Study Hall

Museum hosts the Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture this week

June 01, 2010
Paul Dickson was the 2009 Keynote Speaker at the Cooperstown Symposium. (Milo Stewart Jr./National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)

America’s National Pastime gets examined through a number of different prisms this week.

Approximately 120 people from throughout the country will converge on the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum for three days, beginning on Wednesday, June 2, to attend the annual Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture.

Co-sponsored by the State University of New York College at Oneonta and the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, the symposium examines the impact of baseball on American culture from inter- and multi-disciplinary perspectives.

The 22nd edition, with programs to be held in the institution’s Grandstand Theater, Bullpen Theater and Education Gallery, features more than 50 presenters on such wide-ranging topics as women in baseball literature, baseball and World War I, an economic analysis of the designated hitter rule, and the managerial career of Hall of Famer Larry Doby.

Hall of Fame Librarian Jim Gates, a co-coordinator of the event, said he is looking at 2010 as a continuation of the high quality participants have come to expect over the years.

“We have some incredible people coming here from a variety of disciplines and they bring with them a special dimension,” Gates said. “We have become a symposium that welcomes new people, whether it is academics, graduate students or women, which add a tremendous vitality. And I think this is reflected in the quality of the presentations.

“We have built up a great history and that history continues and goes forward,” he added. “What this all adds up to, I hope, is the country’s preeminent academic baseball conference.”

The Cooperstown Symposium has an impressive list of past keynote speakers, and this year is no exception. Claire Smith, currently a news editor at ESPN who covered baseball for 27 years at the Hartford Courant, the New York Times and the Philadelphia Inquirer, becomes the first woman accorded the honor of kicking off the festivities at 1 p.m. on Wednesday with her talk titled “Race and Gender: Perspectives from the Press Box.”

“We’ve always had a number of women participate, so this year we couldn’t be happier to have Claire Smith agree to be our keynote speaker,” Gates said. “We’ve been extremely lucky to have an all-star roster of past keynote speakers, a real Murderers’ Row, and Claire Smith fits right in.”

Past keynote speakers include: James Vlasich and Marty Appel, 1989; Harold Seymour and David Voigt, 1990; Peter Levine, 1991;Stephen Jay Gould, 1992; Donald Fehr, 1993; Ken Burns, 1994; Leonard Koppett, 1995; W.P. Kinsella, 1996; Jules Tygiel, 1997; G. Edward White, 1998; Eliot Asinof, 1999; Roger Kahn, 2000; George Plimpton, 2001; Charles Alexander, 2002; Josh Prager, 2003; Marvin Miller, 2004; Jonathan Eig, 2005; Stanley Glenn and Mahlon Duckett, 2006; Curt Smith, 2007; Ira Berkow, 2008; Paul Dickson, 2009.

Paul Dickson, the 2009 keynote speaker and author of The Dickson Baseball Dictionary, said last year the event was absolutely beyond his expectations.

“There’s a great sense of camaraderie here,” Dickson said. “As a non-scholar, as a straight-up writer, I go to some scholarly events and you are always considered the outsider, but here it’s just the opposite. They don’t check your PhD at the door to make sure you’re part of the club. It’s a very welcoming, wonderful environment.

“Coming in I thought it would be a little dryer. I didn’t realize there was going to be such vitality and spirit.”

Registrations will be accepted onsite during the Symposium in the Library Atrium. A full schedule of Symposium events and presentations is available on-line here.

Bill Francis is a library associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum