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The Hall of Fame once published a nifty map called "Baseball and America", which showed, using stars and dots and little baseballs, all the baseball-relevant sites scattered across this big country of ours. There you'd discover that Charlie Gehringer's birthplace was in Fowlerville, Michigan; that over in Kansas City the Federal League Packers held sway from 1914-1915; and that Ozark, Missouri has an independent league team called the Mountain Ducks. Perhaps, most curious of all, in the enlarged section of the Los Angeles area, you'd find a listing for a museum called "The Baseball Reliquary". Should you fly into LAX, however, rent a rattling Kia (the cheapest car there is) and head on into the suburb of Monrovia, you won't see any hint of a Reliquary. There are no signs leading you down this exit or that avenue. Gas station attendants don't know where to point you. Men washing their car give you funny looks when asking directions. Finally, when you check the address in your pocket, you'll see that there isn't anything but a P.O. Box. So what—and where—is The Baseball Reliquary?

According to its website, The Baseball Reliquary "is a nonprofit, educational institution dedicated to fostering an appreciation of the historical development of baseball and its interaction with American culture by the preservation and exhibition of artifacts related to the National Pastime." But what first got our attention was this 'fostering artifact': a fragment of skin from Abner Doubleday's inner thigh. Amazingly, this is not the strangest item in their collection.

The Reliquary is the brainchild of Terry Cannon, its executive director, who runs it with the support of his wife Mary and a Board of Directors, which includes Albert Kilchesty, Archivist and Historian. "The skin fragment is a conduit for telling who Doubleday is," Terry explains. "Why he's important to the history of the game, who was he, and why does he tie into the creation of the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. One of our missions is to bring fun and imagination back into the game. We want to keep alive the folklore and the myths and the legends that have developed throughout the years and seem to be lost on the current generation. Whether they're fact or fiction. It's not so much the statistics, but the great stories. That's where baseball has it over every other sport."

And this is where The Reliquary has it over any other baseball museum. Among their hundreds of crazy artifacts you'll find a melted 45 record from Bill Veeck's ill-conceived "Disco Demolition Night"; Eddie Gaedel's jock strap; and a replica of the severed digit of Three-Finger Brown (created by a family friend to display at a tourist attraction the Brown family erected). Some of these might just give you nightmares. The Reliquary has a number of traveling exhibits throughout the Southern California area, including a replica of Ebbetts Field made predominately with cake supplies (by a man who had never stepped foot in a baseball stadium). There's also a partially eaten hot dog excavated from the belly of Babe Ruth, during his infamous "Bellyache Heard 'Round the World". That last item was described by one writer as being displayed 'like a splinter from the cross'.

Some of the items are poignant. Our favorite is the Jim Crow patch, worn on the sleeves of the New York Black Yankees and the New York Cubans during a game in Yankee Stadium in 1942, to protest Jim Crow laws in baseball. Protesters at the game held placards that read, "If We Can Stop Bullets, Why Not Balls?" The Reliquary places these artifacts at "the service of the imagination," Albert argued in a recent keynote addresses. "Or, to put it another way, uses the imagination to trigger the artifact." Such is the case with the patch, which raises a variety of sad and disturbing questions. How painful it must have been for these men and women, on the field and in the stands, to have to watch segregated baseball in Yankee stadium while their friends and family fought and died for democracy. How could baseball, billed since its inception as a bastion of patriotism, keep these talented players out, and then field one-armed white men? And yet it is also a testament to the power of baseball, for even as these men were denied their proper place in the big leagues, they still played the sport they loved.

Items like these are a refreshing contrast to the stodgy, middle-of-the-road Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. And many of The Reliquary's exhibits are hilarious as well as intriguing. For instance, there's a tortilla bearing the likeness of former Dodger owner Walter O'Malley. "No other item of baseball memorabilia illustrates more succinctly the complex relationship between the Los Angeles Dodgers and their Mexican-American fan base!" the website claims. Not only would the Hall retch at the thought of displaying something so absurd, they also wouldn't dare examine the story of how the Dodgers found themselves in L.A. and how they—and the city of Los Angeles—built a stadium in Chavez Ravine, uprooting hundreds of families. Unlike Cooperstown, "The Reliquary is a grass roots organization," Albert points out. "Started by fans, not by the baseball establishment, not by corporations, not by interests that are there to make money, keeping things as status quo as possible. We can rock the boat because we haven't got anything to lose. We're poor."

And yet even the Reliquary is not without controversy. About three years ago, Albert received a phone call from a friend who had just moved into a house in Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey. The house used to belong to the widow of a retired New York City policeman, whose beat just happened to include the Polo Grounds. Apparently, this was one of the cops who rescued the Eddie Grant plaque from some hoodlums seeking to steal it after the last Giants game in 1957. The plaque, for those unfamiliar with the tale, sat beneath the towering Chesterfield Cigarette sign in the recesses of deep center field. It was a slab of bronze that honored Eddie Grant, the New York Giants shortstop who was killed in action during World War I in the Argonne Forest. The Reliquary negotiated a price for it and shipped it west to add to their archives.

"Unfortunately," Albert says, "we had no idea that out in New York there was a group whose sole purpose was to locate this thing. They were crushed and started accusing us of faking it. But why would anyone forge a 75 pound bronze plaque?"


But The Reliquary isn't just a bizarre collection of artifacts—it's also the home of the Shrine of the Eternals, a living monument to some of the great personalities of the noble sport. Called "The People's Hall of Fame" by Jim Bouton, members of the Reliquary (open to anyone wishing to join) vote to induct their favorite people into the Shrine. Since 1999 there have been fifteen inductees, three per year. They include: catcher and 'atomic spy' Moe Berg, Jim Bouton, Dock Ellis, Mark Fidrych, Curt Flood, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Bill Lee, Minnie Minoso, Satchel Paige, Jimmy Piersall, ground-breaking female umpire Pam Postema, Bill Veeck, and, this year's inductees, one-handed pitcher Jim Abbott, Ila Borders (the woman who pitched three seasons of men's minor league baseball), and Marvin Miller.

What makes up a candidate for the Shrine? As Dr. Robert Elias put it in this year's keynote address: "The Reliquary's induction criteria stand in bold contrast to the mere compilation of baseball statistics and records. They reward the distinctiveness of one's play, uniqueness of one's character, and the person's imprint on the baseball landscape. They reflect excellence in character or principle, and contributions to developing baseball as an arena for the human imagination." Each spring, The Reliquary mails to its members a list, with a short biography, of fifty possible candidates. This year's list ranged from Dummy Hoy, deaf and mute centerfielder (made somewhat famous in an essay by Stephen Jay Gould); to Effa Manley, owner of the Negro League Newark Eagles; to Bill Buckner, Bill James, and Dave Kingman, among many others. In the past they've had fictitious players like George Plimpton's Sidd Finch and James Thurber's Pearl du Monville. At times, reading the brief biographies on the list is like discovering a lost continent in the world of baseball. This is especially true in the case of people such as Kenichi Zenimura, "the father of Japanese-American baseball" who organized goodwill baseball tours in Japan just before World War II, and who almost single- handedly brought baseball into the internment camps here at home, building bases from bags of rice and foul lines from flour. As a member, you vote on your favorites. The votes are tallied, the results announced, and then, in July (a date chosen 'coincidentally on-purpose' at the same time as the official Hall of Fame inductions), the three inductees are flown in for an amazing ceremony.

For instance, in 1999 Dock Ellis said that the ceremony was the first time any group had acknowledged him. He was moved to tears. Jim Bouton spoke about drafting players from prisons. This year Marvin Miller was his usual feisty self, pointing out that baseball people rely on clichés instead of facts. He went on to argue that in the first fifteen years of the union, there was one stoppage during the regular season, amounting to nine days lost in 1972. "That represents less than three tenths of one percent of the games played in that time. And yet people believe that baseball is one of the most unstable workforces there is." Would Miller make the same speech in Cooperstown if elected? "I haven't thought about it yet," Miller says, laughing.

Needless to say, most of the characters inducted into the Shrine would never get into the Hall of Fame, not in ten lifetimes. Aside from the fact that many, like Bouton and Fidrych and Ellis, fall short statistically, there are those, like Miller and Shoeless Joe who have the credentials but are not politically correct. "It seems to me," Miller said, "that the fact that they had earlier inducted Jackson suggests a dissatisfaction barring a player for off the field behavior. I have no idea of his guilt or innocence, but what you can draw from it is a willingness of baseball officialdom to make its own condemnation of individuals with no appropriate hearing or trial."

But the Reliquary isn't about being an opposite to anything, an anti-Cooperstown. Rather, it is about giving the fans a voice. Ask yourself this question: what good does it do for a fan to become a 'friend' of the Hall of Fame? Aside from discounts and the sterile reading material, it doesn't amount to much. Fans have no say in what goes on, in who will speak and who won't, in who gets inducted and who won't. Certainly ESPN will have their own polls, allowing the fans to say "let Pete Rose in!", but that's about as effective as driving to Cooperstown and shouting at its ivy-covered walls.

The Reliquary is different. Joining allows you the privilege of voting your own favorites in (though ours, Veeck and Fidrych, had already been inducted). The Board of Directors takes suggestions on who can be amongst the fifty candidates and there's no limitations as to who belongs. For fans whose bile starts churning every time the Hall disses Ron Santo or Jim Rice, why not join The Reliquary and speak out? We'd love to see colorful plaques for Sadaharu Oh and Emmett L. Ashford (the first African-American umpire in the big leagues) hanging in the Shrine. Can you get this pleasure at Cooperstown? Is there any exhibit there that'll make you laugh and ponder like the Babe Ruth hot dog?

As far as the 'where' is concerned, The Reliquary is without a home, which is just fine with its founders. Although someday they would like to see the organization settle down into a permanent location, they don't want it to overwhelm their goals. Like the barnstorming teams of the early 20th Century, The Reliquary hangs its hat where people love baseball. As with these traveling teams, the Reliquarians want to bring the game back to the fans. "It comes down to a matter of belief," Albert says. "There's magic in all of these artifacts and accoutrements of baseball. If you believe in the game and its power to engage and shape the world, then you believe in The Reliquary."

Special thanks to Larry Goren for use of his photos.


Review by Stew Thornley

Daniel R. Levitt, a Minneapolis baseball researcher, and Mark L. Armour, an Oregon resident, team up on an fascinating project—how significant teams have been built and how they have been dismantled, in their new book Paths to Glory: How Great Baseball Teams Got That Way (Brassey's, $27.95). While many books profile some of the great teams of all-time, this book takes it from a different angle.

Armour and Levitt mix interesting narrative, especially profiles of the builders of the teams, with statistical analysis. While the two are serious statistical analysts, their insights do not go over the heads of those who pay attention only to the most basic numbers. Their explanation of some of their stats, such as "wins above replacement" and "win probability added," are provided in simple terms, so the book can be enjoyed and understood by a wide range of fans. The authors profile 13 teams—from the 1899 Brooklyn Superbas to the Atlanta Braves of the 1990s—and include a chapter that will greatly interest Minnesota fans, a close look at the Twins of the 1960s. This features a brief biography of owner Calvin Griffith and history of the team that extends back to prior to their move to Minnesota. The Twins came close to another pennant in 1967 and had a pair of first-place finishes in the new American League West starting in 1969, although they were clearly an inferior team to the East Division champion Orioles (and were swept in the playoffs each year by Baltimore), meaning that they never did follow-up on their 1965 magic. Armour and Levitt offer cogent reasons for their decline.

I particularly enjoyed the look at the owners and general managers, and the authors' description of the tyranny of Athletics owner Charles O. Finley is marvelous. A lengthy look of the White Sox of the 1910s focuses not on the Black Sox who intentionally lost the 1919 World Series but on how the team that won the 1917 World Series was built. In the process, Armour and Levitt deal with the common perception that the players who conspired to throw the 1919 series were driven to it by the penuriousness of team owner Charles Comiskey. "Comiskey had his faults," the authors conclude, "but in comparing the salaries of his White Sox to the rest of baseball, the evidence suggests that he paid no less than his peers."

I attended a book signing and reading featuring Levitt, who is witty and articulate. After his talk, I overheard him say that he hopes people don't find any typos in the book, but he looks forward to arguing with those who differ in their analysis. I'm afraid I may be the opposite of what he is looking for. I can't argue with much that they have written, and, unfortunately, I did find a few typos. One is a misspelling of Larry MacPhail's name in Rob Neyer's foreword (it's incorrectly spelled "McPhail"). The other comes in one of two extremely insightful chapters on the changing role of relief pitchers. On page 93, the authors state that in 1975 the save rule was liberalized to the one in use today, which requires a reliever, among other things, to protect a three-run lead for at least one inning or face the potential tying or lead run. Actually, a pitcher is eligible for a save if he enters the game with the tying run on deck. This error does not detract from a great analysis of the save rule and how it changed through the years. The rule was more restrictive in 1974, to the point that "had this rule applied to Dennis Eckersley's 1992 season, in which he saved fifty-one games, Eckersley would have instead have been credited with only twelve saves." (By the way, using Retrosheet, I went through the 1992 season and confirmed Armour and Levitt's assertion regarding Eckersley and how many saves he would have had under 1994 scoring rules.)

A later chapter in the book follows up with a comparison of the "Fireman vs. the Closer," looking at the differences when relievers were brought into the game to put out a fire and today's closers, who are normally brought into the game at the start of the ninth inning to protect a lead of up to three runs. In a way, these sections seem out of place with the ones that follow the primary premise of the book, how teams are built. However, they are enjoyable and cover a variety of topics, such as patterns in aging with regard to players' declines. Most of all, Paths to Glory is a well-written, fresh look at a topic not explored in any extensive manner before, and it is a valuable addition to baseball knowledge and research.


The sabermetric approach to studying baseball has always been a bit suspect in the minds of established baseball men, at first seeming like nothing more than a hobby by overzealous fans, and lately, with the advent of Moneyball (among others), an alarming turn to the heretical, a destructive force that is draining baseball of its life. All of us have heard the arguments: the outright denial of certain discoveries (that the sacrifice bunt is a virtually worthless strategy) to appeals for a return to the so-called good ol' days (which, in our minds, has some credibility, if only from an aesthetic standpoint). But the arguments have suddenly become serious. Now sabermetrics is racist.

It probably goes without saying that, at some point, sabermetrics, and Bill James in particular, was going to find itself caught in the quagmire of the debate over racism. In a column by ESPN's Rob Neyer, he points out that Ralph Wiley (also of ESPN) and Richard Griffin (of the Toronto Star) have argued that sabermetrics is subtly racist. According to the latter, "new-wavers [like Billy Beane and J.P. Ricciardi] believe in building offence through patience at the plate and taking no chances on the bases. That's a pre-WWII style of play. Under those criteria, Jackie Robinson could not have played in the majors." Wiley, on the other hand, argues that Bill James pooh-poohs basestealing, which Wiley believes is the great offensive weapon of the African-American player. He goes on to state that "any time a baseball manager will give up an out for a base, as with a sac bunt or groundball to the right side, any time a base is so precious, then it goes without saying that the stolen base must be important". Wiley then suggests that players like Rickey Henderson become 'bad guys' because of this.

Neyer counters that sabermetrics is being used as a scapegoat, which is partially true. However, he muddles the issue by tackling it directly. Neyer points out that Bill James actually believes that Rickey Henderson is just peachy; why, he wrote a number of pieces in praise of Henderson. This misses the essence of Wiley's point. First of all, our experience tells us that it's the sacrifice bunt, not the stolen base, that most Sabermetricians disdain most. Nonetheless, one of the controversies in Moneyball regards the As dislike of the stolen base. Should this model spread throughout the league, would men like Rickey Henderson dry up? Would this style of play discourage African- Americans, which is something to worry about. If so, should black kids learn new tools? Is that racist question? Of course, that also begs one to wonder whether or not the stolen base is predominantly a tool of the African-American player in general, and not just famous black players. Is that a stereotype? Sadly, Wiley doesn't even begin to try and prove any of this, choosing instead to aim his pen at Bill James with less-than-mediocre results.

Griffin's point, on the other hand, is a bit more touchy. Neyer argues that Toronto would have loved Jackie Robinson because his OPB was so high. And yet, this isn't an entirely fair response. For in Moneyball we discover that the As (and now the Red Sox and Blue Jays) considers it an especially bad decision to take a high school prospect, largely due to the fact that the stats in high school are not as accurate a reflection of baseball talent as in college. Using this criterion—and it's reiterated throughout that book—I think that Griffin is right in suggesting that the As today would have shied away from men like Robinson, and all the Negro Leaguers, who came from leagues with lousy scorekeeping and poor competition. After all, the OBP they claim to love in Jackie Robinson is from his professional career, after he was signed. Not before.

The problem is that this is the age old missing-the-forest-for-the-trees, something the detractors of the so-called Beane model keep doing, over and over. The fact is that the As pay so much attention to statistics because they have to, and shun high schoolers because they have to. They discount defense because they understand that offense is more important… not that defense is bad (something that many of their critics fail to understand). Had this model existed in the 40s, had there been such a disparity between the payrolls, if we could believe that Beane would have had the foresight and the courage (and the latter, at that time, was more important than the former), then the As would not have looked at statistics as they do today, but instead signed the players in the Negro Leagues, which fit their model: great talent, dirt cheap. The sabermetrics used today only help them to sign players everyone else sees (quite literally) as not up to snuff. While it's true that African-Americans are certainly vanishing from baseball, there seems to be little evidence that the statistics are keeping them out. And yet, it never hurts to question any new way of thinking; that's part of what sabermetrics is all about. Wiley, of course, doesn't give a shred of evidence that there are piles of young black talent waiting in the minors, discouraged because their OBP is low and their stolen bases are high. Nor could he argue that these children are turning to basketball because Bill James lurks like a bogeyman on the mound. The saddest part of this debate is not that something so 'pure' as sabermetrics is being accused of racism; rather, it's that its accusers have done a poor job of proving anything.


Speaking of Neyer, his July 23rd column contains sort-of an error. Practically begging the Royals to make some moves, he points out that "The Royals have now scored exactly as many runs as they've allowed, and while goofy-brained fans can talk about "chemistry" and "knowing how to win" until the cows and the sheep come home, ITAL you don't win pennants if you don't outscore your opponents.ITAL" The italics are his. While it's true that no team has won a pennant that has been outscored by its opponents, one team HAS won its division, and another was en route to that goal had a player's strike not shut everything down. The '97 Giants were outscored 793-784, and the '94 Rangers were offensively bested 697-613. Christ, the Rangers could have WON their division that year with a losing record (they finished 52-62). We bring this up because, in this age of tiny divisions, the old rules might not apply. As we all know, once you make it into the playoffs, the underdogs can have their day, whether or not they outscored anyone over the season. In fact, someday a team will win its division with a losing record and if that happens, it could stands to reason that this club could just scrape through the playoffs to the Series. In a division as weak as the Central, it is not out of the question that the Royals—without any significant changes—could take the title… TwinsGeek continues to amaze, this time with a great piece on umpiring (originally written for the Timberwolves), in which he compares the arbitrators with lab rats. Sadly, it sometimes seems as if Minnesota fans are the rats, quietly waiting their cues to clap, cheer, and say "Root, root, root for the HOME TEAM". And the Geek is not afraid to show his shady side, chowing down on grilled meatstuffs at the expense of Wells Fargo. Viva the Geek!…In the newest Elysian Fields Quarterly, Eric Enders, former Hall of Fame employee and citizen of Cooperstown, gives us the inside scoop of the Dale Petroskey/Bull Durham affair, and it's not a pretty sight (nor is the Hall's increasingly partisan slant)… as we stated last issue, the Twins, 6 1/2 down at this writing, are now much more fascinating to watch. Will they or won't they make another trade? And aren't these coming games against the Tigers and Indians and Orioles that much more fascinating, huh? If you've got ulcers there's other stress in your life, pal, so just sit back, have a few Tums with that beer, and enjoy the rest of the season...

Movie of the Week

Bill James

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