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Teaching Race and Baseball

Posted on Thursday, June 05, 2014

This May, Assistant Professor of Theatre Christopher Hatch and Professor of Political Science Iva Deutchman returned to the Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture to present a paper, "Teaching Race and Baseball," based on their interdisciplinary American Studies course, "Baseball and American Culture."

"Virtually everybody who writes a book on baseball talks about race and baseball at some point," Deutchman says.

Indeed, the course began with an examination of race through Jules Tygiel's book, "Baseball's Great Experiment: Jackie Robinson and His Legacy," and continued later in the semester with Rob Ruck's book, "Raceball: How the Major Leagues Colonized the Black and Latin Game." Other course readings, while not entirely focused on the subject of race within the sport, touched on the race barrier and issues facing players of color.

Deutchman and Hatch's paper presentation is the result of classroom discussions and a series of questionnaires that throughout the semester prompted students to reflect on the issues in the sport surrounding race.

"We were interested to see if and how students' ideas about race would change or develop as a result of the course," Deutchman says of the paper. "We wanted to know what we should emphasize in the future, what we shouldn't."

"Our conclusions were that baseball can be an effective springboard for deep discussions on race in the United States," Hatch says. "The more students learned about the integration of baseball, the more they learned about the segregation of the United States. And what was particularly exciting was that the students took the knowledge about racial integration in sports and applied it to current-day discussions of LGBTQ integration in sports. Moving forward, I think these concepts of integration and segregation can be applied to topics of gender." 

Deutchman and Hatch used the results of the questionnaire to help shape the paper and the presentation alike.

"We quoted a lot from our own students, who began the course surprised at the prevalence of racism in baseball early on," says Deutchman. "When we presented, we wanted to take the audience along on the same ride as the students."

A highly selective and respected conference, the Symposium on baseball welcomed to Cooperstown experts on the sport from across the country. 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 interdisciplinary and multi-disciplinary perspectives." Topics included race, gender, film, poetry, music and more, all under the umbrella of the national pastime.

"Iva and I are hardly the first people in the country to teach a course on baseball," says Hatch, who saw the conference as an exciting opportunity to talk "with other professors about their courses on baseball and what challenges they have faced. Contrary to what some academics may believe, baseball scholarship is serious and valuable scholarship. It was great to be around like-minded people who have done exciting work in the field. In addition, I had conversations with the president of Society for American Baseball Research, museum curators, an MLB stadium architect who led the way on stadiums such as Camden Yards and the new renovations of Dodger Stadium. I can tell you one thing... the next time this course it taught there will be a lot more amazing guest speakers!"

Deutchman holds a Ph.D. and a master's degree in political science from the University of Pennsylvania, and a bachelor's degree from Hofstra University in political science and economics. She is a professor of 20 plus years who has worked on two continents (Australia and North America). She has a long list of publications in major journals, the latest of which are "Electoral Challenges of Moderate Factions: Main Streeters and Blue Dogs, 1994- 2008," The Forum, Vol. 8: Iss2, Article 2 (2010) (with DeWayne Lucas); "Five Factions, Two Parties: Caucus Membership in the House of Representatives, 1994- 2002," Congress and the Presidency, 36:62-84, 2009 (with colleague DeWayne Lucas); and "Fundamentalist Christians, Raunch Culture and Post-industrial Capitalism," Journal of Religion and Popular Culture, Summer 2008.

Hatch received his B.A. from Pennsylvania State University and his M.F.A. from the University of Missouri. Currently, Hatch is a Ph.D. candidate studying theatre history, theory and literature at Indiana University where his dissertation is on the relationships between absinthe and the theatre of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A member of Actors' Equity Association, Hatch has had extensive stage experience, acting in professional productions with companies such as the Utah Shakespearean Festival, the Indiana Repertory Theatre, Kansas City Lyric Opera and more. 

 

 


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