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NWSABR annual report June 24, 2011
Written by John Henshell   

The Northwest chapter is SABR’s largest geographic chapter, but a small one in terms of number of members. We are scattered from Alaska to the California border and the coast to the Rocky Mountains. Travel distance limits our group activities and participation at meetings, but we’ve had a busy, event-filled year with good participation.

Our first event of the past year was a Portland Beavers doubleheader against the Salt Lake City Bees August 1 at lame-duck PGE Park in Portland. Ten members and one spouse attended. Although it was an informal outing, we did have a trivia quiz with the theme, “prominent major leaguers who played for the Beavers in the past 50 years.” Tim Herlich was the winner. We billed the activity as the “last chance to see the Beavers,” as the stadium was subsequently converted into a soccer-only facility and the AAA team was sold and relocated.


The chapter met August 21 in Vancouver B.C. The meeting was hosted by Max Weder. Tim Herlich and John Henshell briefly addressed the group.

Ian and Colin Dixon were our featured guest speakers. Ian played in the Yankees organization from 1961 to 1964, the last years of the team’s lengthy glory era. Colin, Ian’s son, also played 3B. He was in the Red Sox organization from 1989 to 1995.

Max concluded the meeting with a trivia quiz. After the meeting, most of the group went to the home of Max and Jennifer Ettinger for pizza, beverages, and more baseball talk. The day of baseball activities was concluded with the Vancouver Canadians game against Boise that evening.


NWSABR next held a meeting November 6 at Seattle Pacific University. Art Thiel of was our special guest. Art mostly talked about the Mariners. He presented historical information and his knowledge of key personalities to explain the unraveling of the 2010 season.

Jeff Bower presented “The Worst Offensive Teams since Expansion.” He used advanced statistical analysis to rank each team in offensive ineptitude. John Henshell researched all rookies who hit for low averages since Mike Schmidt to answer the question, “Will Justin Smoak be a successful major league hitter? What history says.” Mark Armour discussed the building of the 1964 St. Louis Cardinals.

Our discussion of chapter business included whether to change our tradition of having the Portland winter meeting be Presidents’ Day weekend, as it is so soon after the Mariners FanFest. The consensus was to continue the tradition.


At the beginning of the year, John Henshell succeeded Tim Herlich as chapter president. His term is 2011-2012. Tim continues as treasurer. The chapter does not maintain a bank account, but occasionally solicits donations from members to cover petty cash expenditures for meetings or mailings.

Mary Groebner continues as chapter secretary. She documents our meetings in words and images and is Webmaster.

In February, Rick Solomon succeeded John as vice-president and president-in-waiting. Our chapter tradition is to alternate the presidency between Washington and Oregon residents with the chapter leader responsible for planning meetings and events in his or her state.


The chapter engaged in concurrent events at Mariners FanFest 2011 at Safeco Field in Seattle. FanFest ran the weekend of January 29-30. Tim Herlich coordinated the event with the Mariners and scheduled the volunteers: Bill Woodward, Chuck de Grasse, Herman Gilman, John Henshell, Mark Brunke, Bob Webster, Stan Opdyke, Stephanie Hall, Tim Herlich, and Tim Jenkins. We collected information from 29 people who wanted to learn more about SABR and chapter events.

Also during FanFest, Dave Eskenazi hosted a gallery of historical Seattle baseball photos from his collection. The room was adjacent to the Dave Niehaus memorial, and both drew large crowds.


January 29 was National SABR day, and we were again fortunate to conduct our meeting at the ballpark with a full slate of high-level guests provided by Mariners. About 35 members and guest attended.

John Henshell thanked the Mariners and thanked Tim Herlich for his work in coordinating the FanFest booth and meeting, and his excellent service as president. John briefly discussed chapter business, including the then-open vice-president position, and introduced a new program: member-host-a-member. He encouraged members to offer spare bedrooms or couches to out-of-town members to make traveling to meetings more affordable and as part of SABR’s spirit of sharing and a way to get to know other members.

Guest speakers were Special Assistant to the GM Tony Blengino, GM Jack Zdurenciek, Assistant GM Jeff Kingston, Director of Player Development Pedro Grifol, and Manager Eric Wedge. Each guest talked about their work, gave progress reports, and answered many questions.

Jack Zdurenciek discussed why he hired Eric Wedge, and Wedge raved about his coaching staff. Tony Blengino, who is a chapter member, presented a detailed case for why the Mariners would be better this year. At press time, he appears prophetic, as the team has exceeded expectations by recently hovering around .500. Grifol discussed prospects and the draft process. Kingston talked about contracts and team-building philosophy.


Our Portland winter meeting was held February 19 and 25 members and guests attended.

John Simpson made a presentation about his book, "The Greatest Game Ever Played in Dixie”. It’s about the Nashville Vols 1908 season and championship game. Steve Steinberg and Lyle Spatz co-authored the book “1921: The Yankees, the Giants, and the Battle for Baseball Supremacy in New York.” John and Steve each discussed their research and showed historical photos as they told stories from their books.

Mike Rice hosted our annual hot-stove Mariners roundtable. He titled his presentation, “The 2011 Seattle Mariners: Some Years It’s Hard to Get Excited.” As always, each attendee predicted how many wins the Mariners would have in 2011.

Oregon Sports Hall of Fame member Dwight Jaynes was our guest speaker. He talked about working for the Portland Beavers in the early 1960s and some of the team’s famous players, Beaver history and his analysis of why Portland again lost the team, and his early awareness of sabermetrics. Based on his experience working for newspapers, radio, television, and a Web site, Dwight discussed the future of sports journalism.

John Henshell presented several items of chapter business. Renaming the chapter to honor Dave Niehaus drew strong favorable response, but was inconclusive and left for the forthcoming chapter member survey. A draft of the survey yielded feedback and suggestions, which were subsequently incorporated. John concluded with a brief remembrance of baseball people who died during the offseason, and focused on Seattle’s Dave Niehaus and Ron Santo.

Neal Traven and Mike Rice both aced the circular trivia quiz.


We SABR members love measurement, and the chapter is taking some steps to measure our own success. We hope to establish goals. In March, we published a membership survey using a free online service. The purpose of the survey was to improve the quality of the chapter’s service to members, or at least ensure that what we have been doing is what members want us to do. The most important thing we wanted to learn is why people don’t come to meetings. More than half said it’s because of family or work conflicts, and most of the rest say it’s too far to travel.

The results were encouraging and informative. The e-mail messages went to 280 members. We had about 51 responses to the survey. The survey had 25 questions, which were broken into three categories: meetings, chapter membership, and interconnectedness.

Not enough members favored renaming the chapter in honor of Dave Niehaus, and too may were opposed to make the change. Other results indicated clear action plans. For example, members embraced the idea of polls to learn what other members think. We completed our first poll, which was selecting an all-time Mariners team.

Mary and John put together a list of FAQs and answers. We are waiting for the SABR office to add them to our chapter Web site.


Rick Solomon, Stan Opdyke, and John Henshell staffed a SABR table at Tacoma Fan Go-Round. The event was held May 1 at newly remodeled Cheney Stadium. Billed as "A celebration of Tacoma/Pierce County’s baseball and softball history," the main attraction was autograph sessions with former Tacoma AAA players. Gaylord Perry and Don Larsen headlined the long list of former Tacoma players who went on to have major league success, and signed autographs at the event.

We discussed baseball and SABR with people who stopped at our table. Some took membership brochures and cards with our chapter URL.


Our most recent meeting was May 7 in Seattle. Rick Solomon coordinated the meeting and 20 members and a guest attended.

Stan Opdyke made a presentation about the great baseball announcers in New York City in 1953. Mark Armour described the background for the blockbuster trade between Houston and Cincinnati after 1971 season. Joe Morgan went on to a Hall of Fame career, which made the eight-player deal lopsided in favor of the Reds. Mark plans to reprise this presentation at the national convention.

Mike Rice explained how Similarity Scores work and cited interesting results of the formula. He found that superstars rarely have high Similarity Scores with other players. Ron Cey and Robin Ventura have the most similar offensive careers of any pair of players.

John Henshell presented the results of the NWSABR member survey and an appropriate plan of action based on the results. He also reported the results of our first online member poll. Rick concluded the meeting with a group discussion of the Mariners season so far. After the meeting, many members headed to Safeco Field to watch the White Sox- Mariners game.


The chapter has two meetings scheduled in August. We’ll meet in Eugene, Oregon, and Vancouver, B.C.

Last Updated on Saturday, 25 June 2011 09:50

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Chapter Officers

Bob Russon 
Portland, President

Tip Wonhoff
Tacoma, Vice President

Mark Brunke
Seattle, Secretary

Tim Herlich
Seattle, Treasurer