The Baseball Symposium

Some people would be surprised to know that there are actual academic conferences about baseball. Many of them concentrate on literature that uses baseball as a theme, or investigating the portrayal of players in films. The preeminent international conference on baseball, though, is the one held annually at Cooperstown in the Baseball Hall of Fame. This symposium, “Baseball and American Culture,” is co-sponsored by the State University of New York College at Oneonta and the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum and attracts attendees from around the world. According to their website, the purpose of the symposium is to “examine the impact of baseball on American culture from interdisciplinary and multi-disciplinary perspectives.”

Last spring, 2012, we took a long shot at proposing a possible presentation at the conference about our travels around the country in search of baseball and interesting sites. When our acceptance came, we were shocked and delighted. We were going to speak at a conference held in the baseball hall of fame! After the happy dance, reality set in–we had to actually speak in front of people about baseball, people who probably knew statistics and memorized players for teams in the 1920s. We’d have to actually write something interesting and entertaining and smart. Gulp!

As it turned out, Ginny wrote an academic piece about the metaphors of traveler versus tourist (a traveler leaves home to experience the world and a tourist leaves home to escape the world–thank you, Rolf Potts). We talked about how we are a hybrid of the traveler and tourist, and how our experiences of traveling to see baseball enrich our lives through education about our country and its inhabitants. Then we shared two of our stories about the sites we’ve seen and people we’ve met on our annual journeys to see baseball. Afterwards, we had several people compliment us on our presentation and we were delighted. We even received an invitation to be guest speakers at the local chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).

The most exciting event of the symposium was the welcome dinner held in the Plaque Room. This is the room where hang all the memorial plaques of players who have been inducted into the hall of fame. It felt as though we were eating with history.

So, why write about this now? It seems that we thought we’d try our luck again this year and proposed another possible presentation–this time about fan-speak. That is, we want to analyze how fans cheer and jeer at baseball games. Yesterday our acceptance letter came. We’re going back to the hall of fame. The excitement in our house is palpable (it doesn’t take much to thrill us!). It’s a great feeling–until we realize, once again, we’ve got to write the darn thing!

If you are a true fan of baseball, we highly recommend the Symposium on Baseball and American Culture. It is educational, entertaining and, as Dan says, just way cool. There are few things better than to have a pass into the Hall of Fame—going in and out as an academician and attending presentations and discussions on the history, psychology, legal issues, gender issues and even personal aspects of baseball and American society—and then during breaks wandering through the Plaque Room or rest of the museum reading and soaking in all of the history of baseball. We go to academic conferences all the time and they are enlightening, interesting and fun for a variety of reasons, but this conference is special—just because it’s about baseball.

And if you’re never been to the Baseball Hall of Fame, then it’s time you come! The symposium this year is May 29-31. You can find more information about the conference at the Cooperstown Baseball Hall of Fame website. Even if you don’t attend the symposium, the Hall of Fame is a MUST on any fan’s list.

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