SABR 42: Around the Web

We’re collecting and posting recaps and stories about SABR 42 from around the Web. In addition, check out these videos recorded at the conference at below:

Listen to David Laurila of FanGraphs interview SABR President Vince Gennaro and SABR 42 Convention Chair Stew Thornley about the convention:

Here are some more recaps of SABR 42 from around the Web:

  • 10 things I didn’t know before SABR 42
    By Chris Jaffe
    (The Hardball Times)
    It’s that time of year again, time for the annual Great Baseball Nerd Round Up: SABR’s annual convention, this time in Minneapolis.

    More than the baseball, it’s the people that keeps me coming back every year. But yeah, the baseball is nice, too. That said, here are some thoughts/observations/whatevers about this year’s Nerd Herd gathering. …

    1. It sucks having to miss the first day

    SABR takes about four days in all—three full days with an entry on Wednesday and a conclusion on Sunday. This year, due to work commitments, I couldn’t get there at all on Thursday. Well, technically I pulled in very late Thursday, but after a long day I just wanted to crash.

    It sucks because there were a lot of presentations on Thursday I looked forward to seeing, including one by THT warhorse Steve Treder on Dick Schofield Sr. In news that should be surprising to no one who reads THT, Treder does good work. He also does a good job presenting his material at these conventions.

    Another one I would’ve liked to see was a presentation by Robert Fitts on the 1934 baseball All-Stars tour of Japan. I’ve seen Fitts give a presentation before and it was fantastic. I heard the presentation he give this year was first-rate all the way. Word to the wise for any future SABR attendees: Fitts is in must-see territory.

    More than missing presentations, I’d also miss chances to hang out with people I see only once a year. Among this year’s assemblage were: Treder, Aaron Gleeman (THT co-founder and uber-Twins blogger), Joe Dimino (the diminutive original THT writer who apparently has shaved his longtime goatee—a fact I didn’t notice until Saturday), always-sandals-wearing Colin Wyers (formerly of THT and currently with Prospectus; Sean Forman (the guy who created and its affiliated sites), and too many others to really discuss here.

  • SABR 42 was great, so why weren’t you there?
    By Michael Clair
    (Old Tyme Family Baseball)

    This past weekend, I flew up to Minnesota, hiding from the sun in the downtown Marriott and basking in the glow of SABR’s 42nd annual conference. It was the first convention I attended and was blown away. Think of it like this: take summer camp, mix in the fact that you are a full grown adult so you can drink beer, and replace playing outside with talking about baseball with people you usually talk to on the internet. So…it’s not really like summer camp at all. Though I did make a gimp bracelet.

    The weekend was filled with panels featuring former players, official scorers, and Twins front office personnel like their GM, Terry Ryan. There were also dozens of research presentations ranging from discussions on the proliferation of baseball in the South prior to 1870 to new ways of evaluating players, not to mention the trivia contests, off-site tours, and a screening of “Knuckleball.” Which, by the way, will make you leak tears if you love Tim Wakefield the way you should. Throw in some beer, a couple of Twins games, hamburgers oozing with cheese, and a little more beer, and while my body is screaming in pain, my brainceps (the brain’s biceps) are totally jacked, brah.

  • SABR 42 convention recap
    By Aaron Gleeman
    As a Minnesotan news that the annual Society for American Baseball Research convention was coming to Minneapolis this year initially made me sad after attending eight consecutive SABR get-togethers in Cincinnati, Toronto, Seattle, St. Louis, Cleveland, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, and Long Beach. For me a big part of the fun has always been traveling to another city, seeing games at an unfamiliar MLB ballpark, and generally just feeling like I’m on an actual vacation.

    At times it did feel weird to have it in my backyard, but as someone who lives in the suburbs and tends to stay home most nights going out eating, drinking, and shit-shooting with a bunch of non-Minnesotans in downtown Minneapolis for four days was an incredibly good time. Toss in a few local friends joining the fun, perfect weather, and the chance to see everyone fawn over Target Field and the convention experience proved to be every bit as great as usual. …

    As has been the case since 2004 the SABR convention was my favorite four days of the year and while Minneapolis hosting the festivities changed some of what I love about the vacation it was great to hang out downtown with a mix of local and SABR friends. And the weather, Target Field, and great bars and restaurants made Minnesota a top-notch venue. Next year’s convention is in Philadelphia and I’m already looking forward to regretting the cheese steaks.


  • Mission: Enjoyable, a Strat-O-Matic story
    By Jeff Polman
    My mission, and I had already accepted it, was to report to Marriott Center Minneapolis at 2030 hours on June 30th for a clandestine dice-rolling operation with Brett Carow and Sam Hennemann, code names Guinness-1 and Guinness-2.
    I was nervous. Even though Brett and Sam’s recent 61-hour Strat-playing marathon in New York wouldn’t be officially revised and confirmed by the Guinness World Record police for another few months, I knew these men could be shifty-eyed, tabletop forces of nature. The fact I was rolling Strat dice long before these 20-sider assassins put on their first diapers was meaningless. I was prepared for anything.
    So were my men. The 1965 Twins and 2003 Marlins and Cubs were securely rubber-banded in my backpack. All the players had been briefed on the operation. Josh Beckett would be stripped of his golf clubs, and Moises Alou could not under any circumstance throw a temper tantrum if he was not allowed to catch a ball in the stands.
    I had suggested Minneapolis for the operation because I was attending the SABR convention (Society for American Baseball Research), a yearly gathering of historical soldiers and statistical rebels, in the very same hotel. A Strat Fan Forum colleague named John Graf (Forum Dog-1) was instrumental in arranging the rendezvous, so when I finally received his cellular word message (“Room 2703”), I shouldered my pack, punched the lift button, and waited to ascend.
    Brett and Sam had arrived before me—my first miscalculation. We shook hands, and I suggested I face off against Mr. Carow right away, because time was a factor. Brett, in the midst of a 1941 replay at his nearby home, chose the Brooklyn Dodgers from that year, while I had no choice but to take the ’65 Twins. That morning at SABR, I had stealthily acquired the autograph of ex-Twin Frank Quilici on his actual Strat card, and intended to use the Quilicinator as my secret defensive weapon.


  • Into the Baseballgeeks’ Den
    By Bill Parker
    (The Score)
    If you yourself are a baseball geek of any stripe (and if you’re reading this, there’s approximately a 100.0% chance you are), you should join SABR, and if you can make it to a conference (around this time next year in Philadelphia, followed by 2014′s in Houston), definitely do so. The conference is a unique opportunity to be surrounded by a whole bunch of people who love baseball at least as much as you do, and to spend four days immersed (to whatever degree you choose) in the history, current state and analysis of the sport. The days are filled with research presentations by SABR members and panel discussions with current or former players, executives and other baseball insiders. The presentations are a bit hit-and-miss, but if you looked closely enough, you could get a pretty good idea of the likely quality from reading the detailed description of each in the provided convention program, and the good ones were truly fascinating. And there are organized things at night, too — including a ballgame, naturally, and I ended up heading to two of those — but also plenty of interesting people who are perfectly happy to hang out at a bar and chat.  It’s just an all-around good time.

    Here, by way of further illustration, are the five most important things I learned at SABR 42.

  • Confessions of a SABR newbie
    By Sarah Johnson
    (Twins Daily) 
    “Value Strategies for Building a Roster.” “Integration or Preservation? The Great Dilemma for the Black Press Presented by Negro League Baseball in the 1940s and 1950s.” “From the Diamond to the Helix: Major League Baseball and Genetic Testing in Latin America.” These were some of the presentations given to a group of hard core baseball fans in Minneapolis last week. Established in 1971, the Society for American Baseball Research is a non-profit organization that works to generate interest in the history of the game and invent new ways to judge player performance (think “Moneyball.”) As a lifelong baseball fan, I had always been vaguely aware of SABR. When perusing their booth at TwinsFest last year, the SABR representative mentioned that the convention was going to be held in Minneapolis in 2012.

    I love baseball and I love history, so it seemed a perfect time to join. Allow me to share my adventures as a new convert to this mystical baseball world!

  • SABR Rattling: My trip to SABR 42
    By Liz Rocher
    (The Good Phight)

    Last week, I hitched up the old wagon and headed out to Minneapolis, Minnesota to attend the yearly convention for the Society of American Baseball Research. I’ve been a member for a few years now, but aside from SABR Day in January 2011 I’d never been to a SABR event. I was excited to see what my four days of baseball nerd immersion would bring.

    The best way to describe it is adult summer camp. Only instead of having to go to pottery class or on a nature hike, you get to hear people talk about baseball. And unlike summer camp, everyone can drink. …

    SABR 43 is in Philadelphia next year, and I highly recommend that you go if you can. (You don’t need to be a member of SABR to attend.) The amazing baseball research is absolutely a reason to go, but so is the chance to meet and spend time with other baseball fans who have, like you, decided to come to SABR. Everyone starts at the same basic level of nerdiness — attending a baseball research convention.

  • SABR 42: Right on target
    By Jeff Polman
    (Huffington Post)

    The conventioneer was in his 60s, wearing a ball cap, glasses and trim little white beard. Like me, he was at the Marriott City Center in Minneapolis last week to attend the yearly gathering of SABR, the Society for American Baseball Research. Barry Bengtsson of St. Paul was also a founding member of Save the Met, a group dedicated to stopping the first Twins ball park (Metropolitan Stadium) from becoming the Mall of America (they never did) in the early 80s.

    Mr. Bengtsson was also a benevolent angel. About to take in my second of three Twins games at gorgeous and convenient Target Field, I was all prepared to make the 10-minute walk up 7th Street and buy a scalp ticket outside. Barry apparently heard my ball park chatter in the hotel elevator and offered me his wife’s season ticket for free because it was “too hot for her.”

    It was in the mid-80s and fairly humid, but even though my sun lotion-less arms got burned, I felt nothing, for Mrs. Bengtsson’s seat was 10 rows behind the Twins dugout with an absolutely perfect view of the field. This was only my second SABR convention, and magic was clearly happening.

  • Road trip to the SABR convention
    By Rich Klein
    (Sports Collectors Daily)
    Friday night was the SABR night at Target Field. There is something nice about walking to a ball game. I sat with my good friend Bill Carle, a life-long Royals fan who was thrilled to see his Royals win a game. It is always nice when a person pays attention not only to the stories about the 19th century players of whom we sometimes know very little about but also keeps up with players such as Salvador Perez of whom one of my friends is working on an autograph/memorabilia deal. I figure after talking to him that this became the most expensive consulting trip I will ever take.
  • Scandal, Murder and Errors (discussed) at SABR National
    By Karl Cicitto
    (At Home At Fenway)

    The header on this post may be a little more dramatic than needed but, still, scandal, murder and errors took the stage at the National Convention of SABR, the Society for American Baseball Research, which was held in Minneapolis, June 27 to July 1.

    Michael Fallon gave the 34th and last presentation of SABR 42. It deserves to go first here. It was one of the best. The Dodgers’ Class of ’68 was a study of a remarkable draft orchestrated by Al Campanis. The free agent draft was launched in 1965 over the objections of the Yankees, Dodgers, Mets and Cardinals. The Dodgers struggled in the first 3 drafts. Dodger brass placed the responsibility for finding a new approach in the hands of Campanis. The future Mr. Intangibles made an inspired decision to pick the brains of NFL draft experts. The footballers stressed 3 things: Be organized. Set standards. Select a ton of players. The result was a draft of 101 baby Dodgers that produced 9 major leaguers who averaged 16.4 year MLB careers. The nine included Garvey, Buckner, Alexander, Cey, Lopes, Valentine, Zahn, Ferguson and Paciorek. No other team has drafted a class that produced a higher number of service years.

    Robert Garratt regaled us with The Scandal of Candlestick. Robert detailed how the Giants played for 40 years in a windy & cold hell because a San Fran construction magnate succeeded in a money grab. Charles Harney first bought 41 acres on the Stick peninsula from the City for $2,000 an acre and then sold it back to the City at $65,000 per acre. Harney only agreed to sell the land back to the City at the inflated price after he was hired to build the ballpark, which cost $15 million. Could Harney have cleared $6 million on the deal? Yes. Did he try to have the stadium named after him? Yes. Did he succeed in doing so? No, thank God.

And here are some more recaps published during the convention we thought you might be interested in:

Thursday, June 28

  • Panels, presentations highlight first day of SABR 42
    Spencer Fordin
    At a conference like this, obsession freely mixes with academic rigor. Five hundred of the world’s most ardent baseball fans met at the Marriott City Center on Thursday for the opening day of SABR 42, the flagship conference of the Society for American Baseball Research.

    SABR, formed in 1971, has advocated the advanced study of baseball for four decades, and it’s attracted some of the nation’s brightest minds to its banner. That scholarship was on display Thursday, when the Marriott played host to a few panel discussions and numerous research presentations.

    Dave St. Peter, president of the Minnesota Twins, provided the opening remarks on Thursday, welcoming the audience to Minneapolis and priming them for three days of edification. Minneapolis, he said, has proven to be a great baseball market by supporting the Twins through thick and thin. …

    From there, the conference dissolved into several lectures conducted simultaneously. One research presentation centered on baseball being played by the local Native American population in the early 20th century, and another focused on how Taiwan became a power in amateur baseball.

  • SABR 42: Day 1 morning research presentations
    Cecilia Tan
    (Why I Like Baseball)
    Here are recaps of some morning presentations from Day 1:
    -Herm Krabbenhoft on correcting the AL RBI records
    -Steven Glassman on how the Hall of Fame selection process has changed
    -Tom Harney on how the development of baseball since 1895 in Taiwan related to their national pride and politics
    -Rob Fitts on the 1934 Japan tour of Babe Ruth, Moe Berg, and the All American team.
    Day 1 afternoon research presentations (and Knuckleball!)

    I saw three research presentations (out of four possible) this afternoon, and then went to meet up with my fellow panelists for the Women in Baseball panel, which I had the honor of speaking on. I can’t really blog that one since I was on it and couldn’t take notes! So someone else will have to write up what that was all about, haha.

    This afternoon I saw:
    – Vince Gennaro: Value Strategies for Building A Roster
    – William Spaniel: The Fear of Injury, Explaining the Delay in Contract Extensions
    – David W. Smith: Shutting Down the Running Game by Limiting Steal Attempts

  • For women in baseball, progress steady but slow
    By Spencer Fordin
    Progress has come slowly for women in baseball, but there was a time when it looked like it might not come at all. The Society for American Baseball Research celebrated change Thursday, when it hosted a panel discussion that highlighted the game’s growth of gender equality.

    Four accomplished women — two writers, a historian and a business executive — spoke about their love of baseball at SABR 42, the group’s annual conference, and while they concluded that things have gotten exponentially better, they also agreed that there’s a long way to go.

    Laura Day, an executive vice president of business development for the Twins, verbalized that sentiment palpably, explaining that there was a time when she was alone in the front office.

    “Having been in the sports industry now for just over 20 years, I can tell you it’s changed dramatically,” she said. “Back in 1991, I can tell you from the Twins perspective, I could count on one hand the number of women in the front office. I will tell you today, there’s more women, more people. Major League Baseball, from a league perspective, has made a huge commitment to ensure that we have appropriate and diverse representation, and not just on the field of play but in the front offices.”

  • Two knuckles up for documentary film
    By Chris Vaccaro
    (Topps Pennant)
    You might not remember Jim Leyland referring to Tim Wakefield as the Elvis Presley of the National League but it happened. It was 1992 and Wakefield burst onto the scene with his newly found knuckleball pitch.

    He helped the Pirates to a strong run in that season’s National League Championship Series against Atlanta and then fell apart during the following 1993 campaign. He was released from the Pirates as he had not yet perfected his knuckle pitch. Six days later the Red Sox signed him and the rest was history.

    But for Wakefield, the history didn’t come easy. It didn’t flow naturally for Phil Niekro, for Charlie Huff, for R.A. Dickey. The ability to pitch consistently in the big leagues with a knuckleball has proven to be a testament of the most hardest will and an everlasting quest to be proficient and normal when the chosen few to throw the most wicked and wild pitch in anyone’s arsenal are anything but ordinary.

    This tale of the undervalued pursuit and journey of the few men who have been known to harness their inner knuckle is displayed brilliantly in the new film “Knuckleball,” which debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival and was played for a group of baseball enthusiasts at this year’s Society of American Baseball Research Conference Thursday evening.


  • For numbers crunchers, Twins’ old-school methods don’t add up
    By Dave Beal
    (St. Paul Pioneer Press)

    Baseball’s statistics junkies are flocking to the Twin Cities this week for their first annual convention here since 1988. Their 42-year-old organization, the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), kicks off its meeting Thursday, June 28, in Minneapolis with opening remarks from Twins President Dave St. Peter.

    The timing of SABR’s return here is rich with irony. The Twins are widely seen as having one of the most “gut instincts-old school” management teams in major league baseball. From 2002 to 2010, things worked well — the team made the playoffs in six of those years by winning the American League Central Division title. That helped the management and some baseball pundits shake off critics who have been saying for years that the franchise needs to juice up its battle plan with more in-depth analysis of data about players and strategies. …

    Some of the team’s critics think its management could improve the odds for success if it did more to embrace “sabermetrics” — the term coined by baseball research icon Bill James in recognition of the data analysis done over the years by scores of SABR member

Friday, June 29

  • Ryan speaks as guest of honor at SABR 42 convention
    By Spencer Fordin
    Who needs safety in numbers? Twins general manager Terry Ryan originally thought that he’d be part of a group discussion Friday at the Marriott City Center, but he emerged alone and spent 90 minutes regaling the SABR (Society for American Baseball Research) crowd with stories about the game.

    “I was told it would be a panel,” said Ryan. “It looks like it’s a panel of one. Me.”

    Indeed, Ryan was the guest of honor Friday at SABR 42, and he was more than up to the difficult task of entertaining some of the world’s most diligent baseball fans. The longtime executive covered many topics on his own, and then he fielded questions from a crowd of statistical-minded people.

    Ryan was brutally honest at the lectern, at times poking fun at his beleaguered team, and at some dubious past personnel decisions of his own. Ryan even interrupted one answer about his best trades to lambaste himself for bad ones, and he pointed out that he once released David Ortiz.

    But the most interesting answers were the unexpected ones, the pieces of insight that can only come from someone in the inner circle. For instance, Ryan said that it’s one thing to scout the big leagues and another to scout the low Minors, and he said that statistics are useless at the lowest levels.

    At one point, Ryan discussed the difficulty of evaluating a postseason showcase like the Arizona Fall League, which he likened to a “country club” atmosphere. Players only play three or four days a week in the AFL, he said, which complicates the process of reading how they performed.

  • Historian Thorn delivers keynote speech at SABR 42
    By Spencer Fordin
    Credit John Thorn for knowing his audience. Thorn, baseball’s official historian, delivered the keynote speech at the awards luncheon for the Society for American Baseball Research on Friday, and he used the occasion to craft a love letter to intellectuals of all stripes.

    Thorn, in scholarly fashion, relayed the origin of the term “nerd” to the assembled audience, and he told them to wear it as a badge of pride instead of as an insult. Times have changed, he said, and what was once considered gauche has been exonerated by time and perspective.

    “We are nerds, you and I,” he said. “We endured the predictable slings and arrows on the whole cheerfully, not only because we know who we are, but also because we live in the age of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and other nerds for whom data — when shared — becomes life’s most rewarding currency.”

    Thorn, a member of SABR for 32 years, had his pauses punctuated by laughter, and he never had to stray too far from the heart of his message. Here, at SABR’s 42nd annual conference, the attendees could all rest secure in the knowledge that they share the same obsession.

    They had come to the Marriott City Center to celebrate another year of research and edification, and they had come to the luncheon en masse to reward some of their most accomplished peers. And there was Thorn, at the lectern, summing it all up in language bordering on poetry.

  • Day 2: Afternoon presentations
    By Cecilia Tan
    (Why I Like Baseball)
    Here are recaps of some Day 2 presentations:
    – Steve Steinberg: on the crazy end to the 1908 season for the Giants
    – Alan Nathan: what have we learned about bats (aluminum/wood) in 10 years
    – Mark Armour: on the history of artificial turf
    – Benjamin Wiggins: on DNA testing of prospects by MLB teams
    – Bryan Soderholm-Difatte: on just how much effect did the 1951 Giants spying help them?
  • Old-time baseball statistics: Merely an approximation
    By Rob Neyer
    (Baseball Nation)
    Despite what you might have heard, most members of the Society for American Baseball Research actually love actual baseball games. They don’t just hunker down in the basement, noses buried in dusty old record books, compiling arcane lists of statistics that nobody cares about.

    Rather, some of them (or rather, us) compile statistics that everybody cares about.

    Case in point: Herman Krabbenhoft, long-time SABR member and indefatigable researcher.

    Officially, Alex Rodriguez stands No. 2 on the American League’s all-time RBI list. Here’s that list, all up-to-date and everything, according to the Elias Sports Bureau:

    1. Lou Gehrig – 1,994
    2. A. Rodriguez – 1,928

    According to Elias, then, Rodriguez is only 66 RBI behind Gehrig on the all-time list, and probably will catch and pass Gehrig next spring. This fact will be trumpeted by the New York Yankees, to be sure. If not by many others. So yes, someone cares.

    But Herman Krabbenhoft has reviewed every game in which Lou Gehrig ever played — all 2,164 of them — and determined that Gehrig actually drove in 1,995 runs. So that’s the figure that appears at Retrosheet and and even


  • Baseball historians, fanatics hold SABR conference in Minneapolis
    Like to talk baseball? Then Minneapolis is the place to be.

    This week downtown Minneapolis will host a national convention for SABR, the Society for American Baseball Research. …

    Member Dan Levitt said the convention gives the superfans a chance to talk with others like themselves.

    “There’s not a lot of people you can go around talkin’ about baseball in 1915 with, but you can here,” he said.


  • Hemond, former players delight at SABR 42
    By Spencer Fordin
    Turn on the microphone and just let them talk. A few former players and one of the game’s great executives took center stage at the Marriott City Center on Saturday, as the Society for American Baseball Research wrapped up the business end of its annual conference.

    SABR 42 will actually end on Sunday morning with a board meeting, but the final research presentations and lecture discussions took place on Saturday. The first panel discussion featured a few former players with local ties, including a guest appearance by former Twins catcher Tim Laudner.

    Laudner, who works as an analyst for Fox Sports Net, had to leave early in order to work a doubleheader at neighboring Target Field, but he got the discussion started by greeting the crowd. Laudner poked fun at the statistical-minded audience, but at heart he was one of them.

    “I don’t know anything about OPS or ESP,” said Laudner. “But what I do know is that as soon as I walked into the room, we did share a common denominator. … I think it’s fairly obvious that the common denominator is truly a love and a passion for the greatest game on this earth.”

  • Nerd is the word
    By John Thorn
    (Our Game)
    Read the text of John Thorn’s keynote speech from SABR 42 here.

Saturday, June 30

  • Day 3: Research presentations
    By Cecilia Tan
    (Why I Like Baseball)
    Here are recaps of some research presentations from Day 3:
    – Andy Andres: The Effect of Temperature and Humidity on Pitching
    – Heroes at the Mike: Baseball’s Longest Serving Broadcasters
    – Michael Humphreys: We Have Underestimated Fielding Value. A Lot.

For more stories from SABR 42, visit

Originally published: July 5, 2012. Last Updated: July 27, 2020.