Enjoy the videos from the students along with an introduction from Professor McDorman. There is also a Final Thoughts video featuring Deans Klein and Raters.
Enjoy the videos from the students along with an introduction from Professor McDorman. There is also a Final Thoughts video featuring Deans Klein and Raters.
The trip taken by “Baseball and American Identity” to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York was my first immersion experience—and it exceeded my expectations. As the blog entries by students and staff attest, the trip was enriching to the course and to the students’ liberal arts education. I was very impressed by the students; not only for their enthusiasm for the trip (which itself wasn’t surprising) but in the seriousness with which they undertook their work. I was probably most uncertain about how the archival research would go—would students take it seriously and engage it? They certainly did. As part of their work, each student did research on a Hall of Fame player, or a potential Hall of Fame player, who was born in the state of Indiana. The contemporary players are well known (e.g. Don Mattingly and Scott Rolen) but most Hall of Fame players from Indiana played in the first part of the 20th century (and some in the 19th century). These are players such as Amos Rusie, Sam Rice, Mordecai Brown, Edd Roush, and others. Searching through player files, scrapbooks, and other sources in the Hall of Fame’s Giamatti Research Center, students delved into the stories of these names from baseball’s past. In doing so they came to understand a different part of history and to learn the personal narratives that exceed a player’s career accomplishments. Not only did students undertake the research seriously (white gloves and all) but most returned to the archives for additional research time.
In addition to their research on a Hoosier player, each student studied a museum exhibit or set of artifacts and considered how it seeks to construct the relationship of baseball and American identity and culture. Students considered the stories the exhibits tell, what elements of history they emphasize, and what elements from the past they omit. That exploration will be the subject of an end of semester paper revision that will build from students’ initial consideration of these topic areas prior to the trip and also a final course presentation. Students studied exhibits on Women in Baseball, Latin Baseball, Jackie Robinson and the Negro Leagues, Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, and more.
Just as the students did their work, I used the immersion experience to engage in similar pursuits. Sitting in the shadow of the late A. Bartlett Giamatti, the former Yale president and Major League Baseball Commissioner who banned Pete Rose from baseball due to gambling, I continued my research into the Roger Kahn papers and the production of Rose’s first post-ban autobiography. And while students examined museum exhibits for their class projects, I too explored the newest permanent exhibit at the Hall of Fame, “One for the Books: Baseball Records & The Stories Behind Them.” I worked on a project that considers the ways in which the exhibit reconstructs our memory and understanding of baseball history while making an initial attempt to put baseball’s “steroid era” in an historical context that recognizes the statistics amassed but also tells us that the stories make the numbers something more (and less) than what they first seem.
As the blog entries explain, we were also treated to behind the scenes access to library collections and presentations from museum staff. Students also had ample time to explore the museum and Cooperstown. And we had time together, to watch the baseball playoffs and to learn more about one another.
I thank the College for the opportunity for this trip. I also thank those who participated in the trip and made it a success: Mike Raters and Steve Klein modeled research and engaged the students in discussions of baseball and beyond; Mark Siegel did an excellent job of documenting the trip in ways that will preserve its meaning for the College and the individual students; and Matt Page ’13 provided strong leadership and mentoring to the students. Jerry Bowie provided important logistical support for the trip. Most of all, I wish to thank the staff at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. They were most accommodating in working with us, sharing of their time and their expertise. Collectively these individuals made this a foundational and formational educational experience for all involved in the trip and something the students will always remember.
Our week at Cooperstown has been one for the record books. Not once had many of us ever thought of making the pilgrimage to the quaint town of Cooperstown to reflect on some of baseball’s greatest. But nothing may be more legendary then just being in the small town of Cooperstown. Every step we took we could feel as if we were walking in a piece of baseball history, stepping where many of the greats had once stepped. Then the thought that some 73 years ago on induction day town was flooded with people running to get an autograph from Ty Cobb, or running to shake hands with Christy Mathewson, or the thousands that just followed around Babe Ruth only to say “I was in his entourage” for one day. Cooperstown is surely one that brings magic to any young baseball fans heart and that instills a form of national pride for us all.
Of the many things to do in Cooperstown our group took to the opportunity to some shopping for gifts, trinkets, and some small items to remember our time in Cooperstown. Though there were many shops no shop was more visited than “Mickey’s”. If you were a baseball fan or just a bored college student you could stumble into Mickey’s 30 times a day to gaze upon their selection of hats. After leaving Cooperstown as a whole we probably had invested 1000 dollars.
Of the many eateries in Cooperstown the most legendary one is Doubleday Café. Every single person who we had asked to recommend a place to eat would recommend Doubleday Café. The food was great, the atmosphere was better and we were able to enjoy a the Nationals game winning homerun to the great upset to our own Jarel.
Beyond all of that Cooperstown was just a quaint little town in New York that in passing you would have never known it for more than the home of the Baseball Hall of Fame. But in itself, the beautiful scenery, the entertaining town, and the kind people all made our experience at Cooperstown one that we would always remember fondly. Even if we just remembered watching the game in the Café, or buying hats a Mickeys, or doing our research at the hall of fame, we will still remember a little piece of Cooperstown.
I can’t think of a better place to have spent Fall Break than at the Baseball Hall of Fame. As a baseball fan, you only dream of being surrounded by all the history the museum has to offer; I never would have expected to experience it all my freshmen year of college. The building itself definitely caught me by surprise (if you are just walking down the street there’s a good chance you would miss it). It is nothing flashy, it just blends in with the surroundings of the town. Now the inside is a different story. We started off with the Enshrinement Room and that room sums up baseball. You look around and see all these major influential players and you can’t imagine achieving what they have. One of the coolest parts of that room is the military award that is placed under every player that served at some point for our country.
My thought going into the trip was that the museum would represent historic events that have occurred over the years, but that wasn’t really the case. The Hall of Fame tells the story of baseball and how it coincides with American society. Exhibits such as “The Negro Leagues” and “Viva Baseball” represent major points that changed the game of baseball, as well as life in America with integration.
Cooperstown should be on everyone’s “places to visit” list whether you are a crazy baseball fan or not. There is so much more to the museum and the town than just baseball (and in our case Mickey’s Place) that every person needs to experience. This trip was one that I will never forget and hopefully one day I will be able to come back and take in the experience all over again.
As a whole the trip was more than successful. It started with the experience of the plaque room which was where every one of us rushed to see our favorite Hall of Famers the instant we were in the building. We spent the first hour just admiring our favorite players and seeing the accomplishments of the players that we may not have known. It was a truly moving experience and it put everything into perspective of how elite one truly has to be in order to make it into the Hall.
The research was one of the most amazing parts because it was being done throughout the trip, subconsciously and consciously. It did not even hit me that I was doing a lot of research for my paper on the Yankees until about a day in when I realized how many pictures I had taken on all of their accomplishments. We also did research in the Giamatti Research Center. That was on a different paper and presentation that we are giving which we were each given the player file of each of our Hoosier Athlete and took notes on their life on and off of the field as to why we feel they should or should not be a Hall of Famer.
We spent a lot of time touring the city as well. We walked around and looked into all of the local shops and it truly showed us what this city means to baseball. Every store was lined with memorabilia and it was breath taking to see all of the different things for every team. It ranged from negro league teams all of the way up to the majors. The memorabilia ranged from small shirts and hats to a Babe Ruth ball which was being sold for $16,000. It was amazing seeing something worth that much and an item that is so important to the history of the game.
The trip was extremely exciting and it truly was an experience that I will remember for the rest of my life. If it was not for this class I am not sure if I would have ever gone to the Hall of Fame and I am now going to try to go every few years to see it as it changes. The trip was incredible in many different ways, from the research to the shops it truly showed a great portion of the history of the game and how baseball can truly impact so many lives.
Our three-day visit to the Baseball Hall of Fame has been exhilarating on both a personal and professional level. I knew my son, Justin, and I were in for a great experience, but it’s been even better than imagined. As Diehard Cubs fans (are there any other kind?!), we are almost spiritually moved to be in the hallowed halls of the Hall just months after Ron Santo finally was enshrined, and a week after Ryne Sandberg was here working on a character development project. Yesterday we sat in the Giamatti Research Library looking through the Sandberg player file before watching his Induction Speech. It was a powerful Father-Son moment and a part of a venture we will look back on with amazement and fondness, particularly because we shared it with 14 of our newest favorite students.
All of Wabash would be proud of this group of young scholars and their professor. The freshmen have exemplified all of what we emphasize in a Wabash education: Gentlemanly behavior, critical thought and research skills, engagement with teachers in and out of the classroom, and great fellowship and camaraderie. From assisting other passengers with their luggage to thanking each and every Hall employee who has helped their research, these young men have “spread the fame of Her honoured name” with their kind and thoughtful approach to others. They have been sharp and articulate students of the Hall, impressing our hosts with their knowledge, quality questions, perception, and focus. Much of this, of course, is credit to their professor, Todd McDorman, who is a bit of a rock star here. We’ve all been struck by how many people know Todd from his work and presentations on Pete Rose. He has parlayed his passion for baseball and its impact on American culture into a terrific course, a quintessential liberal arts experience, Hall of Fame papers (literally) and a most impactful immersion trip for his students. And that impact is most obvious in the cohesive bond they’ve developed in the process. Men of different living units, backgrounds, campus co-curriculars, and, yes, baseball team allegiances have gotten along well, shared pizza, laughs, and family baseball stories, and forged friendships that will undoubtedly last a lifetime.
Each student has, without provocation, asserted his great amazement and appreciation for this opportunity. They know this is a special visit to a most special place made possible by special people from another special place contributing to their educational opportunities. The best quote, of many, I’ll remember, is from Justin Green, a proud, Giants cap-wearing freshman from California’s Bay Area. “This is a place I would have always wanted to go to, but never would have. But because of Wabash, not only am I here, but I plan to bring my future family here, and, hopefully, retire to a lake house here someday”. In a place celebrating how dreams do, indeed, come true, Justin, like his classmates, has begun to dream even bigger dreams than he had when he arrived…and, due to the collapse of his professor’s favorite team, that includes a World Series championship for his Giants – if they can eliminate classmates Jerrel Taylor’s and Seth Gunderman’s Cardinals (the luckiest and mentally toughest franchise in the history of sports), and then, perhaps, classmate Brock Hammond’s Yankees.
On behalf of my grateful son, thank you to these young people, Professor McDorman, his student assistant Matt Page ’13, Dean Klein, and Mark Siegel for allowing us to share in this great experience. I am personally most appreciative of the way these Wabash men made my high school sophomore feel welcomed and part of the team. He was simply “one of the guys” and I am most impressed and thankful. I’m also certain of his #1 college choice right now and, of course, the freshman tutorial he would seek – that is, if the Cubs (or the soon-to-be Sandberg-led Phiillies) don’t sign him for big bucks first…?!
Go Cubs Go and, MUCH more obviously, Wabash Always Fights -
Our day started off bright and early around 8:30am when we met on the first floor of the hotel for breakfast. We all chatted about the MLB playoff games from the night before and gave our predictions for the upcoming games. Then after we cleaned our plates, we departed from the hotel for our second day at the Hall of Fame. To my surprise, it was pretty cold outside and it was also drizzling, but a little cold weather didn’t bother us Wabash men.
Today at the Hall of Fame, the second group of students were assigned to research in the A. Bartlett Giamatti Research Center. I was part of the second group and was excited to research my Indiana baseball player: Tommy John. In the Research Center, the librarians passed out our player’s files. Gloves were required to touch all of the documents. Yes, it was very professional. We dug through newspaper clippings, letters, and photos finding a ton of information on our players. We all had fun sharing interesting facts about our Indiana baseball player.
After researching for two hours, we headed over to the Bullpen Theater to meet with the senior director of exhibitions and collections at the Hall of Fame, Erik Strohl. He explained how exhibits are designed and the process that goes into making a new exhibit. Erik provided a wealth of information and we wished we would have had more time to speak with him. We got over that quickly as our growling stomachs told us it was time to grab some lunch. We made sure to stuff ourselves because we knew it would be some time until dinner and because that’s what college freshmen do, eat too much.
Once we rolled ourselves out of the restaurant, we walked around Cooperstown and visited many shops. It started to flurry in New York but that did not stop us Wabash Men we kept on going because Wabash Always Fights! At 3:00pm, most of us headed back to research our players some more in the Giamatti Research Center. We looked through our files one more time and after about an hour we had enough information needed for our upcoming paper.
For dinner we ate at New York Pizzeria Cooperstown and then headed back to the hotel to watch some of the MLB playoffs. I have to admit Chicago pizza is vastly superior to New York pizza. I would consider it a productive and fun Friday in Cooperstown.
My last trip to Cooperstown was twenty years ago. I took my parents here to celebrate the induction of Tom Seaver. Tom was my childhood hero who led the Miracle Mets to the World Championship in 1969. It was a pilgrimage for thousands of Mets fans from that era and a wonderful bonding experience for me with Mom and Dad. While in the library Thursday morning, I found footage of and watched Tom’s speech from that induction day. I was moved by it in ways that I was not twenty years ago. Was it because twenty years ago I was in a large crowd and several hundred feet away? Or was it connected to Seaver’s emotional tribute to his Mom. She had passed away prior to the induction. and my Mom, who was with me at the ceremony, has passed since. Perhaps it was something else that reflects how I interpret such achievements after 20 more years of life. I did have the chance to meet Tom Seaver six years ago in Cincinnati. As I get older it seems that the story of the ’69 Mets has become more special and personal to me.
Most of Friday was spent in the library research room reviewing the Sandy Koufax file. As a distant relative, I had the chance to meet Sandy a few times as child. My grandfather took me to see him by the Dodger locker room before games at Shea Stadium. Koufax was the best pitcher in baseball at the time, a Michael Jordan type of icon. I knew he failed miserably during the first half of the career but I was too young to remember. How did such a disappointing first five years turn into a Hall of Fame career so quickly? I searched the file for articles from that time-mid to late fifties. Through them I learned more about his early years that were totally irrelevant to me as a child. As I went through the oldest articles, actual clippings, I had a flashback of my grandfather often sharing his Sandy Koufax “file” with me. My grandfather was all about Sandy, who grew up in Brooklyn with the rest of the family. It wasn’t until after Koufax retired that I learned that I was related to him through my grandmother, not my grandfather. She never came to the games with us, not even on Ladies Day!
There are 231 men enshrined in the Hall of Fame, 65 are living. Quite an accomplishment considering 18,000 have played in at least one game in the Major Leagues. While I have seen two dozen actually play during my lifetime, Koufax and Seaver are special. I not only know their stories, but they are part of my story. And after this trip, even more so.
Archival research was back under way today with the second group starting the research today. I was lucky enough to be able and spend time doing research on my Hall of Fame play, Sam Rice. To give a little background about the archives, anyone can go into the library and ask to see information, photos and even videos of any player that had played a pitch in a game. Now some may not have a lot but they do have a file. It is really interesting doing the research because you are required to wear white gloves when handling any piece of information.
To share a little about my experience, when I sat down I was handed a scrap book that contained articles all the way from the 1930′s! I was mind blown to see the condition and being able to handle article that were talking about Reggie Jackson and his HOF chances and talking about his career. After I was finished with the scrap book I went diving into a folder that had to have over 500 pieces of paper. Now these papers could range from being articles about Sam Rice or something that had Sam Rice’s name in a sentence. There were also stat sheets and other records of Rice. I’d like to share a little with you about what I learned about Sam Rice, he hit .322 for his career, never hit below .294 in a season, came into the league as a pitcher and was converted to out field. The story that surround his name is the controversial catch in the 1925 world series, now there are many that say he did and did not make the catch, however he wrote a letter that was not allowed to be open until his death saying he did make the catch he had a death grip. That is a little information about what I read about Sam Rice.
My overall experience with the archives was amazing and I really wish I could have more time to research some more about other players that I am familiar with to see what I do not know about them. I will defiantly make another trip to the hall of fame and spend a lot of time in the archives, it is a great experience. Well that’s all from me I am signing off this has been a great trip and I wish I could share more.
We received the pleasure of getting to talk with Erik Strohl is the Senior Director of Exhibitions and Collections for the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Strohl was an intern at the Baseball Hall of Fame, and then attended to the Hall of the Fame program to receive a Master’s Degree in Curating. He gave us the low-down of how the exhibits are created and how the artifacts are collected. An interesting aspect of the Hall of Fame is that none of the artifacts are purchased; their owners donate the artifacts. He also explained that the exhibits themselves brainstorms, designs, and creates all of the exhibits.
Before Strohl was the Senior Director, he was a curator for the Hall of Fame. His biggest contribution to the Hall of Fame is the Hank Aaron Chasing the Dream exhibit. The exhibit obtains 50 artifacts form the Hank Aaron legacy all donated directly from Aaron himself. The exhibit exemplifies the Aaron legacy greatly both as a player and a role model, by showing his accomplishments from the uniform that was worn when he hit the 715th homerun, the two silver bats, his presidential medals, his 1957 World Series ring, or the 3 Gold Gloves. Overall Strohl allowed us to see the behind the scenes of the exhibits and what is done to create them.