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Friday, June 30, 2006

SABR36 Day 3

This morning was an entertaining one at the convention. After a good breakfast I had the opportunity to sit in on the Science of Baseball Committee meeting. Alan Nathan, whom I mentioned in a post yesterday, is the chair and introduced guest Mike Marshall. Marshall of course won a Cy Young with the Dodgers in 1974 having pitched 208.3 innings pitching in 106 games and winning 15 games and saving 21. He went on to get his Ph.D. in kinesiology.

Marshall is an interesting fellow and has a unique theory on pitching mechanics. It is his contention that in order to avoid injury pitchers should pronate their release - in other words face the thumb downward and the palm upwards upon release of the ball. By doing so he claims that it will put much less stress on the elbow by not "banging" it and thereby prevent injuries. He has specific ways he claims pitchers should be throwing fastballs, curves, and even screwballs that he claims will not hurt your arm and even provide more than twice the rotation on the curveball as the traditional method. He showed a bit of his instructional video that illustrates Jeff Sparks use of Marshall's techniques which, along with his book and FAQ, you can get from his web site at He was very confident and seemed like a man on a mission.

Unfortunately for Marshall he's not taken seriously in the general baseball community and his ideas haven't taken hold. I'm certainly not qualified to judge either way but the motion he described seemed very difficult to execute and I understand that Will Carroll has a critique of Marshall's approach in the book Saving the Pitcher that you might want to check out.

After the meeting it was time for the panel discussion with members of the Seattle Pilots. Steve Hovley, Jim Pagliaroni, Marshall, and Jim Bouton participated with Jim Caple from ESPN as the moderator. The memories of the players about Seattle, Sicks Stadium, their manager "pound the ol' Budweiser" Joe Schulz and other teammates were very entertaining and kept the overflow crowd laughing. The Q&A was also handled well and I found Pagliaroni especially insightful in his relating his time as the player rep for the Pirates in the mid 60s and his story of how he idolized Ted Williams which prompted him signing with the Red Sox out of high school. He was also the on deck hitter when Williams hit his final homerun at Fenway park and related how emotional he became and how he was able to shake Williams' hand when he crossed the plate.

Of course many of the question surrounded Ball Four and Bouton's life afterwards. Hovley appeared to be not especially interested in answering questions but the rest seemed genuinely pleased to be associated with the Pilots.

After the panel Bouton signed autographs for all interested and I purchased an updated Ball Four (my copy is a beat up paperback from around 1971 that I purchased second hand of course) which he graciously signed with the line "Smoke 'em Inside". Before heading back to my room I was able to finally meet Cyril Morong whose work I've long admired as well as Roland Hemond, the former Angels farm director and White Sox executive, who told a funny story about Dick Allen and Chuck Tanner to those gathered around.

Currently, there is a panel of SABR founders going on where they're relating the founding of SABR by 16 folks on August 10, 1971.

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