It isn’t very often that I find myself in a room full of people feeling that my baseball knowledge is puny in comparison to theirs. Even in good company, I usually feel pretty confident in my baseball IQ. Such was not the case this past Saturday, when I was fortunate enough to be able to attend an annual gathering of SABR enthusiasts in the DC area. These people (consisting mostly of men with gray hair, bifocals and tucked-in shirts) know their stuff. Like, really.
Before I go any further, I have to say thanks to my friend and long time FBB-supporter Aaron, for letting me tag along with him to this event. Also, despite his best efforts, I did not end up falling for any of the younger eligible geeky baseball boys at the conference. Sorry, grungy Tiger guy.
Ahem… moving on! I present you with my signature amateurish rundown of the day’s events:
The first speaker (whose name I could tell you if I had taken notes instead of just doodling) gave a discourse on the subject of umpires. More specifically, what the lives of MLB umps are like given that they are on the road almost constantly. Unlike players, they do not get home games. I have been somewhat determined to give umpires more respect since seeing Doug Harvey’s Hall of Fame induction speech this past summer, and this talk only backed that up.
Following Mr. Nameless was architect Marshall Purnell, who spoke on the planning and construction of Nationals Park. Do you know why the Nats’ home clubhouse is oval-shaped? I do.
Following an hour’s break for lunch, David Smith (who, apparently, is the crown prince of random statistics) took the podium. He primarily discussed various strange occurrences of the 2010 season, comparing them to similar events historically. Walk-off strikeouts, catchers interferences, stuff like that. These are the sorts of stats that I eat up with a spoon, so I was highly entertained by this segment. One anecdote particularly fascinated me. It pertains to Ron Santo. According to Mr. Smith, one-in-eight of Ronnie’s career at-bats came against future Hall of Fame pitchers. One in eight. I don’t even know how that’s possible. Chalk another one up for #10, eh?
The “specialest” speaker of the day was acclaimed baseball biographer and NY Times bestselling author Jane Leavy. She spoke at length about Mickey Mantle, the tape-measure home run he hit at Washington’s Griffith Stadium in April of 1953, and the tracking down of the boy who’d found that actual home-run ball, way back when. It was a pleasure to be sitting there.
Miss Leavy was joined by Prof. Alan Nathan, who provided some very detailed analysis on the physics of Mr. Mantle’s Washington moonshot. I once tried to read Robert Adair’s book The Physics of Baseball and gave up after about a page and a half. Needless to say, most of Prof. Nathan’s words went right over my head. I’m pretty sure the conclusion was that the ball traveled a minimum of 538 feet. That’s far.
Remind me to take better notes if I make it back to this event next year…