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Brief chapter history
Written by SABR Boston   
Monday, 19 October 2009 18:56

Boston Chapter is the Eastern Massachusetts local Chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research. It is one of the most active local chapters. See Past Events. To give you an idea of its history, please read this Boston Globe article form 1983. 

THEY'RE ON THE TEAM OF BASEBALL'S HISTORIANS

By Nathan Cobb, The Boston Globe, March 14, 1983

Son of Smokey Joe made a pitch for Dad, while the Man Who Has Visited 450 Ballparks was a hit with his photos. A fellow called Dixie proclaimed himself the world's foremost authority on Arky Vaughan, and a man named Syd announced that seeing Babe Ruth hit a home run was a bigger thrill than getting married. The only cries of discontent arose when someone in the audience actually asked aloud if it was Burleigh Grimes who threw the fatal pitch that killed Ray Chapman in 1920. (No! No! It was Carl Mays!" Fool!)

Thus did 50 regional parishioners of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) gather Saturday afternoon in the basement of Calvary Baptist Church in Dorchester. These are people, men mostly, whose religion is played out between foul lines. Their bible - as sinful as they consider its errors - is the 2248-page Baseball Encyclopedia. Fifth Edition. Revised and Updated. No scrap of history is too small for them to uncover feverishly, no detail unworthy of their intense scrutiny. None of SABR's 3000 members would ever confuse, say, the Wagners Honus and Heinie.

"This," one observer noted, "is like being among Talmudic scholars."

Some were scholars in other fields as well. There was, for example, Fred Ivor-Campbell, an assistant professor of English at King's College in Briarcliff Manor, N.Y. Ivor-Campbell, originally from Providence, is researching a book on the 1884 baseball season, principally because its championship was won by the Providence Grays on the good arm of their star pitcher, Old Hoss Radbourn. While Ivor-Campbell concedes that the world may not be eagerly anticipating a book on the obscure Grays and the even less renowned Old Hoss, he nevertheless continues to pore over old newspapers in search of data. Baseball, of course, does that to people.

"It's a team sport, but one in which the individual counts for something," Ivor-Campbell theorized. "In football, a player makes a long run principally because of his teammates. In baseball, a player hits a home run on his own."

Others in attendance recited their own quirky specialties. One pointed out that he is compiling a study of stars who played for last-place teams. Another claimed as his field the long-defunct Blue Ridge League of southern Pennsylvania. A third declared that he is writing a novel based on the life of Louis Sockalexis, major league baseball's first American Indian. Finally, one man stood up principally to announce that his granddaughter had been born in Cooperstown, N.Y., site of baseball's Hall of Fame. Murmurs of approval.

Arcane information surfaced in abundance. Listen to this from Rich (Dixie) Tourangeau, a Boston proofreader who is a Pete Rose lookalike and has produced three successful baseball calendars. "George Kell was just elected to the Hall of Fame, right? And Brooks Robinson was elected in January. Well, did you know that Robinson succeeded Kell at third base in Baltimore, that they're both from Arkansas, that both had career fielding averages of .971 and that both went into broadcasting after they played?"

And there was Arthur Craig, a 54-year-old math teacher who lives in Belmont. Craig's obsession is minor league ballparks, of which he has visited and photographed 450, but he seems genuinely puzzled that anyone else would want to look at his pictures. "I'm just a nobody, just a guy who goes around to ballparks," he apologized.

Still, Craig obviously enjoys talking about his odyssey, neatly chronicled in the clear plastic pages of about 40 photograph albums. It started in the days of 24-cent-a-gallon gas, when rooms at the Y were cheap and a Kodak would do the job just fine. Prices have risen and the camera has become a Canon, but the pictures are still filled with amateurish charm. Empty rows of seats, lumpy playing fields and advertising messages for the likes of Dave's Bar-B-Q restaurant are revealed in varying degrees of living color. Craig is a man whose greatest fear is to find himself in a minor league town when the home team is out of town - although on the occasions this has happened he has been willing to climb fences.

"Here's Raleigh, N.C.," said Craig, his finger pausing on a scruffy infield. "That's where Carl Yastrzemski started out at second base, you know. And here's Wahconah Park in Pittsfield, where the Housatonic River used to flood the field. And Johnson City, Tenn., where the right field line runs uphill. And here, here's Watt Power Park in Charleston, W.Va. . . .

Bob Wood, the 63-year-old son of the 93 year-old former Red Sox pitcher, stood nearby. Wood the elder, known as Smokey Joe, compiled a superb pitching record for the Sox between 1908 and 1915. When that career was terminated by an arm injury, he became a decent outfielder and good hitter for the Cleveland Indians. Now his son, a retired health executive who lives in Keene, N.H., is his champion.

"Catch!" Wood the younger called out Saturday, underhanding a baseball autographed by the 1915 World Champion Red Sox to eager hands. Other trinkets made their way around the room: aged photographs, letters of endorsement (Bob Wood has unsuccessfully lobbied for 11 years to get his father elected to the Hall of Fame), a watch fob given to the 1912 pennant winners from Boston.

"I'm The Official Keeper of the Stuff," Wood conceded, smiling thinly, surrounded by box loads of his offerings. "Nobody in the family's interested but me. My Dad? No, he never kept a picture in his life. Never."

Last Updated on Tuesday, 01 November 2011 14:37
 

SABR Boston is the Eastern Massachusetts local Chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR). SABR is a non-profit membership association whose purpose is to help people do baseball research, provide a place to share baseball research.

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