A love for baseball helped draw Ken Fischer of Norman to SABR — the Society for American Baseball Research.
“Initially, it was the historical part of it, but I am interested in the statistics in a lot of different areas, so it just seemed ideal,” said Fischer, a member since 1989.
Members of the Oklahoma chapter of SABR spent Saturday, June 24, touring various historical sites in the tri-state area.
The group made stops in Miami, Commerce, Picher, Baxter Springs and Joplin.
“It went much longer than planned,” said Miami baseball historian and SABR member Hank Coiner, who led the tour. “I stopped periodically and said ‘OK, we can go back to Miami now of we can go on’ and they said ‘More! More!’”
The group stopped at the Fairgrounds and various sites of significance to the sport around Miami as well as three Mantle homes in Commerce, 319 South Quincy, 317 South River and 316 North Maple.
Coiner said they stopped in Picher to give them a chance to see the old Connell Street grounds, which was built in 1937.
The final stop was Joe Becker Field in Joplin, which was built in 1913. It burned and rebuilt in 1936 and 1971.
More recently, it received a $5 million facelift.
The Joplin Outlaws of the MINK League (which features to collegiate players from around the country) call Joe Becker home and the now defunct Joplin Blasters played their games there.
“That was $5 million, but they didn’t change the field at all. They moved the fence in, but they didn’t change the field (including the berm in right field).”
Coiner said Joplin lore is that there was a cemetery located there, so the grounds were left the same.
The organization — launched in 1971 — traces its roots to Cooperstown, New York, which is called the birthplace of baseball and is the site of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
L. Robert Davids was the founder of SABR. He gathered 15 other baseball researchers at the Hall of Fame to form the organization, which has 1,500 members in the United States and more than 6,000 worldwide.
“When you go to these meetings, what is great about them is there is kind of an understanding that you are not going to talk about politics. You are not going to talk about your illness. You are not going to talk about what your daddy did. You are going to talk about baseball,” Coiner said.
“That is kind of a relief in today’s world because every where you go, we seem to have lost the ability to talk about something other than themselves.”
Fischer first learned about SABR when he saw an advertisement in the back of a book he had purchased.
“It is just amazing,” Fischer said. “I have been to I believe 10 of the national conferences. I have moved around a lot around the country. I have worked in the broadcasting industry. I now teach journalism and broadcasting at OU, so I’ve been to a lot of chapters over the past 25-plus years.
“It’s such a pleasure being a member of the organization. I have had the opportunity to do a couple presentations myself at different times. It’s been a great, great experience.”
According to the organization’s website: “SABR members have a variety of interests, and this is reflected in the diversity of its research committees. There are more than two dozen groups devoted to the study of a specific area related to the game — from Baseball and the Arts to Statistical Analysis to the Deadball Era to Women in Baseball.”
“History is often part of it,” Fischer said. “We’ve spent time talking about statistical things. It could be a combination thereof. We’ve had a couple meetings at the old Chandler baseball school. We’ve met at the Tulsa ballpark. We’ve met at the ballpark in Oklahoma City. We’ve met at a restaurant in Norman … different places.”
Jim Ellis is sports editor of the Miami News-Record. He can be reached by phone at 918-542-5508, ext5. 3052, or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @mnrsportsguy.