2019 SABR Day: St. Louis

Bob Broeg St. Louis Chapter
2019 Hot Stove Luncheon recap

On Saturday, February 2, 2019, 50 members and guests of the Bob Broeg SABR Chapter of St. Louis gathered at Favazza’s Restaurant, in the Historic Hill section of the city, for their annual Hot Stove Luncheon to celebrate SABR Day.

Chapter President Rick Zucker welcomed everyone to the event and everyone enjoyed a wonderful buffet meal of Italian roast beef, Sicilian chicken, cavatelli con broccoli, roasted vegetables, toasted ravioli, and salad followed by dessert cannolis.

Unfortunately, one of our guest speakers, former major league third baseman Ken Reitz, had to cancel at the last minute. However, our remaining two speakers for the event, Marty Maier and Benjamin Hochman, were thoroughly entertaining.

Marty Maier (pictured above) is currently a special assistant to the general manager of the Cincinnati Reds. His baseball career began when he signed with the Kansas City Royals in 1974 as an infielder. After spending two seasons in the minor leagues it wasn’t long before he was approached to be a scout. He remembered the first player to catch his eye early on as a scout was Scott Fletcher, who eventually enjoyed a 15-year career in the majors. This convinced him that he could do the job and he has been helping different organizations evaluate talent for 40+ years. He scouted many years for the St. Louis Cardinals, signing players like Vince Coleman, Danny Cox, Lance Johnson, Braden Looper, Placido Polanco, Matt Morris, Rick Ankiel, and Jason Motte. He eventually became the Director of Scouting for the Cardinals before leaving, along with general manager Walt Jocketty, for the Cincinnati Reds.

He talked about the complexity of the annual MLB amateur draft and drafting 50 players with the hope that 4 or 5 might make it to the big leagues. He spoke of the long odds of making it to the majors by stating the following statistics: Every year there are 6.7 million kids in youth baseball programs; 455,000 will play in high school; 57,000 will play college ball; 6,400 will make it to the minor leagues; and 1,200 will play in the majors. “Projecting what a 17-year old will look like by the time he’s 25” he said can be difficult. He also spoke of learning from three Hall of Fame managers while in the Cardinals organization: Whitey Herzog, Joe Torre, and Tony LaRussa, along with “the best teacher of baseball there ever was: George Kissell”. Maier said “I got my Ph.D in baseball in the St. Louis system.”

Maier then answered questions from the attendees on the recent Reds/Dodgers trade involving Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, and Homer Bailey, the use of technology in player evaluation, kids playing multiple sports, the importance of a players character, scouting department structure, and Rick Ankiel’s possible return.

Ben HochmanBenjamin Hochman is a sports columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and says while other people say jokingly that they are “living the dream”, he truly believes that he is. As a St. Louis native and life-long St. Louis Cardinals fan he relishes the fact that one of his “offices” is Busch Stadium. After several years covering the Denver Nuggets for the Denver Post he got the call that brought him home, replacing Bernie Miklasz, who went to radio full-time.

He recalled being somewhat star-struck when he began interviewing and meeting various St. Louis sports figures, especially those he followed as a young fan. He recalled introducing himself to Bob Gibson (his dad’s favorite player), saying, “Hi Bob, I’m Benjamin Hochman, sports columnist for the Post Dispatch!” Gibson stared at him and said, “I don’t care!”

Hochman then shared some of the stories that he included in his recent book, The Big 50: St. Louis Cardinals: The Men and Moments that Made the St. Louis Cardinals. He spoke about the fact that Willie McGee’s fandom in St. Louis spans two generations because of his two separate stints with the club. He told how former utility player David Howard wound up with the final game-worn jersey of McGee, which proved that Willie was the type of person that would give you the shirt off his back. He shared how Ken Oberkfell grew up across the river in Illinois, admiring Ken Boyer and then playing for him in St. Louis. We learned how Miguel Mejia came to be known as “Country” in homage to Enos Slaughter. Then there was the story of Brian Schwarze, Stan Musial’s grandson, who became his grandfather’s right-hand man in Stan’s latter years. Brian eventually told his grandfather that his dating life was suffering because of Stan’s social activities. Brian solved that by taking Stan along on his dates.

Hochman also took questions from the audience spoke about serving on the Cardinals Hall of Fame Red Ribbon Committee, the HOF election of Harold Baines, the Cardinals offseason moves and projections for the season, the Cardinals possible quest to sign Paul Goldschmidt to a long-term deal, Machado & Harper and baseball’s changing free-agent landscape. Maier at one point attempted to coerce from Hochman some inside info on the Cardinals plans for Carlos Martinez, drawing a big laugh from the crowd.

After a short break, Chapter President Zucker presented the fourth annual Jim Rygelski Research Award to Scott Jensen for his presentation, at the chapter research conference last September, entitled “Winning and Modernization: Implications of the ‘New’ Chicago Cubs on Fandom, Tradition, and the Cubs as ‘Promised Land’."

The next order of business was the presentation of chapter officers for the coming year. The four current officers were willing to remain in their positions and they were reelected. They are as follows: President – Rick Zucker, Vice-President – Jeff Ecker, Treasurer – Mark Stangl, Secretary – Jim Leefers.

The trivia quiz was presented by Bob Tiemann and titled “St. Louis Browns Trivia”, with a total of 60 possible answers. Prizes were awarded for the top three scores: Mark Stangl was the first-place winner with a score of 45, Rick Zucker was second and Morris Buenemann was third.

Ed Wheatley, SABR member and Director for the St. Louis Browns Historical Society announced an upcoming event on February 23 at the Carondelet Historical Society, 6303 Michigan Ave, St. Louis beginning at noon. The event will be a roundtable discussion on the integration of the Browns in 1947 by Hank Thompson and Willard Brown. Former Cardinal and Kansas City Monarch George Altman will join in the discussion as well as other former Negro league players.

The dates for the regular meetings have been set for the coming year: March 18, April 15, May 13, June 10, July 22, August 26, October 14, November 18, & December 16. The meetings will be at The Sports Café in Bridgeton.

The less formal Baseball Fellowship Meetings are held at Lester’s Sports Bar & Grill in Ladue on the following dates: March 6, April 3, May 1, July 2, August 7, September 4, October 2, November 6, & December 4.

The 5th Annual Jim Rygelski Research Conference will be held Saturday, September 21, 2018 at Webster University.

All meetings and events are open to non-members and our regular meetings do not conflict with Cardinals home games.

— Jim Leefers