Saturday, December 20, 2003

Baseball pioneer Mary Baker dead at 84 

She was an All American (whoops, Canadian) Girl. Mary Baker, dead at the age of 84.

A Bittersweet Day For Baseball in The Thread City 

My alma mater, Eastern Connecticut State, is the pre-season #1 in Division III baseball. Not only that, but Trinity in Hartford is ranked 5th. But not all news is good news out of Willimantic. The Thread City Tides of the NECBL will be moving to the Berkshires next year after being purchased by Dan Duquette. Yes, that Dan Duquette. Duquette plans to have the team play at his sports academy in Hinsdale, Massachusetts. Hinsdale is just outside of Pittsfield. Hey, Dan. The Astigmatic Eye just wants to tell you that Wahconah Park should be available.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

New Indy League to start in 2005 

The Cub Reporter aka Christian Ruzich interviewed David Kaval recently. Kaval is the founder of The Golden Baseball League. The GBL will be a California-based independent league.They will have an interesting business-plan - "single entity ownership." While this sounds socialistic, alot of these indy leagues have come and gone over the past decade. It may be worth it to try things their way.

Hey, if you dig Japanimation, check out this Kikkoman ad.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Agreement reached to bring baseball to New Haven  

Here is the New Haven Register article on the Black Bear's move from Pittsfield to New Haven.

Some snippets from the article: "In turn, (Rick) Handelman worked out a deal with Berkshire principal owner Jonathan Fleisig to relocate the struggling franchise to New Haven. Fleisig will remain as one of the principal owners of the New Haven franchise along with Handelman."

"'Of course, you don’t want to ever lose Christmas,' Handelman said. 'But the truth of the matter is, we’ve done it before, and we’re going to do it here. We’ll just deal with it and move on.'

Handelman, a minority owner of the Brockton Rox, was referring to the late start when that franchise moved to town. The Rox are now one of the most solid franchises in the Northeast League.

So the Northeast League allows syndicate ownership. Ducky! I guess this makes Rick Handelman the Jeffrey Loria of the league. I smell a pennant in New Haven ;).

Baseball great John a hit in Newington  

Tommy John spoke at a dinner held by the World Series Club of Hartford County Thursday night. The Astigmatic Eye was there to take in the whole scene.

Here's an article in yesterday's New Britain Herald about the event. John is currently pitching coach for the Edmonton Trappers. They are the AAA affiliate of the Montreal (or "Major League" as John calls them) Expos.

John spoke for about an hour or so. Among other things, John dismissed the media's recent obsession with steroids. He pitched during the amphetamine fueled seventies and doesn't think that baseball's problem with performance-enhancing drugs is any worse no than it was then. He also is a fan of what I call the "Earl Weaver Offense." Sentiments like these would put him in good graces with those that Don Malcolm derisively calls "Neo-sabes." But, John's understanding of baseball economics would probably dismay them. Don seems to have bought hook, line, and sinker the company line about small market teams not being able to compete. I guess he considers the Oakland A's (and the Twins) imaginary team(s).

I enjoyed John's stop on the "rubber chicken circuit". Next month, slugging Sam Horn will stop by. So might the Astigmatic Eye.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

New Haven Catches Minor League Team 

It's official. The Berkshire Black Bears are moving to New Haven. I said it before, but I'll say it again. I have mixed feelings about this. Yes, I'm happy to see the Elm City get a team again and will probably go see them play. Unfortunately, New Haven's gain is Pittsfield's loss. As Jay Jaffe might say, Jim Bouton is probably somewhere thinking to himself, "I told you so!"

The link was from WVIT, Channel 30. WTNH, Channel 8 also has the story. So far, I haven't seen any newspaper reports on the story.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Minor League Round-up 

As my redneck friend might say, yee haaa!! This week's minor league round-up includes stories from northern Nevada and York, Pennsylvania; two locales that are looking to attract teams. There's also a story about Philadelphia's Clearwater, Florida single A affiliate.

I may make "Minor League Round-up" a regular feature here at Baseball History. I've already been linking to stories about minor league news anyways. Plus, it seems to be a woefully under-covered topic on baseball blogs.

A Brief History of Sabremetric Thought 

A Brief History of Sabremetric Thought

To the best of my knowledge, an up-to-date history of sabremetric thought does not exist. Thorn and Palmer did discuss the subject in their 1985 classic The Hidden Game of Baseball. However, that seems like eons ago for what is a relatively new field. This year, Michael Lewis devoted a chapter of his best-selling Moneyball to discussing some of the forefathers of the movement. He also covered some more recent developments. Unfortunately, Lewis does not give a complete account of the subject either.

What follows is an attempt to bring this history up to today. I borrow heavily from The Hidden Game and Moneyball and other sources. I also add what I have learned over the close to twenty years that I have followed the field. This is a work in progress and there will be errors. But, hopefully my range factor (or, better yet, UZR) will be closer to Ozzie Smith’s than Derek Jeter’s. I encourage feedback; especially corrections of any mistakes that I may have made.

I. The Beginning
Histories of economic thought usually begin with Adam Smith. In a way, it’s rather fitting. Adam is ancient Hebrew for “first man.” Sabremetrics’ answer to Adam (Smith) was English-born Henry Chadwick. Chadwick produced year-end summaries in the New York Clipper, Beadle’s Dime Base-Ball Player and other publications a century before Bill James published his annual Abstracts. Many stats that we use today (e.g. home runs, total bases, and at bats) were introduced by him. Of course, Chadwick was more than a statistician. He was the first important baseball writer and even introduced some rule changes to the infant game.

In 1858 he helped organize the NABBP, which was established to codify the game’s rules. As a member of the NABBP, he helped institute the infield fly rule and devised the box score. He also started the practice of playing extra innings to settle a tie game. He attended a game in Brooklyn in 1859 that ended with a score of 5-5. The home team walked off the field, happy with the tie score, but the visiting team appealed to Chadwick. He decided that the game should be played until there was a winner, setting the precedent for extra innings.

Among other things that Chadwick is known for was his view that swing for the fences was “unscientific” baseball. For a long time, home runs were viewed as a form of Chadwickedness. This belief persisted for many years and didn’t completely disappear until Babe Ruth came on the scene. (Well, that’s not entirely true. I think I’ve seen some atavistic letters to Baseball Digest that cling to that belief.) While Chadwick may have been wrong on this issue, he refused to accept the Mills Commission (baseball’s answer to the Scopes trial) view that Abner Doubleday invented baseball.

Chadwick was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the Centennial Commission in 1938.

The next “figure filbert” that Thorn and Palmer wrote about was Clarence Dow. Dow was a sportswriter for the Boston Globe. He was the first to record batter’s walks and strikeouts for the 1891 American Association. I couldn’t find much more information on Dow’s contribution to sabremetrics, but he was able to achieve the dream of many sportswriters. Dow played a game for the Unions Association’s Boston Reds on September 22, 1884 when they were shorthanded. He had a good day with the bat, going 2 for 6; which gave him a lifetime .333 batting average. (He didn’t walk and both his hits were singles, so his OPS was a devilish .666)

The next protostathead of note was Ernest Lanigan. Lanigan’s mother was a Spink (that is the family that started The Sporting News.) Ernest may have been the model for J. Henry Waugh from The Universal Baseball Association. One of his most famous quotes is, “I really don't care much about baseball, or looking at ball games, major or minor. All my interest in baseball is in its statistics."

He is often credited with inventing the RBI. Actually, he merely revived that statistic; which dates back to 1879. Lanigan also popularized slugging percentage and earned run average as measures. These were far from his most important contributions.

Lanigan was among the first to advocate the formation of the BBWAA, currently a bete-noire in the baseball blogosphere. Lanigan also published The Baseball Cyclopedia in 1922, an early model for today 's The Baseball Encyclopedia and Total Baseball. Through the Cyclopedia, as well as other writings, he was among the first to collect career statistics of players. It was through his efforts that fans learned about Babe Ruth’s home run records and Everett Scott’s consecutive game streak (later eclipsed by Lou Gehrig and Cal Ripken Jr.)

According to Bill James, Lanigan also “…published sporadic stories detailing what players had hit against left-handed and right-handed pitching…when Lanigan (and others) published figures showing that some hitters did in fact hit dramatically better against one type of pitching that made platooning a credible option, which helped to create the first explosion of platooning, from 1914 to 1925.”

Lanigan was an original character. During his career, he served stints as baseball editor for the Cleveland Leader, business manager of several Cardinals farm teams, and press information director for the International League. His frail health was a factor in his frequent job changes. In 1946, he was named curator of the Hall of Fame and later served as its historian. He also served in a number of positions with the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra.

Chadwick, Dow, and Lanigan were three men who built the foundation of what would become sabremetrics. While the field has come a long way since then, it probably would not have made it to where it is today without the efforts of these pioneers; especially Chadwick and Lanigan.

Well, this concludes Part I of “A Brief History of Sabremetric Thought.” It has taken me longer to write than I originally thought, so I thought I’d release the first single before the whole album. In the next segment, I plan to write about the “Middle Ages” of sabremetrics. The work of sabremetricians such as Ted Oliver, Allan Roth, George Lindsey, and Earnshaw Cook will be discussed.I hope that you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Monday, December 08, 2003

Addie Joss Day photo 

I haven't been writing here much lately. I've been working on a history of sabremetric thought and it is taking up more of my free time than I thought. But I want to tell you about a photo that I bought at the SABR meeting I attended a couple of weekends ago. Bob Wood, who is the son of Smoky Joe Wood was there and he was selling some photograph's from his father's collection. On that caught my eye (enough for me to part with $20) was a picture that had Ty Cobb in a Cleveland Indian's uniform.

I've been searching on the web for the photo since then and finally found it at Baseball Library. It was from the July 24, 1911 Addie Joss Day game that was played to benefit Joss's widow. On April 14 of that year, the baseball world was stunned by the news that Addie Joss, star pitcher for Cleveland, had succumbed to meningitis. There's alot of star power in that pic.

BTW, in searching for the pic, I discovered that Baseball Library has quite a few excerpts from baseball books.


Wednesday, December 03, 2003


Alex Belth gives a reading from the Book of Maury Wills. When I first saw this, I misread the title as "bluntanomics" and thought that it was about your 2002 New York Mets.

'Fisher Cats' Chosen For Baseball Team Name 

"MANCHESTER, N.H. -- By a narrow margin, baseball fans chose the New Hampshire Fisher Cats as the new name of Manchester's baseball team. "

It looks like the Primaries have been cancelled.

New Hall Of Fame Honors Black Baseball Players 

"WASHINGTON -- A new hall of fame to honor pioneering black baseball players is on its way to Washington.

The Negro League Legends Hall of Fame will document the Colored Baseball League, which began in 1906, as well as Negro Baseball League that got it start in 1920. "

Stickball and Stoopball 

In Triumph and Tragedy in Mudville, paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould discusses these two quintessential street games.

Stickball is the best known of the two. Major leaguers who played stickball include Willie Mays and Joe Pepitone. It's still played. The New York Emperors Stickball League has a website.

Stoopball is another game played with a spaldeen.

Here, a reporter recounts his days playing stickball. There's even been poetry written about the street sport.

Monday, December 01, 2003

Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT: Bye Bye to a Bygone Era 

Here's Rich Lederer's blog entry about the death of Warren Spahn. Alot of bytes have been consumed in the baseball blogosphere about Spahn's passing. Here's an entry from Mike's Baseball Rants. Mike and Rich wrote the two most comprehensive articles that I saw on Spahn. I have nothing to add to them other than this Dave Kindred piece that was posted at Fox Sports's website this afternoon. Well, that and the fact that he was the greatest player to wear a Hartford Chiefs uniform.

Sunday brunch: Slingin' Sammy like no other  

Kevin Sherrington catches up with Sammy Baugh. From the story: "If not the father of the forward pass, Baugh was a close relation. His coach, Dutch Meyer, said he never saw a better punter, and Baugh once led the NFL in interceptions as a defensive back.

Played minor league baseball. Competed in rodeos as a calf roper, too. 'Made every good rodeo within a hundred miles,' he says." In this article, Baugh reminisces a little about his days in the Saint Louis Cardinals system. He was quite the well-rounded athlete.

Pride gets the best of Butch 

"Four years ago, the Nashua Pride introduced their new manager for the 2000 season by posting his face on a locally famous billboard alongside the Everett Turnpike. The accompanying slogan read: 'Butch is back.'" Well, he's back in the Nashua dugout again.

Former CBL officials planning Western Canadian Baseball League for 2005 

"Former CBL officials planning Western Canadian Baseball League for 2005


(CP) - Some of the people behind the short-lived Canadian Baseball League are giving it another shot..." story follows

As an aside to this story, over the weekend the assets of the ill-fated Canadian Baseball League were auctioned off.

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