Celebrating 40th SABR anniversary by guessing future convention sites

40 years ago today, baseball witnessed something new, the formation of SABR: Society for American Baseball Research.

On a personal note, this organization has meant a great deal for me. I’ve attended its annual convention for eight straight years, and helped make several friends in the process. More importantly, it’s been a grand old time.

On a more mercenary note, without the conventions, there’s no way I’d ever have written my book, Evaluating Baseball’s Managers, 1876-2008. That came from a SABR convention. At the 2005 annual convention in Toronto, I saw Phil Birnbaum give a presentation, “Were the 1994 Expos Lucky?” in which he debuted a database he worked on designed to look at various ways teams over/underachieved in a given season. I figured that could be applied to managers, and works well when you do so. That was the beginning for me.

For that matter, the conventions are the highlight of SABR membership, so it’s interesting to figure out where they’ll be. Let’s see if I can do some forecasting.

Some rules of thumb: 1) SABR normally puts them in major league towns. Only one has been in a minor league town in the last 20+ years, 2) SABR likes spreading them around. Seeing new towns and new ballparks is part of the appeal to get people going. 3) SABR likes spreading it around geographically. That said a large chunk of their membership is in northeastern America.

SABR decides what town gets a convention two years in advance, so even though it’s only 2011, all the way through 2013 has been well established. Also, from what I know it’s very, very likely that 2014 will go to Houston. Nothing is guaranteed, but they almost got 2013 and when a town is that much in the running, they’re a good shot to get it soon.

Assuming Houston gets it in 2014, what towns are likely for the conventions beyond then? Let’s turn to the past to forecast the future. There are 25 major metropolitan areas with big league teams (Chicago, New York, LA/Anaheim, San Francisco/Oakland, and Washington/Baltimore each feature two squads).

When was the last time each place had a convention? I’ll list it below, going backwards in time. If a town has previously hosted a convention, I’ll list that in parenthesis by the side. Broken into groups of five to make it legible:

2014 Houston (never hosted before, only provisional in 2014)
2013 Philadelphia (1974)
2012 Minnesota (1988)
2011 Los Angeles area (1980)
2010 Atlanta

2009 Washington DC (1987) / Baltimore (1982)
2008 Cleveland (1990)
2007 St. Louis (1992, 1979)
2006 Seattle
2005 Toronto (1981)

2004 Cincinnati
2003 Colorado
2002 Boston (1975)
2001 Milwaukee
2000 Miami area

1999 Arizona
1998 San Francisco / Oakland (1985 for Oakland)
1996 Kansas City
1995 Pittsburgh
1994 Dallas

1993 San Diego
1991 New York City
1986 Chicago

Two metro areas have never hosted it: Detroit and Tampa Bay. Well, three if you count Houston, which is another point in their favor for getting it in 2014.

Detroit makes the most sense. They’re putting them in every other town without one, so why not Detroit? It’s closer to the northeast corridor where many SABR-ites live, too.

Tampa? It’s hurt because they just went to Atlanta a few years ago and will probably go to Houston soon as well. Yeah, Texas is nowhere near Florida, but those are both hot’n’humid summertime destinations. Also, the only previous SABR convention in Florida was the most poorly attended one in the last quarter-century.

Tampa is still a viable candidate, but it’s not Detroit.

Two of the three biggest metro areas have gone the longest without it. That’s not necessarily a coincidence. I met someone who went to Chicago. SABR couldn’t get hotel space in downtown Chicago for the convention so they had to stay at Loyola University dorms. The bigger towns are harder to arrange big blocks of hotel rooms at reasonable prices. There’s only a half-dozen weekends to choose from and they like to wait until after the MLB schedule comes out to settle on a weekend.

LA worked because they put it in Long Beach, equal distance to Dodger Stadium and Angels Stadium. Chicago and New York stadiums are both in town. SABR could go back to New York or Chicago, but there are reasons those places have gone so long without it. New York is a bit more likely, because there are two new stadiums that weren’t there in 1991.

The other towns that have gone the longest without a convention are San Diego, Dallas, Pittsburgh and Kansas City. Oakland should also be mentioned, because I believe the 1998 convention was more a San Fran affair.

The chances of Dallas getting one are reduced assuming Houston gets one. Who wants to go to Texas in the summer twice in short order?

Of San Diego, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, and Oakland, I think San Diego and Pittsburgh have the best shot to get a convention first. They’re the two places with newer stadiums. San Diego has the longest drought of any place aside from New York or Chicago. Pittsburgh has a geographic advantage being closer to the east. Oakland is the least likely of the bunch. It’s an old stadium, and if you’re going to California, why not go to San Diego?

Now there’s a bunch of other factors that come into play, but it’s fun to guess. My completely uninformed, and ultra-disregardable guesstimation says this:

2014 Houston
2015 Detroit
2016 Pittsburgh
2017 New York
2018 San Diego
2019 Kansas City
2020 Dallas
2021 Kansas City
2022 Tampa Bay
2023 Chicago
2024 Oakland

Well, at least I feel confident in my Houston prediction.

Aside from SABR’s founding, other events celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is an event occurring X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you just want to skim:


1,000 days since the White Sox trade Nick Swisher to the Yankees.

3,000 days since Curt Schilling clubs a Questec camera with a bat after losing to the Padres, 5-1.

3,000 days since David Wells allows seven doubles in one appearance.

4,000 days since Bobby Abreu nails a walk-off, inside-the-park home run in the 10th inning for a 2-1 Phillies victory over the Giants.

5,000 days since the Indians trade Matt Williams to Arizona for Travis Fryman and some other items.

8,000 days since major league owners approve the sale of the Mariners to Jeff Smulyan and Michael Browning for $77 million, a new record price for an AL club.

15,000 days since the Pirates play their first game in Three Rivers Stadium losing 3-2 to the Reds.

15,000 days since the Cubs suffer a very tough 2-1 loss to Houston. Ken Holtzmann loses despite allowing only two hits due to two unearned runs. Billy Williams blasts a would-be homer in the ninth inning, but it hits a speaker in the Astrodome and drops foul.

25,000 days since the Texas League decides to suspend operations for the duration of WWII.

30,000 days since Cub star Hack Wilson enters the stands at Wrigley Field in the ninth inning of the second game of a doubleheader to attack milkman Edward Young, who was heckling him all day long.


1888 Hall of Famer Tim Keefe notches his 19th consecutive victory.

1901 Washington pitcher Dale Gear has one of the worst days ever, surrendering 41 total bases off 23 hits (including four doubles, four triples, and two homers) in 13-0 lose to the A’s.

1904 After 30 consecutive complete games, Jack Chesbro gets pulled for a relief pitcher.

1909 Ed Reulbach of the Cubs wins his 14th straight decision.

1911 The Tigers announce a new grandstand costing $300,000 will be built for 1912. It will be Tiger Stadium.

1917 Babe Ruth belts home run into centerfield bleachers versus the Red Sox, supposedly the longest ever hit there (up to that point in time at least).

1920 Bill Doak has no one to blame but himself when he blows his no-hitter. In the seventh inning, he forgets to cover first on an infield ground, and that’s the only hit he allows.

1924 Ty Cobb steals second, third, and home in one inning.

1926 Ill-fated Ross Youngs plays in his last game. He’s dying, otherwise his career would’ve lasted quite a bit longer.

1930 The last-place Phillies have a moment in the sun, crushing the Reds, 18-0.

1933 Birth of Rocky Colavito.

1934 Babe Ruth says this will be his final season as a regular player. He’s looking for a managerial/pinch-hit role.

1937 Buddy Lewis of the Senators commits four errors in one game.

1941 Enos Slaughter breaks his collarbone in outfield collision with teammate Terry Moore.

1943 Bobby Doerr, who attempts to steal 118 bases in his career, has three attempts in one game. He’s successful once and twice nabbed, as the White Sox top Boston, 4-2.

1944 Weird game: Braves starting pitcher Red Barrett wins a 75 minute game by throwing 58 pitches in nine-inning complete game.

1955 Stan Musial belts his 1,000th extra base hit.

1957 Mickey Mantle becomes the first person to hit a home run over the centerfield hede in Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium. Estimates place the blast at 460 feet. In that same game, Milt Pappas makes his major league debut. He doesn’t give up the moon shot, though.

1961 Whitey Ford wins his 14th straight game, his best winning streak. He’s 20-2 on the season so far.

1963 Boog Powell belts three homers in a game for Baltimore.

1966 Long-time manager Chuck Dressen dies of a heart attack at age 67.

1968 Mickey Mantle enjoys his 46th and final multi-home run game.

1969 Roberto Clemente hits his 200th home run.

1969 For the third of his record five times, a Cesar Tovar single is the only swing to ruin a would-be no-hitter. Tovar leads off the ninth inning with a single against Baltimore’s Mike Cuellar, who beats Minnesota 2-0 in his one-hitter. In fact, prior to Tovar’s single, Cuellar retired 35 consecutive batters over two games. Not bad.

1969 Minnesota manager Billy Martin, age 41, beats up his 24-year-old star pitcher, Dave Boswell and leaves him outside a restaurant. Boswell requires 20 stitches due to pummeling. Problem: my notes say it happened in Detroit, but the previous item says Minnesota played the Orioles that day. The date here might be wrong.

1969 After losing 13-straight decisions to the Cubs, Don Sutton finally downs them, 4-2 for LA.

1971 Juan Marichal hurls his 50th career shutout.

1971 Harmon Killebrew knocks out his 500th home run. He’s the 10th member of the club.

1974 Jorge Lebron becomes the youngest pro player, appearing at age 14 for the Philadelphia farm club in Auburn before returning to junior high in Puerto Rico.

1976 A Mike Cubbage second-inning single is the only thing standing between Jim Palmer and a no-hitter. It turns out to be the first of two times a Minnesota third baseman does that to him.

1977 The Cincinnati Reds engage in the worst rundown ever. They pick Davey Lopes off at first, he bolts for second, and a half-dozen throws later, he’s safe at second. Everyone in the infield except catcher Johnny Bench touch the ball in the mess.

1977 Due to rain delays, Expos-Phillies doubleheader at Veterans Stadium goes past 3 AM.

1978 The Indians really go all out to blow a play against the Red Sox. Up 5-4 in the bottom of the 13th inning, the Indians turn a pop up into a disaster. Part one: the second baseman and first baseman collide into each other trying to circle under the pop up. Part two: the catcher rushes to the now-landed ball, and throws it to third base. Instead, it goes into left field. Part three: the leftfield runs down the ball, but can’t make any play because for the life of him he can’t get the ball out of his glove.

1978 Mike Edwards pulls off two unassisted double plays in one game.

1979 Don Sutton tosses his 50th career shutout.

1979 Pete Rose last plays third base.

1980 The longest hitting streak Ricky Henderson ever has maxes out at 14 games. Really – that’s his longest. In the same game, Oakland starter Steve McCatty pitches 14 innings, but loses 2-1. No one has since pitched that many innings in a game.

1980 Willie Stargell, 40 years, five months, and four days old, hits a triple.

1981 Andre Dawson belts his 100th home run.

1981 Bowie Kuhn announces the split-season plan for the 1981 playoffs due to the strike.

1981 After 32 consecutive successful steal attempts, Seattle’s Julio Cruz is thrown out.

1981 Cal Ripken makes his major league debut.

1986 Bob Forsch, Cardinals pitcher, belts a grand slam.

1986 The Yankees retire Billy Martin’s number (1).

1987 Jeff Gross becomes second pitcher ejected in eight days for scuffing the ball. He’s found with sandpaper. Eight days earlier, umps memorably found a nail file on Joe Niekro.

1989 Dave Dravecky has surgery for removal of cancer on his pitching arm.

1989 Nolan Ryan no-hit attempt just falls short, due to Dave Bergman single with one out in the ninth.

1990 Nolan Ryan suffers what has got to be the most embarrassing moment of his career, as punchless White Sox infielders Ozzie Guillen and Craig Grebeck belt back-to-back home runs off the Texas fireballer.

1991 Braves-Astros game delayed for five minutes when a moth goes in the ear of outfielder Mike Simms

1992 Floyd Bannister plays his last game.

1993 Bret Saberhagen admits that he’s the one who sprayed bleach at three reporters from a water gun on July 27. He says he was aiming at Mets employees.

1993 The White Sox trade reliever Bobby Thigpen to the Phillies for Jose DeLeon.

1994 Gary Sheffield bangs out his 100th home run.

1994 Owners and players break off talks – a strike is certain.

1994 Jeff Bagwell hit by pitch, breaking the fourth metacarpal bone. He’s done for the year—even if the players weren’t on the verge of strike.

1994 With a strike imminent, the following players last appear in a big league game: Bo Jackson, Cory Snyder, Kent Hrbek, Lonnie Smith, and Tom Brunansky.

1995 The Dodgers forfeit the game to the Cardinals when fans bombard the field with over 200 balls in the ninth inning.

1995 Kirk Gibson plays in his last game.

1995 Tom Glavine belts his only career home run.

1996 Eddie Murray hits the 18th of his 19 grand slams. This is his first one since 1992.

1996 Colorado takes a 7-0 lead but need back-to-back homers in the 10th inning to defeat Atlanta, 9-7. Please note this game was in Georgia, not Colorado.

1997 Tony Phillips of the Angels arrested for trying to freebase cocaine in Anaheim motel.

1999 Wade Boggs, making his second and final appearance as a pitcher, fans Delino DeShields. Boggs has toyed around with a knuckleball for years, and supposedly it isn’t half bad.

2001 Tigers-Royals get in a fight. Jeff Weaver starts cursing out KC first baseman Mike Sweeney, who charges the mound.

2001 Lou Boudreau dies.

2002 Sammy Sosa ties Johnny Mize’s old record with his sixth career three-homer game. Sosa collects nine RBIs in this one.

2003 Atlanta’s Rafael Furcal has an unassisted triple play.

2004 Tom Glavine is injured in a car accident. He loses two front teeth and requires 40 stitches.

2005 Radio personality Larry Krueger, working of Giants’ flagship station KNBR, is fired for complaining the team has too many “brain dead Caribbean hitters.”

2005 Former Negro Leaguer Ted “Double Duty” Radcliffe dies at age 103.

2006 Curt Schilling allows nine doubles in one game. That’s the most by any pitcher in one game since at least 1920. The Royals do it against him. Schilling allows 11 hits in all in 7.1 IP.

2006 Mark Prior last appears in a major league game. Time flies.

2009 Vladimir Guerrero connects for his 400th home run.

2009 Troy Tulowitzki hits for a the cycle and collects 7 RBIs in 11-5 Colorado win over the Cubs.

2010 The Reds and Cardinals stage a big brawl that begins when Yadier Molina had words with Brandon Phillips. Johnny Cueto spikes a guy in the fight.

2010 Vincente Padilla beats the Phillies, becoming the ninth pitcher to post at least one win against all 30 teams. The previous pitchers to do so are: Al Leiter, Kevin Brown, Terry Mulholland, Curt Schilling, Jaime Moyer, Randy Johnson, Barry Zito, and Javier Vazquez.

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Steve in Philly
12 years ago

A fun column for SABR’s 40th anniversary.  I think you may have a typo there—Kansas City is listed for both 2019 and 2021.  (Unless you mean Kansas City, KS for one of them!)

Bob Timmermann
12 years ago

The West Palm Beach convention attendance was hurt by hotel problems and not being in a convenient spot. And the hotel was relatively isolated so there weren’t many dining options.
It was the first one I attended and I gave a research presentation to a crowd of about 20 people, most of whom were there by accident.

Four years later in Cincinnati, I gave another research presentation and I think I had 200 people in the room.

Mike Webber
12 years ago

I checked this out about 4 years ago when someone suggested that it was about KC’s turn again. I have always said once I forget how big of a pain it was to host the dang thing I’d be ready to host again. So I counted up, basically like you did to see when our turn was. I figured we were “due” in 2023.

This is the list I came up with, which is similar to yours only instead of counting DC/Baltimore as one, I counted them as two. Why? The Northeast thing primarily, and by 2017 (where I placed them) it will be 8 years since SABR was in DC. Even for a group as focused on the past as us, eight years seems far enough apart.

Year   Town (last)
2014   Houston (never)
2015   Detroit (never)
2016   Tampa (never)
2017   Baltimore (1982)
2018   Chicago (1986)
2019   New York (1991)
2020   San Diego (1993 – 7 years since West Coast)
2021   Dallas (94)
2022   Pittsburgh (95)
2023   Kansas City (96)

Basically I just arranged them by the order they last hosted.

I agree with you that Pittsburgh will likely move forward with their “new” park.

Happy Birthday SABR.

F. X. Flinn
12 years ago

Chris, you oughtta be on the Board!

The funny thing is that Detroit was in the running for consideration along with Philly and Houston, but with those two groups being a lot further along, Detroit opted out to make the Board’s decision easier and are working toward the 2015 event.

I think clear preference after that would be to take another shot at New York, perhaps by locating in White Plains or Stamford or northern New Jersey instead of in Manhattan or on Long Island. I lived in Stamford for many years and could drive to Yankee Stadium or Shea Stadium in 45 minutes, similar to the LA ballparks this year from Long Beach. White Plains is 15 minutes closer. Also, either of those locations could support a day trip to Cooperstown, with the bus leaving at 6 am for a 10 am arrival at the HOF, and a 7pm departure for an 11 pm return to the hotel, providing 8 full hours in Cooperstown.

If we were to follow pattern, San Diego would follow in 2018, then Pittsburgh in 2019, Dallas in 2020, Tampa 2021 and finally a 20th anniversary of Boston 2002 in 2022.

Hopefully by that time you will have been on the board for a decade and I will have been off it for many years.

F. X. Flinn
12 years ago

Ooops…I meant San Diego in 2017…subtract a year from everyone…put Chicago in before Boston.

Chris J.
12 years ago

Steve – good catch.  D’OH!  Either move everybody up one or put in a minor league park there.

Mike – normally I’d agree on putting DC & Baltimore separate but for one thing: in the recent DC convention we saw a game in Balitmore.  Are we really going to go to Camden Yards seven years after going to Camden Yards?

Mike, also 2020 won’t be seven years since the last west coast convention, but nine years.

12 years ago

1987: this is Kevin Gross, is it not?

Chris J.
12 years ago

Yeah, that should say Kevin Gross in 1987. .  .  . I was wondering what the first comment was referring to.

Neal Traven
12 years ago

1987 is *definitely* Kevin Gross.

IMHO, Tampa’s only “advantage” as a future SABR convention host is one of its biggest *disadvantages* as an MLB city—their horrid ballpark is air-conditioned.  Since I’ve already had the displeasure of seeing a few games there, I have no desire to head there any time soon (yes, it’s all about me-me-me).

It seems to be off the radar in SABR’s convention planning, but I’d like to see us go back to a minor-league city.  I, for one, enjoyed Louisville (and they now have an actual baseball field).  I could see holding the convention in, say, Memphis or Charlotte or Raleigh.

If SABR’s past practice is an indicator, after the expected Houston-Detroit pairing in 2014-2015 it would be tough to go to Pittsburgh next.  That would be two midwestern(ish) in a row.  Come to think of it, with 2012 in Minnesota it would actually be three out of five. 

Is five years post-Long Beach too short for considering San Diego?  If not Pittsburgh (or Kansas City, another in the midwest) and not San Diego, and if NYC is too close to Philadelphia and too expensive, then where??

Jeffrey Gross
12 years ago

I’m unrelated, sadly, to any “gross”-named baseball player.

Mike Webber
12 years ago

“Neal Traven said…

IMHO, Tampa’s only “advantage” as a future SABR convention host is one of its biggest *disadvantages* as an MLB city—their horrid ballpark is air-conditioned.”

Oh, I really thought this was going to say “Tampa’s only “advantage” as a future SABR convention host is there is a tons of excellent seats, and we can sit behind the visiting dugout as long as the Yanks or Sox aren’t in town.”

Bill Nowlin
12 years ago

You’ve overlooked San Juan (home of a very active SABR chapter, and a very inexpensive place to get to from most of the USA).