hand, contemporary broadcast and social media appearances were studied.
Allison R. Levin (MA, JD) <firstname.lastname@example.org> conducts research that builds upon an eclectic background in political science, economics, women’s studies, communications, and law. In recent years her focus has been on the effects of social media on pop culture, communications, and sports, primarily baseball. She is a Professor of Sports Communication at Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri, and chair of the Educational Resources Research Committee and co-chair of the AI/Machine Learning Research Committee. In addition, she serves as President of the Bob Broeg St. Louis SABR Chapter and is on the SABR Board of Directors.
9:00 a.m.-9:25 a.m. (State Ballroom, 4th Floor)
RP27: Harry Simmons: The Major League Schedule Maker, 1952-1982
What a logistics problem! Imagine scheduling 154 or 162 games each for 16 to 26 organizations, accounting for home/away, length of series, travel time, and predetermined count of games between every pair. Then add in every club’s individual scheduling preferences and needs, as well as possible competition from other events in each city. And do it all without electronic software and hardware. That’s only part of what Harry Simmons did for baseball over more than three decades. Who better than Harry’s son to talk about how he did it all?
David Simmons <email@example.com> is a retired engineer who lives in Toronto, Canada. He was fortunate to be the son of baseball executive, historian, and author Harry Simmons (1907-1998). He attended many World Series games and All-Star Games with his father during the 1950s and 1960s. He donated his father’s extensive collection of papers, books, and baseball memorabilia to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998. The collection is housed in the Harry Simmons Memorial Library, which opened on April 25, 2019. In the past he has been a fan of the Boston Red Sox and Montreal Expos, and he currently roots for the Toronto Blue Jays.
9:30 a.m.-9:55 a.m. (Grand Ballroom, 4th Floor)
RP28: Snoopy: Baseball’s Top Dog
More than two decades after the death of cartoonist Charles Schulz, Peanuts remains one of the most popular newspaper cartoons in the nation. One of the strip’s most frequent themes is baseball, shown in over 10% of the cartoons. The star of manager Charlie Brown’s neighborhood team is his beagle Snoopy, who also fancies himself as famous writer, tennis player, World War I flying ace, and much more. Booker’s presentation compares Snoopy as manager (briefly) to Charlie Brown’s approach. In a larger sense, Snoopy’s stature as perhaps the preeminent worldwide marketing star for baseball is examined.
Melissa (Missy) Booker <firstname.lastname@example.org> is a native of Portland, Oregon, and a 1995 graduate of Stephens College. Her research primarily focuses on baseball and American culture, and the person behind baseball statistics. She has presented at six SABR conferences: SABR 48 (2018) and SABR 49 (2019), the Jerry Malloy Negro League Conference (2012, 2014, 2017), and the Frederick Ivor-Campbell 19th Century Base Ball Conference (2015). She has also presented at four Cooperstown Symposiums on Baseball and American Culture. She lives in Covington, Kentucky, with her research partners, Coco the Cat and Niekro the Cat.
9:30 a.m.-9:55 a.m. (State Ballroom, 4th Floor)
RP29: Pepper Martin’s Marvelous Musical Mississippi Mudcat Band
In the mid-to-late 1930s, the rollicking Gashouse Gang put St. Louis on the map. Part of the phenomenon was the hillbilly/country band put together by 3B-OF Pepper Martin in 1937. In its two-year run, the Mudcats played songs written by Martin on local and national radio, and even toured. In this presentation, we’ll hear about what happened when one of the players was sent down to the minors, how Redbirds management viewed them for both publicity and morale-building, and why Branch Rickey got Martin to disband the group while negotiating his 1939 contract.
James McDonald <email@example.com> is professor emeritus of English, retired from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. He is the author of SABR biographies on Gashouse Gang pitcher “Fiddler” Bill McGee, Yankee scout Lou Maguolo, and Cardinals pitcher Joe Bernard, as well as a number of books and articles on English composition and rhetoric.
10:00 a.m.-10:25 a.m. (Grand Ballroom, 4th Floor)
RP30: Do All Wood Bats Perform Identically?
Alan Nathan, Daniel Russell, and Patrick Drane
Much research has gone into developing specifications for non-wood baseball bats, so as to make their performance resemble that of wood bats. But do all wood bats perform the same, or is there wide variation (in which case the “resemble wood” standard may have little meaning)? That question has not previously been addressed in the physics-of-baseball literature. The outcome of the first experiment on the topic is reported here. The researchers carried out a broad set of measurements on 18 supposedly-identical bats (six ash, six maple, six birch). We’ll hear their answers in this presentation.
Alan Nathan <firstname.lastname@example.org> is Professor Emeritus of Physics at the University of Illinois with a specialty in the physics of baseball. He has written many articles, both for academic journals and online baseball publications; he has given numerous lectures to a variety of audiences; and he maintains an oft-visited website at baseball.physics.illinois.edu that many people have found to be a useful resource. He is interviewed regularly by the media and has consulted for various organizations, including MLB, NCAA, USA Baseball, and several MLB clubs, as well as various technology companies. He is a past winner of SABR’s Henry Chadwick Award.
10:00 a.m.-10:25 a.m. (State Ballroom, 4th Floor)
RP31: Cultural Chaos at Comiskey: MLB and Disco’s Intersection in 1979
Disco Demolition Night was the last really outrageous promotion of Bill Veeck’s career. It’s remembered by fans for the fires, the riot, and the forfeit. Roberts, however, sees it in the larger context of Chicago and America at a cultural crossroads; free agency, modernization of media, and the rise of an inclusive musical genre that empowered minorities of all kinds, facing off against the sensibilities of the old ways of running and promoting baseball clubs. Was it a silly stunt gone wrong? Or was it a toxic example of racism and homophobia? Or both?
Christopher Roberts <email@example.com> is from Bel Air, Maryland. His research was conducted at the University of Maryland, College Park in his history capstone course. He graduated from the University of Maryland in May 2023 with a degree in Secondary Education and History. He is pursuing a career as a social studies teacher, and interested in continuing baseball research.
10:30 a.m.-10:55 a.m. (Grand Ballroom, 4th Floor)
RP32: Abandoned Franchise Relocations in Big League History
Here in Chicago, the White Sox’ failed attempt to relocate to Tampa-St. Pete in 1989 is well-remembered. But that’s far from the only abandoned franchise relocation attempt in baseball. Hildebrandt has identified several dozen of them, going all the way back to the Original 16 era. We’ll learn which franchises tried it most often and which cities lost out the most times. We’ll hear the various justifications for the threats and the excuses made when they didn’t pan out. The capper to this what-if presentation is a map of what the majors might now look like had some of the more serious attempts been consummated.
Chuck Hildebrandt <firstname.lastname@example.org> is a two-time Doug Pappas Award winner for his oral presentations “’Little League Home Runs’ in MLB History” (2015) and “Does Changing Leagues Affect Player Performance, and How?” (2017). He has authored three articles for the Baseball Research Journal, including the leadoff article in the Spring 2019 issue, “Sweet! 16-Year-Old Players in Major League History.” He founded the Baseball and the Media Committee in 2013. A Detroit native who is a proud Tigers fan even through their too-frequent rebuilding phases, Chuck lives with his lovely wife Terrie in Chicago, where he continues to play in softball leagues despite the advice of his orthopedist.
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