The Burlington Fire

The recent fire at West Michigan’s ballyard set me to searching for coverage of the only comparable event in Midwest League history, the fire at Community Field in Burlington, Iowa, on June 8, 1971. The best treatment I could locate was in the Des Moines Register on June 10.

The caption under Larry Neibergall’s front page photo read:

Firemen play streams of water on the burning grandstand at Burlington’s Community Field early Wednesday in a futile effort to save the stadium. Loss in the fire, which swept through the wooden structure, was estimated at $75,000. John Cox, general manager of the Burlington Bees professional team which plays its home games at the field, said he was working in the office at the stadium late Tuesday and though he heard a noise outside. He went to investigate and found a section of the grandstand in flames. Cox escaped moments before the grandstand collapsed.

There was more detail on page 2-8:

Burlington Damage Set At $75,000

A fire Tuesday night which practically destroyed Community Field, home of Burlington’s Midwest League baseball team, caused an estimated $75,000 damage, authorities revealed Wednesday.

The Bees’ office said workmen were tearing down the charred remains of the grandstand in preparation for this weekend’s action. The park’s new lighting system, with the exception of one pole, remained intact.

Bee General Manager John Cox was working in the team’s offices at the park when the fire broke out. Cox said he heard what sounded like footsteps outside his office at about 11:30 pm.

Cox investigated, but found no one. A short time later, he investigated again and discovered the first-base stands ablaze.

The fire destroyed one dugout, a concession stand, the press box, the team’s offices, a ticket booth and most of the wooden grandstands.

A car parked outside the grandstand belonging to Bee player Tommy Sandt was destroyed by the blaze, but three other autos and a camper were moved in time after their windows were broken. The Bees’ home uniforms were at the cleaners and escaped the fire.

The ball park, constructed in the 1940s, is owned by the American Legion, which leases it to the city. The city, in turn, leases the facility to the Burlington Baseball Association, which operates the Bees.

The Bees, who were playing at Appleton, Wis., Tuesday night, are scheduled to return home Sunday night for a game with Quincy, Ill. A high school doubleheader between Assumption of Davenport and Burlington was played at the stadium just hours before the fire.

The Burlington High School Invitation baseball tournament will go on as scheduled Saturday at the stadium, which will have temporary bleachers.

Burlington’s current facility dates from the 1973 season.

Found the newspaper coverage via

Joel’s Lansing Lugnut Notes: an introduction

Although blogs hadn’t yet been invented, seventeen years ago I kept a Lansing Lugnuts weblog, which I called Joel’s Lansing Lugnut Notes. The 1996 Luggies were a new team. I began keeping the online journal because I’d been watching Midwest League (MWL) play for several summers and figured I had something to contribute to the Lansing discussion. As things worked out I did a writeup after each series, and composed a few other pages as inspiration struck. I plan to repost all of the weblog entries, and most of the other pages, to this journal over the next few months. Most will be posted 17 years to the day after they were originally written.

My MWL website, A Fan’s Guide to the Midwest League, was a spinoff from my Luggie journal. I’ve discussed this transition elsewhere on this blog, and will doubtless do so again.

Our Main Characters

Lansing’s team was (and remains) owned by the Chicago-based husband-and-wife team of Tom Dickson and Sherrie Myers. They’d purchased the Waterloo, Iowa, team after the 1993 season and moved it to Springfield, Illinois, when lease negotiations with the Waterloo city fathers broke down. This occurred shortly before play began in ’94. Early in 1995 they committed to move the team to Lansing, and we’d all been impatiently waiting for the team’s arrival.

In 1996 the Lugnuts’ general manager was Jim Weigel. The team’s on-field host was Jason Colthorp Michael Baird [see Jason’s comment, below], and Mike VanderWood (note the spelling change) was the Luggies’ radio voice

The original Lugnut team was a Kansas City Royals affiliate. The Royals assigned Brian Poldberg, a minor league lifer, to manage the team. Poldberg was assisted by hitting coach Curtis Wilkerson and pitching coach Mike Moore, both of whom were former major league players. Jeff Stevenson was the trainer.

Forty young players appeared on the field during Lansing’s team’s inaugural season. Seven of those players–Carlos Beltran, Carlos Febles, Kevin Hodges, Mark Quinn, Jose Santiago, Matt Treanor, and Jeff Wallace–eventually appeared in the majors. Beltran, of course, is nearing the end of what may be a Hall of Fame career, but played only briefly in Lansing. Treanor was still catching in 2012, though his prospects for playing this summer appear slim. But my story’s as much about the other guys, all of whom will be able to tell their grandkids they played professional ball.

I will, of course, also mention (and sometimes discuss) other 1996 Midwest League players as their (remembered) teams pass through Olds Park. In retrospect the big names were David Ortiz (Big Papi was going by Arias, not Ortiz, in 1996) and A.J. Pierzynski. In 1996, of course, it was by no means clear who would become major league stars. Frankly, I didn’t care. I still don’t, for that matter.

My Plan

Since I’m already a few entries behind, I plan to catch up to today-seventeen-years-back over the next few days. Thereafter I plan to post entries in time-delayed real time. I expect to post most of those exactly as I originally wrote them, even when I said something obviously stupid (I’ll likely add some hyperlinks–and either delete or fix some broken links). It’s also likely that I’ll add some commentary in each entry’s first comment.

How I plan to publicize postings:

  • I’ll list new entries in the first comment on this page. You could bookmark it, and check from time to time.
  • You could bookmark this Lugnuts Notes directory page, and occasionally check there for new listings. The difference between this option and the “comment” option is the descriptions.
  • I’ll create link-back pages on this blog pointing to the new (back-dated) entry every time I post something. The link-back pages will be temporary, as I plan to delete each as the next link-back is posted.
  • I’ll mention the new entries on Facebook, which of course will only notify my FB friends. I’ll do the same on my Google+ page, which is a bit more public.
  • I’ll mention the new entries on my Twitter feed.

I expect this to be fun, and I’m looking forward to the feedback. Thanks for reading.

Ill. State Playoffs Cancelled (1947)

Here’s something I’d previously missed, and rather wish I hadn’t. It’s absolutely fascinating in many dimensions:

There will be no playoff series in the Illinois State League after all. Directors of the circuit called off the post-season games on the final day of the season, at a time when President Howard Millard was preparing to release the playoff schedule to the wire services…. In fact, Millard already had notified one umpire that he would work the series…. In explaining this unexpected action, Red Hoffman, vice-president of the Belleville Stags, said that his players did not wish to engage in the playoffs since they had won the title in both halves of the season…. However, the Belleville players stated they wanted to engage in the series, provided they would share in the gate…. They did not want to play on a straight salary basis…. Meanwhile, Marion Manager Mel Ivey announced that he was incensed by the action…. He pointed out that, when playoff plans were originally drawn up, his Marion club was leading in the second half race…. It was decided that Marion would meet Belleville for the season’s championship, if Marion retained its lead…. But, if Belleville should win the second half race, it was decided that the first four clubs would engage in a Shaughnessy playoff series…. Accordingly, Ivey charged, the various teams reserved their best pitchers to oppose Marion, with the result that his team was knocked out of first place. Belleville slipped into the top spot and Centralia and Mt. Vernon qualified for the playoffs by finishing in the third and fourth positions.

The Sporting News, September 24, 1946; page 33 (courtesy of Paper of Record and SABR). Punctuation as in the original.

Howard V. Millard

Howard Millard, the president of the Midwest League’s predecessor Illinois State League in 1947 and 1948, was sports editor for the Decatur (Illinois) Review (later the Herald and Review) from 1920 through 1958. For his entire tenure in Decatur Millard wrote a column called “Bait for Bugs.” He was good at his job, but covering the Three-I League for The Sporting News didn’t bring him national fame. He was unusually active in Illinois, however, founding and presiding over the Illinois Associated Press Sports Editors Association.

Howard and Buddy Millard

H.V. Millard had a parallel career as a football and basketball official. Millard’s officiating career apparently began before the First World War and ended during the Second. He began by officiating local high school games, eventually becoming a prominent Illinois sports official and overseeing tournament games in neighboring states. By the late 1920s he was working Big Ten games in both sports, an association which he’d continue until he retired from officiating. He also served as president of the Athletic Officials Association of Illinois, another organization he helped create.

In the 1950s Millard would write and publish two editions of a book documenting the history of the Illinois high school basketball tournament. He was eminently qualified to produce this book, since he’d participated–as an athlete, official, or sports writer–in nearly every year’s tournament.

Apparently all this activity wasn’t enough, since Millard occasionally moonlighted as a sports executive. Soon after he arrived in Decatur he handled publicity for George Halas’ Decatur Staleys football club. In 1929 he moved to Dayton, Ohio, to serve as president of the local minor league baseball team. When team failed after the season for reasons unrelated to Millard’s presidency, he returned to his sports editor position in Decatur.

There are references to a stint as president of the Central League, apparently in the 1920s. I’ve been unable to verify this.

Presumably Millard had more time after he stopped refereeing big-school sports. H.V. served as General Manager of the Decatur Commodores baseball club in 1946, helping resurrect the Three-I League after the War. This community service effort lasted only one summer, as he resigned the position in the fall.

Millard’s next project oversaw the birth of a minor league to serve southern Illinois. Late in 1946 he announced the formation of the six-team Illinois State League, with himself as league president and C.C. Hoffman as VP. He served as ISL prexy for two seasons, then surrendered the job to Dutch Hoffman. Millard later served as secretary to the ISL’s successors–the Mississippi-Ohio Valley and Midwest Leagues–from 1954 until his 1958 retirement.

Personal Life

Howard Millard was born in Peoria, Illinois, on August 30, 1891, and was educated in Peoria schools. There’s some evidence that he attended Central College in Pella, Iowa, soon after completing high school, but he received his sheepskin from Illinois Wesleyan in 1917. He reportedly played basketball at both institutions, and captained the Wesleyan basketball team.

Millard apparently served in the military, probably during World War I, though I’ve been unable to find any details. He lived in Moline in 1919, then began his career in journalism at the Peoria Star. The next year he moved to Decatur, where he’d live and work for most of his life.

Millard married Thelma Brannan, of Decatur (a “society girl,” according to a newspaper announcement), on August 6, 1923. The Millards had a son, Harry, who they called Buddy. Buddy, their only child, often accompanied his father on officiating gigs.

Howard Millard retired from his newspaper position on October 1, 1958, at which time he and Thelma moved to California. Millard passed away on October 23, 1961, at the Fresno Veterans Administration hospital, after suffering a heart attack. He was buried in Decatur. The Sporting News published his obituary in the November 1 edition; a week later C.C. Johnson Spink noted Millard’s passing on TSN‘s editorial page. In 1972 he was elected to the Illinois Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame


  • “At the High School,” Rockford Register-Gazette, October 13, 1919; page 9.
  • “Perry Graves is Director of New Officials’ Body,” Rockford Morning Star, August 31, 1920; page 2.
  • “R.A.A.C. Eleven Shows Worth in Kewanee Battle,” Rockford Morning Star, October 19, 1920; page 8.
  • “Howard Millard Marries,” Rockford Republic, August 7, 1923; page 12.
  • Al Demaree, “Seconds Count in Thrilling B.B Struggle”, Rockford Republic, January 23, 1929; page 17.
  • “Gets His Coaching Early in Life”, Decatur Review, October 6, 1929; page 19.
  • “Two Local Men Will Play with Pro Ball Clubs,” Rockford Morning Star, February 22, 1930; page 14.
  • “Athletic Officials Elect,” Rockford Register-Republic, September 7, 1933; page 8.
  • Dick Day, “Time Out,”, Rockford Register-Republic, August 20, 1945.
  • “Howard Millard Resigns,” Rockford Morning Star, October 26, 1946.
  • “Head of Illinois State Baseball Loop Resigns,” Rockford Register-Republic, November 1, 1948; page 29.
  • Jim Johnston, “Fans’ Alley,” Rockford Register-Republic, February 7, 1955; page B3.
  • “Decatur Editor to Retire Oct. 1”, Rockford Morning Star, July 27, 1958; page 8A.
  • “Sports Writer Howard Millard Dies at Age 70,” Mount Vernon Register-News, October 24, 1961; page 8.
  • “Obituary: Howard V. Millard,” The Sporting News, November 1, 1961; page 24.
  • “Game Will Miss McAuley, Millard,” The Sporting News, November 8, 1961; page 10.

The Rise of the Midwest League and the Decline of the Three-I League by Tim Rask: a short review

This is a review of Tim Rask’s short (12 page) article, which is available online.

Tim’s article examines how minor league baseball’s formerly-thriving Three-I League failed after a long, successful run. He attributes the failure to a number of causes, but identifies the main agent to be C.C. “Dutch” Hoffman, president of the Midwest League. Rask’s research, based largely on Iowa newspaper accounts, shows that Hoffman was able to consistently win territorial skirmishes with the older, faster league; he worked out a better strategy for franchise recruitment, and made better tactical use of baseball’s territorial rules.

A fine piece of research. Most minor leagues failed in the 1950s; we need more people examining why specific leagues succeeded.

Beloit Snappers @ Quad Cities River Bandits, September 3, 2009

John O'Donnell Stadium

Another tl;dr essay discussing Jeff Sackmann’s minor league play-by-play data; the first was here. This will be far more understandable if you have worked with Retrosheet event files than if you’ve not, though anyone who habitually scores ballgames can likely follow the discussion if they’re really determined. Retrosheet file documentation begins here, and BEVENT’s default output is described near the end of this file.

Out of the Box

It may be helpful to start with a box score. This was generated from the Sackmann event file by Retrosheet’s program BOX for the September 3, 2009, game I mentioned in the title.

     Game of 9/3/2009 -- Beloit at Quad Cities (N)

  Beloit        AB  R  H RBI    Quad Cities   AB  R  H RBI  
Beresford J, ss  1  1  0  0   Ingram D, cf     3  1  1  1   
De La Osa D, ss  4  0  1  1   Stidham J, 2B    4  0  0  0   
Thompson D, 2b   4  0  0  0   Curtis J, 3b     3  1  1  1   
Hicks A, cf      3  1  1  0   Scruggs X, 1b    5  1  1  0   
Waltenbury J, 1b 4  0  0  1   Racobaldo R, dh  5  1  1  2   
Rams D, c        4  0  1  1   Parejo F, lf     3  2  3  1   
Harrington M, lf 3  0  0  0   Rodriguez R, rf  3  1  1  0   
Hanson N, 3b     4  0  1  0   Cawley J, c      4  1  2  3   
Severino A, dh   3  0  1  0   Bolivar D, ss    4  0  0  0   
Morales A, rf    4  0  1  0   
                -- -- -- --                   -- -- -- --
                34  2  6  3                   34  8 10  8   

Beloit           111 000 000 --  3
Quad Cities      123 020 00x --  8
  1 out when game ended.

  Beloit               IP  H  R ER BB SO
Hendriks L            4.0  8  6  0  1  3
Marquez W             2.1  2  2  0  4  2
Stillings B           2.0  0  0  0  1  2

  Quad Cities          IP  H  R ER BB SO
Miller S              1.0  1  1  0  1  1
McGregor S            6.0  4  1  0  1 11
Delgado R             1.1  1  0  0  0  2

E -- Bolivar D, Thompson D, Hicks A 2, Scruggs X
DP -- Beloit 1
LOB -- Beloit 10, Quad Cities 7
2B -- Curtis J, Scruggs X
3B -- Hicks A, Morales A
SB -- Ingram D, Severino A, Hanson N, Harrington M
CS -- Ingram D
HBP -- by Marquez W (Curtis J), by Delgado R (Harrington 
WP -- Hendriks L, Marquez W 3
PB -- Rams D, Cawley J
T -- 0:00
A -- 0

You may wish to compare this box to MiLB’s box for the same game. Even without comparing, though, two issues are readily apparent. First off, it’s difficult to imagine why an 8-3 game would end with one out in the ninth. Baseball just doesn’t work like that. Similarly puzzling are the innings totals for both pitching staffs: It seems that this was indeed an 8 1/3 inning game.

Comparisons with the MiLB box raise some more flags: Ten of the hitters have different counts in AB, R, H, and/or RBI. Four of the pitchers differ in IP, R, H, BB, and/or SO. (ER is a separate issue, not under discussion today.) I see other differences elsewhere, but see no need to go into detail. I think I’ve demonstrated that there are problems here, folks. Let’s see if we can figure them out.

Some Useful Background

Jeff Sackmann collected several years’ minor league play-by-play data to use for a specific project, his Minor League Splits website. He’s discontinued that project, but has voluntarily shared the underlying data with other researchers. There are problems, which he recognizes, with the data store, and I’m exploring the scope of those. I have some questions which can only be examined with minor league play-by-play data, so it’s necessary that I understand this data and its shortcomings.

Sackmann built his data store by collecting the game accounts on the Minor League Baseball (MiLB) website with a bot, then running them through a program which I usually call the Sackmann parser. Since the Sackmann files are nominally in Retrosheet (RS) format, my immediate project is to run those files through what you might call a translator, called BEVENT, which converts RS files to a standard database format and is available from the Retrosheet website. This is a progress report on that conversion project. I gave a preliminary report about the effort a couple weeks ago in a prior essay.

I’ve been using Jeff’s 2009 Midwest League event file, which contains game accounts for the entire 2009 season, for a testbed. Retrosheet VP Clem Comly has experimented some with the 2009 MWL file and reports that it averages two or three erroneous records per game. Erroneous, in this case, means records which won’t be interpreted correctly by the BEVENT parser. Since the league played about 1,000 games in 2009, including the championship playoff, that works out to 2,500 or so bad records in that play-by-play file, which contains 115,278 records overall (I’ve deleted one badly-damaged game account, For200908170, from the file, as has Clem). Averages can mislead, though, as the errors are clustered. Some of the clustering results from transcription errors which make subsequent, correct, records appear to be erroneous, thus creating an error cascade. The common case is a data record transcription which loses a putout, thus apparently extending the inning. This confuses BEVENT, which blindly assumes innings have three outs. So there are some game accounts with many errors, and many evidently-flawless game accounts.

That’s my paraphrase of Clem’s analysis, by the way. I believe this document summarizes his main points adequately, but it’s fair to say I’ve twisted his commentary around a bit.

An Example Game

Perhaps we’ll profit if we examine the Beloit/Quad Cities game which is incorrectly summarized above. Let’s compare three versions of the play-by-play:

  • The game as reported on the Minor League Baseball (MiLB) website.
  • Sackmann’s version, which reformats the MiLB report into Retrosheet format. (I’ve shortened Jeff’s team designators, but it’s otherwise an exact copy of his data. Within this essay I’ve also removed hit location data to reduce the clutter.)
  • BEVENT’s version, which reformats Sackmann’s into a database-friendly format. This essay shows only the first few fields of the standard BEVENT output, though the linked file has the complete standard output.

If you compare the files, you should be able to convince yourself that they’re the same game. For instance, all show the game’s first play as an error by the shortstop, and the last as fly to right. It shouldn’t take long to verify that all three show that the first inning ends with a shortstop-to-first groundout. Besides, they all claim to be the same game, which is presumably significant.

The data errors in the play-by-play are less obvious, and I’m pleased that Clem helped me identify those. Let’s take a little tour:

Second Inning

In the top half of the second, Angel Morales struck out, with some subsequent action on the basepaths. Here’s how the various versions record this:

  • MiLB: Angel Morales strikes out swinging. Adan Severino steals (3) 2nd base. Adan Severino advances to 3rd, on throwing error by catcher Jack Cawley.
  • Sackmann: play,2,0,519044,,,K+SB2;1-3(E2)(E2/TH)
    • Key to the partial BEVENT output format I’m using here:
    • “Qua200909030”: Game ID, with home team embedded
    • “Bel”: Visiting Team
    • “2”: Inning
    • “0”: Team at Bat (0 = visitor, 1 = home)
    • “1”: Outs
    • “0”: Balls (never known in this file)
    • “0”: Strikes (likewise)
    • “1”: Visiting Team Score
    • “1”: Home Team Score
    • “519044”: Responsible Batter’s ID
    • “?”: Batter’s Handedness (missing in this specific file)
    • “543520”: Responsible Pitcher’s ID
    • “?”: Pitcher’s Handedness (missing in this specific file)
    • “458733”: ID of Runner on First
    • “”: ID of Runner on Second
    • “”: ID of Runner on Third
    • “K+SB2;1-3(E2)(E2/TH)”: Sackmann parser’s representation of the play, in Retrosheet notation
    • The player ID numbers are those assigned by the Minor League Baseball website (by Major League Baseball Advanced Media [MLBAM], actually); every professional player has one.

Sackmann’s parser made a mistake here; K+SB2;1-3(E2)(E2/TH) should have a period (dot) where the semicolon is, and this play would better have been scored K+SB2.1-3(E2/TH). (Note that the Sackmann parser double-reported the error.) All this matters because it confused BEVENT, which couldn’t interpret the code and left baserunner 458733 (that would be Severino) on first base, rather than third. Which caused problems for BEVENT on the next play:

  • MiLB: Dominic De La Osa singles on a line drive to right fielder Ryde Rodriguez. Adan Severino scores.
  • Sackmann: play,2,0,448279,,,S9/L.3-H

BEVENT’s parser panics. “Hey, who’s this guy on third you’ve got scoring? And what am I supposed to do with the guy on first base? He’s in the batter’s way.” So the BEVENT-generated file has misplaced a run and lost track of the batter-runner. Not good.

The next batter grounded out to end both the inning and this short error cascade.

How often does this SB with subsequent play pattern/error occur? I estimate there are two or three hundred instances in the 2009 MWL event file. It looks to me like these could be fixed by running search-and-replace on the file a couple times.

Fourth Inning

The Quad Cities half of the fourth ended with a double play:

  • MiLB: Jermaine Curtis pops into double play in foul territory, first baseman Jon Waltenbury to pitcher Liam Hendriks. D’Marcus Ingram doubled off 1st.
  • Sackmann: play,4,1,543079,,,3/PF.?X?(31)

Oops. What’s that? ?X?(31) doesn’t mean anything to the BEVENT parser, which ignores it (notice 502080/Ingram still standing on first). Better if the Sackmann parser had coded this play as 3/FL/DP.1X1(31). (Clem counts this as two coding errors, by the way; one is purely technical and could be classified as a parser quirk.)

This data error is pretty serious. Instead of an inning-ending DP, BEVENT believes there are two out and a baserunner on first. This seems likely to have consequences. They’ll begin to show up on the next play:

  • MiLB: Drew Thompson grounds out to first baseman Xavier Scruggs.
  • Sackmann: play,5,0,458711,,,3/G

The most important thing to notice is that 4 following Bel in the BEVENT line: While the MiLB and Sackmann accounts of the game have moved on to the fifth inning, BEVENT thinks we’re still in the fourth. As far as this account is concerned, 489305/Drew Thompson has jumped teams and is now batting for Beloit; similarly, pitcher 521230/Liam Hendricks has been swapped to the River Bandits. And 502080/D’Marcus Ingram remains on first base. YIKES!

The next play looks like this:

  • MiLB: Aaron Hicks flies out to left fielder Frederick Parejo.
  • Sackmann: play,5,0,543305,,,7/F

We’ve straightened out the pitching situation–Scott McGregor’s magically appeared on the mound. And we’ve released Ingram from his baserunning duties so he can return to QC’s CF. But: We’re still lost track of one out. That will haunt us.

Fifth Inning

This sort of thing’s going to go on for the rest of the game. The bottom of the fifth starts with a pitching change–

  • MiLB: Pitcher Change: Winston Marquez replaces Liam Hendriks.
  • Sackmann: play,5,1,489305,,,NP
    sub,470504,Winston Marquez,0,0,1

–except BEVENT believes Beloit’s still at bat and recognizes 470504/Marquez as a Beloit pitcher. The program doesn’t make the substitution because Marquez shouldn’t be pitching for the opposition. Parsers can be quirky, folks. That BEVENT recognizes this is an error after missing a similar data conflict a few lines ago can likely be explained, but it’s still odd. And you could certainly make a case that it should stop processing the game and report an error when it finds this sort of contradiction.

Seventh Inning

The top of the seventh begins with a Drew Thompson single, then Aaron Hicks hits into a DP–

  • MiLB: Drew Thompson singles on a line drive to center fielder D’Marcus Ingram.
    Aaron Hicks grounds into double play, second baseman Jason Stidham to shortstop Domnit Bolivar to first baseman Xavier Scruggs. Drew Thompson out at 2nd.
  • Sackmann: play,7,0,458711,,,S8/L

–except BEVENT’s still in the sixth with the bases loaded. So it throws away the current runner on first (543079/Jermaine Curtis), replaces him with 521088/Thompson, and wipes out whichever of them is actually there on the subsequent DP. (No, I don’t know why it thought replacing the baserunner made sense. A while back it threw away the batter.) But it can’t be a DP; there are already two out. So we’ve misplaced another out, and will be off by two for the rest of the contest. This is getting pretty ugly, friends.

You should be getting the picture. Before the game ends we’ll see two more pitching changes that the BEVENT parser will mishandle, and there are certainly some impacts on nearly everything from having the first two batters’ results for each inning awarded to the opponent’s team. All because we missed the second out on a fourth inning double play.

So how often does the missed-double-play event error occur? Looks like there are about 50 in the 2009 Midwest League event file. These could reasonably, albeit inconveniently, be recovered by eyeballing the MiLB game accounts and manually fixing the data.

Back in the Box

So how did it do? If I apply those two fixes, does the BOX program generate the correct information? Let’s check:

     Game of 9/3/2009 -- Beloit at Quad Cities (N)

  Beloit        AB  R  H RBI    Quad Cities   AB  R  H RBI  
Beresford J, ss  1  1  0  0   Ingram D, cf     4  1  1  1   
De La Osa D, ss  4  0  1  1   Stidham J, 2b    4  0  0  0   
Thompson D, 2b   5  0  2  0   Curtis J, 3b     3  1  1  1   
Hicks A, cf      4  1  1  0   Scruggs X, 1b    4  1  1  0   
Waltenbury J, 1b 4  0  0  1   Racobaldo R, dh  4  1  1  2   
Rams D, c        4  0  1  1   Parejo F, lf     3  2  2  1   
Harrington M, lf 3  0  0  0   Rodriguez R, rf  3  1  1  0   
Hanson N, 3b     4  0  0  0   Cawley J, c      4  1  2  3   
Severino A, dh   4  1  2  0   Bolivar D, ss    3  0  0  0   
Morales A, rf    3  0  0  0   
                -- -- -- --                   -- -- -- --
                36  3  7  3                   32  8  9  8   

Beloit           111 000 000 --  3
Quad Cities      123 020 00x --  8

  Beloit               IP  H  R ER BB SO
Hendriks L            4.0  8  6  0  1  3
Marquez W             2.0  1  2  0  4  3
Stillings B           2.0  0  0  0  0  2

  Quad Cities          IP  H  R ER BB SO
Miller S              1.0  1  1  0  1  1
McGregor S            6.0  5  2  0  1  9
Delgado R             2.0  1  0  0  1  3

E -- Bolivar D, Thompson D, Cawley J, Hicks A 2, Scruggs X
DP -- Beloit 1, Quad Cities 1
LOB -- Beloit 9, Quad Cities 7
2B -- Curtis J, Scruggs X
3B -- Hicks A, Thompson D
SB -- Ingram D, Severino A 2, Hanson N
CS -- Ingram D
HBP -- by Marquez W (Curtis J), by Stillings B (Bolivar D)
WP -- Hendriks L, Marquez W 3
PB -- Rams D, Cawley J
T -- 0:00
A -- 0

Yes! That’s much better.

Where Does This Leave Us?

Sackmann’s parser made two significant errors in this game account, each of which generated problems on subsequent plays. These problems appear as five more data errors, because BEVENT mishandles them even though the plays (events) were correctly coded. That’s a common pattern in this data, and something we’ll need to give some thought. But I’m not ready to go there yet.

The next essay will address some technical points; then I’ll raise some questions for discussion.

A Fan’s Guide Farewell

I’m no longer maintaining I stopped working on the site in March, when my project-driven job got out of hand, but I made the end official last week.

A Fan’s Guide to the Midwest League was born early in 1996 late in 1995 as a Lansing Lugnuts weblog. The Luggies were new to Lansing, and I was hearing and reading nonsensical things about how the team and the Midwest League operated. My object was education; I wanted to explain what was going on. I’d been following minor league baseball in The Sporting News since the early 1960s and in Baseball America for over a decade, so I had a firm basic understanding of the ground rules. I’d been watching Midwest League games since the South Bend expansion, and had a feel for the realities of low-minor-league baseball. An incidental, and intended, side effect of the blogging project was that I learned to code text in HTML, something that seemed worth mastering.

Around mid-season I knew I wouldn’t continue the blog far past the end of the season; indeed, I’d decided to move my fan loyalties back to Battle Creek’s team. I mentioned this to Joanne Gerstner, who was covering the Lugnuts for the Lansing State Journal; she asked what I’d do instead. I said I’d probably build something about Midwest League history. Off such offhand responses, sometimes, are commitments made. I spent the winter laying the groundwork for the refocused MWL website.

In the mid-nineties all web designers were cowboys. There were no standards, and few examples to follow. I looked around and found no-one–literally, no-one–building a website anything like the one I had in mind. So I laid out a basic framework, and started assembling pages to fit the design. For a while that construction was pretty much catch-as-can, because I didn’t want to build a bunch of contentless shell pages. But an early project was to define a basic year/team/affiliate page and fill in the necessary information to meet a minimum spec. While I’m still not entirely satisfied with that solution, it filled a real need; you can find a fairly complete history for the league within the website.

Circumstance, not intention, forced an emphasis on the current season. When I started building the website, there was no unified coverage of Midwest League baseball on the web. In fact, there was little coverage of individual teams, as relatively few local newspapers had any serious web presence before, roughly, 1999. Baseball America and Minor League Baseball took years of experimentation to figure out how to do what needed done. While I enjoyed writing scouting reports on the teams, they were an enormous drain on my time. Their quality reflects that.

The site’s basic structure has worn well. I’ve worked backwards through League history, with some side projects to cover topics which don’t fit well in what is essentially a chronological structure. There are many gaps I’d like to fill, but I’m not going to get to those.

Emails often made my day. I heard from fans, from past and present players, from team radio voices, from former and would-be player girlfriends, from executives, from prospective team owners, from newspaper reporters. Over the years I received thousands of notes on a vast array of topics. A Danville fan told me about the joy of watching Butch McCord in his prime. One writer told about his mother boarding black players in Decatur. Another filled me in on a former player’s troubled life after baseball. A batboy told about his continuing friendships with players who’d shared the Dubuque dugout. Pat Neshek wrote me a delightful note after his MWL summer. Bob Sprout thanked me for writing up his remarkable season, as did Bob Lawrence for his; both were reminded of lost friends. The best email I ever received was from a kind lady in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, who told me in detail how her family became unintentional hosts to a gentle giant named Juan Salazar, and fell in love.

A few final thank yous, for valued support, to Jon Mielke, Rich Hanson, Paul DuBois, Al Seeger, Jeff Yeo, and David Malamut, all of whom I’ve thanked before. Tim Rask, Brad Seward, Howie Magner, and Scott Sailor deserve special mention. A small host of others have encouraged me over the years. Couldn’t have done this without your help.

All that to say: Goodbye. It’s been fun. It’s time I did something else. See you at the ballyard.

Edit 3/10/2013: I located my archived copy of the original website the other day and discovered I’d written–and posted–two or three pages I’d forgotten. My first post turned out to be dated October 26, 1995.

Baseball at Davenport’s John O’Donnell Stadium by Tim Rask: a short review

Disclaimer: I’m listed in the acknowledgements for this book. Tim and I have been trading emails on baseball subjects for many years.

Tim Rask is an excellent baseball historian, and although the Arcadia format handicaps him, he’s done a fine job of presenting an overview of professional baseball history in the Quad City area. The book’s photographs are well-chosen, too. That Dorothy Wulf spent a lifetime collecting photographs of Davenport based teams proves a valuable resource.

All in all, one of the better Arcadia books on minor league (and Midwest League) baseball.

This short review was originally published on LibraryThing.

Cooley Stadium!

The Lansing State Journal reports this morning that Lansing-based Thomas M. Cooley Law School, the nation’s largest, has purchased naming rights for what has heretofore been Oldsmobile Park. Maybe they’ll replace all the chrome decorations with dark wood panelling….

Seriously, though, this makes sense. Cooley’s got a stake not just in Lansing, but in the immediate neighborhood; perhaps they’ll find some synergies and certainly the school cares about the vicinity. And if Cooley Law wants to use the ball team to advertise, why is that worse than an insurance company or a hospital? Or a car manufacturer, for that matter?

Thomas Cooley was a member of the Michigan Supreme Court for a couple decades, immediately after the Civil War; after his court tenure, he was appointed the first chairman of the Interstate Commerce Commission in 1887. I encountered his name occasionally in another life while studying nineteenth century business practices, and nearly everyone says he personally gave the Michigan Supreme Court its dignity–our state was, after all, quite young during his term.

Knowing my political opinions, I’m reasonably certain I’d not have liked the man had I been his contemporary, but he’s an important figure in Michigan history.

My preferred name for Lansing’s ballyard would be The REO Diamond. But it’s not gonna happen.

No-Hitter, Two One-Hitters in Twin Bill (1980)

From The Sporting News, June 28, 1980; page 45:

The largest Waterloo Stadium crowd in several seasons–6,180–was treated to sterling pitching performances as the Waterloo (Midwest) Indians swept a doubleheader June 7 from the Appleton Foxes, 3-0 and 1-0. In the first game, Indians righthander Dane Anthony raised his record to 8-1 by unfurling a no-hitter. He allowed three base runners, all on walks. Earlier this season he had pitched a one-hitter and a two-hitter. In the second game, Appleton’s Chuck Fox and Waterloo’s Jack Nuismer each tossed a one-hitter. The lone safe blow off Fox decided the game. It was an eighth-inning single by Waterloo right fielder Carmen Castillo that scored first baseman Bob Bohnet from second. Bohnet had reached first on an error and was sacrificed to second.

Definitely my kind of an afternoon.