Baseball brainiacs come to Baltimore.
From Wednesday to Sunday, the Hyatt Regency Inner Harbor will host the 50th convention of the Society for American Baseball Research, an organization founded in 1971 and focused on baseball history and research. More than 500 people are expected to attend the five-day event, which features dozens of presentations, panels and discussions, all centered around various baseball topics, many with a focus on Baltimore.
Opening remarks will be delivered by Orioles assistant general manager Sig Mejdal, and the keynote address will be delivered by Tim Kurkjian, a Maryland native and former reporter for The Baltimore Sun who has covered baseball for decades to ESPN.
the many programming topics they include Union Park, where the old Orioles played in the 19th century; the origins of “The Oriole Way”; and the racism Jackie Robinson endured when he played minor league games in Baltimore in 1946. Beloved former Oriole Boog Powell will speak, and there will be a panel on Baltimore native Babe Ruth as well as women in leadership with Orioles executives Eve Rosenbaum, Nicole Jerez, Jennifer Grondahl, and Lisa Tolson.
“It’s a smorgasbord of baseball content, and I mean that in the truest sense of the word,” said SABR CEO Scott Bush. “There’s so much going on and it covers so many different aspects of the game.”
Social events include an open house at the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum, a bus tour of former Orioles ballparks and a trip to the Orioles game against the Boston Red Sox on Friday.
There is an individual and a team. quiz showalso, with preliminary rounds on Thursday and the championship, which will be witnessed by other attendees, on Saturday night.
Some examples of the caliber of questions that can be asked during the trivia contest: Who broke at least 81 MLB no-hitters with a home run? Who is the only player in history to hit an inside-the-park grand slam? Who are the only two players to win a league MVP, World Series MVP and All-Star Game MVP?
Bush said the people who competed on Saturday could easily answer all three of those questions. (Answers are at the end of this article.)
“I know nothing compared to the people who compete in this trivia contest,” Bush said. “It’s a different kind of knowledge.”
The convention regularly tours multiple cities, usually those with an MLB team, and Baltimore has hosted once before, in 1982, when it was at what is now Towson University and set a SABR attendance record. At the time, a rookie from Baltimore named Cal Ripken Jr. had debuted the previous month.
“That was Cal’s rookie year, so now we find ourselves in Baltimore 40 years later, and Adley Rutschman is on the scene, which is more interesting than anything,” Bush said. “It will be fascinating to see, obviously, Cal is a pretty high standard to live up to, but it will be interesting to see how Adley’s career progresses from here.”
Originally scheduled for 2020, 50 years after the Orioles won the 1970 World Series, the convention was pushed back by the coronavirus pandemic until this year, which marks the 30th anniversary of Oriole Park at Camden Yards. There is a panel of Camden Yards, as well as a separate discussion of ballparks, including the effect Oriole Park had on other ballparks.
A ticket to attend one day of the convention costs $115.
Peter Coolbaugh is the president of the Baltimore chapter of SABR and he, like other attendees, is a baseball fanatic. He proposed to his wife at the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and they both have appointments at the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum.
“Having him here highlights the importance of baseball to Baltimore,” he said.
Bush said the attendance is a bit below the expected total, which he attributed, in part, to it being later than usual in the summer and closer to the start of the school year. Many of the attendees are college professors who also have a passion for baseball history; some even teach college courses on the game.
“It’s what I would call a meeting of the minds,” Coolbaugh said. “It has a very academic base. People come for the research, for the camaraderie, and for a lot of these people who have been going for years and years, it’s an annual gathering.”
Attendees often wear baseball apparel with logos that even devoted fans might not recognize, from obscure pro teams to long-forgotten emblems. It will often start a conversation among like-minded baseball lovers, many of whom attend most years.
“These people are looking forward to this,” Coolbaugh said, “and with a three-year gap, it’s probably going to be even a bigger lovefest than it’s been in the past.”
(Answers to the above trivia questions, respectively: Rickey Henderson, Roberto Clemente and Brooks Robinson and Frank Robinson.)