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The Newsletter of the Halsey Hall Chapter
Society for American Baseball Research (SABR)

May 2012

Stew Thornley

Recap of April 21 Chapter Meeting

Twenty-four members—Howard Luloff, Gene Gomes, Art Mugalian, Mendal Mearkle, Scott Cummings, Gary DeSmith, Wayne Leebaw, Lee Temanson, John Swol, Barry Bengtsson, Kevin Hennessy, I. P. Dailey #1, Brenda Himrich, Cary Smith, Jerry Janzen, Jed Levitt, Fritz Reeker, Dave Jensen, Roger Godin, Ray Luurs, Dan Levitt, Doug Skipper, Lloyd Kepple, and Terry Bohn—attended the Halsey Hall Chapter spring meeting on April 21. Clark and Sima Griffith also attended.

Four members gave research presentations:

  • Scott Cummings, a student at the University of Minnesota, presented his college senior paper, Sabermetric Defense in Baseball, and examined ways of measuring defensive performance with a focus on the differences between Adam Everett and Derek Jeter.
  • Terry Bohn came from North Dakota and talked about the early history of Dakota baseball, replete with names that later became prominent in Minneapolis baseball: Walter Wilmot, Joe Cantillon, and Deacon Phillippe.
  • Mendal Mearkle presented on Boston’s worst day in the majors, May 15, 1894, when the Great Roxbury Fire destroyed the South End Grounds, where the fire started while Baltimore’s John McGraw and Boston’s Tommy Tucker fought on the field.
  • Gene Gomes talked about Abner Powell, who pitched in the Union Association and American Association and then pitched and played for New Orleans in the Southern League for many years. He eventually become manager and owner and contributed to the popularity of Ladies Days. His other innovations included the rain check and the infield tarpaulin. Powell involved in an “inside-the-bark homer” when he played center field for Cincinnati in 1886 and a dog interfered with a hit by Louisville’s Chicken Wolf.

Clark Griffith

Former Twins executive Clark Griffith (above) was the keynote speaker in the afternoon. He said he found SABR “intimidating” although he was an early computer user for analyzing baseball statistics, using a hand-held calculator for determining fielders’ range and determining the best statistics for judging a player. He finally concluding that he couldn’t do it, that there were too many variables, and that a scout was the best way to find out how good someone was. “Statistical analysis is used as a first filter, ” he said. “After that, you have to look at the player. ”

Born in 1941, Clark talked about growing up in a baseball culture with his dad, Calvin, and four uncles/great uncle who played in the majors—Joe Haynes, Sherry Robertson, and Hall of Famers Clark Griffith and Joe Cronin. He rode home from games with Clark and Calvin, listening to them analyze the game and then getting quizzed by the pair about what had happened in the game.

Clark said he was a good enough player in high school that Yankees manager Casey Stengel said to him, “You better come play for me, young man, because your dad can’t afford you.”

Clark graduated in college and joined the Twins’ front office in 1966, which was also the first year the players had a viable union. He spoke well of Players Association Marvin Miller and was frank in his criticism of the business practices of management. Clark was a member of the Major League Baseball Players Relations Committee and became enamored with the law. He entered law school and was in school in 1984 when his dad sold the team to Carl Pohlad.

Clark was instrumental in Major League baseball licensing its logos, modernizing the trading-card business to allow companies besides Topps to produce them, and helped develop the weekly program, This Week in Baseball, using video clips from the previous week’s games. Clark said he was at a meeting in New York to discuss centralizing baseball’s cable revenues in November 1984, but his quest was cut short when he got a phone call with the news he was being fired from the Twins by the Pohlads.

Asked about Billy Martin, Clark said his dad had to fire Martin because of all the trouble he caused during his year of managing the Twins and that the players didn’t like Martin.

Clark concluded his talk by reading an essay he wrote several years ago, Baseball’s Timeless Appeal, printed below.

During the semi-annual business meeting, Jerry Janzen, Howard Luloff, and Dave Jensen were elected to two-year terms on the chapter board of directors, succeeding outgoing members Janzen (succeeding himself), Cary Smith, and Bob Tholkes.

In the evening, members gathered to watch the Twins-Rays game at a downtown watering hole.

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SABR 42 Update

SABR 42 LogoSABR 42 will be at the Minneapolis Marriott City Center from Wednesday, June 27 to Sunday, July 1, 2012. SABR president Vince Gennaro and executive director Marc Appleman were in town April 20 and met with the local organizing committee at the headquarters hotel. After lunch the group met with Twins president Dave St. Peter and marketing vice president Patrick Klinger and also got an impromptu tour of Target Field. From left to right in the photo below are Dan Levitt, Vince, and Marc.

Dan Levitt, Vince Gennaro, and Marc Appleman at Target Field

Bob “Rocky” Johnson, Roy Smalley, and Ron Coomer have agreed to be on the player panel at the convention the morning of Saturday, June 30 along with others, and Twins executive vice president/general manager Terry Ryan will be on the general managers panel Friday morning, June 29. The official scorers panel, with David Vincent, Gregg Wong, and your crusty editor, has been moved from Saturday afternoon to Thursday afternoon because of a make-up game between the Twins and Royals now scheduled for Saturday afternoon. The convention will also feature a women in baseball panel, a behind-the-scenes tour of Target Field led by Twins curator Clyde Doepner, a tour of the baseball exhibit at the new Minnesota African American Museum, a Minneapolis library tour for early arrivers on Wednesday as well as a Metrodome and city walking tour.

Updates on the convention are available on the Halsey Hall Chapter website.

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Baseball Quiz

Who was the baseball coach at Macalester College in St. Paul in 1906? Answer below.

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African American Baseball Exhibit in Dunn County

The Dunn County Historical Society in Menomonie, Wisconsin, will have an exhibit, Playing Through: African American Baseball in Dunn County, Wisconsin, opening May 12 and running until October 31. Playing Through explores African American history through the context of baseball, from segregation to integration with particular attention to barnstorming black baseball in Dunn County. According to curator Matt Carter, Dunn County saw the first documented racially mixed baseball team come through the area to play a game. This expanded when, in 1909, Dunn County had the first known African American play for a local team, Alexander Irwin of the Menomonie Blue Caps. The trend of black barnstorming baseball teams traveling to Dunn County to play baseball continued into the late 1940s.

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Mystery Photo Revealed

Athletic Park

Kristin Anderson and Chris Kimball have a great article, “The Mysterious Base Ball Park in Minneapolis and Other Photos: Reading the Visual Evidence, ” in the current (Spring 2012) issue of Minnesota History, the quarterly publication of the Minnesota Historical Society. Kristin and Chris examine a mystery photo (above) that has been identified as Nicollet Park. With some outstanding detective work, the gumshoes identified the ball park as Athletic Park, where the Minneapolis Millers played from 1889 to 1896, and narrowed the time frame of the photo to about 1890 to 1892.

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Cow Chips

Jerry Janzen has accepted an offer to be on the board of directors of his alma mater, Bethel College in North Newton, Kansas. In an unrelated event, Jerry crashed a lunch at an all-women’s conference at the Minneapolis Convention Center; he blended in well. . . . Lee Temanson threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Twins-Rangers game on Friday, April 13. . . . Fritz Reeker spent time in Florida during spring training for the 22nd year in a row.

Panel of Paul Molitor, Stew Thornley, and John Bonnes

Paul Molitor (left in the photo above) was on a panel that included two SABR members, one an official scorer (who, when asked what kind of play was the toughest for a scorer to call, replied, “Any fly ball hit to Delmon Young”) and the other John “Twins Geek” Bonnes at a fundraiser for Tix for Tots at the Metropolitan Club at Target Field April 19. John and another SABR member, Aaron Gleeman, are co-hosting a show, “Gleeman and the Geek,” Sunday afternoons at 4:00 on KFAN 100.3 FM.

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New Members

Hans Van Slooten was born and raised in Minnesota, living in Richfield, Rochester, Blue Earth, Morris, and Little Falls, where his parents still live. He went to the University of Illinois for computer science and then lived in Chicago for 13 years before moving back to Minnesota, where he lives with his wife.

Hans is a software developer by trade but spends most of his time managing developers and develops himself only in his free time, “usually building tools for analyzing baseball statistics.”

Hans became a baseball fan during the 1987 World Series and ran commercials during Twins games at a radio station while he was in high school. He didn’t attend his first major league game in person until he went to Wrigley Field after college. He was a dual Twins and Cubs fan while living in Chicago, and the most significant event he’s witnessed was the 2005 World Series on the city’s south side. He is now a Twins season-ticket holder.

Although Hans was aware of SABR, it was the 2005 World Series that got him more interested in baseball history and statistics. After moving back to his home state, Hans joined SABR and “baseball became more interesting by being able to see the team I was actually a fan of rather than just the team that happened to be nearby.”

Hans shares his February 28 birthday with fellow chapter members Bob Evans and Fritz Reeker as well as Jud Wilson, Frank Malzone, Aroldis Chapman, Bobby Madritsch (1976, same year as Hans), Moose McCormick, Trent Oeltjen, Brian Bannister, Linus Pauling, Bubba Smith, Eric Lindros, Mario Andretti, Bugsy Siegel, and Tommy Tune.

Wayne F. Leebaw is aattended the April 21 chapter meeting with his longtime friend, Lloyd Keppel. A native of Youngstown, Ohio, Wayne is a retired physician. He was in private practice in endocrinology in Edina and St. Louis Park for 34 years before retiring last September. He continues volunteer teaching from a half to one day a week at the Veterans Administration Medical Center and at the University of Minnesota as an adjunct professor of medicine. He is married and has two daughters and two grandchildren.

Now a Twins fan, Wayne grew up as a fan of the Cleveland Indians and still follows them closely. The first game he remembers attending was in 1953 at Municipal Stadium, where he watched his favorite player, Al Rosen, who nearly won the Triple Crown that year. His most traumatic memories—the Indians being swept in the 1954 World Series, Herb Score’s injury in 1957, the trade of Rocky Colavito by the Indians to the Tigers for Harvey Kuenn in 1960’are balanced by memories of the games he attended during the 1987 and 1991. The greatest games he ever saw were the final two games of the 1991 World Series.

Born in 1943, Wayne shares his December 21 birthday with fellow member Phillip Purdy as well as Josh Gibson, LaTroy Hawkins, Philp Humber, Cy Williams, Howie Reed, Roger “The Second Spitter” McDowell, Elmer “Doc” Hamann, Joaquin Andujar, Andy Van Slyke, Dave Kingman, Dottie Kamenshek, Freddy Sanchez, Bob Rush, Nino Bongiovanni, D’Angelo Jimenez, Taylor Teagarden, Tom Henke, Elliott Maddox, Chris Evert, Frank Zappa, FloJo, Joe Stalin, Joe Paterno, Jane Fonda, Andy Dick, and Jack Noseworthy.

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Answer to Quiz

Dick Nutt

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Beyond the Box Score

SABR member Bill Arnold offers tidbits in his Beyond the Box Score webzine (Copyright 2012, Sports Features Group). Here are a few of the recent bits:

  • After a bout of food poisoning, Rockie pitcher Josh Outman started the 2012 campaign on the disabled list with a strained oblique muscle caused by several days of intense vomiting.
  • The Twins had the fewest sacrifice flies in the majors last year with just 25.
  • After Jared Weaver notched his 1,000th career strikeout on Monday night, he and his brother, Jeff, joined Bob and Ken Forsch, Orlando and Livan Hernandez, Ramon and Pedro Martinez, Phil and Joe Niekro and Gaylord and Jim Perry as the only sets of siblings to have each struck out a thousand in the bigs.
  • The Cubs played in their 119th different ballpark since joining the National League in 1876 when they opened a series at the Marlins’ new home, Marlins Park; later this season, the club will play in ballpark number 120 when they visit the Twins at Target Field.
  • Angel catchers Chris Iannetta and Bobby Wilson were both born on April 8, 1983.
  • In 1975, African-Americans made up over 27 percent of the players on major-league rosters but, this year, they represent just 8.05 percent of big-leaguers.
  • For the first time since 1952, the White Sox don’t have an African-American player on their roster.
  • The World Series championship ring of the Cardinals has a tiny squirrel emblazoned on its side to commemorate the lucky “rally squirrel” that, most notably, ran across home plate in the N.L. Division Series distracting Phillies pitcher Roy Oswalt.
  • Johnnie LeMaster holds the dubious distinction of being the only major-leaguer to play for three 100-loss teams in the same season; the former shortstop played for the Giants, Pirates and Indians in 1985.
  • The twitter name of Pirates relief pitcher Jason Grilli is @GrillCheese49.

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Grave Hunter Digging for a Place to Stay

SABR member Fred Worth and his wife will be taking a grave-hunting trip through Minnesota and Wisconsin in June and are looking for any members who can give them a place to bunk. Their itinerary includes Austin, Avon, Bayport, Bloomington, Clearbrook, Cloquet, Crookston, Deer River, Duluth, Ely, Faribault, Fosston, Hermantown, Hopkins, Jordan, Kasson, Kellogg, Le Sueur, Lutsen, Mahtomedi, Mankato, Mendota Heights, Minneapolis, Mora, New Ulm, Olivia, Rochester, Roseville, Sauk Rapids, Shakopee, Slayton, Sleepy Eye, St Cloud, St Paul, St. Peter, White Bear Lake, Winona, and Lake George. If you’re willing to take in a SABR couple for an evening, contact Fred, 870-230-5079.

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Renewal Deadline Coming Up for Paper Copies of Newsletter

The subscription fee is due for those wanting to get printed copies sent to them. Those wishing to receive a printed copy each month may send a check for $15, made out to Halsey Hall SABR, to Jerry Janzen, 10201 Phaeton Drive, Eden Prairie, Minnesota 55347-4735.

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Baseball’s Timeless Appeal by Clark C. Griffith

Baseball’s timeless appeal captures the minds of fans who are enthralled by a game that, like the “Odyssey,” tells a story of the human condition, of confronting enemies, helping friends, and, of course, getting home safely. This appeal applies to softball and Little League baseball as well as to the Major Leagues. In other games, teams of equal size battle from one end of a court, arena, or field to the other. In these “back and forth games,” success is measured by crossing a line or placing an object in a goal. Not so in baseball, where the batter competes against nine opponents and success is measured by a player’s ability to overcome the odds by safely moving from base to base so that he or she gets home safely.

Baseball is played on the largest field in team sports not involving a horse, even larger than cricket. Its field is distinguished from those of the back and forth games, which are all rectangles covered with lines, circles, and dots, by its simplicity, with two lines diverging at 90 degrees from a single point to define both the infield and the outfield. At the point of intersection is home plate, an oddly shaped five-sided figure, smaller than a basketball hoop, where all action begins and ends. The infield is a ninety foot square that is tipped on its end to form a diamond with the outfield beyond. There are three 15 inch bases positioned on the corners of the 90 foot square. The pitcher’s mound rises 10 inches above the infield, 60 feet, 6 inches from home plate. All infields have this perfect symmetry, while the outfields vary widely.

The story unfolds as the batter stands in the batter’s box facing his nemesis, the pitcher. The batter is surrounded by seven fielders and the pitcher in front with the catcher behind. The pitcher starts the action by pitching the ball over or just near home plate. The ball is leather bound and moves at lethal velocity. Fear is the first emotion that the player must overcome to play the game well. Many young players drop out when they can hear the ball in flight, are knocked down by an errant fast ball, or fooled by a curve into falling away, swinging weakly-- insulted, stripped of all dignity, and humiliated, as courage and skill are shown to be lacking. The pitcher attempts to put the batter out by using his extensive arsenal of pitches to cause the batter to strike out or hit the ball so it is caught in the air or on the ground to an infielder who throws him out. The pitchers can use any combination of speed or spin to defeat the batter, including illegal spit balls that sink precipitously, or scuffed and cut balls that spin viciously. Pitchers succeed in putting batters out nearly 75% percent of the time.

If the batter hits a fair ball that is not caught, he becomes a runner and begins an odyssey around the bases. This must be done carefully, but speedily, as he moves from the sanctuary of one base to another. The sanctuary of the base is available to one runner at a time, and a runner is compelled to leave the sanctuary when the batter becomes a runner and there is no empty base between them. When a runner is forced to leave the base to go to the next base, he can be forced out merely by having a fielder touch the next base while holding the ball. Otherwise, the runner is safe while touching the base, but is subject to being put out anytime a fielder touches an “off base” runner with the ball. For Odysseus and his crew, the ship was the base and sanctuary and Odysseus tied himself to a mast to be safe from the Sirens’ pitch. Fielders, like Scylla, Cyclops and Circe, can use any form of deception, guile, misdirection, feints, hidden-ball tricks, and pick-off plays, all aimed at putting a vulnerable runner out. The runner is bound to stay on the straight and narrow base path while his enemies plot his end. He, like Odysseus, only wants to get home safely, and to do so, he must take risks, and be crafty, careful, and fleet of foot, and he usually needs a little help from his friends. Like Odysseus, the runner often finds home blocked by the catcher, armored like a Greek warrior in mask, breast plate, and greaves, who is the last barrier to success.

The runner’s fate is determined by umpires, who are the ultimate judges of safe and out, or life and death, which they signal with single swipe of a hand, thumb extended for “out” or both hands outstretched palms down for “safe,” which means “nothing notable happened, let’s keep going.” The “nothing” that happened is no out was made and baseball keeps time with outs.

Baseball’s most prestigious feat is the home run. However, it only accounts for one run, plus one for each runner on base, whereas in cricket a ball hit over the boundary on the fly counts for six runs. The home run derives its prestige from the act of driving the hostile pitch out of the field of play in a showing of complete victory. It is the ultimate show of dominance, like Alexander the Great cutting the Gordian Knot. A home run allows the batter to trot regally, with impunity, in an ostentatiously slow, plodding, sometimes taunting pace, while the fielders must stand and watch, incapable of action, mute.

Baseball tells a story that relates to the human condition. The game requires great physical and mental skill in hitting a pitched ball, fielding, throwing, running, and taking risks to advance through the dangers of the infield. It is unique in its imagery and its appeal is the story of players alone in the wilderness, relying on friends for help, and being alert to dangers, while focusing on the single goal of reaching home safely. For a baseball player, like the rest of us, this occurs everyday. The story played out is like life itself, and that is the appeal of the game that has enraptured its fans for more than 150 years.

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    May 12—Hot Stove Saturday Morning, Bakers Square, 66th and Xerxes, Richfield, 9:00 a.m. For more information, contact Mark Johnson, 952-831-1153.

    June 3—Halsey Hall Chapter Board Meeting, 6 p.m. For more information, contact Brenda Himrich, 651-415-0791.     June 9—Book Club, Barnes & Noble, Har Mar Mall, Roseville, 9:30 a.m., The Battle That Forged Modern Baseball: The Federal League Challenge and Its Legacy by Daniel R. Levitt. For more information, contact Art Mugalian, 612-721-2825.

    June 10—Convention Committee. For more information, contact Stew Thornley, 651-415-0791.

    June 27-July 1, 2012—SABR Convention, Marriott City Center Hotel, Minneapolis.  

Board of Directors 2011-2012
President—Brenda Himrich
Vice President—Fred Buckland
Secretary—Art Mugalian
Treasurer—Jerry Janzen
Gary DeSmith
Cary Smith
Bob Tholkes

The Holy Cow! Editor—Stew Thornley
Webmaster—John Gregory 

Halsey Hall Chapter Web Page

Past issues of The Holy Cow! are available on-line.


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