The city of Atlanta was the proud host of the 40th annual Society for American Baseball Research convention this weekend. The Convention along with the Jersey Retirement of Tom Glavine made for a busy weekend for Atlanta baseball fans. One of the highlights of the SABR convention was the Atlanta Braves “Worst to First” panel that discussed the 91 National League Champion team. The panel was made up of former broadcaster Pete Van Wieren, Braves Manager Bobby Cox, former second baseman Mark Lemke, former outfielder Ron Gant, and Hall of Fame pitcher Phil Neikro.
I was lucky enough to be invited to the SABR convention this weekend with a full media credential. I jumped at the chance to be front and center for the “Worst to First” panel as I was in high school when the 91 team was captivating us all and they are very dear to my heart. While the panel was a clear highlight, I found so much more at the Convention. Prior to going, when I thought of SABR I thought of statistical analysis. While there was plenty of that to go around there was a deep love and passion for the research and history of the game of baseball.
One of the most enjoyable things I sat in on was a committee meeting of SABR’s Chicago Black Sox committee. There was absolutely no statistical analysis involved in this meeting as they concentrated on various tasks of gathering as much information as possible to determine what actually occurred in the 1919 World Series. This group also had a panel discussion on Saturday with esteemed former AJC writer Furman Bisher who was the only person to ever conduct an interview with “Shoeless” Joe Jackson after he was banned from baseball.
Stories like these are only the tip of the iceberg so to speak as to what the convention had to offer. There was a presentation discussing Mickey Mantle’s legendary Griffith Stadium home run and whether or not it could have actually traveled 565 feet. There was also a visual time line presentation of the 1991 Braves season that was presented on a Google Maps platform. Whether you have a technological, historical, or statistical interest in baseball, then SABR has an area for you.
The one thing that most of the convention goers had in common was a deep passion for the game. While walking through the exhibits you could hear countless baseball stories coming from people of all ages from all over the world. One of the highlights for me was sitting next to a SABR member from Montana named Alan Rice while we waited for the Braves panel to start. He told me some remarkable stories of journeys he has been making through the southeast at various ballparks over the course of his life. (Thanks Alan!) Another interesting story was while I was waiting for a presentation to start a gentleman asked me if the seat next to me was taken. That gentleman turned out to be none other than former Florida Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez who was also there taking in the convention.
Stories like my meeting with Mr Rice and briefly talking with Fredi Gonzalez is what I think is one of the biggest things that the conference has to offer. A friendly atmosphere where people come together to talk about baseball. People from all over with so many different backgrounds as fans or some that are actually involved in the game. One of the first things I did after I got home was register my membership at www.sabr.org.
I would recommend to anyone that is a serious baseball fan to get involved with SABR. I would be happy to try and answer any questions about my experience in the comments section of this post. I would like to know if any of Tomahawk Take’s members out there are SABR members and would love to hear your experiences with the organization. I will be talking more about the “Worst to First” Panel in the coming days so be sure and check back.