Monday, August 03, 2009
Random notes from SABR 39Posted by Chris Jaffe
Today, my recap of the 39th annual SABR convention goes up here at THT. I like it, but there are some random notes/news I didn't have a place in the article. (Well, I could've put them in, but it was running long enough as is). Without further ado, here are some minor, random notes from this year's SABR-dom.
Beginning with SABR 34 in Cincinnati in 2004, the BTF contingency annually shows up in force for the convention. The youngest member has always been Aaron Gleeman. That's finally no longer the case, as young'uns Jeremy Heit and Anthony Milazzo helped prevent the graying of the BTF crowd.
Speaking of young'uns, there was a kid there barely in his teens. He looked just like shorter version of Phil Birnbaum, one of the big wigs in the stats analysis committee. (He produces its By the Numbers online newsletter).
Ever since Cincy, the BTF crowd has noted how Anthony Giacalone (one of the BTFrs) looks a lot like Kiefer Sutherland, most famous for playing Jack Bauer on the TV show BTF. Well, this year life of the crowd Chris Dial saw Giacalone wearing a Gary Bauer shirt and lost it: "BAUER!??! ARE YOU KIDDING ME? YOU'RE WEARING A SHIRT THAT SAYS BAUER ON IT?!?!?" He hunched over and all but wet himself it tickled him so.
Wanna hear a bit of news no one cares about? THT founding writer Steve Treder apparently shaved his beard in the last year. He let his normal whiskers run raggedy for the San Jose Sharks annual playoff run (apparently playoff beards are a tradition among NHL stalwarts), and when they fell out he cut it all.
Typically, a research presentation at SABR consists of 20 minutes of talking, 5 minutes of questions, and 5 minutes for people to come/go to the next event. Well, one presenter who shall remain nameless told his audience it was OK to interrupt him with questions during the presentation. Huge mistake. After an interesting start, it quickly bogged down into a group discussion in which the presenter only sometimes played the lead role. He would get it back on track only to go off the rails all over again. Worse, he didn't have a watch, so didn't realize how far behind he was getting. Eventually, the guy in charge of the room had to walk up and tell him he was done. (They room runners held up signs telling you how much time was left, but 1 minute meant 1 minute until questions should begin, so you could go a bit over, but it would shorten the time for questions).
In the baseball trivia contest, Michael Caraglino defeated Cliff Blau in the final. I'm stunned anyone could know more baseball trivia than Blau. He served as one of the key proofreaders for the manuscript of my book, Evaluating Baseball's Managers, where he had the knack for catching errors that a whole tribe of Treders wouldn't even notice. Most memorably, he noted I misspelled the last name of Roarin' Bill Hassamaer. Who the hell had ever even heard of Roarin' Bill let alone could correct the spelling of his name? Cliff Blau, that's who. Yet someone else knows baseball trivia better than him.
Actually, Blau proved to be part of a proud tradition of Evaluating Baseball's Managers coming second in the trivia contest. Three years ago, Steve Treder (who also was very helpful behind the scenes with my book), came in second. All I can say to Cliff is just what I told Steve when he came up short. I looked him right in the eye and said: "Don't worry about the results. As far as I'm considered, you have the most trivial mind of them all." That'll go on the tombstone, I'm sure.
THT founding writer Joe Dimino got a random baseball trivia question texted to him by a friend of his while we were at the bar: which catcher caught the most Hall of Fame pitchers. We weren't really sure who the answer was, and various guesses were made. Joe asked his friend for the answer only to find out that guy didn't know. He was just bored sitting in a traffic jam and thought Joe might know. (Pause for a second to ponder: what does it say about Joe that his friends think he would know this off the cuff?) Joe checked online and found the answer: Jim Hegan, who one person at the bar (Jay "no relation" Jaffe, I believe), had guessed. Hegan caught seven Hall of Famers. I'll list the seven HoFrs at the end of this piece. See if you can guess any.
The hotel the convention stayed at was next to a theater playing "Jersey Boys." The theater played the same half-dozen sound clips from Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons 24/7 and you heard it every time you left the hotel. I'm sure "Jersey Boys" is a great show and I the songs are really good, but...it got old. And I doubt I'm the only SABR member who felt that way by the end.
The hotel had interesting elevators. You walked up to the elevator bank, and typed in your floor number, and it would tell you which specific elevator to stand by. It took some getting used to, but it really helped minimize elevator traffic jams. It's probably the wave of the future with elevators, but it's my first experience with them.
On a personal note, I bought "This Time Let's Not Eat the Bones" by Bill James. This gives me the complete collection of his six main books: the original Historic Abstract, the New Historic Abstract, Win Shares, Politics of Glory, the Bill James Guide to Managers, and Bones. I also got a new copy of the funniest baseball book of all-time: "The Umpire Strikes Back" by Ron Luciano. My old copy was falling apart from repeated readings.
More personal junk: somehow, when changing my watch to Central to Eastern Standard Time, I put it in military time. It doesn't make much difference, but it was weird to look down at see the time as "13:25." and even weirder after midnight to see the time as just "4." Not 12:04, just 4.
Hegan's seven HoF pitchers: Bob Feller, Satchel Paige, Early Wynn, Bob Lemon, Jim Bunning, Robin Roberts, and Hal Newhouser.
Final personal info: normally I suffer from chronic minor insomnia. (I'll almost always get at least four hours of sleep, but it's rare I fall to sleep in less than an hour of going to bed unless I'm really exhausted). My insomnia is worse at hotels. Yet the first night, I slept fine. The second and third nights were average, which is above average for me at hotels. Then on the last night, something that almost never happens to me occurs: no sleep at all. None. I gave up around 4:30 and went to the airport to get an earlier flight back. (Of course, had I known the DC public transportation system is shut down until 7 AM I might have tried a bit longer for some shuteye. Whatever its faults, Chicago's CTA runs 24/7 and has apparently spoiled me).
Ultimately, I did get the first flight to Chicago, and after 26 straight hours of wake-titude, took a nap. And what's the first thing I did after napping? Wrote my SABR39 recap! Boy, and some of you thought you were pathetic.
History instructor by day, statnerd by night, Chris Jaffe leads one of the most exciting double lives imaginable; with the exception of every other double life possible to imagine. Despite his lack of comic-book-hero-worthiness, Chris enjoys farting around with this stuff. His new book, Evaluating Baseball's Managers is available for order. Chris welcomes responses to his articles via e-mail. Oh, and now he's on twitter.