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Archive for the ‘Baseball History’

Masanori Murakami speaks at #SABR45

June 27, 2015 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball History, SABR

This year we have many distinguished speakers at the SABR convention, as usual, but one I did not want to miss was Masanori Murakami. “Mashi” as he is known, was the first Japanese player to appear in the major leagues back in 1964. He is the subject of Rob Fitts’ new biography (Mashi: The Unfulfilled Baseball Dreams of Masanori Murakami, the First Japanese Major Leaguer) and they’re doing a nine-city U.S. tour, starting here, Boston Monday, and several cities in California including Fresno and San Francisco.

The program began first with a quick nine-minute preview of the film Diamond Diplomacy by filmmaker Yumiko Gamo Romer, which will be a documentary about “US-Japanese Relations Through A Shared Love of Baseball.” Tracing that relationship from Horace Wilson, who brought baseball to Japan in 1871 where he was a teacher until 1877. (Here’s an interesting NPR article and story about his descendants being invited to Japan in 2000: National Public Radio). I hope we will get to see the finished film at the SABR convention in 2 years?

Rob Fitts, for those who don’t know him, is a previous winner of the award for best presentation at a SABR convention (if I’m remembering correctly), and the author of Banzai Babe Ruth: Baseball, Espionage, and Assassination during the 1934 Tour of Japan, and a book about Wally Yonamine as well. After the film clips were done, Rob got up and narrated Mashi’s story, turning to the man himself to speak at various points to illustrate or explain various parts.

Here are some excerpts from the talk they gave:

Rob: As some of you know, in Japanese baseball the training is very infused with the martial arts. Sometimes to toughen up the players they were not allowed to drink water.

Mashi: We could not drink the water. But sometimes we would very quickly drink some water. You would go to pick up the ball and there would be the little bit of water with the baby moquitoes in it. [Puddles.] Sometimes you would put a towel in that water and (*slurp*).

Rob: As you saw in the film clip, the manager of the Nankai Hawks came to Mashi’s house when he was in high school and asked if he would sign a contract to play with the Hawks. Mashi said no, he wanted to go to college. But just as Manager Shuroka was about to leave, he said if Mashi would sign, that they would send him for training in the United States.

Mashi: My third year [in high school] in the summer time, Hawks manager came to my house. he said hey Mashi, please sign contract for my Hawks. But I said no, I want to go to college. But he said if you sign the contract, we will send you to the United States. So I changed my mind. I had seen Rawhide, Hollywood movies with John Wayne and Marilyn Monroe, and I wanted to come over here.

Jeter Walks Off Into the Sunset

September 26, 2014 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball History, Great Games, Yankee Fan Memories

The scene is a conference room, shades drawn, coffee cups scattered across the table as the scriptwriters gather for a brainstorming session.

“Okay, how about this?” one of them says. “The kid, totally green rookie, gets a shot because a veteran player goes down, and then he hits a home run in his first game.”

“Yeah, okay,” another one says, “But then he also needs to hit a home run in the playoffs that year!”

“Too cliched,” a third one opines, “unless there’s a controversy about the homer. A fan reaches over, pulls it in, but…”

“But that just makes it all the more magical!” The first writer leaps to her feet, waving her pencil perilously close to the one next to her. (more…)

SABR 44 Day Two Research Presentations

August 02, 2014 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball History, Baseball Musings

Went to three fascinating research presentations today at the SABR convention. Today’s topics I chose to attend were ballpark advertising and how it relates to branding, the influx of Cuban defectors, and William Hulbert. Presented respectively by the son and grandson of a former major leaguer, the current English-language expert on Cuban baseball, and one of SABR’s leading economists with multiple publications in the Baseball Research Journal.

Also today were the 1980 Astros panel, the Women in Baseball panel, the Media panel, and the trivia contest finals. Trivia gets more and more entertaining every year: they really have it down pat these days and the answers are just as entertaining for the audience as the questions are for the contestants.

Here’s the official description of the first presentation I went to: (more…)

Reid Ryan addresses #SABR44

July 31, 2014 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball History, Baseball Musings, SABR

Here are my notes on the SABR 44 keynote by Reid Ryan in Houston. If you’re not familiar with Mr. Ryan you might have thought you were about to hear a speech by a dull front-office wonk. Savvy folks however might have realized that Ryan is a pretty big name in Texas baseball.

Houston Chapter President Bob Dorrill introduced the speaker with a recounting of Reid Ryan’s career and accomplishments, which are significant. Among other things he pitched for the Texas Rangers after graduating from TCU, was the founder of the Round Rock Express minor league team, and of course more recently has taken the job as president of the Houston Astros. He left it to Ryan himself to reveal to anyone not in the know that he also happens to be Nolan Ryan’s son.

What followed was an anecdote-packed recounting of some of Ryan’s favorite memories of the journey through baseball that led him first as a kid following his Dad from major league city to major league city all the way to what he’s trying to accomplish with Houston today. (more…)

SABR 43 Research Presentations

August 04, 2013 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball History, Baseball Musings, SABR

After only making it to one research presentation yesterday, I hit three in a row today. I was too fatigued upon waking this morning to make it to the Media Panel. Having made myself rather ill last year by pushing too hard and doing too much (at all conventions, not just SABR’s), I made the decision to go back to sleep and hope that the audio or video of the panel will be online later.

Including yesterday, here are four of the RPs I saw:

* What About Solly Hemus? (Mark Armour)

* Analyzing Batter Performance Against Pitcher Clusters (Vince Gennaro)

* Baseball in the Age of Big Data: Why the Revolution Will Be Televised (Sean Lahman)

* Statistical Predictors of MLB Players’ Proneness to Long Hitting Streaks (Alan Reifman and Trent McCotter)

An evening with a bunch of knuckleballers

September 22, 2012 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Fans and Fandom, Baseball History

So I mentioned in my recap of the SABR convention this summer that I saw an advance screening there of the film KNUCKLEBALL! And that I loved it.

Well, I am happy to report the film easily stands up to a second viewing. Tuesday night I had a chance to attend a terrific event at the Regal Cinemas over by Fenway: a screening of the film followed by a live Q&A with Tim Wakefield, Charlie Hough, Phil Niekro, and Wilbur Wood, as well as filmmakers Annie Sundberg and Ricki Stern. (And then a VIP reception after that, but more on that later.)

First, let me gush about the film a little, because totally awesome as it was to have the players there, and to shake Phil Niekro’s hand and tell him I played women’s hardball and thank him for the Silver Bullets, the film itself is so superlative that it was still the best thing of the night. (more…)

Articles on the SABR Era of baseball wanted (1971-present)

April 12, 2011 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball History, Baseball Musings

So, some of you may have seen via the SABR newsletters and my other social media things, that I’m editing the Fall 2011 issue of the Baseball Research Journal, aka BRJ.

BRJ is SABR’s main research publication, and has become one of the premiere places to publish ground-breaking research into both baseball history and statistical analysis. (SABR = Society for American Baseball Research).

SABR was founded in 1971, and it’s probably not a coincidence that the society’s formation came about just as many other changes were coming to the game. So this special themed issue will have some (not all) of its articles focused on baseball from 1971 to the present. Consider the following upheavals & changes we’ve seen in our lifetimes: (more…)

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An Afternoon With Ryne Duren

January 07, 2011 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball History

Dangit. I just heard of Ryne Duren’s passing yesterday at age 81. I am supposed to be working on a biography of him for the SABR Bioproject, but he hadn’t answered my recent letter. I was going to try to track down a more recent phone number for him, but now I won’t get that chance.

The reason I took the Duren assignment for the Bioproject, honestly, is because I was hoping to have another great chat with Ryne like the one we had back in 2003 when I was working on The 50 Greatest Yankees Games. He winters in Florida like many people, and so I met him one February when I went down for pitchers and catchers. On that trip I interviewed a lot of former Yankees, including Tom Tresh (who also sadly passed as well) and Phil Linz (still kickin’). Ryne wanted to know if I could meet him at a greasy spoon near Lakeland. This wasn’t that near either his home nor where I was, but I readily agreed.

When I got there I found out why he wanted to meet there–because of the proximity to several large pawn shops. In his dotage, Ryne had become something of a junk connoisseur, and apparently it’s more fun to hunt for junk with company that without. I happily went with him to pick through piles of used lawnmowers, lamps, stereo equipment, etc. We found no gems, but it was fun, and then we settled into the little diner nearby to have a bite to eat and talk baseball.

At the time I was working on The 50 Greatest Yankee Games, so I had a bunch of questions about Duren’s teammates to ask him (he played with the Yankees from 1958-1961) but sometimes you never know what you’re going to find if you just let a fellow talk. And Duren was a talker, that’s for sure.

In our conversation he told me stories about how Lefty O’Doul helped him with his pitching control, how alcoholism probably hurt his control, meeting Marilyn Monroe, getting batting tips from Joe DiMaggio, how having an infected heart as a child turned him into a baseball fan, Whitey Ford, Ralph Terry, and much more. What follows is pretty much a verbatim transcript of that afternoon:

Ryne Duren: Did you know I just wrote a book, too?

Cecilia Tan: No, I had no idea.

RD: I’ll get you a copy. [goes out and gets one from the car] I’m going to go down and autograph copies at the museum in St. Pete [where the "Baseball as America" Hall of Fame exhibit was showing at the time]. I don’t know how much research you did about me but I’m known for two things, I have real bad eyes and I had terrible alcohol problem. Anyway, this is kind of a play off of both. [The title of the book is "I Can See Clearly Now."]

CT: Did you really hit a guy in the on deck circle in the minors?

RD: Oh no. That’s a myth. But what I did do was (more…)

SABR 40: This year’s award winners!

August 08, 2010 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball History

Announcement of the winners of this year’s award winners!
Neal Traven, head of the judges, announces that unfortunately neither the poster winner nor the research presentation winner could be present. But he gives a recap of the winners and their topics. (And the poster, which was very beautifully done, was displayed in the back.)


SABR 40: Seymour Medal Panel

August 08, 2010 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball History

The Research Process: Seymour Medal Winners Panel
Dorothy Seymour Mills, David Block, Tom Swift

Official description(s):
Magnolia Chapter member Ken Fenster moderates a discussion with Dorothy Seymour Mills, David Block and Tom Swift about the ups and downs of the research process, from the formulation of original ideas all the way through to publication. The panelists will use examples from their own works to illustrate the difficulties researchers must face, and the strategies that were useful in meeting those challenges.


SABR 40: day two wrap up (Braves game)

August 07, 2010 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball History, Great Ballparks

Yesterday before dashing for the bus to the ballpark, I actually managed to see a little more than half of Robert Fitts’s presentation on Babe Ruth and Eiji Sawamura, the 17 year old pitcher who struck the Babe out and became a national hero. The young pitcher had forfeited his future in academia by taking the pitching gig, as “professional athletes” were not allowed to continue in school at the time, but the lure of facing Ruth was too enticing and he signed with the team Yomiuri was putting together.

This was during the same MLB all-star tour of Japan on which Moe Berg did some of his infamous spying. The MLB team played 10 games on the tour and won them all, but the game Fitts described, which the young Sawamura pitched, was a near thing. Sawamura held the big leaguers in check, ending up losing 1-0 on a solo homer by Lou Gehrig.

I ducked out of the room just as Fitts was reading an ironic quote from some optimistic observer of the baseball tour of Japan, claiming that these nations would never be wracked by war again. (World War II was just around the corner.)

SABR 40: day two, post four

August 06, 2010 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball History

Okay, gearing up for the last five research presentations of the day. I might have to miss the last one in order to get the bus to the ballpark in time. I probably should have not paid for the bus and just taken MARTA instead, but when I was buying my tickets months ago it had seemed like a good idea. I actually went and took a nap instead of eating lunch, because my eyes were trying to shut during the last two presentations before it.

This afternoon it is really difficult to choose which presentation to see, but I decided to start with Vince Gennaro because every year he comes up with something very sharp and insightful. It means missing Gary Gillette’s presentation on disappearing Negro League ballparks, but I figure I can get Gary to give me the gist of it later if I see him in the bar or at the game.

The slate:

Vince Gennaro – Measuring the asset value of players: A framework for evaluating trades

Geri Strecker – Whose dream was it?: Revisiting the formation of the Negro National League in 1920

Ross Davies – Chinese-U.S. baseball diplomacy before the Great War

Will Dahlberg – A tool for diplomacy: Baseball in occupied Japan 1945-1952

Robert Fitts – Babe Ruth, Eiji Sawamura and war


SABR 40: day two, post two

August 06, 2010 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball History

Revising Mantle’s Griffith Stadium Home Run
A Case Study in Forensic Physics
Alan Nathan

An intriguing look at one of the most iconic moments in the career of one of baseball’s most iconic figures. Lots has been written about the famous homer, as written about in the book CLOUT by Dan Valenti. The characters: Yankee publicist Red Patterson, Mickey Mantle, and Donald Dunaway. The places: Griffith Stadium and 434 Oakdale Place. But the claim that the homer carried 565 feet has been “debunked” before.


SABR 40: day two, Braves Player Panel

August 06, 2010 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball History

SABR Liveblogging Day 2

I’m late to the Braves Player Panel. I would have been on time, but something I had at the breakfast buffet didn’t agree with me. I’m there now, though…

Phil Niekro, Mark Lemke, Bobby Cox, Ron Gant, and moderated by Pete Van Wieren

Recapped below!


SABR 40: day one, post three

August 05, 2010 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball History

In this post:

Resting the Pitcher: How Useful are Pitch Counts and Days of Rest?
Sean Forman and JC Bradbury

Where have You Gone, Tony Lazzeri?
Lawrence Baldasarro

Pitchers As Fielders: A Quantitative Analysis or… Why Kirk Rueter is the best-fielding pitchers of all time
John Knox

21 Facts You Didn’t Know About 1921
Steve Steinberg and Lyle Spatz



SABR 40: day one, post two

August 05, 2010 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball History

Liveblogging SABR 40!

Just wrapped up two more research presentations:

Sanctioned Post-Season Series
by Marty Pankin and Mike Canton

Using Marcel the Monkey to Help Understand Different Eras in Baseball
by Andy Andres

These are kind of raw reports, and I apologize for any typos. I’m typing as fast as I can most of the time. For those of you who have never been to one of these things, each research presentation is 20 minutes long, with 5 minutes for questions, and then bam, the schedule turns over to the next one.



SABR 40: day one, post one

August 05, 2010 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball History

I’ve had no sleep so I could be on a crack of dawn flight to Atlanta, but here I am! Liveblogging what I can from the 40th annual convention of the Society for American Baseball Research. There’s wireless in the conference area! So I’ll try to post more than once a day.

First up:

A Heisman Trophy in College Baseball? (Karl Green)

Scranton Times Coverage of 1906 New York State League Championship Led by Moonlight Graham (Jim Frutchey)

Southern Baseball and Southern Gimmicks (Norman Graubart)



SABR Day Trivia: Questions!

January 30, 2010 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball History

It’s officially SABR day in America (America includes Canada, too, as there are chapters/meetings in Toronto and Montreal, plus Puerto Rico has a chapter and meeting today, and presumably Mexico would be included if there were a chapter there…). Many SABR chapters are having Hot Stove meetings today and other shindigs to celebrate. (Schedule).

I’m a member of the Boston chapter, but also one of the first “online chapters,” the SABR charter community of bloggers known as the Baseball Bloggers Alliance. Since I’m feeling a bit under the weather and may not make it to my Boston chapter meeting, I figured I’d offer this trivia quiz for seamheads everywhere to enjoy.


SABR Day Trivia: Answers!

January 30, 2010 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball History

Under the link, the answers to the SABR DAY trivia quiz! So don’t click until you’ve looked at the questions!


DVD Review: World Series 1945, 1946, 1947

January 22, 2010 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball History

Tonight corwin and I continued our time warp through history, watching the next three World Series films in order with 1945, 1946, and 1947. In my mind these three series’ were The Goat Curse Series, Slaughter’s Dash, and Jackie’s First.

As the 1945 film begins there is no sound, presumably because the soundtrack was lost or damaged, which only serves to intensify the feeling that what we’re watching is archival. It picks up quickly enough in the intro, though, and it’s clear that in this, the third World Series film in a row done by Lew Fonseca and crew, they are still pushing the envelope and searching for ways to make the film more entertaining and watchable. This time the key players on each club are introduced with little bios and accomplishments, and then the lineups are given. There are also some faces here that reinforce that notion that pitchers are greyhounds–made of long limbs and graceful faces–while catchers are pugs and bulldogs–embodiments of flat-faced, broadshouldered cragginess. The two examples that epitomize these standards, pitcher Hal Newhouser and Tiger’s manager Steve O’Neill (a former backstop).

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