SABR Day 2015

It might have been a week later than the official date, but avoiding fan fest date conflicts proved to be a wise decision for the Ken Keltner Badger State and Emil Rothe chapters of the Society for American Baseball Research. 48 baseball fans made their way to and from Kenosha’s “world famous” Brat Stop for what has become an annual Hot Stove tradition.

This year’s meeting opened in the sadness that could only be brought on by the death of a beloved ballplayer. Not only was Ernie Banks’ funeral playing on the TVs as baseball fans arrived, but the meeting also took place on what would have been Mr. Cub’s 84th birthday. Rich Schabowski (dressed in football attire of teams not from the state of Wisconsin or Illinois) opened the meeting and led all in attendance in a moment of silence for the Cubs legend, which ended with a shout of “Let’s Play Two!” That call ended up symbolizing the day: each chapter organized half of the meeting, with a lunch break in between. It really was like playing a doubleheader.

The portion of the meeting organized by the Chicago chapter took the top half of the program. Leading off was guest speaking Ozzie Guillen, Jr. Currently employed as a financial adviser, he worked in the clubhouses while his father coached in Atlanta and Florida and also while Ozzie, Sr. managed the Pale Hose to their first championship in 88 years. Holding high expectations for both of Chicago’s clubs in 2015, he spoke his mind on two issues in baseball today. The first is that the pendulum has swung to far in favor of analytics and sabermetrics within some organizations. The second is that today’s players make too much money, exacerbating the disconnect between the players and the fans and mirroring the current stratification of American society. He then took many questions from the audience, discussing everything from his favorite player as a clubhouse manager (“The best tipper”) and observations on the aforementioned World Series champion 2005 White Sox to pitch counts and broadcasting the team his father managed in Florida.

Batting second was a man whom his boss has called the “Ben Zobrist of Baseball Prospectus”, prospect writer Mauricio Rubio, Jr. With a deep love of baseball inherited from his family and dreams of being a pro scout, Mauricio started working for the fantasy side of BP before his constant pestering finally landed him a chance to write on prospects. With a focus on the Midwest League, he commented on how his writing tends to focus on melding stats with scouting, in line with BP’s brand as a leading sabermetric site. He also remarked about how mechanical analysis has become big with saber-scouts, but cautioned that mechanical analysis might be overemphasized, concurring with some of the commentary on the importance of a prospect’s character from Ozzie Guillen, Jr. The Q+A revealed his typical day at the park starts with a focus on 2 pitchers (typically the starters) and 2 hitters, moving around from the bullpen to behind home plate to a side view for the hitters and a rear view to better analyze arm action.

The final speaker before lunch was Merle Branner, who shared a paper from a leadership course she took as part of her studies in Library and Information Science. The paper examines the leadership dynamic between Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson using the Servant Leadership model proposed by Robert Greenleaf. She examines all 10 aspects of the model in relation to Rickey’s signing of Robinson and integration of the major leagues. Once she was done, it was undoubtedly time for lunch.

While lunch was delicious (the cajun bratwurst is highly recommended if you’re ever able to stop at the Brat Stop), there was more baseball to be discussed, and the Badger State portion of the meeting commenced. Jim Nitz told the story of the Milwaukee Chicks, the 1944 champions of the All American Girls Professional Baseball League made famous by the film A League of Their Own. Their only year in Milwaukee was a turbulent one despite the on-field success. Media coverage for the team was poor in Milwaukee, failing to replicate the success of teams like the Rockford Peaches and leading to multiple nicknames used in the papers (primarily Schnitts and Brewerettes). The Chicks cohabited in Milwaukee’s Borchert Field with the Brewers (the minor league club), leading to a cavernous stadium that was sparsely inhabited. Nitz noted their success was largely due to some fantastic ballplayers like Connie Wisniewski and Hall of Famer Max Carey’s well-regarded management of the team, and also shared anecdotes on each of the players. His Q+A was enhanced by some women who play in an AAGPBL re-enactment league.

Afterwards, it was time to close the silent auction (a Chicago chapter fundraiser) and draw the winner of the 50/50 raffle (a Badger State chapter fundraiser). After claiming items from the silent auction, a presentation on Ginger Beaumont was up next up. Unfortunately, it was at this point when I had to leave, so I can’t comment on the rest of the meeting.

Thank goodness Spring Training was only 2 weeks away.

For those that failed to make it, Emil Rothe chapter secretary David Malamut took photos and even video of the day’s events. The photos can be seen on Twitter @sabrchicago, and links to the videos can be found here

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