Speaking at the NINE Conference banquet. (Photo by Dr. Charmaine Wellington)
The NINE Spring Training Conference in Tempe this year kept up its high standards in the quality of scholarly presentations.
This wonderful conference never fails to stimulate, surprise, inform, and delight. Opening as it did with a colorful presentation by Charlie Vascellaro about the vendors at the spring training games and by the vendors themselves, it proved to be a smashing success. Other highlights for me were delivered by Perry Barber, Arnold Hano, Roberta Newman, William Steele, Janet Marie Smith, and William Ressler, topped off by a solid film presented by John Leonoudakis. Although we all missed Trey Strecker, who was ill, we flourished with the leadership of Jean Ardell.
At the SABR banquet, Chairman Marc Appleman revealed the updated design of the Society's logo, which appears in the Seymour Medal this year, and had fun teasing me about my desire not to lose any "heft" in the Medal during its re-design. My high praise of Bill Pennington's winning book, Billy Martin: Baseball's Flawed Genius, was well received, and in his response Bill, a New York Times sports writer, was kind enough to laud my own work in baseball history by pointing out that almost all the voluminous research was performed before the internet was created.
My friend Dr. Charmaine Wellington of Washington State University arrived in town before the banquet and was able to attend it with me. After the banquet, we moved to separate Airbnb apartments in downtown Phoenix (the Arts District) and then spent three memorable days wallowing in Phoenix museums, with Charmaine volunteering to push me seated in a wheelchair.
The new SABR logo.
First we visited the famous Heard Museum of American Indians, where among the many exhibits of beautiful artifacts I found photos of children in Indian schools being taught how to play baseball.
Our second foray was to the Musical Instrument Museum, which offered much more than its title implies. Displaying instruments from around the world would have been enough, but MIM also enabled listening to the instruments being played, along with viewing videos of people dancing to the music in colorful costumes. An added attraction was a special exhibition of some of the famous violins of Cremona (Stradivari, Amati, and Guarnieri del Gesu). Viewing such famous instruments and hearing them played by skilled violinists proved thrilling.
Our third visit was to Taliesin West, the Arizona home of the architect Frank Lloyd Wright, which certainly convinced me that designing a home to fit perfectly into its setting made it different and somehow more beautiful. Our guide explained Wright's unusual building techniques and the ideas behind them as we toured the premises, partly outside but also in some of the rooms.
When we entered the music room, the guide asked if anyone of us played the piano. I admitted that I did. He asked if I would play something on the Steinway.
"What would you like to hear?"
"I've got that kind."
I sat down and played a one-minute version of an operatic aria called "O Mio Babbino Caro" and was surprised by the applause. Now I can say I played the beautiful piano belonging to the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright! To my amazement, my friend Charmaine recorded my "performance" and sent it to me as an attachment to an email. I will add this brief recording here an insert. If you listen to the end closely, you will hear that someone in the audience (a male voice) shouted out the (correct!) title of the aria.
Charmaine and I added to our tour as many good Phoenix-area restaurants as we could fit in, invading everything from busy downtown Mexican places with very spicy food to classy suburban gardens in luxury resorts visited by birds as well as people.
This year's visit to Arizona gave me especially wonderful memories.