All The Bud Seligs

by ceeangi

I wanted to attend a Sabr Day event, but I found the prospect intimidating.

I looked at the event in my area and while it seemed like a good opportunity, it just seemed a bit too cumbersome. Not in distance—it was walking distance from my house—but the prospect of walking into any crowded room intimidates me.

I think I have a special breed of anxiety that makes being alone in a crowded room full of people that may or may not know each other absolutely suffocating.

I was especially intimidated, considering I don’t really meet the SABR Day demographic, especially in this area.

The SABR Day event, which coincided with the Bob Davids chapter’s annual meeting, was the 38th annual meeting for this group. Quick math tells me this group has been meeting to discuss baseball 11 years longer than I have been alive.

Not only was I battling a generation gap, I would be battling the gender gap.

But the overwhelming desire to talk baseball during hot stove, and the interest in exercising my right to assemble as a SABR member won out—and I decided to attend. Fortunately, David Spencer from Tarp Talk agreed to accompany me, which lifted some of the anxiety of the gathering.

When I arrived at the registration table, there was some confusion by the man behind the table as to whether or not I was in the right place. Perhaps my penchant for skinny jeans, high-heeled boots, and lip gloss confused him… but here I was, standing in front of him asserting I was not lost and that I should be on the list.

Of course, I wasn’t on the list.

Fortunately after a short conversation further assertion that I, Cee Angi, was in fact a SABR member who has indeed chosen to spend their Saturday at a conference talking baseball and that I wanted in. Oh, and I wanted the student discount as well. They were out of name tags, but at least I gained entry.

And when I walked into the meeting room—a banquet room at the Holiday Inn in Rosslyn, Virginia, I was overwhelmed by a sea of baseball fans. The little round tables were packed and resembled a poker tournament more than a baseball meeting.

The men that filled the tables were a mixed bag. Some were older than my grandfather, and wore baseball caps in styles they no longer make. Others were freshly retired and dressed for an afternoon of yachting. But mostly, they were middle-aged and in frumpy fashions: jeans with unfortunate hem lines, white tube socks, AARP issued all-white tennis shoes, and a baseball jersey proudly showing the crowd of 130 their baseball allegiance.

And though mid-afternoon lent itself to a game of “Count How Many Men Look Like Bud Selig” it was comforting to be immersed in baseball in January.

When David found me, I was standing in the back of the room, overwhelmed by the fact that there didn’t really appear to be anywhere left to sit. Met by awkward stares as we approached the table in the front, we were able to shuffle a couple of people to make room for us, just before the meeting started.

David Vincent, a Bob Davids Chapter board Member, was the Emcee for the afternoon and he started with a presentation on pitchers who hit home runs.

While his presentation, and others to follow, were interesting, they were definitely difficult to follow. Most of the speakers seemed to suffer from “swallow the microphone” syndrome: where you hold the microphone so close to your mouth, nothing amplifies correctly and you invariably sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher. Coupled with the fact that all PowerPoint slides were presented with 12 pt. font, it was impossible to follow along at times.

All that aside, I did take a couple of fact-nuggets from Vincent’s presentation on Pitchers who hit home runs:

- Since 1876, 1,214 pitchers have hit 3,790 home runs in the major leagues.
– 71 pitchers hit at least 10
– Wes Ferrell has the most career home runs for a pitcher with 37
– Of active pitchers, Carlos Zambrano has the most home runs with 23

Former Chapter President Bob Savitt did a presentation about his new book, The Blue Ridge League, Images of Baseball. Savitt’s presentation showed photographs, rosters, and documentation from the Blue Ridge League, which played between 1915 and 1930. Savitt conducted his research on the subject by traveling and speaking to residents. Savitt pieced together his book through newspaper articles and historical documents. His presentation on the league was fascinating, and if the 30-minute presentation is any indication, it is probably a book worth reading.

During the first break, I sat at our table thumbing through my pages of David’s 1992 Baseball Records Book and refilling my water glass. As soon as David left our table for a moment, I was met with several eager conversation starters from the gentlemen. One man came over and told me that he assumed it was my first meeting because he would have remembered someone that beautiful. Another man asked in rather accusatory fashion what exactly I was doing at their meeting. Another just kindly introduced him and welcomed me to the meeting.

After the break, former Washington Senators pitcher Jim Hannan regaled the group with his stories of his time in baseball and the work he has done on behalf of the Player’s Alumni Association. Hannan’s demeanor was exactly what you would expect of a man raised in New Jersey, who spent his livelihood playing baseball and working as a trader in the off-season—he was gruff, yet endearing.

Hannan told stories of his time in college at the University of Notre Dame playing with Carl Yastrzemski, his time playing for Ted Williams, and his career against the toughest batter he had ever faced: Micky Mantle. Hannan’s stories reminded me that baseball—and pitchers—were different when he played. And since the salaries of players in his era were nothing comparable to what the league boasts today, Hannan has dedicated the last several years of his life working for better pension plans for the alumni association.

Hannan’s stories resonated with the room of baseball fans on many levels, but mostly the crowd seemed receptive because Hannan is a relic of the sport that brought this room together. And even though his presentation had no mention of statistics (there was plenty of that during Dave Smith from Retrosheet’s presentation later in the day), Hannan’s time on the stage was the most enjoyable.

Perhaps the thing to understand about this particular SABR Day meeting is that members of the Bob Davids Chapter are unique in their chapter size and camaraderie. This fact was cemented by a presentation by David Vincent that honored the late Bob Davids, who died 10 years ago. This presentation included photographs taken at the memorial service for Davids, as he was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery.

The photos that followed were of men, shades younger than their current selves, wearing suits and ties with baseball designs laughing and remember their good friend in the company of those who knew him best—his family and his SABR family.

While there was some initial awkwardness of feeling like an outsider and funeral voyeur, it was evident this group of men not only get together annually to discuss baseball, but a group with deep friendships that blossomed out of their love of baseball, but were maintained for reasons well beyond their interest in the sport.
There was a sense that these men have been seeing games together for longer than I’ve been alive. They meet monthly at a diner to discuss presumably not only baseball, but their lives in general. And the auction prizes were books and artifacts from Bob Davids’ estate—mementos not only of baseball, but of their dear friend.

As an onlooker, I wouldn’t say that I was necessarily accepted into the group. In fact, I know my presence was scoffed at by a few members, puzzled how their group could generate the interest of a late-20s female. But the warmth and kindness of others was undeniable. Some said hello and smiled in the hallways, with a knowing look—that look we all have when we recognize someone is as obsessed and impassioned by our hobbies as ourselves.

And while David and I shared a laugh at All the Bud Seligs’ expense over bourbon later in the afternoon, the experience of my first SABR Day was pretty wonderful. I’d do it again, if the Seligs will have me.

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