The last six months have been nirvana for Bay Area baseball fans. The Giants won the World Series, the championship trophy toured the region to give fans an up close look, spring training was a six week party, the World Championship banner is hanging from the flag pole, and the players received their diamond encrusted rings to the cheers of adoring multitudes.
Super-serious fans can put one more event on their calendar. The Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) is having its annual convention in California for the first time since 1998 from July 6-10. A short trip from the Bay Area to Long Beach will put attendees into an alternate universe where eating, sleeping, drinking, and thinking about baseball is all there is.
Your correspondent has been to ten of these events. They generally feature four dozen presentations of member research, panels of former players and other official personnel; small group meetings of people with specialized interest in the esoterica of ballparks, umpires, 19th century baseball, the Negro Leagues, trading cards and more; a banquet with a notable baseball figure delivering a keynote address (this year super-agent Scott Boras is the featured speaker); a trivia contest with spectacular knowledge on display; and a major league and minor league game or two.
Research presentations can range from a history of baseball-related Peanuts comic strips, to an analysis of the affects on the 1962 National League expansion draft on league balance in subsequent years, to how to precisely measure fielding skill among big league infielders. In small group meetings members share research techniques and discoveries, and when you go to a game with this group far more people keep a scorecard than do not. As you might imagine, these people boo the wave.
Convention registrants range in age from about 12-90. Perhaps 20 per cent of registrants are women, and many attendees bring the family and take time out to see the local sights. When my wife went with me to the 2009 Washington D.C. convention she took advantage of her first trip to our nation’s capitol and visited the national monuments and took a first hand look at how the Federal Government operates, while I was involved in more important matters with my SABR brethren back at the hotel.
Many veteran convention goers say the best moments take place at the hotel bar. There you will find tables full of people trying to remember who replaced Babe Ruth in the Yankee outfield in 1935 (George “Twinkletoes” Selkirk), figuring out new ways to more accurately evaluate player performance, or debating how well Satchel Paige would have done if he were allowed to play in the pre-Jackie Robinson all-white major leagues.
So how does one take advantage of this opportunity to enter baseball heaven? Visit www.sabr.org and click on the SABR Convention 41 icon. Once you explore the schedule you can register for the convention at the online SABR store. The Long Beach Hilton is the official hotel, and there is a convention rate of $119 per night. Those in Alive East Bay country can either book a Jet Blue flight directly from Oakland to Long Beach and land 15 minutes from the hotel, or make that five-hour drive down I-5.
However you get there, be prepared for total immersion in our National Pastime.