Harper Lecture with Matthew M. Briones: “Illusion Fields: Baseball and U.S. History”


Good evening. What a crowd. We’ve pulled out
some more chairs, so this is the best
kind of evening ever. My name is Renee
Finnell, and I’m Senior Director of Alumni
Relations at the Alumni Association. Thank you for
coming out tonight. This is the sixth event in our
fall Harper Lecture series. This series reaches
16 cities in the fall and has stretched from
North Carolina to Mumbai. We’re hoping that
you’ve enjoyed a chance talking to your fellow peers,
maybe meeting some new folks, or reconnecting with folks
that you’ve known in the past. I’m here to spend
a couple minutes to talk about the University
of Chicago Campaign Inquiry and Impact. Or university was founded on
the basis of philanthropy. In fact, this fall we celebrate
our 125th anniversary. The University of Chicago
Campaign Inquiry and Impact honors this tradition
and milestone by challenging us with a goal
of engaging 125,000 alumni with the university by 2019. Of course, we also want
to raise $4.5 billion. To date, we’ve raised
more than $2.7 billion, which includes a gift you might
have read about in the last two weeks, and that’s
the $100 million gift from the Pearson
family to create the Pearson Institute
for the Study and Resolution of
Global Conflicts, and the Pearson
Global Forum, which are both institutes for
the first of their kinds. We hope this institute and the
many other exciting initiatives launched through
the campaign provide numerous opportunities
for alumni to engage with the university. Also to date, more
than 56,000 alumni have engaged with the
university by making a donation, attending events,
volunteering, and participating in new Chicago social
media channels. As a University of Chicago
student and employee, I like the data. So I’d like to just
take a couple of moments to share with you some data. As you can probably
already imagine, engaging 125,000 alumni
is an ambitious goal. It’s about 80% of our
alumni population, so we’re really, really excited
to stretch toward that by 2019. We have about 2,200 alumni
living in the Philadelphia area. About 32% of those alums
are from the college, 22% are from Chicago
Booth, and about 12% come from the social
sciences division. It might intrigue you that
51% have graduated since 1990. And when we think about how
we’ll engage particularly the Philadelphia
area, our hope is to engage 1,775
alumni of those 2,200. So again, it’s just
pretty ambitious, and we’re looking forward
to working with you all to get your peers
to do some great stuff. To date, 38% of
alumni in Philadelphia in the state of
Pennsylvania have engaged with the university
in one way or another, so we’re making good strides. It’s important for
alumni to engage with the University on
multiple dimensions– to help strengthen and extend
a powerful network that fosters both
personal satisfaction and professional success. Your attendance tonight is a
great step in that direction, and for that I thank you. So tonight, if you
haven’t already, I’m asking you to
please consider investing financially,
serving as a mentor, hiring a fellow alum, and
connecting with the university through social media. We have a perfect
opportunity for you. There’s a photo booth
out in the back. We brought Phil the Phoenix,
a little stuffed animal. So get ready for the selfies. I see some fist-pumping in
the back, so that’s great. And to quote President
Zimmer, as I conclude, we, the university, are
asking you to do still more, so that the University of
Chicago in coming decades will succeed far beyond
reasonable expectations. Thank you so much
for coming out today. I hope you enjoy yourselves. [VIDEO PLAYBACK] -The University of Chicago is– -Urban– -Global– -Courageous– -Unusual– -Phenomenal– -Rigorous– -Fabulous– -Outspoken– -Economics and pizza– -Pushing borders– -Invigorating– -An intellectual -Crucible– -That pushes you to be
your best every day. -From its inception, the
University of Chicago focused on rigorous
intense inquiry. It’s defined everything about
what the University of Chicago is today and what it
will be in the future. -The core curriculum is
the symbol of who we are. Our mission is to get
very talented students, and to put them
through a program of systematic,
interdisciplinary training, and four years later graduate
Chicago intellectuals. -I’ll bring up a
discovery that we’ve made. Then I’ll proceed to
criticize my own discovery. It’s through self-criticism
you create a learning culture of critical inquiry. -We aren’t just
talking at each other. We’re listening. And at the end of the class, I
may have a completely different perspective on the issue. -Some excellent, excellent
students over the years. They were very much my teachers. It changed my work. It just exposed me
to world of ideas. -I was the beneficiary
of a scholarship from the University of Chicago. I could not have gone
to business school without that scholarship. -I just feel so grateful
that I was selected to kind of be among the
minds and the intelligence and the incredible people. It’s been the best
experience of my life. -I think supporting young
people to pursue their dreams opens up the world to you. All we ask of anybody
is that they do the same to the next generation. -The university is really
made by the people in it. -Really very competitive. -Very unruly. -Seeing all the crazy amazing
things that they’re doing– -Curing diabetes, cancer– -Innovation, more
entrepreneurship, new ventures, new technologies– -Really forces me to
push for something beyond what I’m doing. -In higher education
today, the humanities are really in retreat. We really think that
it’s the responsibility to continue to foster
growth of the humanities. A collegium will allow
teams of humanists from all over the world to
tackle problems that society needs to deal with. -The Institute of
Molecular Engineering is organized around solving
water, energy, health problems through designing
matter from molecules up. Just solving one of all of
these problems we’re working on would be tremendous. -You’re part of an
intellectual community that attracts individuals who
are intellectually fearless, that will bring together experts
from different disciplines to help solve problems. -We’re exploring opportunities
to create more portals for the community and
people in the city to come into the university and
both get some of the knowledge that we have, but also share
their knowledge with us. -Lots of people are
skeptical about the ability to use social programs
to prevent crime. What we’ve tried to do
is to generate evidence that is so rigorous
and so compelling that the most
skeptical skeptic will have to acknowledge that
there’s really something here. One year of participation
and the Youth Guidance in Becoming a Man Program
reduced violent crime arrests in these kids by over
40%, which I think really challenges the
conventional wisdom that the only way that you
can control crime and violence in the United States is
through locking up millions and millions of people. -And if you show the impact,
it has global reach– billions of people, not just
millions, billions of people you can get to. -It’s very important
in a world which is becoming more
integrated that you have these global universities. -We now have a rather more
ambitious global strategy with the same gold
standard quality of [INAUDIBLE] teaching. -Students are going to want
experience of understanding other cultures
because this is going to be the world that they are
functioning in over the coming decades. -Can we bring people– scholars,
politicians, administrators from these different
areas also– together to discuss what’s going on? -To debate the big
challenges facing the world? -Human illness limits society. And accordingly, fixing
that, addressing it, is hugely important. It’s transformative. -I had been diagnosed with
metastatic or advanced breast cancer. The first thing Dr.
Fumi Olopade said to me is, I want to find
out more about your tumor so that I can personalize
the treatment for both you and the tumor. The survival rate for metastatic
diseases was one to two years. I really must say that I
have survived the odds. I mean, I’m still sitting here,
standing here, 10 years plus. -You know what? It’s worth every day getting
up and supporting patients like her. -We have an enormous
obligation to the people who gave us the opportunity
today to do what we do with these young people. And in turn, they
have an obligation to support those
who come after us. -The question for us
today is how do we realize these values in a
powerful way going forward? -Together, we are spreading
grace and humanity. -Together we are– -Thinking about ways
in which you could have an impact on society. -Together– -We have the potential to
change the way people think about urban problems. -Together– -We make amazing
discoveries possible. -It’s part of our DNA. It’s who we are. -It’s a big, big universe here. -Ours is the university
of great discoveries. -Ours is the university
of fearless inquiry. -Ours is the university
that develops ideas that change the world. [END PLAYBACK] Well, that was
kind of inspiring. Good evening. My name is Sarah Gronningsater. I completed both
my master’s degree and my PhD degree in
history, in the division of social sciences. And I am so glad
that you are all able to join us tonight to
dive into some U Chicago scholarship, and also
to have the chance to relax and socialize. For more than 125
years, the university has attracted and
supported faculty of transformational
thought and impact. Tonight’s Harper Lecture
continues a tradition of bringing faculty
and alumni together to celebrate and explore
world-changing ideas. I am particularly honored to
be introducing tonight’s Harper Lecture with Matthew
Briones, because he’s one of the most important and
influential teachers I have ever been privileged to know. I first met Matt Briones
when I was 19 years old. I was an undergraduate
at Harvard. I was a shy sophomore taking
a social history class. And Matt was in the middle of
getting his PhD at Harvard. He was a graduate student,
so he was my TA in section. And I spent the first three
months of the semester not saying a word, despite the
fact that I loved the class. And I will never forget when
he handed back my mid-term. He took the time to say that
I had done really good work and that he wanted to keep
hearing– start hearing from me for the rest of the semester. And I think most of us
have those moments where we had a teacher who somehow
put us on a path or told us that we were better
than we thought we were. And I honestly think one
of the reasons I ended up getting a PhD in history is in
part because Matt Briones took the time when I was
19 years old to say that I had something to say. Fast-forward about
eight years later. I was deciding whether or not
to go back and get my doctorate. And Matt at this
point was a professor at the University of Michigan. And I called him up, and
he took my phone call. And we had an hour-long
conversation about whether or not I should
go back to school. And I decided to do it. I was thrilled to get accepted
to the University of Chicago. And you can imagine my
delight when about three years after that, the U Chicago
history faculty did a search for a new 20th century
Asian Americanist, and I heard that Matt
Briones was on the shortlist. So about 10 years
after I had first been in class with Matt
Briones, he ended up joining the faculty where
I was getting my PhD, and we ended up actually
teaching together. I was his TA in a class on
the history of baseball, so you’re going to hear some
of that content tonight. And in some ways, I consider
myself an apprentice. I now list on my CV that I teach
the history of US baseball, and it’s because
of Matt Briones. So now, I’m pleased to introduce
Professor Matthew Briones. Thank you so much, Sarah. And you can kind of understand–
it’s incredibly emotional, the video for one,
and then two, having that kind of introduction. It’s quite emotional, actually. And you kind of recognize
that your students are so much smarter than you are. And I think I recognized
that back in 2000 when I taught Sarah, so
I’m really quite touched by that introduction. I want to also thank Renee
and Nina and Jennifer for organizing the
event and all of you for inviting me here
to Philadelphia. I don’t think I really
understood the gravity– not the gravity, the importance
of the Harper Lecture until I started watching
some of them on YouTube. And I just thought, I don’t
know how I’m going to do this. So I am just incredibly
touched and humbled that you asked me to come here
and share some stories, because I’m certainly not any
of those Nobel prize winners who were on that–
I was available. I was on the bench. So they asked me to come. So I’m here. But I hope it’s OK that it is
going to be a little bit less scholarly and less formal. They had asked me to think
more about maybe a TED Talk. I’ve never seen a TED Talk, so
I have no idea what that is. But it’s much more informal. It’s trying to fuse
a narrative that’s personal but also historical,
but really pedagogical. And it is about trying
to teach students at the University of Chicago. So I hope that my
sharing of these stories is worthy of the
Harper Lectures. I distinctly remember
my childhood backyard in Brookline, Massachusetts. It’s where I would play
every day, throwing a tennis ball against the cement
foundation exterior where our basement sat. My mom had built a
little Asian garden next to this wall full
of little white rocks, a decorative Japanese miniature
temple, sundry plants, weeds, and flowers ostensibly
evoking the Asian ecosystem. The problem was
that Mom’s garden sat between the foundation
wall and my own little patch of muddy green,
what I considered the perfect facsimile
of the area shortstop, like the Red Sox’s Rick Burleson
or Saint Louis’ Ozzie Smith, patrolled and controlled. Philadelphia’s Larry Bowa. The ball would
ricochet off the wall, and I’d have to dive for
it, stab at back hand, or catch it on one hop. I’d right myself, quickly
take the ball out of my glove, and throw to an
imaginary first baseman. I’d spent countless hours back
there, no matter the weather and no matter the season. I’d essentially
ruined Mom’s hopes for a well-tended garden or
a modestly presentable lawn for her suburban neighbors. To an immigrant
trying to fit in, this situation must have
galled Mom, but she never said anything to me– no
reprimand, no gentle nudge to move my playing
patch a few yards over. She’d watch me outside the
narrow slit of a kitchen window that served as a spyglass
onto my makeshift miniature Fenway Park. One afternoon in
the early ’80s, Mom simply gave in and joined me
on my own field of dreams. Mind you, my mother was
a Filipina immigrant who had rarely demonstrated any
physical or athletic prowess or expressed any scintilla or
interest in physical activity. She had grown up back in
the Philippines, a backwater colony of the United
States for more than half a century, as the
favorite daughter among 11 siblings
of a World War II hero who had hidden and saved
a wounded Lieutenant-Colonel in the US Marines from
Japanese soldiers. My grandfather was crushed to
know that my mom had eventually hitched her wagon to the
son of a modest Filipino political family who wanted
to be a doctor in America. After the 1965
Immigration Act that prompted an unprecedented
influx of Asians following years of exclusionary
anti-Asian practices, and with pregnant
expectation of martial law that would be instituted by
venal and murderous dictator Ferdinand Marcos, my parents
escaped the Philippines in 1968 with two young sons in tow. Not coincidentally, they settled
in America’s cradle of freedom here in Philadelphia, as my
dad completed his residency in ophthalmology at
Jefferson Medical. In 1972, for reasons
passing understanding, I was brought into this world at
Lankenau Hospital, the first US citizen in the Briones family. For someone who would eventually
earn a PhD in American Studies, this first salvo in the
City of Brotherly Love was clearly an
inauspicious beginning. But I digress. Back to Mom and the
field of dreams. Bless her heart,
I think she simply thought that
afternoon, hell, I’ve had two sons in this
godforsaken land. I may as well figure out why
the heck this bat and ball thing fascinates the third one. She came out into the
backyard and volunteered to play me one on one. I had no idea what she meant. People don’t play
baseball one on one. But my people are a
basketball people. Filipinos, despite the
average height of five feet, love the game invented
by James Naismith, perfected by Russell,
Dr. J, Bird, and Jordan, and quite simply
play below the rim. Our Philippine
Basketball Association is an actual destination for
some of America’s worn out players who feel
comfortable being surrounded by a lot of fast-moving
and hot-headed pygmies. So when Mom said
she’d play one on one, I’m fairly sure she
thought baseball borrowed a similar analog and
phraseology from basketball. As a fairly eager but dim
witted eight-year-old, I thought on the
fly and told Mom that we would play whiffleball,
one on one, pitcher and batter, most home runs win. Mom agreed, and
introduced me to a species I would not again
encounter until my ex-wife from about 10 years ago, the
competitive trash-talking mother in Mommy jeans. Mom approached our
improvised baseball diamond, sidled up and into
the batter’s box, and tried to stare me
down as the pitcher. Make sure you get it here, boy. Your arm is as weak
as a wet noodle. Say what, I thought? Where’d she get that patter? That was a pretty
sophisticated turn of phrase for an immigrant. Well, here came my best
Phil Niekro knuckleball, herking and jerking sideways
past my Mom’s late swing for strike one. Sorry, Mom. Next, my best Steve
Carlton fastball. Pick the bat up off
your shoulder, Mom, I screamed impatiently
as strike two hit. Then came pitch three,
and she made contact– not a Babe Ruth called
moonshot, but a little blooper, the one that usually
and frustratingly forces in the game-winning run. She started running to first
base, laughing hysterically. But I dove and made a play
on the ball after it bounced. I got up quickly and fired
the whiffleball at Mom as she arrogantly tried for two. The ball hit her on
the small of the back before she reached second base. You’re out, Mom. Come on, you need to run faster. Walking back to home, she
just looked at me balefully, a little disappointed her
kid was such a little shit, and quipped, your
brothers had better arms. I often share this opening
anecdote with my students at U of C, where I teach
a course on baseball and American history,
a syllabus heavily borrowed from one of my
heroes, the late William Gienapp, the brilliant civil
war scholar at Harvard. I used to think the
story was wholly foreign to my undergrads. Usually the binding ties
felt by young people towards the
phenomenon of baseball are steeped in father-son,
father-daughter, grandfather-grandchild, and/or
sibling-sibling relationships. However, I’d tell them
my farcical story, and they wouldn’t bat an eye. They got it. It didn’t matter
which family member transmitted the knowledge or
which one shared it with them. Baseball was a deeply familial,
deeply felt experience, no matter who the family
member was that first expressed the love of the game. Mom’s story was a way in for me
of connecting with my students. It was a first step of
trust that one rarely finds on the first day of classes. If I could share that personal
and somewhat pained memory with my students– my
mom would eventually die from pancreatic
cancer in 2008, only three months after
her diagnosis– then my talking about the tough stuff
in US history– race, class, sexuality, gender,
and more– would be a proverbial walk in the park. Baseball itself is a remarkably
appropriate and useful lens for understanding and
teaching American history. The themes that
dominate the game accurately reflect themes
that characterize and define US history. There’s a reason we considered
baseball the national pastime for over a century and a half. Sadly, I’d argue,
baseball can no longer legitimately make a
claim on that title, as football– American
football, that is– has fully captured the nation’s
attention in the 21st century with its emphasis on speed,
violence, and inflated– or deflated– dramas. I’m a Patriots
fan, so that’s why I had to stick it to
all the Eagles fans. Certainly, however,
baseball still maintains a unique and
near irrational hold on the American psyche. This was true from
the beginning, as observers of the game
in the mid-19th century schizophrenically view baseball
as an uncouth, potentially deadly sport, unbefitting
a respectable, deliberate citizenry. At the same time, it considered
the game a lively reflection of an efficient enterprising,
non-aristocratic, and unspoiled American people. In 1859, the New
York Herald declared that the English game of
cricket was wholly insufficient for American minds
and bodies, claiming, “Even if there were no
baseball in existence, cricket could never become
a national sport in America. It is too slow, intricate,
and plotting a game for our go-ahead people.” Cultural anxiety over the
separation between America and its former colonizer
affected not only universities attempting to establish and
teach an American history and literature over and
above its English analogs, but it also affected the
ostensibly simple games of a child. The Herald continues, “The good
effect produced on the health and strength and morals
of the young men engaged in this outdoor exercise
is the theme of all who are conversant with them. It has taken them from the
unhealthy haunts of dissipation indoors and given them a
taste for manly sports, which cannot fail to
have beneficial effect, not only in the physical
development of our citizens but on the national character.” Here, the Victorian sensibility
of muscular Christianity connected the individual health
and constitution of a male body to the figurative health
and actual constitution of the US national body. Ever the cynical party pooper,
however, the New York Times published an article entitled
“Our Irrational Game” in 1870, stating, “It is
one of the defects of our national character
than no sooner do we get a hold of a
good thing of this sort than we proceed to make
it hurtful by excess. Baseball as a recreation
was well enough, but baseball established
as a business calls upon us to revise our
notions of its usefulness.” After decrying its danger to
life and limb and the increase of insurance
premiums, the article avers, “The moral aspect
of our national game is even less reassuring. At best, it as an
excuse for gambling. At its worst, a device for
viler jockeying and swindling than ever disgraced the turf. The gray lady
operatically concludes, “We are tempted to suspect
that we’ve been worshipping a very senseless idol.” In American history, as
in American baseball, we find ourselves obsessed
with such idolatry, both false and true,
and a wellspring of national mythology. Origin myths, in particular
our precious narratives, that are the stories we
like to tell ourselves to reassure ourselves. It’s no coincidence that
our political leaders love referencing John Winthrop’s
“City Upon a Hill” sermon from 1630. The romance of John
Smith and Pocahontas, Washington’s cherry
tree, Paul Bunyan, manifest destiny,
Johnny Appleseed. Similarly, the game holds
dearly, if not blindly, to its sacred myths. Often the tale is told that
a Civil War veteran, Abner Doubleday, first played
our version of bat and ball with a bunch of children in the
idle of Cooperstown, New York, in 1839. All elements of the
story were, frankly, ideal– an innocent child’s
game, a pastoral setting, a budding military hero, and an
improvement upon English roots. Unfortunately, Doubleday was
actually at West Point in 1839, a good 150 miles away from
the Cooperstown cow patch, and it’s unclear what his
connections to baseball truly were, beyond
requesting bats and balls for an
African-American regiment he led in Texas in 1871. The real Elysian
field where baseball was often played
in its infancy was located in less than
idyllic Hoboken, New Jersey, across the river from Manhattan,
where grown men would often blow off steam after
work by playing bat and ball in the streets. The Doubleday myth
was far from reality. The game was founded in
the 1840s– not 1839– in a soot-filled, industrialized
urban setting– not idyllic at all– with anonymous working
men– decidedly not children– possibly drinking and
speaking in foreign tongues. Why avoid this
particular origin story and go with the Doubleday myth? After all, as recently as 2010,
then commissioner Bud Selig publicly reaffirmed his
own misplaced belief that Doubleday was the
true father of baseball. The question is a
good one, though, in the very type of
juicy prompt that allows teachers to pivot
from the minutia of the game and open up a class to context
critical analysis and more history. It’s not unreasonable
to posit why the powers that be promoted this
particular origin myth in 1905 and why early 20th
century audiences seemed open to its logic. Not only was it another
attempt to distance America from its English overlords,
to assert something distinctly and exceptionally American
in the new century, but it was also an
attempt to assuage anxieties about the
rapidly changing nation. The last decade of the 19th
century and the first decades of the 20th witnessed seismic
shifts in American life. Historian Frederick
Jackson Turner would declare the closing
of the American frontier at an American Historical
Association meeting in Chicago in 1893 despite the fact that
the US had only months earlier overthrown the Hawaiian
monarchy and would invade Cuba, Puerto Rico,
and the Philippines by 1898. The American empire
had been born. Additionally, the
1890s would come to be known as the
nadir, or nadir, of African-American History,
with an average of over 100 lynchings taking
place each year. And in 1896, the
Supreme Court reaffirmed that separation of
the races was indeed equal in the notorious case
of Plessy versus Ferguson, more permanently codifying the
regime of Jim and Jane Crow across the South. The largest economic
depression to date would hit in 1893, while a
year later, the Pullman Strike violently reminded the nation
of the precarious relationship between labor and management. Thousands of new immigrants
were flooding major cities, and progressive reformers,
like Jane Addams, were taking in
these huddled masses and attempting to inculcate
lessons on Americanization, hygiene, and family planning. Hence, fears of all
kinds– of the foreigner, of the dark other,
of the worker, of the independent
woman– dovetailed with the overriding
fear that maternity, with its attendant
industrialization, urbanization, and
politicization, were renting
America asunder into lonely, atomistic fragments. So, what’s that, you say? You’ve got a children’s
game where men can play like boys for a few hours? The drudgery of piecemeal work
can be temporarily suspended so that nine individuals can
unite as a team and everyone gets a fair turn at bat? African-Americans
and immigrants can be excluded, for the most
part, from the diamond, and the playing
field remains level? Women can only attend as
spectators, and only then to discipline the crowd’s
behavior, not the players? Sign me up, old sport. I’m simplifying, to be sure. But you can see how this
particular myth-making event in baseball history
makes sense in the larger context of early
20th century American political and cultural history. Amidst the chaos and search
for order during this time, the simplicity of baseball,
with its time honored rules and bounded logic,
seemed like a worthy salve to the nation. Bread and circuses perhaps,
but also a safety valve for all of the political,
cultural, and social anxiety bubbling outside
the pastoral green. You can probably further
sense the ripe opportunity this myth-making moment
affords a 21st century teacher to lure in
a fan of the game and make him or her
a student of history. Contemporary events also
dictate quite heavily what gets discussed in class. When Stanford grad and NBA
player Jason Collins declared that he was gay in
the spring of 2013, it was the first time an active
player in any of the four major sports leagues– male
sports leagues– had come out. However, it almost
seemed anticlimactic, given that our baseball
class had already debated the possibility of more
professional athletes coming out in the male sports leagues
and the facile stereotypes affecting female athletes. We took the moment to reflect
deeply upon the Victorian roots within 19th century
baseball– the self-control, the checked emotions, and
the circumspection acquired of muscular Christianity,
and the fact that poorly skilled players
were not insignificantly labeled muffins. Early era baseball
differentiated between the more skilled
players who caught balls with their hands on
the fly versus those who allowed the ball to bounce
one hop before fielding it. This highlighted the distinction
made by the game’s earliest proponents that
one type of playing represented manliness,
and the other type an unambiguous boyishness. And this was what was called
the fly rule at the time, still is called the
fly rule in many ways. Of course, the 21st century has
presented noteworthy challenges to these traditional notions of
the manly, undeniable straight athlete, as in 2003, retired
baseball player Billy Bean– and that’s not the
GM of the Oakland A’s, but the former player who played
with the San Diego Padres– he came out as gay in his
memoir, Going the Other Way: Lessons from a Life In and
Out of Major League Baseball. It wasn’t until this
past summer that an active professional baseball
player in the minor leagues, David Denson of the Milwaukee
Brewers organization, bravely shared his sexuality
with teammates and eventually the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The paper describes
Denson’s anxiety of raising the issue in the
clubhouse and his teammates’ response. They said, you’re
still our teammate, you’re still our brother. We kind of had an idea,
but your sexuality has nothing to do
with your ability. You’re still a ballplayer
at the end of the day. We don’t treat
you any different. We’ve got your back. An MLB study sponsored by
the Tribune Company in 2004 found that, somewhat
surprisingly, 74% of players said they would
accept a gay teammate. This is an astonishing
statistic in many ways, and the social
scientist in me always has to ask, how was
the question asked? Who asked it? And were players only
answering what they thought the questioner wanted to hear? In other words, we certainly
shouldn’t kid ourselves that the issue is
at all resolved. Take recently inducted
hall of fame pitcher John Smoltz’s unadorned reactions
to the Associated Press’ asking him about his opinion
of gay marriage. What’s next, marrying animals? Leave it to former Phillies
manager and sagacious shortstop Larry Bowa to offer probably the
most realistic, yet admittedly ambivalent reaction
to a gay teammate. I’m sure it would depend
on who the player was. If he hits 340, it
probably would be easier than if he hits 220. Naivete unfortunately
underlies such a sentiment, that the only
criterion for inclusion is whether or not one can play
the game and play it well. Much like the Horatio Alger myth
in our larger culture, which theorizes that any
individual in America can pull him or herself up
by his or her bootstraps and achieve the
American dream by dint of the sweat on his or her brow,
the admirable leaf and truly democratic possibility belies
the reality and inequality on the ground. For example, even though
baseball witnessed its first interracial game
here in Philadelphia in 1869, the national body of
owners and players would ban teams with
African-American players permanently in 1888, until
Jackie Robinson’s debut for Brooklyn in 1947. In an already fractured
post Civil War era, the game’s leagues feared
participation of black players in the same way that North
and South could still not reconcile the citizenship
status of newly freed black men, women, and children. Jim Crow was alive and
well within and without the diamond’s white lines. On the heels of this
ban, Weldy Walker, who along with his brother
Moses Fleetwood Walker was one of the most
prominent and successful African-American
players of his era, wrote an open letter to the
president of the Tri-State League in Ohio. He opines, and I
quote at length here. “I have grievances, and
it is a question with me whether individual
loss subserves the public good in this case. This is the only question to
be considered, both morally and financially, in
this as it is or ought to be in all cases that depend
upon the public for success as baseball. I am convinced beyond doubt
that you all, as a body of man, have not been impartial
and unprejudiced in your consideration of the
great and important question, the success of
the national game. The law is a disgrace
to the present age and reflects very much
upon the intelligence of your last meeting
and casts derision at the laws of Ohio,
the voice of the people that say all men are equal. There should be
some broader cause, such as want of
ability, behavior, and intelligence, for barring
a player other than his color. It is for these
reasons, and because I think that ability and
intelligence should be recognized first and last,
at all times and by everyone, I ask the question again. Why was the law permitting
colored man to sign repealed?” The ban on black
players would have obvious historical
repercussions. Baseball enthusiasts have always
prided themselves on the fact that you could
consistently comparable ballplayers’
statistics across eras without interruption because the
game ostensibly stayed the same over its 170 year history. That’s why the sacred cows
of Joe DiMaggio’s 56 game history, Ted Williams’ 406
batting average, Hank Aaron’s 755 home run mark, and Rickey
Henderson’s 1,406 stolen bases loom largely over the
game without asterisks, without qualifications. The more things
change, the more they supposedly stayed the same. But history doesn’t
work that way. When baseball banned
blacks for over 60 years, it deprived the nation of
a truly national pastime. Babe Ruth couldn’t
face Bullet Rogan, Cool Papa Bell never
faced Christy Mathewson, and the Homestead
Grays weren’t allowed to challenge New York Yankees. Numbers lie and numbers skew. In this instance, the historical
reality of segregation pierces the veil
that shrouds myths of American exceptionalism, fair
play, and rugged individualism. To baseball’s credit, they
at least broke the color line before all other institutions
in the mid-20th century, as the military would
desegregate one year after baseball, and Brown
versus Board of Education wouldn’t be decided a full
seven years after Robinson took first base for the Dodgers. Williams, the splendid splinter
in himself of Mexican descent, seemed to recognize
the historical inequity by clamoring for
negro league players enshrinement in the
Hall of Fame the year of his induction in 1966. Surprising his audience,
he passionately argued, “Baseball gives every
American boy a chance to excel, not just to be as good as
someone else, but to be better. This is the nature of man
and the name of the game. I hope that one day
Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson will be voted
into the Hall of Fame as symbols of the great negro
players who are not here only because they weren’t
given the chance.” The feel good
narrative, however, takes a complicated turn
as the last 30 years or so has seen the rapid
decline of African-American participation in baseball, from
the Little Leagues to the Major Leagues. Even the recent 2014
Little League Championship run by the all-black
Jackie Robinson West team from the south side
of Chicago ended in controversy and the
eventual stripping of the title for the use of players outside
the neighborhood boundaries. The one bright spot of that
summer’s tournament was Philadelphia’s own Mo’ne Davis,
the first African-American girl to play in the Little
League World Series, the first girl to pitch
a shutout and earn a win in the series, and the first
Little Leaguer ever to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated. Which leads me to my
next object lesson. At the University of Chicago,
Kim Ng, class of 1990, was a standout infielder and
MVP for the softball team, editor of the yearbook, and the
sports editor for the Maroon. If reports as recent as
this weekend are correct, she may well be your
Philadelphia Phillies’ next general manager,
the first woman to ascend to such a position,
and the first Asian-American to ever do so. Having served as an
executive in the White Sox organization and
American League offices, Ng made her mark as the
assistant GM for the Yankees with Brian Cashman and
then for the LA Dodgers, whom she helped win the
Organization of the Year Award in 2006. Now she works beside Hall
of Fame manager Joe Torre in MLB’s headquarters
in New York City, overseeing international
operations, the league’s scouting bureau,
and fall league. Ng isn’t the first woman to
roam the executive suites of a major league club,
but she may well end up being the most accomplished. And her ascent
comes at a time when record numbers of
women and girls are entering the sport
as players, coaches, and even broadcast,
radio, and TV announcers. Just last week, the Oakland
A’s hired Justine Siegel as a visiting instructor for
the 2015 instructional league, the first woman coach in
Major League Baseball history. In June, Michelle Mayeux
a 17-year-old shortstop for the French
Junior National Team, became the first woman to
make MLB’s International Registration List, which means
that she’s now eligible to be signed by a Major League team. The twitterverse
went crazy last week when Olympian gold medalist,
softball player, and ESPN baseball analyst Jessica
Mendoza became the first woman to call and color comment
a nationally televised post-season game, when the
Astros defeated the Yankees. And I smile when
that happens– not about their laughing at Mendoza
or making fun of Mendoza, but at the Yankees. This all comes at a time when
both the National Football League and National
Basketball Association have hired women as
assistant coaches– Dr. Jen Welter with
the Arizona Cardinals, and Becky Hammond with the San
Antonio Spurs, respectively– and female referees
are calling games– Sarah Thomas in the NFL,
Violet Palmer, Lauren Holtkamp, and Dee Kantner in the NBA. In a recent feature
on espnw.com, Ng proudly asserted that
she was a, quote-unquote, “product of Title IX,” the
landmark sex discrimination law that has led to significant
increases in participation of girls and women
in sports since 1972. Ng actually wrote her BA
thesis on the groundbreaking legislation. Yet in an interview with
the UFC over a decade ago, she admitted, “I
take the gender issue out of the equation entirely. There’s not a best male or
female way to do my job. The best is simply the best,
and that’s what I aim for.” Once more, baseball encourages
a language of meritocracy, an illusion of
equality wistfully echoed above, in Williams’
plea, to the hall. Horatio Alger like rhetoric
strives for the ideal but reinforces the myth. What is the reality? In 1994, Ila Borders
became the fourth woman to play on a collegiate
baseball team, but the first to do so on
a baseball scholarship. In her debut against
Clermont Mud College, she pitched a complete
five-hit game, a 12-1 victory for Southern
California College of the NAIA. She played on a semi-pro
baseball team the summer before college while her high school
career included a no hitter, an ERA under 3.00,
and a team MVP award. But the college experience
left much to be desired, as opposing teams’ bench
jockeys rode her unforgivingly, fearful of losing to
a quote-unquote girl, and some of her own teammates
resented the national media attention she was receiving. To find relief in the
midst of such stresses, she would often visit the
familiar and comforting haven of the pitching mound at night. One evening, however,
four young men, including one teammate
who made no effort at hiding his identity,
attacked her on the mound and attempted to rape her. Bruised and clothes
torn, Border somehow managed to fend off the men
and escape to her dorm room. But in the tradition
of a locker room code that promoted
solving problems in house, and fearful that she would be
thrown off the team for causing a stir, Borders didn’t
report the assault. She told baseball historian
Jean Hastings Ardell, “That night was a big
turning point in my life. I realized I wasn’t
just playing for fun now or because I loved the game. I was playing for
all women in sports. And pitching became
a role, a duty.” Borders would go on to play
three and a half seasons of professional ball in the
Independent Northern League for teams in Minnesota and
Wisconsin, retiring in 2000. In 1999, she had her best
numbers, boasting a 3.63 ERA, compiling a minor league career
record of 2-4, with a 6.73 ERA. Coincidentally, she would
follow her sports career by breaking the barriers
of another professional fraternity, firefighting,
the companies of which were a direct cultural
antecedent to baseball clubs in the 19th century. Given that the path she
blazed was a minefield, Borders remained hopeful,
yet steadfastly realistic, saying, “As long as
women keep coming through who have a
love for the game and for what they’re
doing, can withstand criticism and scrutiny and
tough physical demands, and can work twice as
hard as a man out there, then it’s possible to one
day have a woman make it to the major leagues as a
player or as an umpire.” For my students, the
tale of Ila Borders opens up a wealth of discursive
possibilities– women in sports, the sharp divide
between professional and amateur, the strength, both
real and symbolic, of Title IX, and the risks posed to young
women on college campuses throughout our nation,
no matter how physically, mentally, and
spiritually strong. The conversation usually
includes a primer on women’s history in the US,
touching upon many key Supreme Court decisions, like Muller
versus Oregon in 1908, whereby the court concluded
that a woman’s role, as the mother
of the republic and all of its citizen
children, outweighed her constitutional
right to contract her labor for as many
hours as she pleased. The 14th Amendment,
the 19th Amendment, and the tortuous history of
the Equal Rights Amendment– another ERA altogether–
all inform our discussions. While we don’t watch
Penny Marshall’s A League of Their Own, the
1992 film celebrating Gina Davis’ Rockford Peaches and
other teams in the All-American Girls Professional
Baseball League that captivated homefront
audiences during World War II, we do talk about
those pioneering women in the context of their
cousin, Rosie the Riveter, as worthy reflections of
the indispensable role women played in wartime
labor and production. The number of women in
the workforce rose by 60% at this time, joined unions
in significant numbers, and eroded some of the
prejudice that had previously kept many women,
especially working mothers, from paid employment. Even as men returned from
the war, as many as 80% of women workers wanted
to continue working. Post-war inflation, a
high consumption culture on the rise, and a
spiking divorce rate further contributed
to significant demand for paid employment among women. These were groundbreaking
shifts in American culture, redefining domestic
and public spheres, and even though the Cold
War era would valorize the nuclear family, this
precedent in women’s labor history was a substantial moment
between the first and second waves of feminism. I could truly go on and on. My own research focus,
the incarceration of Japanese Americans
during the Second World War, includes the study of
camp baseball teams and the construction of
well-groomed baseball diamonds that prisoners used as an escape
from the trauma of being denied their constitutional rights. Playing the game against camp
guards and local townspeople wasn’t just a matter
of evening scores but also legitimate attempts
by Japanese-Americans to prove their
indisputable American-ness to a mistrusting public. When my class studies the
Latinization of baseball, we discuss not only the signal
figures like Roberto Clemente, Juan Marichal, and
Fernando Valenzuela, but also the ways in which MLB
has used Dominican baseball players, among other Latinos,
as cheaper sources of labor at the same time that the
American public debates multinational
corporations’ outsourcing of jobs and the implications of
state and federal immigration policies targeting Central
and Latin Americans. For me, this child’s
game that I’ve loved all my life, with
all of its hypocrisies, inconsistencies, frustrations,
and undying myths, serves as a remarkable
and indispensable tool to open up, explore,
and interrogate some of the most important
moments, themes, and arguments in American history. I don’t want to
overplay my hand here. I tend to bristle when any
other scholar or public figure quotes the French historian
Jacques Barzun who said, whoever wants to know the
heart and mind of America better learn baseball. He’s not wholly
incorrect, but this seems a little overwrought. I’m looking for a way to
connect with my students. I’m searching for a way in. In a time when
we’re all competing for these young
people’s attention, they’re worried about how
they’ll pay off their loans for unforgiving tuition rates. No wonder these
young men and women are flocking to economics or
the hard sciences as majors. They’re all worried about
their job prospects. And I don’t blame them. It’s difficult to encourage
them into a life of the mind to pursue PhDs in
the increasingly shrinking fields of the
humanities and social sciences. I was embarrassed
a couple years ago when I heard that
51% of the graduating class at Harvard, my alma
mater, was going into finance. Why aren’t they helping to
build the 10 best public schools in the country, 10 grand
cathedrals for the children in our ever more
challenged inner cities and rural communities? Because the culture isn’t
providing enough incentive. Why teach in South
Central LA for a pittance and at your own peril,
when you can take a plum job with the hottest
consulting firm or investment bank in Manhattan? If we’re truly an exceptional
nation, a democracy hallowed about the Puritans,
and a society where Horatio Alger wouldn’t
be working at Burger King today without any prospect
of making manager, then those Harvard
kids wouldn’t have had to make such an
untenable choice. In a recent New
York Times op-ed, University of San Diego
professor Victor Fleischer provocatively asked,
who do you think received more cash from
Yale’s endowment last year, Yale students or the
private equity fund managers hired to invest the
university’s money? The university paid nearly
half a billion dollars to fund managers to
manage– and here, you do hear the language
of baseball, right– to manage about a
third of Yale’s $24 billion endowment. Of the $1 billion
from the endowment going to the operating
budget for the university, only $170 million was used
for tuition assistance, fellowships, and prizes. Fleischer readily concedes
that the managers are paid for their
performance– to whit, Yale’s chief investment officer
earned their portfolio 36% last year– that the University
boasts a generous financial aid policy and that
Yale spends money from its endowment on
things that benefit students indirectly, like buildings,
faculty salaries, and research. He cites nearly $850 million
in this latter category, yet he concludes quite
rightly that the amount universities paid
to private equity reveals the deeper problem. We’ve lost sight of the
idea that students, not fund managers, should be
the primary beneficiaries of a university’s endowment. The private equity folks get
cash, students take out loans. Like Fleischer, I
don’t purport to being an expert in the intricacies
of university administration, budgets, and fundraising. And I concede that
well-intentioned administrators know what they’re doing,
for the most part, and they know where resources
have to be allocated. But I also know that I’m losing
and that to a certain extent my students are
losing even more. As the new Director of
Undergraduate Studies for the History
Department, I don’t have enough in my
operating budget to offer honorarium
to any guest speaker, nor do I have enough to offer
more than a few stale cookies and a cup of coffee
to my students when they attend an
undergraduate event for majors and minors maybe twice a
quarter, if we’re lucky. The university has actually
slashed my graduate student’s assistant salary by
$1,100 in his capacity as the undergraduate
coordinator, or as the indispensable face
of our undergraduate program, which means that he’s being
asked to do exponentially more for our majors,
when he’s being told he’s getting exponentially less. In fact, today, I just
got an email from him that graduate students
are not allowed to work past 19.5
hours, and this guy was just about working 20
hours with the undergraduate coordinator position
and wants to just teach a core course in the spring,
not only to make some money but to get some experience
as a university teacher. And the university
administration is keeping him from doing it. And again, this guy is running
our undergraduate program and our website, et
cetera, especially while I’m here in Philadelphia. And parenthetically, I will say
a recent Wall Street Journal article pointed out
that graduate students across the nation make up
only 14% of the student body but hold 40% of
the student debt. These structural inequalities
are affecting too many of us in the university
and they’re affecting the quality of the
undergraduate teaching we can provide our students. So when I say I’m
looking for a way in, I mean that I desperately
want to convince students of history’s
contemporary relevancy, its central importance in their
lives, and the value of a BA in the liberal arts. I can tell them that all
of my Harvard classmates, who are now captains
of industry, often share with me that they
would rather hire humanities or social science majors
than straight econ majors because they claim
the former possess broader frames of reference,
more flexible and sophisticated ways of thinking critically,
and more nontraditional modes of analysis. But my students
rarely believe me. They want to hear it
from the horse’s mouths, and I can’t afford to bring
those thoroughbreds to campus. So in the end, baseball
is my best way in. It’s a way of taking something
these students loved well before they ever thought
about college admissions, job prospects, and the
inevitability of adulthood, and showing them more. The great hypocrisy
is that I trade on their memories of childhood
innocence, love of games, and familial ties
only to raise doubts about their preconceived
notions of this children’s game, its exceptionalism, its
way into the American family, to encourage them
to think longer and harder about the
myths and stories we love to tell ourselves,
either as baseball fans or as Americans. And I’m still doing this
too, at least I hope so. Whenever I teach
any of my classes, I tell my students that
my pedagogical model and intellectual model is
James Baldwin, who said, “I love America more than any
other country in the world, and exactly for this reason,
I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.” It’s a patriot’s credo. It’s the statement
of someone who believes in the possibility
of America’s exceptionalism but knows she’s nowhere
near the ideal just yet. It’s also the hopeful
cry of an immigrant’s son who doesn’t quite know how to
reconcile the loss of a mother when he was just starting to
achieve the American dream. These days, I don’t
have the luxury of hearing my mom scream
at the TV when the Red Sox are in the World Series. She was always so
upset that the ’86 team lost to the New York Mets. Thank God we had the
Celtics all those years. Sorry, Sixers fans. But I’ve got something
even better now. I’ve got a 12-year-old daughter
and an eight-year-old daughter who love playing catch. Granted, they wear
pink Hello Kitty gloves as we throw the ball
around the horn, but it’s really something. They’re White Sox fans– I mean,
really they’re Red Sox fans– and I still have to teach them
how to play a game of pickle. But they look just like my
mom and have way better arms. Thank you so much for having me. [APPLAUSE] Sounds great. I can’t see anything. [INAUDIBLE] When did baseball change
so much [INAUDIBLE]. Let me ask you something. One myth that really
I can’t explain is Branch Rickey and his
magnificent contribution to [INAUDIBLE]
Jackie Robinson in, juxtaposed on his general
managership for the Saint Louis Cardinals, ’25 to
somewhere around 1941. The Saint Louis Cardinals had
the most discrimintaroy policy in the way they
treated their fans in their right field pavilion. Do you know what I mean? The right field pavilion,
’25 onward, the blacks were designated to the
right field pavilion. And even after [INAUDIBLE]. But even after ’47, they
still kept it up [INAUDIBLE]. So how do you explain Branch
Rickey and yet the aura that he presents to us as a
master of seeking to resolve discriminatory problems? Right. No, thank you for that. It was even said this–
was it last postseason when the Ferguson riots were
taking place near Saint Louis, and some of the Saint
Louis fans were so upset. I mean, I get it, they didn’t
want to be bothered, et cetera. It’s postseason. But just that tension that
was going on in Saint Louis last year is kind of
reminiscent of what you’re saying about the right field. It’s hard, because Rickey–
I have the students read a very good history on Jackie
Robinson’s integration, which is Jules Tygiel’s Baseball’s
Great Experiment, or America’s Great Experiment, sorry. And he does a very good job
as opposed to the movie. So I show the film– which
I didn’t think was that, but it’s hard to disassociate
Harrison Ford from Branch Rickey. You immediately know who
the hero is going to be. It’s this great white savior. And we know the story is much
more complicated than that. And Wendell Smith, for
example, the Pittsburgh Courier African-American
sportswriter, who really was Jackie’s body man. I mean, he had as much to
do with it as Rickey does. So I think it’s really
difficult to reconcile what you’ve brought up. When you go back in
Rickey’s history, I mean, there’s a lot of
reinventing going on there too. I don’t doubt that his
origin story, where he says that his
teammate Charles Thomas, an
African-American catcher, breaks down when
he’s talking to him, and this is what has sort
of motivated him to help integrate baseball. So I really don’t take away from
your critique of Rickey at all. I just find that I’m such a
hypocrite because even rooting for the Red Sox, that
till the 1990s, really, was such an awfully racist
and awful organization. We don’t even have to go into
what happens in the stands. But they were the
last to desegregate in 1959 with Pumpsie Green. So yeah, it’s as I was
saying in the talk, is that these real hypocrisies,
these blind spots that I continued to kind of
hold up in my head– like, after this, I’m sure
I’m going to go out there and try to figure out,
did the Blue Jays win? I won’t stop. You know, it’s like an addict. But it is trying to reconcile
a lot of those kinds of serious, serious hypocrisy. What books and readings do
you assign for your course, or is it available as a MOOC? Oh. Well, you can tell them
you want it as a MOOC. It’s a seminar, which is crazy. I was telling some alums
earlier that at one point there were three baseball
courses being taught at the University of Chicago. So one was anthro– you
must be wondering where your money’s going, I guess. The parents must also
be just nervous as hell. There was one
anthropology lecture by John Kelly on baseball. There was another one, I think,
by maybe Dennis Hutchinson in law, letters, and society. And then there was mine,
which is a small seminar which Sarah was the TA for. And I tend to only teach it
in these small discussion sections, maybe 30
students at the most. And we’ll have some people who–
some grad students may observe, or anybody else who
wants to come and listen. The major books
that we read, one is called Playing for
Keeps by Warren Goldstein, and I think it’s a really good
book about early era baseball. And it does introduce this
idea that– he simplifies it. He says there’s really two
ways of looking at baseball. The history is cyclical. People say, well, it
wasn’t like that in my day. You know, it’s not as
good as it was then. And then there’s
the linear, which is so much more about progress,
and that baseball is about trying to reconcile those two. And I was trying to be
cheeky by saying that there are no asterisks next to
some of those records, but clearly I’m discounting
the whole steroid era and trying to get away
with a smoother narrative. But the Tygiel
book is very good. Robert Creamer who
just died recently wrote a wonderful
biography of Babe Ruth. And of course Eliot
Asinof’s Eight Men Out still really
holds up over time. And it’s great for
history students because they really then
start to question sources. I mean, there are no
footnotes, which is fine. It’s fine to read more
popular histories, et cetera. But they want to
know, how was he recreating some of these
conversations between Shoeless Joe and Chick Gandil. I mean, he couldn’t
have been there. He was trying to reproduce it
from some of these transcripts and maybe when they had
to go to the grand jury. But that’s the wonderful
thing about teaching history, is telling them people like– I
mean, it’s about interpretation and it’s about
telling these stories. So those are four
good books, I’d say. You use the word
meritocracy, and I’ve heard that word used before
with respect to baseball. I think it’s so true. As I was watching
the game last night– I was thrilled about it. I realized that it’s also
about failure and redemption. And I think about
Javier Baez who looked terrible in the
field in game three, who redeemed himself with a
three-run home run and Kolten Wong, who made terrible
plays and brilliantly stopped several runs. And that’s what baseball is,
it’s failure and redemption. And I don’t think there’s
anything like it anywhere, sports or anything else, that
you can be a goat in one second and then redeem yourself
so fully [INAUDIBLE]. I don’t know if that ever
comes up in your discussions. Yeah. No, thank you. I mean, it fits right in with
this whole idea of mythology and the creation of narratives. We will sometimes
watch the– Alex Gibney did a very good documentary. I think ESPN is trying
to post it now again on its website about
the Steve Bartman case. Catching Hell I think is what
it’s called, the documentary. And it’s very good. I mean, the fact
that back in Chicago, you guys probably– well, you
could probably keep up with it, I’m sure. But there’s a campaign
to try to get Bartman to come to some of
these playoff games and try to mend the fences. I mean, it’s awful what they
did to that particular man. Bill Buckner is really–
I mean, as a Red Sox fan, that’s– I grew up with that. I mean, he might as well
be an uncle or something. It is incredible how it is about
failure and then projection, the whole idea of
the scapegoating and really– I mean, if you
look at any of these games too, you can pick out
other people who are responsible for
those games being lost, but somehow Bill
Buckner gets crucified when Bob Stanley was awful
and Calvin Schiraldi– I mean, that was still game six. They still had another game. So you can see how
much it’s really– I mean, I go to therapy for it. So it’s really hard. But I agree with you. There really are moments. You can go up one at bat, or
you can make an awful play in the field, and then
you can be the redeemer at the end of the game. I mean, I think it does
happen in other sports, but there really is
something– it’s ineffable. I mean, even what’s going
on now with baseball, and I will admit, I love
probably the NFL and the NBA more now, but I cannot stop
watching this playoff baseball. There’s something
quite magical about it, because I’m waiting for
some story to unfold. Thank you, though. Do we have time for one more? Well, you mention that
you like NFL and NBA now. And I wonder– I mean, I
guess your students are self-selecting, if they’re
signed up for this course. But do you find that students
don’t have that same love or familiarity with baseball
now that they might have 20, 30 years ago. I mean, it’s hard to tell
even if they’re signed up for the class, but are
they kind of saying, well, why are you in this
course on baseball? Why baseball? Do you know what I’m saying? It is getting less
popular in some ways. You could ask Sarah
that question too. It’s really funny, but they
come in with so much more knowledge than I have. I mean, it’s not
only the day-to-day, the contemporary kind of
stat-minded kid– my brothers were really stat-minded
in the ’80s, I remember. But you’ll love it,
as you Chicago– I mean, it is the
Nate Silver, 538, really stat-crunching
oriented kind of– some kids who come in. They’re trying to convince me to
become part of the Sabermetrics Society. I don’t understand
what– I do history. I don’t really do numbers. But you’re right. They’re very
self-selecting, and they do come in with this
incredibly deep knowledge. And again, as I was saying
at the beginning of the talk, it’s so surprising because
it’s very clear to me how dearly they think
about these things. I mean, these are
daughters with their dads, or there are these other kinds
of mixed gender combinations. But really, these relationships
of the son and the father, the grandfather and the daughter
and the dad, et cetera, it’s amazing how much they know
about their own teams. And they just buy it. I don’t know how they–
I really stayed away from saying it in
this talk, and I can thank Sarah for it
too, because I was asking, how would I go about this? And I sometimes do
the elevator speech when I try to explain
what this talk was about or what the course is about. And I’ll say, it’s
a bait and switch. I’m trying to bait in
students and switch it at the last minute so
they talk about really hard things like race
and gender and sexuality. And people have been saying,
don’t do that anymore. In some ways, you’re diminishing
what you are doing, or bring to the course, and also
what these students are bringing to it. They totally get it. This is a sport. It’s frivolous in a lot
of ways, but it also has some sort of reflection on
American culture and society that at least for the next 80
minutes we’re going to really– we’re going to dig in with you. And maybe then they leave and
they think, what am I doing taking this baseball course? I don’t know how I can
explain it to my parents. But it’s really been
the best classes I’ve taught at the University of
Chicago, if you can believe it. But thank you again, thank
you very much for having me. [APPLAUSE] Stay seated. Hi. I want to say thanks
to Matthew Briones. It was a fascinating
talk, although I do want to give a
little bit of warning. I don’t how long you’re
going to be in Philadelphia, but if you’re in my
neighborhood, what’s called the South
Side of Philadelphia, I wouldn’t say anything
negative about the Eagles because you’re going to
find yourself walking to Gillette Stadium
in concrete shoes at the bottom of the Delaware. But the one thing I have
to say for him, at least he didn’t say he was
a Dallas fan, right? Because that would’ve
been a lot worse. So my name is Sean Duffy. And I graduated from
the college and went on to the division of social
sciences and got my AM and PhD. And as the president of the
Alumni Club of Philadelphia, I really would like
to thank each of you for sharing your valuable
time with us this evening. It really is appreciated. It’s great to see so many
intelligent wonderful people out there. And I want to let you know
that if you’d like to know more about Harper Lectures,
the alumni travel program, or any other
university events, or if you’d like to get
involved with the Alumni Club of Philadelphia–
or even if you’d just like to stop by and say
hello– please find me or any of the other Alumni
Club members that are here. I see several, including
Lou is back there and Rebecca and Katie Skeen,
who is right over there. We’ll try to answer
any questions. But it’d be great to get
more people involved. Renee mentioned that
125,000 engagement goal, and I just counted
about 65 heads. So we now only need 124,935. So we’re getting closer. So thank you for helping
us meet that total. I encourage you to
let your impact grow from more to more by joining
the thousands of alumni around the world who
are giving to support scholarships, new
inquiry, attending events, leading reunions
and so much more. We are always adding interesting
new events to the schedule, so keep your eyes posted on
our Philadelphia Alumni Club website. All you need to do is go into
Google and type Philadelphia Alumni Club University of
Chicago, and it pops up. And there’s an events page that
tells all the upcoming events. On November 7, I
believe, we’re going to be having a career
event, so that’s something that some people might
be interested in. And there’s other
events in the pipeline. There’s something
that we’re going to be doing at the
Kimmel Center that’s related to a group
that’s associated with the University of Chicago. And so I hope to see you there. If you have any ideas for
events, whether it be a gallery opening or some kind
of a cultural event that you think that
it would be really nice to have a bunch of
University of Chicago graduates hanging around and
being a part of, let us know,
because we’re always open to having new events that
we can invite the community to. And you can learn more online
at the Alumni Association website, which is
https://alumnian dfriends.uchicago.edu,
but I could imagine you can just
Google it instead of– you can have this piece
of paper if you really want. And for those of you
who’d like to learn more, we are selling a limited number
of copies of Professor Briones’ book in the back. And please see Jennifer
at the registration table if you’re interested
in purchasing one. Finally, I’m going to
go off script here, because I was told to do this. We have a new mascot apparently
at the University of Chicago. This is Phil, the Phoenix. And we have a photo
booth in the back where we have a nice big picture
of Hull Gate– you remember that big gate that was
on campus– in the snow, and it’ll bring back all those
nightmares of those cold days in Chicago where you froze your
toes off and other parts off. So please get your
photograph taken there, and you can maybe even put
this guy on your shoulder like the devil. That’s what I’m going to do. But anyway– so thanks for
bringing your curiosity. And I hope you
safe traveled home. I look forward to seeing
you all next year, but hopefully before then at
one of our upcoming events. So I guess I’ll end by saying
go Maroons, and thank you. [APPLAUSE]

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