Why I Like Baseball

an online journal of baseball enthusiasm

Archive for June, 2008

June 28, 2008: SABR Day Three

June 29, 2008 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Musings, Book Reviews

Here, we are, day three, the final full day of the SABR convention for the year. Tomorrow has an awards breakfast I won’t be attending (I was trying to do this convention on the cheap), and that is about it. So this will be my final report from the lovely, baseball-crazy city of Cleveland.

I may have mentioned in earlier chronicles that one of the ways I judge how baseball-crazed a part of the country is, is by counting how many baseball and softball diamonds one can see when coming in to land at the airport. Coming in to Logan, for example, you can count literally a hundred fields from just a few minutes before landing. Orient Heights alone has a dozen. (Whereas the Dallas area… not so much.) Cleveland definitely counts.

The morning’s first session was by Jeff Katz, who has just written a book on his presentation subject: how the Kansas City A’s were essentially a farm club for the Yankees. (The book is The Kansas CIty A’s and the Wrong Half of the Yankees published by Maple Street Press.) This is not ground-breaking news–it’s common knowledge and was widely lambasted in the press during the era when it was going on (1954 to 1960). But Katz’s research uncovered some really wonderfully damning evidence, including letters of Walter O’Malley bitching about the situation, and such. If you’re not familiar with the story, it goes something like this. When Connie Mack was trying to sell the financially ruined A’s, a man name Arnold Johnson wanted to buy them. At the time, he had just bought Yankee Stadium and he stadium of the Kansas City Blues,the Yankees’ farm team in KC, from Del Webb. Some AL owners opposed the team sale to Johnson, including Calvin Griffith in Washington and one or two others. Mack even organized a syndicate to try to buy the team and keep it in Philadelphia. And Charles Finley was also interested in buying the A’s.

But the fix was in, and after a few fruitless meetings, the team was sold to Johnson, who then hired Del Webb’s construction company to rebuild the Blues’ stadium for a major league team. The entire font office of the A’s consisted of former Yankees employees. In the 5 years before Johnson had bought the team, the Yankees had made 28 trades, only two with the Philadelphia A’s. In the five years after he bought the team, the Yankees made 29 trades, 16 of them with Johnson’s KC A’s. And pretty much every trade was in the Yankees’ favor. When Enos Slaughter wasn’t doing that well, they dumped him in KC. Then when he rejuvenated and became KC MVP, the Yankees gt him back.. for the waiver price. Ralph Terry was sent to KC for 2 years for some seasoning, then brought back to New York when he began to excel. (Not mentioned in the presentation, but I will here: KC Is also where Billy Martin was exiled after the Copacabana incident.)

The relationship was so blatant that when the A”s traded for Roger Maris, various Yankees weer hear to remark in the clubhouse “We got Maris, we got Maris,” and although Clete Boyer was a bonus baby for the A’s, meaning he had o stay on their roster for a minimum of two years…. they gave him to the Yankees before that. Rumor also was that he ha been signed with “Yankee money,” and indeed in later years Tom Greenwade, the famous Yankee scout who signed Mickey Mantle, would talk about Boyer being one of “his” boys on the pennant winning clubs.

What put a stop to it was Johnson’s death in 1960, after which the team was sold to Charlie Finley. A photograph that appeared in the newspaper depicted Finley standing next to a schoolbus on fire with gouts of smoke pouring from it. Painted on the side of the bus were the words “Shuttle Bus To Yankee Stadium.”

I then made a last swing through the book dealers room. I was about to leave to go find some lunch while the banquet was going on when a friend gave me his banquet ticket because he decided to spend the time in the microfilm stacks of the Cleveland Public Library.

I sat with Merrie Fidler, author of a great book on the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (The Origins and History of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League). The cheesecake was quite delicious, and Mark Armour won the Bob Davids award for service to SABR.

The keynote speaker was Ron Shapiro, who is a motivational speaker who writes business how-to books, also a lawyer, and also one of the first baseball agents when free agency came along. He had close ties to the Orioles, was Cal Ripken Jr.’s agent, as well as Minnesota’s Kirby Puckett, and many others. He told a number of anecdotes about the Orioles of the late 70s and 1980s, including a hilarious one about Len Sakata that I can’t do justice to. Then he gave a 20 minute motivational talk on how to “Dare to Prepare,” which is the theme of the book he recently wrote (on mega sale right now through Amazon: Dare to Prepare, and a copy of which was given to every attendee of the luncheon. It was odd because it felt a little like a sales pitch, and yet he wasn’t selling us the book–we all already had a copy. I conclude that he really believes what he says and like an Evangelist loves telling others and helping others. As it turned out, I found a LOT Of what he said to be right on target to the turnaround my small publishing business is having (or hopefully having). It still seemed odd to preach it to a SABR audience, but, at least it wasn’t boring.

After that came a “roundtable’ which was really just a Q&A session with Ron’s son Mark Shapiro, the GM of the Indians, and Mike Veeck (son of Bill Veeck as in Wreck and the man once known as the creator of Disco Demolition Night, bu now better known as the genius behind the St. Paul Saints and the author of a how-to-succeed book himself called Fun Is Good.)

The questions ranged far and wide. Among the tidbits I jotted down because they are of interest to me, Veeck said that 46% of his minor league team fanbase is female, and that in Charleston, SC where he has a team they have worked a lot with the local community such that their African-American attendance is aruond 9%, which is twice the national average. Shapiro admitted he is not involved at all on the marketing side of things, but he acknowledged that although they want to please purists, the flat truth of the matter is that the team needs to appeal to “people who are not white 50-70 year olds.” Which I thought was a gutsy thing to say to a group like SABR which is, well, mostly white 50-70 year olds. But people seemed to respect his honesty, if not the answer itself. One member asked how Veeck would market SABR itself, which has a desire to be not just a haven for that demographic. Veeck said “I would use a photo of [names a member who is well known to the group and is a middle aged white guy], and caption it ‘We’re not just about beautiful figures.’” Which got a huge laugh. He went on to say emphasize what’s fun about SABR and people’s mutual love of the game.

I nearly forgot the other special event of the day from this morning, was the premiere of a new movie documentary, “Baseball Discovered,” which was made by MLB Advanced Media and which followed SABR member David Block on a trip to England in search of baseball’s ancestry. John Thorn is also prominently featured in the film, and after the one hour film was shown Block, Thorn, Tom Schieber of the Hall of Fame, and Sam Marchiano (the producer of the film for MLBAM) all spoke on a panel and took questions. The documentary is really great, and while in the UK making it, publicity about their filing led a woman in Surrey to bring forth an 18th century diary she had found in an old shed which clearly has the earliest recorded written mention of baseball, in the 1755 diary of one William Bray. And by wild coincidence, there is a Bill Bray pitching in the major leagues right now who is a relative of his! Not only that, Bll Bray pitched in the game LAST NIGHT for Cincinnati, which meant he was in town! MLBAM invited him to the premiere, too, and he got up and said a few words about how awesome it was to be connected to the history of the game that way. Really neat.

There is no DVD on sale yet. It will son be available on iTunes, will stream from mlb.com (www.mlb.com/baseballdiscovered/) and soon will be distributed (still being worked out).

I made sure not to miss David W. Smith’s presentation on the Importance of Strike One (art 2). He started this topic last year and continued it. Using Retrosheet pitch by pitch data, he analyzed over 3.4 million plate appearances and over 13 million pitches. Among the things he found: batters foul off a lot more pitches now than they did in previous eras, and that the path one takes to get the first strike or to 1-1 matters. Batters who swung and missed on the first pitch or the second pitch weer likely to do badly in he at bat even if they worked the count full later. He described perfectly the “first pitch dilemma.” The pitcher is suppose to “get ahead in the count” by throwing a strike, but if the batter puts the first ball in play, his chances of getting a hit are much higher than on later pitches in the at bat. So he has to throw a strike, but not give him anything good to hit. Hmm.

Then Pete Palmer and Dick Cramer repeated their 35 year old study on clutch hitting, but with using he more and better data now available, to see if Bill James’ assertion that perhaps clutch hitting does exist, we merely haven’t been able to isolate it from the statistical “fog” of randomness around it. The new conclusion for Palmer and Cramer was the same: clutch hitting probably doesn’t exist and that the fog is still really darn thick. David Ortiz really did have two extraordinary years in 2005 and 2006 though.

My brain was full at that point, so I did not see the last two research presentations, and went off to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum.

As it turns out, the museum is having a “Baseball Rocks!” exhibit, which was really neat and interesting, combining stuff from their own collection with memorabilia from the Baseball Heritage Museum, for an exhibit that could easily ave fit right in at the Cooperstown National Baseball Hall of Fame. It was basically a lot of juxtaposition of popular music artifacts like sheet music and 78 and 45 records with baseball memorabilia and text describing the importance of each thing. Like sheet music from the 1858 “Base Ball Polka”–the earliest known published baseball song–written by J. R. Blodgett, who played with the Niagara Base Ball Club of Buffalo, NY. Or the 1935 song, by Eleanor Gehrig and Fred Fisher, “I Can’t Get To First Base With You,” the cover of which showed Lou (smoking a cigarette and looking very Hollywood) with an inset of Eleanor and both of their signatures printed on. They also connected the emergence of black entertainers into the fledgling rock and roll in popular music with Jackie Robinson breaking the color line. Apparently Denny McLain played the organ at a professional level (he apparently had to do organ practice before baseball) and that George Thorogood played semi-pro ball before making it as a musician.

I finished off the night with friends and a beer at the Bier Markt, a place with a fantastically large selection of belgian beers, and also delicious pomme frite (fries) with flavored mayo belgian style to go with. Yum.

So, signing off from another great SABR Convention. Next summer will be in downtown Washington DC!

June 27, 2008: SABR Day Two, Part 2

June 28, 2008 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Musings, Book Reviews

Back from the ballpark where the Indians pulled off a nice 6-0 shutout of their in-state rival Reds, C.C. Sabathia pitched 8 innings, 4 hits, 11 strikeouts, 2 walks. His only rough inning was the first when with 2 men on Grady Sizemore saved Sabathia’s sizable bacon by making a sickl leaping over-the-shoulder catch that had him land almost Spiderman-like with his spikes buried in the padded wall. After that, he cruised. And then the game was toppe off my a rather impressive fireworks show. Perhaps the single show I’ve seen with the highest explosions per second ratio. It was very nice, but a constant barrage of color and noise.

Now, when I left off today, in the mile of the day, I was running to try to catch a presentation on the “Mitchell 89.” That is, a study of the 89 players named in the Mitchell report and looking at whether taking performance enhancing drugs actually enhanced their performance. The study was undertaken by four researchers, Pat Kilgo, Jeff Switchenko, Brian Schmotzer, and Paul Weiss.

Among the fascinating facts their study seemed to uncover is the fact that players taking steroids appeared to enhance their offensive statistics by a factor of 12%, but if you cut Barry Bonds from the study, the effect is lessened to 7 percent. Still significant, but he was a big skew factor. Also, they found that the players reported to have taken HGH did NOT show any improvement in performance–in fact some measures were slightly negative. (This doesn’t mean HGH is harmful to performance, more likely that the guys taking it were doing it to try to recover from injury, and the effect of the injury is seen in the numbers.)

Andy Andres, a SABR member and a college professor who teaches both physiology and baseball statistics at Tufts, Harvard, and B.U. has posited from his studies that steroids ought to give between a 5% and 10% increase in offensive statistics, and that HGH ought not to, and interestingly this seems to bear it out. Further study is needed, but it was an interesting analysis.

Earlier, I was describing the beautiful Cleveland Public Library, was I not? They have an outstanding baseball photograph collection, which they ad a lot of on display to coincide with the SABR convention, and also some rare books and a collection of scrapbooks and memorabilia — great stuff. In the “Treasure Room” they had a bunch of the things on display that could actually be touched and looked through with care, including Henry Chadwick’s 1878 Our Boys Base Ball Rules for 1878 book, and The “Bull” Durham Baseball Guide 1910, which listed itself as “Published Annually by the Baseball Publishing Company, 2 Park Square, Boston.” They also had a selection of early novels mentioning baseball, including reference to Jane Austen’s 1798 book Northanger Abbey, which I JUST referenced in the Baseball Early Bird newsletter last week!

Not related to baseball, but equally fascinating to me were the exhibits in the library of Miniature Books (define as books from half inch by half inch in size up to 2″ x “3). The first well known one was made in 1475, just 20 year after Gutenberg’s Bible, the Officiam Beatae Virginis Maria. In WWI, a Scottish publisher produced a one-inch Koran that was issued to Muslim Allied soldiers in a metal locket case that included a magnifying glass. The other exhibit that caught me was one on Conlangs, or Constructed Languages, including not only Esperanto, but Elvish and Klingon. Folks I know tangentially, like Suzette Haden Elgin, whose Laadan language and “Linguistics and Science Fiction” newsletter are very familiar to me, fascinating to see. And fascinating to be reminded of the highly brainy and very geeky world I come from in science fiction/fantasy that is totally parallel to the one I know through SABR.

Next, a historical presentation by a SABR member from Japan, Yoichi Nagata. He presented on the Tokyo Giants’ north American tour of 1935, in which they barnstormed all over the western USA, plus a little Mexico and Canada. With pro baseball set to take off in Japan, the Giants (who were given that nickname by Lefty O’Doul, one f their major supporters in the USA), wanted to come to acquire American baseball skills.

Nagata was drawn to researching this tour because all records of the tour that were in Japan were lost during World War II. He had to used 102 local newspapers from all over North America to recreate all he results of the tour. He was able to recover 82 box scores and in the end, they had 104 games, only 31 losses and one tie, playing 74 different teams on the 118 day tour.

Among the facts I fond surprising, were that the Giants tam included one Russian-born player whose parents had fled the Bolsheviks to Japan when he was 3 years old, and one American citizen, a Nisei born in Hawaii.

During the tour they played 16 games against Nisei teams, going 14-2.

They also exhibited certain behaviors that charmed American fans, such as bowing to the umpires and forming a player “huddle” between innings. They also wore Chinese number characters on their backs. All three of these things, though, weer not usual for Japanese baseball–all were suggested by Lefty O’Doul as marketing ploys, and photographs featuring bowing, the huddle, and the numbers were sent out in press kits to all the newspapers.

In the end, the tour was not a financial success, but the team did acquire American baseball skills, so was considered an overall success, and thus was professional baseball launched in Japan the following season.

I’m amazed at the significance of this event culturally, and that Nagata was forced to come to the US to study it because of the devastation of the war.

The final research presentation of the day was Vince Gennaro’s talk on Free Agent Salaries. If you have not read Gennaro’s book Diamond Dollars, I recommend it. He explains in that book, among other things, why it is so key for the Yankees and Red Sox to spend as much on players as they do, and other factors that affect financial decisions in the game.

Here e described coming up with a model for predicting a player’s fee agent worth, adjusted for premiums of position (pitchers get paid more, middle infielders less), injury history (more durable player got a premium, injury-prone ones a discount), age, player quality, marquee value, and other factors. His study was only looking at the 2007 free agent class, but he is working on an expanded version that will cover 5 years and about 600 free agents to see if it holds up. By his model, Kaz Matsui is overpaid (valued around $3M, paid around $5M) while Cliff Floyd is getting $3M but is valued around $4.9M. He also noted that three guys who did not get jobs this season still carried value: Mike Piazza around 3.5 million, and interestingly, Barry Bonds $12.2 million. Barry says he’s been blacklisted. Has he?

Edit: Gennaro won the award for best presentation at the conference!

The final thing I saw before going off to the ballpark was Rick Wilber read from his new book published by McFarland & Company, entitled My Father’s Game. Rick is the son of major leaguer Del Wilber, but I know him as a science fiction writer. He and I and Eric Van (who runs the Readercon convention and works for the Red Sox) are about the only three people I know who crossover between the two sub-cultures.

Rick read some moving passages from his book, which deals with his perfect childhood as the son of a ballplayer, and his not-so-perfect adulthood where he was his father’s caregiver in the last stage of his life. I bought the book, and also Dorothy Seymour Mills’ book, A Woman’s Work: Writing Baseball History with Harold Seymour. Dorothy was Harold’s wife, and his major collaborator, though in the early years of his fame as a pioneer in baseball research, her contributions were not acknowledged. In those days, women were not allowed in the press box. You get the idea. Thankfully, Dorothy is well-recognized now!

That’s it for today. It’s one in the morning, and the first session I want to see tomorrow is at 9am, so I had better get to sleep.

Sorry again about all the typos. I’m writing this on the television web access thing in my room and it’s very hard to edit (or even see).

June 27, 2008: SABR Day Two (first half)

June 27, 2008 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Musings

Began the day this morning with breakfast with my roomie at the hotel buffet, then to the Women in Baseball committee meeting. The meeting was lovely, as Justine Siegel was there to present a pilot qualitative study she has done on a current girl playing high school baseball who is trying to get a Division II scholarship. Justine is special to me because she was the one who pointed me at the Pawtucket Slaterettes when I was falling out of the revamped New England Women’s Baseball League. She’s now getting her PhD in Sports Psychology and still running a 12-and-under girls team for the annual Cooperstown tournaments (where they play against boys teams), coaching a men’s collegiate baseball team, and helping to organize international tournaments for women’s baseball programs. And probably more. And raising a daughter, too.

The first research presentation I attended at Alan Nathan’s presentation on Pitchf/x. This is Sportvision’s three-camera system that has been installed in all MLB stadiums and if you look at the live Gameday pitch by pitch window at MLB.com, these days you will see a graphic showing the trajectory of the pitch and data on the pitch speed, location, and the amount of break that it displays. It is the same technology that you see on ESPN as K-Zone, and on Fox as Fox Trak. The center field camera is used only to determine the height of the strike zone. The other two are a “high home” camera, and a “high first” camera, whose angles are calculated together with software to determine pixel locations in each plane, and which then makes a three-dimensional set of coordinates for each frame.

The system is accurate to within a half mile of pitch speed (both at release and as it crosses home–the usual pitch loses 10% of its speed as it travels), with a half inch for location, and within 2 inches for magnitude and direction of break. It also records the type of pitch (fastball, slider, curve, etc.), and because it records each pitch live, it is also recording what each batter does with each pitch. Not only that, all this data is available FREE online. (He gave URLs for Dan Turkenkopf, who has a tutorial online on how to mate Pitchf/x data with Retrosheet, but I didn’t get it written down so you’ll have to Goggle for it, and Dan Brooks’ site: brooksbaseball.net/pfx/, who also has info on how to use the data.

Among the things Nathan was able to show that Pitchf/x demonstrates are the fact that pitches really do move differently in Colorado than elsewhere. He combined the data from 3000-7000 pitches in Toronto versus Denver. In Toronto the average speed dropped by 10% after release and broke 12″. In Denver pitches broke only 8″ and lost only 7.5% of their velocity. He also showed some fascinating graphs of pitchers Jon Lester, Brandon Webb, and knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, which I cannot really describe here. Also he showed how pitchf/x shows how the slider and the fastball really do look remarkably similar for the first 40 feet of their trajectory (with only a 4″ variation), and then drastically different for the final 20 feet, resulting in a 12″ difference in where they end up. Nathan’s own website about the topic is: http://webusrs.upl.uiuc.edu/~a-nathan/pob/pitchtracker.html

Then it was time for a little culture. Anthony Salazar presented a really fascinating look at the baseball art of Jacob Lawrence, a painter of the Harlem Renaissance. He was born in Atlantic City in 1917. He moved to Harlem when he was 13 and took classes in arts and crafts at Utopia House. There he met such figures as Langston Hughes and others, and by age 21 had his first painting exhibition. He was very influenced by the Mexican painter Diego Rivera and mural painting, with much emphasis on triangular shapes, elongated hands, and primary colors “right from the jar.”

In 1949 he painted two paintings, both 20″ x 24″ in egg tempera, with baseball themes. “Strike” depicts a black catcher, catching a pitch, while a white batter strikes out, and a racially mixed audience is depicted. In “The Long Stretch,” a white first baseman is catching the ball, as a black player barely gets one spiky toe onto the bag, and a white umpire calls him safe.

The images are imbue with great energy, highly stylized, and capture the tenacity of the pioneers integrating baseball at that time. Salazar pointed out similarities between the catcher figure and Roy Campanella, and the runner with Jackie Robinson. It’s fascinating art and a fascinating way for art to capture the complex situation and that moment in history. Thanks to Power Point, Salazar was able to show the paintings to good effect.

Then came Zak Hudak’s talk on how many home runs Babe Ruth might have hit, had he been on steroids. Hudak is 14 years old, very poised for his age (and probably tired of hearing people tell him that), the youngest presenter ever at a SABR convention.

Hudak started with a study done by Professor Tobin at Tufts University that posited that the muscle development from steroid use would increase homer production by 50% to 100%. Looking at the careers of Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Bary Bonds, and a couple of other sluggers who weer alleged to have used steroids, and found they tended to have a 4-5 year surge of about 50% above their usual production late in their careers.

Predicting that if Ruth had used enhancers, he would have also followed this pattern, Hudak calculated a 50% increase for Ruth’s 5 most consecutive productive years toward the end of his career, and came up with 842 home runs. By the same token, Aaron would have ended up with 856, and Ted Williams 608, among others.

Then it was off to the beautiful and wonderful Cleveland Public Library. There was an author roundtable, where Tom Swift, who just published a book on Chief Bender, Rob Neyer,

oops, just realized I am late for a presentation about the “Mitchell 89″ — more later!

June 25, 2008: At SABR in Cleveland

June 26, 2008 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Musings

Well, here I am in Cleveland! Apologies in advance for typos in this report. My trusty Macintosh laptop, which has, shall we say, high mileage on it, finally went kaput on the way here. I am forced to post this via he wacky WebTV thing in my room. I’s keyboard is horrible, I can barely see the TV screen, and it shows me maybe a tenth of the page?

But we persevere.

My flight last night flew right over the Indians’ home ballpark, which I still think of as Jacobs Field, but which has been renamed Progressive. I’m not actually expecting much about Cleveland to be very “progressive,” but well, let’s face it, I am an East Coast liberal, and my peer group when finding out I was going to Cleveland was full of jokes like “I think they have running water and electricity there now.” And Internet, I was assured! I feel a bit like I am riding a horse and buggy using WebTV….

Anyway, yes, they have electricity. The lights of the ballpark could be sen when we were still miles away, the distinctive “toothbrush” style lightstands making it look sort of like a kid’s birthday cake from a distance. Or perhaps a crown of some kind, though it does not look like this year the Indians will be capturing that.

Went to four fascinating research presentations today. Jim Odenkirk presented a very enjoyable recap of the years when the “rivalry” was between the Indian and Yankees, not just the Red Sox and Yankees. He used some attendance figures and such to prove that the Indians/Yankees rivalry from the 1940s and 1950s was every bit as hot and exciting as Red Sox/Yankees. I’m not so sure about that, as the rivalry between the cities of NY and Boston pre-dates the existence of professional baseball, and even when NL ball first came to the Northeast Corridor, supporters of the tams would waves signs rooting for them from the train platforms all along Connecticut (which has always had to divide loyalties);. But it was a very enjoyable reminscence of what was a very unique era in baseball. Mr. Odenkirk lived through it, and even was paid $3 per ride to drive a busload of 40 kids to ballgames on weekend afternoons, where owner Bill Veeck gave away thousands of tickets to children.

I unfortunately had to miss most of the talk on the decline of the inside the park home run by Ron Selter. I was on the phone to a friend who works at the Apple Store, and I was buying my replacement computer. I did hear his conclusions though, which were basically:

-outfielders are bigger/faster/stringer now days
-there are fewer bunts & hit & run plays
-smoother field result in fewer bad bounces
-better gloves
-smaller outfields

Anne Aronson gave a nice presentation on Women’s Baseball in Australia. Interestingly, one of the reasons they have significant womens baseball recreation programs there is because baseball is not a hugely popular sport, the state baseball federations there sponsored women’s baseball as a way of promoting the game to more people–why limit yourself to half he population? It also helps that the majority of sports played are organized through sports clubs. You pay your membership in a club, and that club will sponsor a whole menu of teams including T-ball for the kids, multiple men’s and women’s teams, and more. Since club membership and participation are largely family-oriented, when baseball was introduced, there were already plenty of women, including mothers, daughters, wives, sisters, etc… who weer ready to give it a try. They also lack the “baseball is for boys, softball is for girls” weirdness that rules American attitudes.

The best presentation I went to though, which truly fascinated me, was Geri Strecker’s talk about wartime baseball in the Philippines. The USA took over the Philippines in 1898 and by 1902 they had a professional quality ballpark. Early filipino newspapers show photos of native Ingorot tribesmen as the “G-String Basebal Team” (because that was pretty much all they wore.) By 1913 the All-Filipino team was touring the US and Japan in more traditional baseball uniforms.

The professional Manila Baseball League incorporated in 1909 and players got shares of the profits of about $45 – $60 per month. I imagine not only was that a fair it of money back then, but in the Philippines especially. Heck, that’s probably a good salary there NOW.

The playing season went from Thanksgiving to July 4th, to avoid typhoon season. They once had a rain delay that lasted 3 weeks for an All-Star Game because 3 typhoons came one after the other.

Her research centers around the 24th Infantry, an all black company serving in Batangas. The Manila League had four teams, the All-Filipino team, made up of native filipinos of many ethnicities, the Manila team, made up mostly of US citizens in the Philippines, the Army, and the Marines. But the Marines pulled out of the Philippines in mid-season. At the halfway point, the 24th infantry were invited to join the league, making the league integrated for a time. There were protests, though, and the experiment only lasted for that half-season.

Interesting to note that many of the presenters are women. The presentations are chosen based on blind abstracts, so the committee does not know the gender of the people they pick. It’s interesting that although general SABR membership runs about 4% female, it would appear that a greater number of them are doing presentable research than among the male population. I hypothesize that women who join SABR are more likely to do so BECAUSE they are motivated to do research, and not as content to just sit back and enjoy SABR as a passive experience, which is how I think some guys do.

Brain is full now, so must rest and then dinner with baseball writer/editor friends.

I’m not sure if I’ll post again! Depends on how painful this WEBTV continues to be.

June 8, 2008: “Making Of” A Game Story

June 09, 2008 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Musings, Great Games, Yankee Fan Memories

These days every movie or TV show has a “making of” documentary to accompany it. And every sport is analyzed up and down, from the drafting of talent to the construction of the roster, from the strategy employed on the field to examination of each and every play that happens. So I thought it was about time I parted the shrouds of mystery on how to turn out a top notch game story, including the secret techniques employed by all sportswriters, myself included, and tips for getting the most out of every game story.

A sure-fire way to grab people’s attention is with some kind of pun, double meaning, or play on words. Sometimes this can be in the title of the piece, or it might just be a clever (or painfully obvious) connection, like “It was 95 degrees at game time today in the Bronx, and Joba Chamberlain was hitting 95 mph on the radar gun.” I considered that one for todat’s piece, but actually Joba hit all the way up to 99 in the first inning, so for the sake of accuracy. I scrapped it. How about “The bats that heated up yesterday stayed hot in the Yankees’ 6-3 win over Kansas City, while the fans stayed hot because of surprisingly sweltering temperatures.” Eh, kind of wordy and not that sensical. maybe something simpler, like: “Temperatures soared and Joba was throwing heat.”? You get the idea.

The Yankees have a lot of history associated with them, and especially any story about a game that takes place in the final season of Yankee Stadium ought to have a patina of nostalgia on it. So, for example, making a comparison to games or figures of the past, allows you to pull in some history. Joba’s barrel chest, jowly face, and exuberant spirit make him an easy comparison to Babe Ruth. The pitcher he looks the most like from the upper deck, though, is actually Roger Clemens. Opposing players can be useful for evoking the past, too. After Joey Gathright ended the Yankees’ first inning rally, and prevented another one from starting in the second, both with unbelievable catches in center field, the old fellow sitting behind me remarked that he was “like Willie fucking Mays out there or something.” (These are Yankees’ fans, remember.)

Sometimes the hero is really obvious. Like in yesterday’s game, Johnny Damon went six-for-six and every hit was part of a rally, not to mention that he had the game-winning walk-off hit. Today, though, we could debate whether Bobby Abreu deserves the hero title or Jason Giambi. Abreu, after all, hit the two-run shot in the first that gave Joba some breathing room, whereas Giambi hit a solo shot in the sixth that broke the 3-3 tie and was ultimately the difference in the game. When anointing a hero, it’s important to take into account past performance–and to recap recent heroics if relevant. Right now Giambi is leading the major leagues in home run frequency, hitting one per 11 at bats or something like that. Not only that, he had a pinch-hit walk-off with two outs in the ninth in Thursday’s game, and just yesterday ALSO had a solo shot to break a tie in the sixth. I’d say Giambi gets it this time around, also because…

Now, when you write about the Yankees, the term “underdog” can seem a bit ironic, if not oxymoronic. But in the eyes of some fans, a guy like Giambi went from MVP to underdog when he had all his health problems, and then fought back into shape. There are not many candidates for underdog in today’s game though, unless we count the Kansas City Royals themselves… Wait. How about Dan Giese? This is a pitcher who has been waiting for his chance to pitch for a long time, and who got called up for Joba’s first start last week, as the team has Joba on strict pitch counts while they stretch him out from short relief to a starting role. He pitched extremely well in the long relief role, and then the next day was sent immediately back to Triple A. He was recalled after just a few days and praised by team management for being cooperative and professional about the whole thing. And he pitched effectively again: two and a third innings, no hits, no runs.

The overwhelming theme of the day had to be heat, but I’ve already harped on it so much. The last time I remember being so steamy at the stadium was in August 2005, when we took in a game that was stopped twice by passing thundershowers. And Bernie Williams hit two home runs. The Belmont Stakes was yesterday and Big Brown, trying to win the Triple Crown, came in dead last. Hm. Probably not a good comparison. I hope. I’ll be avoiding horseracing references for a while just in case.

Authority in baseball writing is always conveyed by the use of numbers. Some of my best friends are baseball statisticians. And I do some number crunching myself, though I often have the feeling that if there is a case I want to make, I can surely dig up numbers to support it that will look extremely convincing to all except perhaps my stat geek friends. So I try to look at the numbers with an open mind, and see what they suggest to me. Among other things, what they suggest is that Mariano Rivera is still improving with age. The solo shot he surrendered yesterday (in a non-save situation) was only the second run he gave up all season. It caused his ERA to “balloon” to 0.64. For those of you who are new to baseball, that’s SMALL. He has converted 15 of 15 save opportunities. Not much arguing one can do with numbers like that.

Of course if you want to give your readers the feeling that you are really, really on top of everything, write about not only what you saw, but what you didn’t see. I didn’t see any hint of Kyle Farnsworth in yesterday’s game. Now that Joba Chamberlain is in the rotation, doesn’t the eighth inning belong to Farnsworth? Unfortunately, with his recent tendency to give up the long ball, he has lost what tentative trust the crowd had begun to put in the “re-invented” reliever. “He’s a bum,” is what the 12 year old sitting next to me said. “We better get some more runs,” said the guy on my other side, “because you know Farnsworth is coming in and he’s going to give up at least one run.” But although the Yankees got two insurance runs on a two-RBI double by Alex Rodriguez (which he tried to stretch into a triple but ended up thrown out at third), Farnsworth did not appear. Instead, Jose Veras pitched, and pitched well. That’s two games in a row that Veras pitched. After the game, manager Joe Girardi said he held Farnsworth out of the game because he has a slight tweak in his biceps. Interesting. I think Girardi is bending over backwards to maintain his trust in Farnsworth, because he knows the moment Farnsworth thinks Girardi has lost confidence in him, Farnsworth will fall apart. And unfortunately, they need him to contribute because if there were better alternatives, they’d have already explored them. It looks to me, though, like Jose Veras is on the verge of earning the 8th inning job.

Sometimes the amusing anecdotes come from the clubhouse, from players, other times from other people associated with the game. And still other times they come from my own observations, in which case maybe they are only amusing to me. Here’s today’s: I have a new nickname for Jorge Posada, which is El Jardinero. “Jardinero” in Spanish means “gardener,” and in Spanish baseball lingo also refers to “fielders” especially outfielders. However today was the annual Puerto Rican Day parade in New York City, which perhaps put me in mind of the Dominican salsa master Wilfrido Vargas, who had a huge salsa hit in the 1980s under the title “El Jardinero.” So Jorge, who is proudly Puerto Rican, earns the title for all the gardening he does around home plate. After Joba finished throwing his warmup pitches, the first thing Jorge did was fluff up the dirt right in front of the plate. He seemed to be carefully building up a layer right at the edge of the plate, and then smoothing the rest. He also obliterated the lines of the batters’ boxes closest the the plate, presumably because of glare in his eyes on the sunny day? I’m not sure why. I just know he spent a lot of time looking like he really wanted a garden spade in his hand.

Of course, every piece should end with something that makes the reader go either “aww” or “aha!” or “wow.” This effect can be achieved by looping back to the beginning to close the thematic loop (“and as the weather stays hot, hopefully the Yankees will, too…”), by making bold predictions for the future (“and Joba Chamberlain will likely be in the rotation for the rest of the season…”), or by adding one last tidbit that was held back until now. Um, except I didn’t actually hold back a tidbit. I left it all out on the field.

June 7, 2008: Comeback Kids

June 07, 2008 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Great Games, Yankee Fan Memories

I was in the house for a wild, wild win in the Bronx today.

Um, by “in the house” of course I mean “at Yankee Stadium.” The scoreboard counting down the number of games left by increments went from 51 to 50 today, and at various points in the game we were treated to video montages of: great moments in Yankee Stadium, time lapse of the construction of the new stadium, aerial video of the new and old stadiums (stadia?) standing side by side…

It all feels a bit like the Yankees are hoping we’re really going to like moving into that snazzy new condo, even though nothing can replace the family’s ancestral home. One can’t help but stare at the grand and classic-looking facade across the way while waiting in line to enter the old place. I don’t know. Every now and then I worry that we’ve been sold a bill of goods. But I guess we won’t really know until we move in over there and see how it is.

The thing that will make the new place as special as the old, of course, is that the Yankees will play there. And if they play a lot of games there that were like the one we saw today, it won’t be long before a whole new generation cherishes that building nearly as much as the old one.

It started out a hot, humid day–the first really summer-hot day of the year. Last night it was chilly and foggy, and the Yankees lost 2-1 to Kansas City in another game that starter Darrell Rasner deserved to win, except the Yankees could not score for him.

Andy Pettitte did not have that problem today, as the offense came alive in the hot weather. Unfortunately for him, it came alive for both teams.

The pounding began in the first inning, when with two outs Mark Teahen hit a booming double which would later cause Johnny Damon to remark that he knew then that it was a good day to be playing deep. He couldn’t play deep enough for the next batter, though, Jose Guillen, who hit a two run shot. Andy seemed to be struggling with his control, but he got the next hitter to end the inning with a soft comebacker.

The Yankees bats then got to work. Damon himself started off with a big double. Jeter moved him over with one of his patented bunts in a sac situation but which could have been a hit if the Royals hadn’t fielded perfectly. Giambi singled him in for the Yankees first run, and the Royals’ lead was cut in half.

Pettitte was still a little wild in the second, walking the leadoff man, but appeared to settle down with the ensuing double play and strikeout.

Then, in the top of the third, the first pitch of the inning was bunted at by Joey Gathright and the glancing foul hit the home plate umpire in the head. A twenty minute delay ensued while he was taken out of the game for precautionary reasons, and Jim Wolf had to change into the chest protector to take over behind the plate. The delay seemed to “ice” Pettitte, whose wildness returned, and after retiring Gathright on the very next pitch (4-3), the then gave up a single and a triple, walked Teahen, gave up an RBI single to Guillen, struck out Olivo, then gave up another RBI single to John Buck who was caught out trying to stretch it into a double. The Royals now had a 5-1 lead and Pettitte had thrown 64 pitches in 3 innings.

Pettitte did settle down after that, recording 1-2-3 innings in the 4th, 5th, and 6th, and giving the Yankees a chance to catch up, which they did in the 4th. A-rod led off with a single, Giambi (who has been red hot of late) walked on four pitches, and the Jorge Posada, in his only his second game back after a long stint on the DL, slammed an RBI double. Cano brought in another run with a base hit, and then Wilson Betemit brought in Jorge with a deep sac fly to center, proving that these days he is the only man who can hit a fly ball with a runner on third and fewer than two outs. But the rally didn’t end there, no. Melky singled, then Damon followed with his third hit of the day, making it now 5-5 with men on the corners and one out.

Up came Jeter, who then had a 3-0 count… and swung at the next pitch and fouled it off. He ended up hitting a high pop to right, not terribly deep, and Melky tagged up and tried to score… and ended up out at the plate in a 9-2 double play. To that point Jeter had hit into two double plays and he and Abreu were the only two in the lineup who had no hit or RBI.

And it was only the fourth inning.

The Yankees took the lead in the fifth when Giambi hit a solo shot–one of those ones where the crack of the bat rings in your ears–a soaring blast into the upper deck. Everything was peachy.

Until the seventh, when Pettitte began to tire. The temperature was in the 90s, perhaps expecting him to pitch a full seven inning was to much? Alberto Callaspo greeted him with a double, light-hitting Esteban German followed with a bunt base-hit, and Gathright followed that with an RBI single to tie the game. Damn. DeJesus bunted the runners over, and so Mike Aviles was intentionally walked to set up the double play. Pettitte actually struck out Teahen though, and then was one strike away from sealing the deal against Jose Guillen. If he’d been able to sit Guillen down, he would have gotten out of the inning giving up only one run.

Unfortunately, Guillen then hit a grand slam. Ouch. It was now 10-6 Royals, and Pettitte had earned all ten runs. Jose Veras came in and struck out Olivo on three pitches, but the damage was done.

The Yankees, however, were not done. In the bottom of the inning Abreu finally joined the party with a base hit, followed by a no-doubter off the bat of A-rod that landed in the visiting bullpen. It was now 10-8 Royals, but it seemed likely the score wouldn’t stay that way.

And indeed, in the bottom of the eighth, the Yankees made up their second four-run deficit of the day. Cano led off with a bit, and after a Betemit strikeout, Melky added his own. They moved to second and third with Damon at the plate. Damon had a 3-0 count and had already gone four-for-four in the game. Could he actually get five hits? Yes. He knocked in both runners to tie the score. Jeter followed with a hit, but both he and Damon were stranded, and Mariano Rivera entered the ninth inning with the game tied.

Not for long. Mariano’s first pitch went deep off the bat of David DeJesus and it was 11-10 Royals. It was the first homer Mo has given up, and only the second run he has allowed all year.

One more comeback, Yankees, please?

The fireworks began with one out, when Jorge Posada, jumping right into the thick of things, hit a solo shot into the lower deck in right off KC closer Joakim Soria. Tie game. With two outs, Betemit worked a walk, and then Melky Cabrera got lucky, rolling a slow grounder up the third base line that just never rolled foul.

And so up came Damon, who was then 5-for-5. Betemit on second, Melky on first, and two outs. It was two pitches into his at bat that corwin reminded me to eat sunflower seeds. You see, in each of the two big scoring rallies for the Yankees that day, we had been eating them. Clearly, we needed to eat them now. We each took a handful and began munching.

And it worked! Damon laced a single, Betemit raced home, and Damon was mobbed by his teammates at first base. Final score 12-11 Yankees, with the two teams having 31 hits between them.

We’ll be back at the Stadium tomorrow, to see Joba Chamberlain in his second start. Hopefully the Yankees’ bats will stay hot, and the Royals’ will not.

June 1, 2008: For the Birds

June 01, 2008 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Fans and Fandom, Great Ballparks, Yankee Fan Memories

I have now initiated my friend Brian (let’s call him Brian…) to the fun and wonder of Major League fandom. I took a trip to Baltimore to take him to his first major league game, a tilt of Orioles versus Yankees.

The reason I went all the way to Baltimore for this is that the company he works for gets tickets at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Nice tickets. Behind home plate nice. So when he asked if I’d come down and see a game with him and explain what all the fuss was about, of course I said yes.

Follow Why I Like Baseball on Twitter!

Ads by Project Wonderful! Your ad here, right now: $0.02

Theme Tweaker by Unreal