Holy Cow! Baseball Stat Junkies Gathering in Twin Cities
Halsey Hall chapter host for the American Society of Baseball Research national convention..
When the Society for American Baseball Research kicked off its national convention Wednesday (June 27) in downtown Minneapolis, a Roseville couple was in the thick of the action.
Stew Thornley and his wife Brenda Himrich are among the Society leaders who have welcomed some 500 members from across the nation to five-day event. Thornley is a three-time past president of the Minnesota SABR chapter known as the Halsey Hall chapter; Himrich is the current local chapter named after the legendary Twins baseball broadcaster of the 1960s and early 1970s.
The annual SABR national convention is a gathering of hard-core baseball fans, most who are statistical junkies and research enthusiasts. They're a breed of folks who groove on baseball minutiae and historical nuggets.
The Minnesota chapter has between 150 to 200 members including folks from Golden Valley, St. Louis Park, Maple Grove, Apple Valley, Edina, Northfield, Eagan, Inver Grove Heights and Oakdale.
During the convention, there will be more than 30 research presentations as well as a variety of other activities including a tour of Target Field and a speakers' panel of baseball authors, including Thornley, the editor of the book Minnesotans in Baseball.
A big part of the Society is baseball stats. Dave Beal, a Roseville resident and a Society member, said, "Major League baseball goes back many decades deeper into history than any of the other big league sports. Box scores are available, for example, going all the way back to the late 1800s and computers now slice and dice these stats in a zillion different ways.
"Thus the SABR junkies can harvest a mountain of stats," Beal said. "They also have the Moneyball movement to work with -- the use of stats to supplement the "gut" work of old-guard general managers and coaches."
Still, another important part of the Society's activities include researching and writing up various baseball histories, including stories about baseball parks and now defunct leagues, said Thornley, also editor of the Halsey Hall chapter's newsletter called The Holy Cow. (The newsletter's name comes from the famous expression of the colorful Halsey Hall.)
For Thornley, his love of baseball has been a life-long affair. He grew up in southeast Minneapolis with a father and mother who both loved baseball.
"I really love hearing the (baseball) stories," said Thornely, who has been involved in baseball research since the 1980s.
By day he is an employee of the Minnesota Department of Health, serving as educator in the department's Drinking Water program. In his free time, he is a sports historian and author, and also an official scorer at many of the Minnesota Twins baseball games.
Beyond his fascination with baseball, Thornely said he also likes the social aspect of SABR.
"We (the local chapter) have a breakfast every other month," Thornley said. "When I do research, it puts me in touch with a lot of people."
Meanwhile, Himrich also has been a long-time baseball fan but took her love of the game up a couple notches since she has been married to Thornley. She works for the Metro Transit as manger of bus systems safety.
"You meet a lot of people who love baseball," said Himrich, who has been married to Thornley 16 years. She was born in South Dakota and grew up in Winona, Minnesota.
For further information about the SABR national convention, click here. Thornley said you don't need to be statistical junkie to attend; you only need to be a baseball fan.