The baseball brainiacs are coming to Baltimore.
From Wednesday to Sunday, the Hyatt Regency Inner Harbor will host the 50th convention of the Society for American Baseball Research, an organization founded in 1971 and focused on the research and history of baseball. More than 500 people are expected to attend the five-day event, which has dozens of presentations, panels and discussions all centered on various topics in baseball, much of it with a Baltimore focus.
The opening remarks will be delivered by Orioles assistant general manager Sig Mejdal and the keynote address will be given by Tim Kurkjian, a Maryland native and onetime reporter for The Baltimore Sun who has covered baseball for decades for ESPN.
The many programming topics include Union Park, where the old Orioles played in the 19th century; the origins of “The Oriole Way;” and racism that Jackie Robinson endured when he played minor league games in Baltimore in 1946. Beloved former Oriole Boog Powell will speak, and there will be a panel on Baltimore native Babe Ruth, as well as women in leadership with Orioles executives Eve Rosenbaum, Nicole Sherry, Jennifer Grondahl and Lisa Tolson.
“It’s a smorgasbord of baseball content, and I mean that in the truest sense of the word,” said SABR CEO Scott Bush. “There is so much happening, and it covers so many different aspects of the game.”
Social events include an open house at the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum, a bus tour of former Orioles ballparks and an outing to the Orioles game against the Boston Red Sox on Friday.
There is an individual and team trivia contest, too, with preliminary rounds Thursday and the championship, which will be watched by other attendees, Saturday night.
A few examples of the caliber of questions that might be asked during the trivia contest: Who broke up at least 81 MLB no-hitters with a home run? Who is the only player in history to hit a walk-off-inside-the-park grand slam? Who are the only two players to win a league MVP, World Series MVP and All-Star Game MVP?
Bush said the people competing Saturday could easily answer all three of those questions. (Answers are located at the bottom of this article.)
“I know nothing compared to the folks who are competing in this trivia contest,” Bush said. “It’s a different class of knowledge.”
The convention regularly tours various cities, typically ones with an MLB team, and Baltimore has hosted once before, in 1982, when it was at what is now Towson University and set a then-record for SABR attendance. At that time, a Baltimore rookie named Cal Ripken Jr. had debuted the previous month.
“That was Cal’s rookie year, so now we find ourselves in Baltimore 40 years later, and Adley Rutschman is on the scene, which is more interesting than anything,” Bush said. “It’ll be fascinating to see — obviously, Cal’s a pretty lofty standard to live up to — but it’ll be interesting to see how Adley’s career progresses from here.”
Originally scheduled for 2020, 50 years after the Orioles won the 1970 World Series, the convention was sidelined by the coronavirus pandemic until this year, which happens to mark the 30th anniversary of Oriole Park at Camden Yards. There is a Camden Yards panel, as well as a separate discussion about ballparks, including the effect Oriole Park had on other stadiums.
A ticket to attend one day of the convention costs $115.
Peter Coolbaugh is the president of the Baltimore chapter of SABR and he, like other attendees, is a baseball fanatic. He proposed to his wife at the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and they both have positions with the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum.
“Having it here highlights Baltimore’s baseball importance,” he said.
Bush said attendance is a bit below its expected total, which he attributed, in part, to it taking place later in the summer than usual and near the start of the school year. Many attendees are college professors who also have a passion for baseball history; some even teach college courses on the game.
“It’s what I would call a meeting of the minds,” Coolbaugh said. “It’s very academically based. People come for the research, for the camaraderie, and, for a lot of these people who have been going for years and years, it’s an annual reunion.”
Attendees often wear baseball gear with logos that even devoted fans might not recognize — from obscure professional teams to long-forgotten emblems. It will often strike up conversation among like-minded baseball lovers, many of whom attend most years.
“These people just look forward to this,” Coolbaugh said, “and with a three-year gap, it’ll probably even be a bigger love fest than it’s been in the past.”
(Answers to the above trivia questions, respectively: Rickey Henderson; Roberto Clemente; and Brooks Robinson and Frank Robinson.)