As my interest in Minor League history grows, I have found myself surfing more and more for sites with historical insight. Among the most prestigious of these sites is the Society of American Baseball Research (SABR) Minor Leagues Research Committee. For years, the committee put out newsletters, but lately their focus has been on the epic role of filling in the Baseball Reference Minor League Baseball historical stats.
After contacting the committee, Committee Chair Joe Wancho was kind enough to answer some of our questions.
Bus Leagues Baseball: What is the SABR Minor League Baseball Committee?
Joe Wancho: The SABR Minor Leaque Research Committee is one of 26 research committees that SABR offers it’s members.
BLB: What is the goal of the committee?
JW: Like many of the other research committees, the minor league committee members have diverse interests. If a member has a particular interest in The Three I League (Illinois-Indiana-Iowa), it is important that I facilitate that interest to other members of the committee. So many good ideas never see the light of day, and I need to help reverse that trend. Get the research out there to the public that the members are working on.
BLB: How long have you been in existence?
JW: The Minor League Research Committee was founded by the late Bob McConnell, who was one of the founding members of SABR back in 1971.
BLB: Why research the Minor Leagues?
JW: Because the minor leagues are the heartland of America. There are many great stories yet to be told, research to be done, particularly in the 19th century.
BLB: What are some of the great projects the SABR Minor League Baseball Committee has done on Minor League Baseball?
JW: The main project is to update the minor league database with statistics of every minor league player. It is currently housed on Baseball Reference.com. Lately, we have been encouraging the members to write about the different leagues, stadiums, etc from the minor leagues and submit them to the Bio Project Committee. The Bio Project Committee has grown from posting bios on major league players, managers, coaches, owners to encompass other aspects of baseball. It is evolving into a baseball encyclopedia, and it is a perfect vehicle for members of our committee to get their research out there.
BLB: How many people are on the SABR Minor League Baseball Committee?
JW: There are 845 members of the committee.
BLB: What are the biggest challenges the committee faces from a research perspective?
JW: We receive requests from folks all over the country, wanting to make changes to the website either to biographical or statistical errors. The problem is that just because a person says it is wrong, does not make it so. More times then not, the individual cannot provide the proper proof or the “sourcing” that is needed. You hate to tell people “no”. But it is important to use proper, tangible, sources.
BLB: What is your favorite research subject either you or the committee has done work on?
JW: I think anything that has to do with stadiums is interesting. Ballparks that are built today or within the last fifteen years are all pretty much the same. But the history of the older parks is interesting. Some of those are located in the Bio Project.
BLB: How did you personally get into Minor League Baseball research?
Although I am the Committee Chair, it is my job to foster the interest in researching minor league baseball. I have not, as of yet, delved into a research project.
BLB: Can you recall your first minor league game?
JW: Yes, it was in May, 1997 at Canal Park in Akron, Ohio, home of the Akron Aeros.
BLB: Why are you a fan of Minor League Baseball?
JW: Over the last fifteen years, Cleveland has moved three of their minor league franchises closer to the Cleveland area. This has enabled me to get a first-hand look at the prospects in the minor league chain. To me, it is not the wins-losses that count, but the progression of the team’s young talent. At times, you are also able to see major league players on rehab assignments. To see these players up close in a stadium that seats maybe 9,000 fans is very nice.