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Is Baseball Too American?

Posted on Thursday, June 13, 2013

Assistant Professor of Theatre Christopher Hatch and Professor of Political Science Iva Deutchman recently attended the 25th Anniversary of the Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture, where the two presented a paper they co-wrote titled, “Too American to Remain Popular? Baseball’s Challenge with Being America’s Game.” A highly selective and respected conference, the Symposium on baseball welcomed to Cooperstown experts on the sport from across the country.

When long standing HWS faculty member Deutchman first met Hatch, who joined the HWS community in fall 2010, at a faculty dinner, the two hit it off instantly, finding common ground on the baseball diamond. Hatch, an Atlanta Braves fan and Deutchman, an avid Yankees-enthusiast, quickly realized that baseball’s fabric was deeply engrained with the social and political issues of the country that proudly calls the sport its “National Pastime.”

It is this notion that Deutchman and Hatch examined in their co-authored paper. “We compared the problems of Major League Baseball with the larger problems confronting America as a whole,” explains Deutchman. “Both the MLB and the American government are often viewed as dysfunctional – there are issues with immigration and failing economies. Both are plagued with the seeming inability to address these issues.”

The sport has seen a steady decline in viewers in recent years – likely due to a disinclination to watch something that so closely parallels the world that viewers are seeking to escape. “For instance, baseball’s fan base includes many more Hispanic people than it has in the past, so immigration is a big issue with the players and fans,” says Deutchman. “If you’re a politician running on an anti-immigration platform, where does that put you with the league and the fans? Does this affect the fans and the game itself?”

Held at the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Deutchman says that one of the most moving experiences of the conference was the scholars’ dinner in the hall where the plaques of the game’s most famous players reside.

Deutchman and Hatch will join forces once again this spring when they co-teach an American Studies course, “Baseball and American Culture.” From studying the history of the sport through lectures and texts, to its presence in movies and popular culture, the class will examine both politics and the social impact of the sport. Deutchman and Hatch anticipate taking the class to the Baseball Hall of Fame, as well as to catch a minor league game at the home of the Rochester Red Wings.

“There are so many aspects of baseball with serious impacts on our nation,” says Deutchman. “I hope that this course will get people to appreciate baseball in a different way.”

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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