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Sunday, January 25, 2004

With fellow SABRites

I spent a nice afternoon yesterday at the winter meeting of the SABR chapter here in Kansas City. About 25 folks attended the meeting led by president Mike Webber. The two speakers were former Royal Brian McRae and author and minor league writer John Sickels.

McRae started by reviewing what he had done since retiring in the spring of 2000. Most interestingly, he talked about his radio venture with Jeff Montgomery (810 AM and 97.3 FM) and the Royals broadcasts, which will be simulcast on those stations this year. It appears that 97.3 will carry about half the games - most of those night games to increase the coverage area. McRae will also continue to work for broadcasting spring training games as well as pre and post game shows on the radio and the Royals TV network. He then fielded questions from the audience which included his views on the upcoming season, growing up around baseball, umpires and the value of managers, playing in New York, never wining a gold glove, Pete Rose, steroids and a few other topics. Although none of his answers were particularly suprising and most reflected a player's perspective, he appeared to be very honest and probably answered questions for almost an hour.

After a brief introduction John Sickels read two excerpts from his new book on Bob Feller before fielding some questions. I was quite impressed with his approach to Feller taking in the dichotomous nature of his character and judging him by the standards of his time and not ours. After browsing through the book I'm probably going to pick up a copy. I hadn't realized Feller operates a museum in Van Meter, IA about 12 miles west of Des Moines and so now I'll have to stop in the next time we travel north. Sickels also self publishes a book on prospects that you can order at his web site. He attends minor league games during the summer and this year's book profiles 985 prospects. A great resource if you're going to spring training I'm sure. After describing the book he fielded questions on it as well, including several on specific prospects and Royals prospects of course. One of his most interesting remarks is that perhaps we're starting to see the pendulum swing back towards pitching talent in the minors and away from hitting. He seems to think that there are more good young pitching prospects waiting in the wings than hitting prospects.

In other news, the chapter renamed itself to the Monarchs Chapter and several of the guys are looking to form an 1850s baseball (or would it be "base ball") team that plays under the old rules including "plugging" base runners by hitting them with the ball and recording outs by catching the ball on the first bounce.

All in all, a few hours well spent. I also this week received the SABR publication Deadball Stars of the National League. These two items alone would have made my SABR membership worth it for the year. If you love baseball, then SABR's the place for you.

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