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This SABR'd Isle
SABR UK Examiner - Examiner #10 - July 1998
Written by Martin Hoerchner   

In my darkest moments, I sit alone in my room and stare into the void and ask myself, "Are we really just eggheads?" Isn't what we call "research" just a cold collection of facts, neatly arranged and collated to make some sort of story or argument? My own personal area is the origins and ancestry of baseball. Does it really matter? Isn't collecting these facts a mere mental exercise, maybe along the lines of trainspotting?

The answer comes back. No. What we're doing here is more a spiritual journey than an academic exercise. It's the search for the past, the search for your origins, a social family tree. It's no coincidence that the beginning of baseball is like the beginning of the Bible - Genesis, Exodus and Numbers.

It's a question of "how did we get here from there"? This what the spiritual journey means. It's no coincidence that another one of my interests is genealogy. My four grandparents were descended and/or emigrated from four European countries - Germany, Austria, Sweden, and Spain. My father's father was born in a tiny village at the foot of the mountains in what used to be East Germany. He emigrated in 1911 and immigrated in 1912, so I can't be blamed for either war. I've visited his birthplace. It's a beautiful setting. I saw the record of his birth in 1888, the year the Giants first won the National League pennant, recorded in ink in the church register. This is what the spiritual journey means. Last year I went to Austria, and visited the village where my father's mother was born. She was born in Austria but the area was transferred to Italy after the Treaty of Versailles. Her family's house would have been right underneath a rocky ridge of the Alps. It was gorgeous. It's hard to explain how moving these discoveries can be.

The birthplace of my mother's parents' families I haven't been able to trace exactly - except for the countries. But I will find out. Four European families moved to America, and here I am! Why did they move? What dream were they following? I won't be satisfied until I find out why. Will it help me understand myself? Like them, I emigrated, searching a dream. Not that understanding the 1904 Giants will help me with my neuroses. But comparing the 1904 Giants with the 1998 Giants, and the 1888 team, and 1921, 1951, 1985 is a reflection of the changes in society throughout those years. But with a lot more detail.

I think the bottom line is that I've always felt that understanding the past can help you understand the present. In a world searching for answers, following the progression from the past to the present and discovering how styles, ideas and attitudes have evolved is a good key to understanding the present. We don't know it all in 1998, just as we didn't know it all in 1967 or 1491.

Maybe that last essay should have been a separate article, because I don't quite know how to make the transition to my usual light banter. If you want, you can go make a cup of tea now, and when you get back, I'll be in a different style.

I've been whingeing for two years plus about this horrible commute I've been doing daily, from Land's End to John O'Groats. So it ends last April Fool's Eve, and immediately I come down with the worst case of flu turning into the worst laryngitis in history. I'm sure it was a delayed reaction to Snodgrass' muff in the last game of the 1912 World Series. I hope all of you who heard me croak at the last AGM have as much pity for me as I did for myself. Actually, I'm still a Shetland Pony - "only a little hoarse"...

All this is meant to be a lame excuse for being late for writing World Series observations. Last year's, not this year's. And generally being late with this Examiner. Last October I started out not having a great passion for either team. But as the series went on, I started getting more and more angry. We have on one side a team from a working class town next to a flammable lake, with some of the most long-suffering fans in history. Only three teams have won their last World Series before the Indians' last win in 1948. The TV coverage showed grandfathers with grandsons, hoping for their last chance to see a World Series champion together. The team, the city, the people, have known what suffering means.

So against them we have the upstart Florida team. One put together with a chequebook. The only suffering the residents of Miami know is when they don 't squirt enough suntan oil on their bodies. The team's five years old. If they lose, you've always got the sun and the beach and baseball fades into the distance. In Cleveland, the team means much more.

It was a great series, coming down to extra innings in the seventh game. Cleveland started with Jaret Wright, a young pitcher with a very old baseball name. But in the ninth a blown save took the game into extra innings, to be finally won by Florida with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 10th. So the hard-working residents of Cleveland have to wait at least one more year for that elusive championship. There is no justice in the world.

That's one thing about baseball, and you'd better get used to it. It's essentially amoral. The guy in white doesn't always win, and might doesn't always make right. The guy that's beating you might be Ty Cobb, Hal Chase or Chick Gandil. Then again, he might be Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson or Lou Gehrig. I believe there is a levelling factor, and that injustices even out in time. At least, I'd like to think so. It's just longer for others than for some. And besides, teal isn't really a baseball colour.