The regional concept, like the overall growth of the Society, was slow to catch on but picked up speed once it got going. On November 9, 1974, 12 people met at the Chevy Chase, Maryland, home of Ron Gabriel in what is considered the first regional meeting of the Society. This group would later become known as the Bob Davids Chapter.
Today, there are more than 70 regional groups, including many international chapters around the world. Some of these chapters meet two or three times a year and draw large crowds. Others have more regular and more intimate gatherings once a month. They have become vital parts of the SABR community.
The Bob Davids Chapter, the Washington-Baltimore group, has met every year since its inception. Over the last several years members have turned their meeting into a smaller version of the national convention. Former major leaguer George McQuinn was a guest at several early meetings and former major league stolen base champ George Case showed old color movies from the 1940 and 1941 seasons at their third meeting in 1976.
1976 saw Emil Rothe host the initial Chicago meeting, which was later named in his honor, on November 17 with ten members attending. On December 4 of the same year, the first West Coast/Southern California meeting, later to become the Allan Roth Chapter, was held in Los Angeles. Sixteen members attended.
In 1977, Society member Ernest Nagy, a U.S. Embassy Diplomat in Rome, issued a standing invitation to members visiting Italy to stop in for a regional meeting. It is not known if any peripatetic members took him up on his offer.
On August 6, 1977, Kit Crissey organized a reunion of 25 former players in New Orleans. Crissey was a master at rounding up old ballplayers, all of whom, if asked the right questions, have great stories to tell. The regional meeting in Philadelphia on May 6, 1978, drew 40 members and 19 players. Fifty-four people, including 33 members, attended the November 18, 1978, regional meeting held in Greenfield, Massachusetts. Organized by John Pardon, Tom Zocco, and Ed Leonard, this was the first full-scale regional held in New England.
The Philadelphia regional on April 28, 1979, drew 45 Society members, 20 former players including Judy Johnson, and 30 other guests.
The Mid-Atlantic regional was held in Reading, Pennsylvania, on April 26 to 27, 1980. It was a two-day event that served as an alternative to easterners unable to attend the National Convention on the west coast. Fourteen former professional players and 46 members attended.
Toronto, Ontario, was the site of Canada’s first regional, where 20 members met on August 9, 1980, for a get-together organized by Bill Humber.
The New Orleans regional, now known as the Schott/Pelican Chapter, held its first meeting on January 7,1981.
On April 11, 1981, the Southern California regional was held in Pasadena with 21 members and 11 guests in attendance. Wally Berger, Max West, and Bill Schuster appeared as guests. A month later the initial Michigan regional, which became the Fred T. Smith Chapter, took place on May 2, 1981.
On August 8, 1981, nine members and two guests met outside Seattle at the first meeting of what is now the Northwest SABR Chapter. They met again in Portland, Oregon, on February 7, 1982, where 12 members and speakers Rick Wise and Gerry Staley were in attendance. The Northwest SABR Chapter covers the largest area of any SABR regional: Washington, Oregon, British Columbia, and beyond. The Chapter’s newsletter goes to members in Idaho as well, and Society members have flown in from eastern Montana and northern Alberta to attend meetings, which have been held in at least eight cities (Seattle, Tacoma, Portland, Everett, Yakima, Eugene, Vancouver, and Spokane). This may be the only chapter to have met in two countries. The driving distance between the various meeting sites is about 430 miles north-south and 280 miles east-west.
The Halsey Hall Chapter, named for the longtime writer and broadcaster, met in the Twin Cities for the first time on August 15, 1981. Scott Hall was the primary organizer with assistance from Stew Thornley and Bob Tholkes. This group, which played host to the 1988 National Convention and again in 2012, has its own monthly cable show and maintains a 19th century baseball team called the Quicksteps which plays by 1858 rules.
The first “Wyoming regional” meeting occurred on November 27, 1982, when two of the Society’s three Wyoming members met on a radio talk show.
A regional meeting was held in a church hall in Dorchester section of Boston on March 12, 1983, with Reverend Jim Smith as organizer. This was the second attempt at starting a Boston Chapter. A first meeting, with just a handful of members, had been organized by brothers Arnold and Harvey Soolman, and held at the Boston Public Library in 1975.
On April 3, 1983, Gene Sunnen organized the first northern California regional, now the Lefty O’Doul Chapter, at the Oakland Coliseum.
A regional meeting was held in Durham, North Carolina, on June 25, 1983. Regionals in that area were held erratically until Marshall Adesman and Francis Kinlaw put together a group that met on February 13, 1993, in Greensboro, North Carolina. That current group, the Carolina Chapter, now meets three or four times a year.
The first and perhaps only Society meeting held in New Mexico, prior to the re-formation of the Rio Grande Chapter in 2011, occurred on December 12, 1983.
The initial meeting of the New York City regional group, currently known as the Casey Stengel Chapter, was held in 1984. Gary Kelleher, Bill Pechette, and Marty Appel were involved in organizing it. The group chose to honor Stengel because he had appeared in the uniform of all four New York teams. In both 1985 and 1994 the chapter meeting drew more than 200 people.
1984 was a big year for initial regional meetings. The Madison, Wisconsin, group, the Kid Nichols Chapter, met on June 9. On June 30, a Chattanooga, Tennessee, meeting was held with 37 people in attendance; a player panel included Hillis Layne, Roy Hawes, and Buck Varner. The initial St. Louis regional, now known as the Bob Broeg Chapter, was held on July 21 with 53 attendees. Terry Moore, Phil Gagliano, and Bob Broeg were speakers.
On July 28, the first San Diego meeting was held at Jack Murphy Stadium. The guest panel included Kurt Bevacqua, Chet Brewer, and National League umpire Joe West. Forty-one people attended. In 1991, Ted Williams gave his approval for the chapter to be called the Ted Williams Chapter.
In the fall of 1997, members of the San Diego Ted Williams SABR Chapter, recognizing the importance of baseball research, decided to create a project that would result in a significant resource for those interested in such efforts in San Diego. As a result, the chapter initiated a partnership with the Central Library of the San Diego Public Library to create the San Diego SABR Baseball Research Center. The BRC has now become one of the premier baseball research facilities in the western United States.
The inaugural meeting of the Cleveland, Ohio, regional, now the Jack Graney Chapter, was held on August 18, with Roy Hughes and Bob Cain as featured speakers. Fifty-three people attended. This chapter, also the home chapter of the Society’s headquarters from 1990 to 2011, played host to the 1990 and 2008 National Conventions.
The first regional meeting of the northeastern New York group, known as the George Davis Chapter, was held on November 1 at Union College in Schenectady. Bob Giblin was the organizer. In addition to hosting the 1989 National Convention in Albany, activities of this group have included the establishment of the Bud Fowler Memorial Fund to raise money for a monument at Fowler’s grave in Frankfurt, New York, following a memorial observance held around Hall of Fame induction time in 1987. The Davis Chapter also erected a monument on George Davis’ grave in Philadelphia’s Fernwood Cemetery in 1998.
The initial Omaha, Nebraska, regional was held on January 12, 1985, with Jackie Brandt and Jerry Cram as guests. (A revived chapter in Omaha, the Wahoo Sam Crawford Chapter, was established in 2013.) The southern New England Chapter, later to be named the Lajoie/Start Chapter, held its initial regional meeting on the same day. Mike Roarke and Tim McNamara were featured speakers. Credit for organizing the chapter goes to Len Levin, Gerry Beirne, Jack Kavanagh, and the rest of the gang that hosted the 1984 National Convention.
On February 9, 1985, the Pittsburgh group had its first meeting, with Steve Blass as the guest speaker. Now known as the Forbes Field Chapter after an extensive 1993 discussion about a choice of names, this chapter includes among its highlights hosting the 1995 and 2018 National Conventions, and being the driving force behind the erection of a state historical marker on the site of Exposition Park, home of the Pirates from 1891 to 1909 and the site of the first modern World Series. Paul Adomites and Frank Boslett were the original organizers.
Tony Cavender organized the first regional meeting held in Houston on May 18, 1985, with 20 people in attendance. Claudia Perry also played a vital role in the formation of the chapter which meets regularly and hosted the 2014 SABR convention. Society members with ties to the Houston ball club include former Astros president Tal Smith, former manager Larry Dierker and former pitching coach Vern Ruhle.
In March of 1988, Tony Darkin, Mark Kanter, and Walt Patterson met in a pub in London, England, for the first known meeting held outside of North America. Kanter, planning his United Kingdom trip, had called ahead looking for Society members to meet. He did the same thing on a trip to Australia in March 1990, when he visited the home of Ian McNeilly. The first official meeting in the United Kingdom, however, should be credited to the January 9, 1993, meeting of the Bobby Thomson Chapter in London. Thirty attended.
The first Phoenix, Arizona, Flame Delhi Chapter regional meeting was held December 3, 1988. The Delhi chapter played host to the 1999 National Convention.
The initial meeting of the Larry Gardner Vermont Chapter, organized by Tom Simon, was held in October, 1993, when eight members met at the home of Wayne Turiansky to watch the first game of the 1993 World Series. This chapter’s group project, The Green Mountain Boys of Summer, a book containing biographies of all of the Vermont-born major leaguers, was published in 2000 and helped inspire the SABR Baseball Biography Project.
On December 3, 1994, Chris Franco organized the initial meeting of the New Brunswick, New Jersey, regional, the Goose Goslin Chapter.
The initial meeting of the Jesse Burkett Chapter was held at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts, on September 29, 1996, with former Red Sox manager Joe Morgan the guest speaker. Ron Marshall, Worcester Telegram sportswriter Bill Ballou, and Assumption College Sports Information Director Steve Morris were the chapter organizers.
Organized by Rich Newhouse in order to serve Society members who did not wish to make the commute to either Detroit or Chicago, the western Michigan chapter met first in June, 1996, in Wyoming, Michigan. Currently the chapter encompasses a region south to Benton Harbor, Kalamazoo-Battle Creek, west to Lake Michigan, north to Ludington, and east as far as East Lansing. Marc Okkonen suggested the chapter be named after Wally Pipp.
The initial meeting of the Central Florida chapter, later called the (Elden) Auker/(Andy) Seminick Chapter, was held in November 1997. Jim Riley was the chapter organizer. In the spring of 1998, the chapter hosted the Ted Williams-Joe Jackson Symposium, a super-regional that attracted members from England, New England, and California — and even Ted Williams himself.
The South Florida chapter first met in January 1998, with Society member and Florida Marlins General Manager Dave Dombrowski the guest speaker.
Cappy Gagnon organized the initial meeting of the Lou Criger Chapter, which was held in South Bend, Indiana, in April 1998.
In September 1999, a pilot student SABR chapter was started at Thomas Jefferson High School in Federal Way, Washington. This was closely followed by a student chapter at Clinton High School in Clinton, New York. Today, students can sign up for discounted memberships at SABR.org/community.
The next five years showed a dramatic increase in the formation of new local chapters, in locations such as Ann Arbor, Michigan; Atlanta, Georgia; Charlotte, North Carolina; Columbus, Ohio; Dallas, Texas; Dayton, Ohio; Denver, Colorado; Des Moines, Iowa; Hartford, Connecticut; Indianapolis, Indiana; Kansas City, Missouri; Little Rock, Arkansas; Miami, Florida; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Toledo, Ohio; and West Orange, New Jersey.
On January 15, 2005, a group of SABR members from the province of Quebec and their guests gathered in Montreal to talk baseball, and to consider establishing a Quebec-based SABR chapter. On February 11, their request to form a chapter was approved by SABR’s Executive Board. It was SABR’s fourth non-United States chapter, following groups in Toronto, Japan, and the United Kingdom.
2006 saw the addition of five more regional chapters: the Rogers Hornsby Chapter in South Texas; the Orlando Cepeda Chapter in Puerto Rico; and chapters in West Texas (Abilene), South Carolina, and Nashville, Tennessee.
In the 2010s, with a relaunched SABR.org website closing the distance between SABR members in the U.S. and around the world, international chapters were formed in Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, South Korea, Taiwan, Nepal, Australia, Italy, and the Netherlands (Europe).
New chapters were also added in Central Oklahoma, New Mexico, Nebraska, Fort Wayne (Indiana), Rochester (New York), Maine, Chattanooga (Tennessee), Las Vegas, Baltimore, Birmingham (Alabama), and southern New Jersey.
The formation of new chapters has re-energized regional activity in SABR. These groups have helped SABR members form life-long friendships, have done the major work involved in running the annual conventions, have published their own newsletters and publications, have assisted in the creation of historical plaques and markers, have helped place grave markers at the previously unmarked burial sites of numerous Negro league and major-league players, and are always ready to lend a hand with information requests from local major- and minor-league teams, as well as local media outlets.