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The View from the Chair
SABR UK Examiner - Examiner #12 - July 2001
Written by Mike Ross   

SABR UK chairman Mike Ross.

It is appropriate and a good sign that the new SABR UK Examiner is ready just in time for the AGM10, as the event coincides with Will stepping into the breach as editor of the Examiner, and into the role of the webmaster as well. This turn of events follows Martin Hoerchner's leaving of the post in favour of spending more time with his newly expanded family. Martin was the founder editor of the Examiner ten years ago almost to the day. Will, who first made contact at AGM9, comes with a journalistic hand at the ready. As a travel editor with Time Out, he has many years of experience as a knight of the keyboards. As for taking over the web work, Will went at it hammer and tongs. His efforts have received universal praise and provided our chapter with a universal stage. So I would really like to formally welcome Will on behalf of the chapter officers and crew.

Currently the stage is jammed with performances. But we want to keep going and must update the site regularly. That said, I'd like to point out that we welcome research materials for the Examiner that can also be added to the website. So be encouraged to have a look and provide some input in any way you can, if only to pass on your ideas. As for research and the joys thereof, I feel like a pusherman... But really, once you start researching you don't want to stop. It can, in a sense, be an addiction. It is more fun than having to write about your finds. If you have a research idea you want to pursue, call or email Will, our research chair Jim Combs or myself, and we can talk it over. There is some money we can provide for research expenses.

Thanks to our published articles, we have been able to function properly as the unique chapter that we are: foreign. We are based in the land where the game found its origins. And the UK chapter is the largest outside the USA, larger even than most of the US chapters, despite the fact that our land mass base, excluding Scotland and Wales, is only the size of Alabama (with a dash of Mississippi).

I exclude Scotland and Wales for the simple reason that most of the members are based in England. We have a professor in Wales, and two half-members in Scotland. "Half-members"? Well, one disappeared off the face of the earth shortly after ceremoniously breaking ground for his field of dreams in the farthest reaches of Scotland's Western Isles. And the other, founding member and appointee officer Barry Winetrobe, left London for Edinburgh to supervise the setting-up of the brand new Scottish parliament and now seems to be hovering around Hadrian's Wall. What I am getting at is that we are now receiving enquiries about our findings of those origins, and other supporting clues as to baseball's fortunes here.

Just last month, Larry McCray of the Baltimore SABR gang informed us by post that he was searching the "embryology" of baseball, and wondered if we help. He had found us through our website. I consulted the American Heritage dictionary to find the meaning of embryology to be "early growth"; I assumed "origins", and so wrote back and said to Larry: "Possibly".

When Larry came to London I was surprised at how much help we ended up being. Aside from the articles that he raised from the Examiner and the website, I gave him an unorganised pile of articles I had collected. But most important to him was a visit to the MCC and the Lord's Cricket Ground library. There he met with the curator Stephen Green, who at once provided McCray with source materials for what were his previously stated "Eleven Dumb Questions" on the evolution of the game from 1770-1870. That meeting at the Lord's library, said Larry, was "pure gold". Additionally, McCray was able to return to America and boast how he, at last, had received a free lunch: Green, a naturally generous man, had provided a hot meal at the nearby pub. So, the message is: for SABR UK to help the Yanks with research is not that difficult. If you've got something, let it out; and who knows? There may even be a free lunch thrown in. And people said there was no such thing.

When we started the chapter, primarily thanks to the efforts of Andy Parkes and Hugh Robinson, at the first AGM we stated two goals. Firstly, we determined that we should find the Holy Grail of British baseball: the Spalding Trophy [British Championship], which was reported as "stolen in the Liverpool area in the late 1938" and which had not surfaced since. Our second chore was to unearth the origins of baseball. Well, we found the Holy Grail, and we are now working on the origins.

The Grail was located, and was found to be wanting. Wanting inasmuch as the man who retrieved the trophy from the safe of a burned-out hotel in the north of England was akin to that infuriating kid we all know who owns the only bat and ball in the neighbourhood but always decides he doesn't feel like playing ball. What some of us went through trying to come to terms with this chap is a story in itself. Suffice it to say, the guy from the north said in so many words: "It's my ball and you can't touch it or see it."

It's been trying having to come to terms with our failure, what with being so near (a literal 270 miles) and yet so far (10,000 miles distant in terms of communication and success with our grovelling). Yet, strangely, ironically, the failure works as the perfect analogy for British baseball and for the lack of success of Spalding and his trophies, and also speaks of the failure of baseball in general to become accepted on the ground here. The trophy may be, or maybe has been, a curse.

With SABR UK, though, we could say that we have our own bat and ball and our own ballgame, as it were, and, as it happens, we are having quite a bit of fun at it. I ask you: Isn't that what baseball's origins are all about? Here's to the next ten years.

Last Updated on Monday, 06 April 2009 19:46