WILMINGTON — When Ron Rembert retired two years ago as Wilmington College philosophy professor, his son Mark suggested he look at an online writer’s platform as a place to post articles for free.
Since then, Rembert has written eight essays for medium.com and all of them have been about baseball. Their titles include “The Most Undervalued Plays in Baseball — Foul Balls”, “Moonlight Graham and Baseball’s Celebrated ‘Cup of Coffee’”, and with a nod to his former profession “Aristotle on Baseball’s Perfect Game”.
Most of the essay topics, he said, came from discussions held in a class on baseball he taught at the college.
Writing these short pieces for medium.com is an ongoing project for Rembert. But it’s only one of three retirement projects he’s undertaken, all of which involve the summer game.
A second project stems from Rembert belonging to the Society of American Baseball Research (SABR), which has a biography initiative where it encourages members to write biographical articles on major league and Negro League players.
Rembert has just finished writing a biographical essay about Ken MacKenzie, the only pitcher on the 1962 expansion New York Mets “lovable losers” team to have a winning record (5-4).
This past fall Rembert and his wife Theresa took a bus and train trip through New England to see the October foliage, and from there took a train to Connecticut where he had a chance to interview the 85-year-old MacKenzie, who called himself a fringe player.
These SABR bios are longer works than the medium.com essays, and the SABR articles are fact checked and edited with a careful eye, said Rembert. After all, SABR is a research organization and is housed at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.
The third project is about Cincinnati native Ethan Allen. In fact, it’s his work on Allen that led Rembert to MacKenzie who played in college under Allen who coached baseball for 23 years at Yale. In trying to learn about that part of Allen’s multi-faceted career, Rembert started reaching out to Yale baseball players of that era and MacKenzie’s name came up along the way.
Prior to his “Ivy League” coaching, Allen was an outfielder in the big leagues. Skipping the minors, he started with the Reds straight off the campus of the University of Cincinnati.
Later he played for the Cardinals, New York Giants, Phillies, Cubs and St. Louis Browns. Over 13 seasons, he attained a lifetime batting average of .300 on the nose.
But what intrigues the former philosophy professor the most about Allen is not his playing career but his career in baseball which came afterward. Rembert regards Allen as a baseball educator.
For starters, Allen authored about a dozen books on baseball technique and strategy, over a time period spanning decades. He started writing the books while still a player.
At Yale, Allen not only coached young players in the sport but he made instructional films using Yale players as the models. One of those players is MacKenzie.
In addition to the baseball textbooks and instructional films, Allen had yet another type of pitch in his teaching repertoire, according to Rembert. Allen solely created a baseball board game introduced in 1941, with later editions coming out into the early 2000s.
Prior to “Ethan Allen’s All-Star Baseball game” as it was named, most board games were either dice scoring or you turned over cards, but they were not statistically based as is Allen’s creation. He used actual players’ statistics.
“Now there are some shortcomings to his game, but interestingly those now who are my age who played it as children and kind of picked it up again later in life are kind of filling in some of the dimensions of the game that Allen didn’t develop, and are making it more complex and more like actual game action,” remarked Rembert.
One more credential for describing Allen as an educator is that while Allen was playing for the Giants in New York he completed a master’s degree in physical education at Teachers College within Columbia University, New York.
In recovering memories of Allen as the Yale baseball coach, Rembert has been able to be in contact with about 10 Yale players so far. MacKenzie is the one he’s stayed in the most contact with.
“I’ve enjoyed meeting these players. I think they’ve enjoyed being remembered. I’ve noticed that when I talk to them. Here they are in their 80s, late 70s, and it’s been years since anyone has asked them about playing in college. And they don’t remember a lot of things, but it’s amazing how much does come back once we begin talking,” he said.
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