The Nap Lajoie-Start Chapter of SABR (Society of American Baseball Research) held their bi-annual meeting yesterday at St. Philip’s Parish Center, Greenville, RI. The Nap Lajoie-Start Chapter is the Southern New England Chapter of SABR. These chapter meetings are a great way to network with other baseball fans, historians, writers, project coordinators, and other members from your area. I recently became a member of this Southern New England chapter and this was my first chapter meeting. I was thrilled to receive an invitation to speak to the chapter members about the Rhode Island Baseball Experience by chairman Len Levin.
I entered St. Philip’s just shortly before 11am. I made my way around the room of baseball fans and introduced myself to several of the members and Mr. Levin. There were baseball books for sale on a long table, all reasonably priced to sell. There was a Nap Lajoie display, which I will explain later in this article. And I met local author and baseball historian Rick Harris, who had a nice display of his books, postcards, pins, and other collectibles.
Just after 11, Len Levin began the meeting with some opening remarks. He acknowledged that our guest speaker for the day would be Boston Globe and Boston Red Sox beat writer Peter Abraham. He then introduced Steve Krevinsky of the Connecticut SABR chapter. Krevinsky made a few announcements and read the group one of his baseball poems. By this point, the room had filled up with SABR members all eager to hear about baseball. Leven then introduced me and I spoke to the group for about 5 minutes. I mentioned the theme of the Rhode Island Baseball Experience as well as my background in baseball as a player, coach, and writer. I got a really nice reception and it was a great thrill to talk about my website with everyone in attendance.
Next on the agenda was Dr. Greg Rubano. Dr. Rubano is championing a project that sounds very interesting and involves Rhode Island native and Hall of Fame baseball player, Nap Lajoie. “Unearthing Our Treasure: Napoleon Lajoie” task force is headed by Rubano and includes baseball and civic leaders of Woonsocket, RI. Rubano and his group speak to local Woonsocket students about Lajoie and his connection to Rhode Island baseball history. The future plans of this project include a dedication statue, which would serve as a centerpiece attraction for the city of Woonsocket. The RIBBE is a proud supporter of this project and will be working with the task force on promotions in 2019.
Next to speak was SABR member Mark Kanter, who recently traveled to Japan. Kanter visited several Japanese baseball stadiums and got to attend games on his trip. He told the group about some really interesting Japanese baseball customs, how American baseball compares to Japanese baseball, the layout of the stadiums, and a list of former Major League Baseball players now playing in Japan. It sounded like an amazing trip to Japan for Mr. Kanter and his group. After Mr. Kanter’s speech, Mark Trimble quizzed the baseball crowd with some really tough baseball trivia. Trimble’s baseball trivia spanned over 100 years of teams, players, stadiums, leagues, and more. I was completely stumped except for a few modern trivia questions, but the crowd overall did very well. I was really impressed by the overall historical knowledge of the group.
After Trimble’s trivia, Bill Ryczek stepped up to the podium to speak about Joe Start. Start had a strong Rhode Island connection and was a 19th Century baseball player. Ryczek went on to mention who Start was a player, his position, his ability vs his peers, the teams he played for, and more. It was really interested learning about Joe Start, who I had never heard of prior to Saturday. One interesting fact came up in discussion. Start had started his career playing without a fielder’s glove and finished his career when professional baseball shifted more towards using sporting goods equipment such as fielder’s gloves. One of the main proponents of this league change was a player by the name of Albert Spalding, who would go on to form one of the most successful sporting goods companies in US history.
More trivia, this time from recent history, was quizzed to the group from Gerry Beirne. Up next to speak was Dixie Tourangeau, who had been taking photos of speakers during the meeting, with some more baseball trivia. Both Beirne and Tourangeau’s trivia was really fun and interesting. Dixie also spoke at length about an incredible shortstop, one of the best in his opinion that ever lived, a player by the name of Herman Long. Tourangeau definitely made a case for Long to be enshrined in Cooperstown. Long played for several teams, including the Boston Beaneaters. The last guest speaker was David Kaiser, a baseball author who spoke to the group about the 2018 Boston Red Sox season. Mr. Kaiser had tons of statistical analysis, including WAA or Wins Above Average. He spoke about how the great seasons of star players turned into win after win for the Sox in 2018. And he even had a few predictions for 2019. Let’s just say the future looks bright for the Boston Red Sox, per David Kaiser.
After a half hour break for lunch (hot dogs, chips, and soda), the SABR members found their seats as Len Levin introduced Peter Abraham. Abraham spoke of his start in journalism, at a local New Bedford newspaper. He went on to speak about his career path, which included stops in the minor leagues of Connecticut and the New York City newspaper market. Abraham was a great story teller and shared several baseball stories about his dealings with the Mets and eventually the Red Sox organization. He then took about 30 minutes worth of questions from the audience – on a wide range of baseball subjects. His first hand knowledge of Major League baseball, specifically the Boston Red Sox, was just incredible and fascinating to listen to. What a great thrill for all of us Red Sox fans to have Peter Abraham speak at our chapter meeting.
The meeting finished and the members got up to network and share baseball stories. I got to meet some incredible baseball minds and learn a ton of history of baseball here in Rhode Island. The authors like Rick Harris and David Kaiser were really interesting to speak to. I also met Jay Ferreira of the Warren Athletic Hall of Fame, who I had used as a reference for a story on Fred Jannetto Field this summer. Greg Rubano and I spoke about the Nap Lajoie project and I am so excited to get on board to help them. It was an exciting day of baseball history mixed with tough trivia questions and a lot of great baseball people. The Society of American Baseball Research is a wonderful group and I encourage any baseball fan to learn more about this group by going to www.sabr.org.