Maxwell Kates: A Review of SABR 47

 

Introducing Maxwell Kates

Maxwell Kates

Maxwell Kates worked in commercial sports radio in the 1990s before deciding instead to become a CPA. The Ottawa native and Toronto resident first joined SABR in 2001. After serving the Hanlan’s Point Chapter as its Director of Marketing for twelve years, he worked behind the scenes with the Larry Dierker Chapter in the months leading to SABR 44. He attended the Houston convention, presenting “The Bikers Beat the Boy Scouts” about facial hair and the 1972 World Series, along with “Catching Rainbows and Calling Stars,” a written report about Alan Ashby for the convention magazine.

In February 2017, Maxwell returned to Houston to present “Biographing the Miracle Mets” at a SABR meeting. The report contrasted three biographies he wrote for the SABR anthology about the 1969 Mets, emphasizing the effectiveness of using different research methods to capture the lives and careers of different players. Including Houston and New York, he has attended twelve SABR conventions.

Get ready for a treat, dear Pecan Park Eagle readers. Maxwell Kates is our kind of guy. He’s passionate about baseball and he’s honest about what he sees. And, he’s also bright and engaging in the ways he writes about the subjects of his material as a whole thought.

Enjoy the effort here. We are looking forward to more from Maxwell in the future. The blue summer skies of The Pecan Park Eagle just got a little brighter with the presence of another selective contributing writer.

Welcome aboard, Maxwell! – Give us what you got!

As per usual, the New York hotel convention dais served as the forum for thought on a broad range of baseball subjects.

A REVIEW OF SABR 47

By Maxwell Kates

For 47 years, members of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) have congregated in a different city to present original research and to celebrate all matters relating to baseball history and statistical analysis. The 2017 incarnation of the SABR convention was held in New York, from June 28 to July 2, at the Grand Hyatt hotel. Adjacent to Grand Central Station, the hotel attracted a record shattering attendance of approximately 800 delegates.

The essence of any SABR convention consists of research presentations and at SABR 47 there were 32 to choose from. Some of the lectures I attended included Jacob Goldfinger’s “Ball of Confusion: Dick Allen, the Arkansas Travelers, and the Integration of Little Rock,” Douglas Schoppert’s “Louis Armstrong: Swinging,” and Don Zminda’s “South Side Hitmen: A 40th Anniversary Celebration of a Memorable Season.” Other highlights included an MLB Now panel on “The Changing State of SABRmetrics” along with incumbent J. G. Taylor Spink Award winner Claire Smith’s interview of Yankees executive Jean Afterman.

For me, the panels encompassed both the highlights and lowlights of the convention.   One of the disappointments for me was the Jackie Robinson panel; with a title of “A Celebration of 70 Years: Jackie Robinson’s Journey,” I would have expected more than a passing reference to the Dodgers legend and American hero – but that was not the case. On the other hand, panels celebrating the lives and accomplishments of Casey Stengel, Yogi Berra, and Jim Bouton were informative, insightful, nostalgic, and witty all at once. Panelists included Ira Berkow, George Vecsey, Steve Jacobson, Harvey Araton, and Yogi’s granddaughter Lindsay Berra. Having read their books and contributions to Yankees and Mets yearbooks of years gone by, to listen to the scribes discuss the heroes in pinstripes was a virtual trip down memory lane.

Baseball writers John Thorn and Jim Bouton

Of course, many of those Yankees yearbooks were edited by another featured guest of the convention. Marty Appel, who edited the yearbooks from 1970 through 1977, participated in both the Casey Stengel and Jim Bouton panels. He also conducted a book signing of “Casey Stengel: Baseball’s Greatest Character” prior to the Mets game on Friday night. Sadly, Bouton is fighting a neurological disease after suffering a severe stroke in 2012; the author of “Ball Four” and his wife, Paula Kurman, were on hand to raise awareness for his affliction.

“TAKE US OUT TO A METS GAME!”
…. and so, SABR did.

Often the highlight of any SABR convention is attributed to serendipity and could not be scripted within the confines of the program. On Friday afternoon I decided to pass on the Mets panels at Citi Field in order to visit the United Nations and the Rockefeller Center before riding the 7 train on my own to the ballgame. While awaiting the gates to open, I overheard a woman exclaim “Do you know who’s going to be at the game? Ed Charles!” Assuming the Glider’s appearance would be public, I asked how I could meet him. The woman told me to wait by a certain gate just before game time, and that’s where he would be. While waiting for Ed Charles to arrive, I spent time talking to Stan “The Man” Manel, a retired insurance man who has worked as an usher for the Mets since 1962. Although Jacob deGrom lost his bid for a no-hitter after five innings, he did hang in for the win, a 2-1 decision over Philadelphia.

We only know them here as “Abby Rosario and SABR Friends,” but their smiles tell it all. SABR fans are the greatest when they can be contacted in great abundance, and that, dear friends, is what happens at SABR conventions.

Saturday morning I attended the donor breakfast, at which time executive director explained why there was no banquet and no player panel. Given the costs to organize a banquet at the Hyatt, SABR would have been required to charge upwards of $100 to attend. Similarly, if Phil Linz can earn $2,500 to speak to Hadassah of Ozone Park, SABR did not think he would likely accept an invitation to attend a pro bono speaking engagement.

Since I was already in New York, I decided to stay three extra days to see the city sites. Let’s start off with Maxwell Kates. No, not him, I see him every day. I’m talking about the property management firm which founder Bob Freedman named after his children Maxwell and Catherine. There’s also a Maxwell SchooI in Brooklyn and a bakery called Mrs. Maxwell’s Cakes.

We were fortunate at the convention to be situated so close to Broadway. I was able to attend two plays, “A Bronx Tale” and “Bandstand.” The former was an adaptation of the Chazz Palmienteri coming of age story while the latter chronicled the story of Second World War veterans who decided to form a swing band after the war had ended. I also had the opportunity to visit with cousins from Philadelphia, a college friend from Baltimore whom I had not seen in eighteen years, and a friend from Washington who was visiting his family in Riverdale. Monday I took a cruise around New York Harbor before attending a Yankees game, a 6-1 White Owl wallop over the Toronto Blue Jays.

On Tuesday morning I visited the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side. My family had a personal connection to the neighbourhood, as this is where my uncle Irving landed when he emigrated from Austria in 1919. Trust me, it’s not Uncle Irving’s Lower East Side any longer. This particular museum tour showcased the typical living quarters of an immigrant family while narrating the histories of a German family from the 1870s and an Italian family from the 1920s. Having read a fair number of books set in the Lower East Side at the turn of the 20th century, it was interesting to see streets like Orchard, Delancey, Bowery, and Rivington spring to life.

A tenement museum home interior
Lower East Side Manhattan

After the Tenement Museum, I took a subway towards Central Park. On my way, I noticed the Great American Health Bar on 57 Street. It was at this restaurant in 2005 where I met Neil Simon, still one of my favourite memories of New York. Being the 4th of July, it was Neil’s 90th birthday. I thought lightning might strike twice that I would see Neil Simon again but not this time. However, I did run into a famous New York writer along my three hour walk in Central Park. His name, Marty Appel.

A Part of the Post-SABR 4th of July Fireworks

The grand finale of the trip consisted of the famous 4th of July fireworks. So concluded my SABR experience but there will be another convention in 2018, in Pittsburgh from June 20 to 24.

********************

Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

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