I’m not sure whose idea it was for SABR to tell the stories of each major- and minor-league game that has taken place during the organization’s Annual Convention in its first 50 years, but it was a great idea!
When editor Bill Nowlin asked me to write this introduction, he said, “You were, of course, a SABR founding member. You were probably at that first doubleheader in 1972 at Baltimore, and most – if not all – of the ones that followed.” Well, he was wrong. I was a founding member at Cooperstown in 1971, but I didn’t get to the 1972 convention in Arlington, Virginia, due to the massive flooding from Hurricane Agnes. Only 33 members attended, and only four of the 16 founders made it. Our consecutive convention streaks were broken pretty quickly!
Attending a baseball game as part of the SABR annual convention was simply a natural thing to do. After all, it was our love of the game that brought us together in the first place, and in the early days, we didn’t have nearly enough research presentations or special guests to fill all the time we had available, so taking in a game helped fill the void.
Even though I missed the 1972 doubleheader in Baltimore, I still like to think I got to attend the game at the first SABR convention — if you count the organizational meeting as the first convention, and the annual Hall of Fame Game as part of that meeting. The problem is, the Hall of Fame Game at Doubleday Field was played on Monday, August 9 following the induction ceremony, and SABR didn’t exist then. Our founding meeting took place on the following day, August 10, 1971. Hall of Fame historian Cliff Kachline arranged tickets for any of the “statistorians” whom Bob Davids had invited to Cooperstown who would be there a day early for the ceremony. I jumped at the chance, and I attended the game with a few others who would become SABR founders the next day.
What do I remember about that game? Not much, except that Ernie Banks homered for the Cubs, and I met him in the parking lot after the game. He signed an autograph for me before he boarded the team bus. Only years later did I notice that he played only 11 more games in his career after that, with only one more home run and RBI. Memories were made.
I wouldn’t have had that opportunity if not for SABR. Without SABR, I would probably never have been to many of the major-league ballparks that I have visited. Indeed, going to a game and seeing a ballpark you have never seen before is a big attraction for convention-goers.
Several of the games I attended as part of the annual SABR convention stand out to me. The 1978 convention was held in Paramus, New Jersey, and we attended the Yankees-Twins game at Yankee Stadium, preceded by the Yankees’ annual Old-Timers’ Game. Everyone was stunned when recently fired manager Billy Martin came onto the field to the announcement that he would return as Yankees manager in 1980!
In 1986, we went to a Cubs game at Wrigley Field. That was the first time my wife, Nan, a Chicago native, accompanied me to a SABR convention. We sat next to and enjoyed talking with SABR member Roy Hughes, an infielder on the Cubs’ last World Series team in 1945. Nan’s father, a lifelong Cubs fan, was impressed by that, and held SABR in higher regard as a result.
Other highlights from SABR convention games over the years:
- 1999: In Phoenix, SABR members were treated to an unexpected no-hitter by Cardinals rookie José Jiménez, who outdueled Randy Johnson at Bank One Ballpark.
- 2006: In Seattle, we witnessed a 2-0 Rockies victory over the Mariners, with a time of game of only 1 hour, 52 minutes; both pitchers went the distance.
- 2010: In Atlanta, before an extra-innings game won by the Giants, Tom Glavine’s number 47 was retired by the Braves.
- 2011: In Los Angeles, I got to visit Dodger Stadium for the first time. The next night, in Anaheim, we saw highly touted rookie Mike Trout, who had made his big-league debut the night before, collect his first hit in the majors.
- 2016: In Miami, following a special pregame session that featured Barry Bonds, Andre Dawson, Tony Perez, and Don Mattingly, we cheered on Ichiro Suzuki as he neared the 3,000-hit milestone with the Marlins.
SABR convention games have included MVP award winners (like Ken Griffey Jr. in 1996), Rookies of the Year (Cal Ripken Jr. in 1982), and World Series champions (the Oakland A’s in 1973). There have also been instant replay reviews (four calls, all overturned, at San Diego in 2019), inside-the-park home runs (Jon Singleton in 2014), and walk-off celebrations (Felix José in 1992).
A few other things I’ve noticed about games during a SABR convention: If you walk around and see someone keeping score, chances are that’s a SABR member. The second thing is that few SABR members can actually remember much about the game they witnessed, and with good reason. SABR members are friends, friends who may not see each other very often, and who spend time talking about not only the game at hand, but other games and teams, what may be going on in baseball around the country, their research projects or other interests, and life in general.
That’s the value of a project like this. The 64 game stories you’ll find here chronicle what we saw but might not remember, and for some of us who might not have been there, it makes us wish we had been. We certainly hope you’ll join us for a future SABR convention, at Chicago in 2023 or beyond. Enjoy!
— Tom Hufford
SABR Founding Member
Convention Game Highlights
Pennant Winners seen
1973 Oakland A’s, 1975 Boston Red Sox, 1978 New York Yankees, 2004 St. Louis Cardinals, 2010 San Francisco Giants
MVP award winners seen
Reggie Jackson (1973), Fred Lynn (1975), Keith Hernandez (1979), Ken Griffey Jr. (1996), Juan Gonzalez (1998), Alex Rodriguez (2005)
Cy Young Award winners seen
Randy Johnson (1999)
Rookie of the Year award winners seen
Fred Lynn (1975), Cal Ripken Jr. (1982), Sandy Alomar Jr. (1990), Ryan Braun (2007), Buster Posey (2010), Kris Bryant (2015)
José Jiménez, June 25, 1999
Walk-off hits seen
Felix José, St. Louis Cardinals, June 26, 1992