The 20th annual event, co-sponsored by the Hall of Fame and the State University of New York-Oneonta, will run from Tuesday through Friday with more than 60 participants discussing topics ranging from commissioners, umpires and player agents to issues regarding integration, ethnicity, gender and the handicapped.
Presentations will include observations on the careers of baseball figures as diverse as Ty Cobb, Frank Robinson, Jim Brosnan, Jim Bouton, Gene Baker, Effa Manley and Bobby Murcer.
“The goal of the program is to allow for an academic exchange of discussions about how baseball is perceived in American culture,” Hall of Fame librarian Jim Gates said. “We don’t look at baseball in the field in this program. That’s for the SABR [Society of American Baseball Research] people. This is about baseball’s connection to art, poetry, literature, architecture, theater, music and other cultural areas.”
Participants do get to experience baseball in the field at one point. An old-fashioned Town Hall Game is scheduled late Thursday afternoon at Cooper Park where the rules from the earliest form of baseball are in effect, such as one out per inning, stakes for bases and outs being achieved either by catching the ball or throwing it at a runner.
After the game, participants will be treated to a barbecue chicken dinner in the Hall’s gallery with entertainment provided by Tim Wiles, the Hall’s director of research and co-author of “Baseball Greatest Hit: The Story of Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”
Former New York Times sports columnist Ira Berkow, author of 17 books that include profiles of Hall of Famers Hank Greenberg and Casey Stengel, will deliver the keynote address Wednesday in the Grandstand Theater of the Hall. Berkow follows in a tradition of distinguished keynote speakers that includes authors George Plimpton, Isaac Asimov, W.S. Kinsella and Roger Kahn and players’ union leaders Marvin Miller and Don Fehr.
Panel discussions in the Bullpen Theater will center on themes such as the fierceness of competitors, African-American pioneers, power of commissioners, minority issues and baseball’s relationship to business, law, music, broadcasting and photography.
A featured session Wednesday night will be “Baseball and Freedom: Umpires and the Roots of Order and Freedom,” featuring commentary from Judge George Nicholson of the State of California Court of Appeals, Judge William Shubb of the United District Court, Eastern District, California, and Pacific Coast League president Branch Rickey III, among others.
“It’s a mixture,” Gates said of the participants. “There is old faculty, tenured faculty, new faculty, under-graduate and graduate students. We want to encourage the involvement of the next generation of scholars. The atmosphere is laid back with a lot of interaction. In the past, we’ve had meetings among students that have often led to the subjects of their dissertations.”
The registration fee for the full session is $165, $150 for Friends of the Hall of Fame Members and $50 for graduate and undergraduate students (with student identification cards). The fee includes continental breakfast each day, a catered picnic Thursday, refreshments, and a three-day pass to the Hall of Fame. Per diem rates are available for those unable to attend the entire symposium. (H/T MLB.com)
They have an symposium on baseball’s interaction with American culture? Who knew?