Goldleaf: A visit with MLB historian John Thorn

From SABR member Steven Goldleaf at Bill James Online on November 26, 2017, with SABR member John Thorn:

On a Saturday earlier this month, I realized that I was pIanning to spend the weekend in Hudson, N.Y., just about the time that one of my favorite writers, MLB’s official historian John Thorn, was going to deliver his annual post-season wrap-up of the baseball season just past, right across the Hudson River in his hometown of Catskill, so I promptly invited myself to attend John’s talk. I’d never met him, though we’ve communicated from time to time, but he welcomed me warmly to attend. I think I’ll arrange my future weekends in Hudson around his schedule of talks, which apparently are followed by long and loose Q. and A. sessions from those in attendance.

We had a flat tire en route across the Hudson, so we walked in at just about the point, early on, when he was quoting Warren Spahn on hitting being timing and pitching being the art of upsetting timing. (The transcript is reproduced here:, though I wouldn’t swear that John stuck very closely to the script—seems to me I heard long sections that do not appear in this transcript, and I don’t remember the numerical table of swing-and-miss percentages being recited at all.) He spoke on the general subject of sabermetrics, and how it has (and hasn’t) changed the game, more or less the very subject I’ve been working on.  Among the interesting opinions John spouted as he fielded questions from his audience was that he wasn’t concerned about the length of games, per se, so much as he was concerned about the pace of games.

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Originally published: November 27, 2017. Last Updated: November 27, 2017.