I remember most players from my youth, at least the non-Phils, through the grainy pictures on the fronts of their Topps baseball cards. Mike Marshall will remain there, in my mind, forever throwing off the mound for the Braves, even though he spent little more than one offseason with that team.
Even so, I knew he was the guy who had thrown one hundred games all in relief a few years earlier. I barely missed his glory years though I witnessed his short-lived comeback with the Twins (which oddly was absent any representation on a cardboard doppelganger from Toppsperhaps the irascible reliever refused to sign with the then-baseball card monopoly).
That's what I always remembered about Marshall, the 100 games. Somehow that factoid had filtered down to a ten-year-old a few seasons after the fact even though a few seasons seemed an eternity at the time. The 208.1 innings pitched never did register but seem even more impressive now. 208.1 innings?!? That's basically a bullpen. Marshall was a one-man pen. No wonder he won the 1974 NL Cy Young award.
Jim Bouton, I never did see pitch though I remember the ill-fated footnote of a comeback and of course, there's the book. Maybe that's why Marshall had more resonance for me when I attended that refuse for baseball geekdom, a Society for Baseball Research (or SABR for short) convention. Or maybe it was the fact that I presented on relief pitching, so it felt something like kismet. Or maybe it was the fact that I cornered Marhsall and asked him a few questions about relief pitching, but more on that later.
I do have to say that when a group of people who truly love something get together in the same place, it is a wonderful thing. It's sometimes enough to warm the heart of a jaded curmudgeon like me. But enough about how the Jersey fan's cheered and chanted "Bruce" for Springsteeen's exuberant but quite often very mediocre jug band project when I saw them at whatever they now call the Garden State Arts Center last week.
Just kidding. It's just my curmudgeonly way to refer to weekend at the SABR convention. It was my first national convention though I've been a member for a dozen years. And I have to say that I left chanting "Bruce" as well though no one, including me is sure why.
I don't know if I can do the whole experience justice. I choose to represent the whirlwind, as I experienced it, through the sights, the sounds, and the smells of a hard-working SABR convention (to paraphrase, badly, Marty DiBergi).
First, Seattle I had never visited the Coffee City before, and found the experience to be very odd. The downtown area seems hillier than San Francisco. The sun never seemed to set, well, maybe by around 10:30 or so. The game that the SABR group attended a short interleague contest. in which Colorado's Josh Fogg pitched a complete game shutout on something like 86 pitches, was a night game played entirely in daylight. The blinding sun blazed down on us fans seated down the rightfield line for the first half of the game. But perhaps the oddest thing was how pedestrians refused to enter an intersection, no matter how bereft of traffic it was, until instructed to do so. Being a Northeasterner, I felt free to cross when appropriate until my Toastermate, Bob Timmerman, a West Coaster he, advised me that the police enforce jaywalking with a vengeance out West.