Today the Society is a well-known presence in the baseball world, but early efforts to build the membership relied on a much-needed public relations plan. Stan Grosshandler and Jerry Gregory were in charge of early efforts.
Founder Bob Davids placed an ad for the first edition of the Baseball Research Journal in The Sporting News in 1972. TSN publisher C.C. Johnson Spink wrote a column about SABR’s Hall of Fame survey in the June 9, 1973, edition. Additional articles soon appeared in the New York Post and in The Wall Street Journal. The Sporting News issue of April 18, 1981, ran a story on historical research into the 1910 American League batting race between Ty Cobb and Nap Lajoie. The Society and members Leonard Gettleson, Pete Palmer, Cliff Kachline, and Alex Haas were all mentioned.
The New York Times on February 15 and March 1, 1981, ran stories written by Society members; Richard Goldstein discussed the 1980 Baseball Research Journal in the February issue and John Holway discussed Happy Chandler, the color line, and the integration efforts of 1946-47 in March.
John Thorn wrote an article on the Society that appeared in The Sporting News the week after the 1981 convention. All of these efforts resulted in inquiries about the Society and a surge in membership growth. In 1978 Bill James published the first Baseball Abstract. The 68-eight page publication was crude by today’s standards. It was offered for $4 in the June 1978 SABR Bulletin. Statistical analysis and sabermetrics had reached the lift-off stage.
In the fourth Baseball Abstract, James writes, “A year ago I wrote in this letter that what I do does not have a name and cannot be explained in a sentence or two. Well, now, I have given it a name: Sabermetrics, the first part to honor the acronym of the Society for American Baseball Research, the second part to indicate measurement. Sabermetrics is the mathematical and statistical analysis of baseball records.”
ABC News was at the 1983 National Convention and Sam Donaldson did a five-minute segment about the Society on the Sunday Evening News. The September 5, 1983, issue of Time magazine ran a two-page article on the new breed of baseball statisticians and mentioned Pete Palmer, Bill James, Craig Wright, and Dick Cramer.
Clearly, early public relations efforts by the Society were successful. USA Today Baseball Weekly covered each National Convention and references to Society members can be found in many weekly editions.
In September 1999, the Board adopted Dick Beverage’s proposal of “Bringing the History of Baseball to Life” as the USP (Unique Selling Proposition) for SABR.
Shortly after joining the Society, Hall of Famer Ted Williams remarked that “SABR is baseball’s best-kept secret!” In an effort to change that, TEAM SABR was formed in early 2001, to spread the word that SABR is the place for those who love baseball. Among those who served on TEAM SABR were:
- Elden Auker – retired American League pitcher
- John Blake – Senior VP, Communications, Texas Rangers
- Richard Bresciani – VP, Public Affairs, Boston Red Sox
- Bob Costas – NBC Sports
- Larry Dierker – Manager, Houston Astros
- Davd Dombrowski – President, GM, Florida Marlins
- Warner Fusselle – broadcaster
- Wayne Hagin – broadcaster, Colorado Rockies
- Mark Harris – author, Bang the Drum Slowly
- Ernie Harwell – broadcaster, Detroit Tigers
- Roland Hemond – Senior Advisor, Chicago White Sox
- Whitey Herzog – retired Manager, St. Louis Cardinals and Kansas City Royals
- Monte Irvin – retired Hall of Fame player, New York Giants
- Russ Kemmerer – retired pitcher, Washington Senators
- Keith Olbermann – broadcaster, Fox TV Sports
- Tracy Ringolsby – sportswriter, Rocky Mountain News
- Lawrence Ritter – author, The Glory of Their Times
- Andy Seminick – retired catcher, Philadelphia Phillies and Cincinnati Reds
- Tal Smith – President, Baseball Operations, Houston Astros
- Jeff Torborg – retired catcher and manager; analyst, Fox TV Sports
- Rick Vaughn – VP, Public Relations, Tampa Bay Devil Rays