Tonawanda News

Features

August 11, 2013

Society of baseball experts are scholars in the bleachers

Tonawanda News — This is some people’s idea of a perfect evening. Put a group of informed, passionate and thoughtful lovers of the game of baseball together in a ballpark, and just listen to the conversation.

The Luke Easter chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research convened for its first meeting recently — the way Trekkies and record collectors and cat fanciers get together — but this was serious. This was about baseball.

The Society, or SABR, organized in 1971, supports the study of baseball history and almost parenthetically has revolutionized the sport through innovations in statistical analysis. Those radical, number-crunching theories about players’ records, observed in the 2003 book (and 2011 film) “Moneyball,” are examples, and they came from this non-profit organization of hardcore baseball enthusiasts. 

SABR sponsors conventions and encourages members in geographic proximity to one another to get together and talk baseball. Hence, the Luke Easter chapter, for Buffalo and Rochester members (and named in honor of the big first baseman who played for both the Buffalo Bisons and the Rochester Red Wings after his Negro League and major league baseball careers ended).

The chapter, organized in several weeks by Ryan Brecker of Rochester using the Delphi method of problem-solving (i.e., send out emails to bat opinions around until consensus is reached on ideas), had its first meeting at a Batavia Muckdogs (they of the low-minor New York-Penn League) game in the bleachers of Dwyer Stadium. Of 55 SABR members in Western New York, 14 attended, and the non-stop discourse was scholarly, witty and exceptional.

Brecker, 34, is an emergency room physician and co-founder of the Rochester Baseball Historical Society (Rochester’s historical development of baseball, like that of the city, predates that of Buffalo). 

All he wanted to do is “round up some people,” he said. He has attended SABR’s national conventions (last year in Minneapolis) and wants to get these lovers of the game together on more-or-less a quarterly basis.

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