Results tagged ‘ Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture ’

Worth watching

Francis_90.jpgBy Bill Francis

A familiar face from PBS’s popular show Antiques Roadshow for 14 years made a non-televised but nonetheless enlightening appearance at the 22nd annual Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture this week.

Leila “Lee” Dunbar can often be seen appraising sports memorabilia on the long-running television show – she has provided more than 2,000 verbal appraisals on more than 50 segments – but Thursday afternoon in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s Bullpen Theater she presented a talk titled “Stories in Hand – Baseball History Told Through its Memorabilia.” Before a full house, Dunbar talked of her life and the road she traveled to become a professional appraiser of pop culture memorabilia, including sports. Interspersed was the detective work often involved as well as stories of intriguing baseball items she has been involved with over the years.

06-04-10-Francis_Dunbar.jpg“The Cooperstown Symposium is great because it gives a lot of different viewpoints, a lot of different nuances of history, a lot of stories that you don’t get to hear in the mainstream,” Dunbar said after her presentation. “One of the things about baseball is that no matter how much you know, there’s a lot more that you don’t know. And I’ve learned so much just in a day. It’s been just fantastic, and you meet a great group of people.

“People with different viewpoints is fantastic because in my world, normally, I’m either meeting people who have items, so they are what I would call ‘civilians,’ or I know other appraisers, and we discuss things from a slightly different point of view,” she added. “So the people that I meet here are not looking at this as a business, they’re looking at it as a purely historical exercise of deepening knowledge and understanding and I appreciate that, I appreciate that passion.”

Besides her work on TV, Dunbar’s company, Leila Dunbar LLC, provides all types of written appraisals for insurance, donation, estate tax, divorce, etc. Prior to opening her own business in July 2008, she served as senior vice president and director of Sotheby’s Collectibles department.

“One of the great things about the Symposium is that it has scholars, it has journalists, it has curators, and it has collectors. Me as an appraiser and having been in the business of actually buying and selling memorabilia, auctioning memorabilia, I look at objects in a variety of ways,” Dunbar said. “One, I look at is what’s the price, what’s the value? Be it a replacement value, be it value for estate tax or donation. So I have to think in that regard. But the only way you can get to that number is to do many of the same things that the others do, which is to do your research and then be able to think quantitatively about that research.”

According to Dunbar, she had very little choice when it came to her affection for the national pastime. While admitting to loving all sports, baseball’s her favorite because it’s what she grew up while being exposed to the most intense rivalry in the game.

“I was very lucky. I grew up with a love a baseball on both sides of my family,” she said. “My grandfather is an Episcopalian minister in New York who had tickets to Ebbets Field, the Polo Grounds and Yankee Stadium and idolized all the Yankees. And my mother, a big baseball fan, was actually a member of the knothole gang for the Boston Braves, and to this day I have all these aunts in their 70s, 80s and 90s who all watch, curse or cheer on the Red Sox depending on how well they’re doing.”

As for the institution that was hosting the Symposium, Dunbar had only high praise.

“I think the Baseball Hall of Fame is the ultimate repository of baseball memorabilia, and one that’s able to continually play a role in deepening the understanding of baseball and its history.”

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

Glove of the game

Carr_90.jpg

By Samantha Carr

While walking through the Museum, I often catch a glimpse of some of the early 19th century baseball gloves on display and find it hard to imagine playing baseball with something that looks like a gardening glove.

But how about a cardboard box?

06-03-10_Carr-Orioles.jpg

That was what sparked the Oriole Advocates, Inc. community service organization to begin the ‘Cardboard to Leather’ program that collects new and used baseball equipment and sends it to youth players in impoverished nations.

“We collect stuff all year long at the ballpark and our minor league parks and give it to kids in Venezuela and Nicaragua,” said Bob Harden, committee chairman of ‘C2L’ and volunteer for the Advocates. “It is our biggest program. It is not unusual for kids in these countries to be playing with cardboard gloves or broom sticks and tree branches for bats.”

Harden and past Advocates president John Ross visited Cooperstown on Wednesday for the 2010 Annual Symposium on Baseball and American Culture. During their visit they also took a moment to present Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson with a pin commemorating the organization’s 50th anniversary.

Established in 1960, the Oriole Advocates work “as an organization of volunteers joined together to promote and stimulate an interesting baseball at all levels, among youths of all ages.” Over 75 volunteers make up the non-profit group and foundation in cooperation with the city of Baltimore and the Baltimore Orioles Baseball Club, Inc.

In 2008, Harden and his wife accompanied a shipment of bats, balls, cleats, uniforms, catcher’s equipment, etc. to Nicaragua and got a chance to see the country’s passion for baseball.

 
06-03-10-Carr_Cardboard.jpg“It is unbelievable the impact it has upon people,” said Harden. “You really have to see it for yourself. We stopped on the side of the road where we saw a bunch of kids playing a game and threw them a brand new ball. They had never seen a brand new baseball before. They all took turns smelling it and passed it around.”

Besides the ‘C2L’ program, the Oriole Advocates serve as the right arm to the Orioles’ Public Relations, Community Relations and Marketing departments, helping with promotional giveaways, have established the “Hit, Run & Fun League” for Baltimore city youth, sponsor the Champions League for physically and mentally challenged children, participate in food drives for local food banks with players’ wives and established the Orioles Hall of Fame along with a number of other charitable activities.

“In these Latin countries, baseball is not just a game for the kids – it is a way out,” Harden said. “And it is the way they teach values to their children.”

Samantha Carr is the manager of web and digital media at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Breaking barriers

Francis_90.jpgBy Bill Francis

Claire Smith is accustomed to working outside the status quo, so being the first female keynote speaker in the 22 years of the annual Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture is par for the course.

Held at the different venues at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, the three-day event kicked off Wednesday afternoon with Smith’s keynote, titled “Race and Gender: Perspectives from the Press Box.” Smith is not only a female in a male- dominated field, but she’s also African-American.

06-02-10-Francis_Smith.jpgCurrently a news editor at ESPN who covered baseball for 27 years at the Hartford Courant, the New York Times and the Philadelphia Inquirer, Smith offered a unique perspective on the trails and tribulations she had to endure as a woman and a minority in her chosen field.

Honored for her writing numerous times over the years, Smith, a longstanding member of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, admits that “being a woman and being African-American in the field of baseball writing remain somewhat unique and far too unusual in this day and age.”

Smith talked about being drawn to the field because of her mother’s love of Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson, who faced hardships as he crossed the big league color line in 1947.

“I knew of his story from the moment I could walk and talk, I think, because my mother, more so than my father, was a Jackie Robinson fan,” Smith said. “America was always represented as what is possible. She passed that on to me.

“I wanted to know as much as I could about sports. The older I got the more I wanted to know. I was able to dovetail this interest that never made me want to think about anything other than baseball.”

Smith would late joke about another Hall of Famer: “As Yogi Berra would say, Jackie (Robinson) –  thanks for making this necessary.”

Encouraged by her mother’s love of Jackie Robinson (her father was a Willie Mays fan), Smith has always bled Dodger blue. So it should come as no surprise when visiting the Hall of Fame Plaque Gallery prior to her speech she made sure to check out the bronze likenesses of Robinson and Sandy Koufax.

Moving on to gender, Smith said that’s always been the more intriguing and difficult aspect of her life in baseball.

“It’s safe to say by the time I started covering baseball it wasn’t politically correct to show any kind of prejudice in terms of race in major league clubhouses,’ Smith said. “Not so much to show prejudice against women. It happened early, it happened often.”

Often the only women in a baseball clubhouse, Smith called it “tough, it really was tough.”

“I don’t believe there is a female writer of my generation who didn’t have a tale to tell that wouldn’t bring another female writer to tears because it was a very vulnerable place to be,” Smith added. “And often your male peers were so busy doing their job that they couldn’t interrupt their jobs and come to your aid.”

Smith then recalled her defining moment, her “tipping point,” came in the 1984 National League Championship Series between the Chicago Cubs and San Diego Padres when she was physically removed by players from the Padres clubhouse after Game One. While the situation was eventually resolved, thanks to Baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth, it left scars for a number of years.

But despite the hardships Smith suffered due only to the profession she chose, she told those in attendance to encourage their students, daughters, nieces and granddaughters to pursue sports writing as a career. Not only are there numerous opportunities with the Internet, but also it can be a very rewarding.

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

Answer men

Carr_90.jpgBy Samantha Carr

If you ever had a baseball trivia question you couldn’t solve, I know one room where you certainly could have found the answer.

Fifty-five researchers filled the Bullpen Theater on Saturday for the Society of American Baseball Research’s second annual 19th century baseball research conference held at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

04-19-10-Carr_SABR.jpg“It is rare to have so many great researchers in one place – and the Hall of Fame is about the only place where they might all come together,” said Tim Wiles, director of research for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

This year’s conference was named after the late Frederick Ivor-Campbell, a noted researcher on 19th century baseball, who was killed in an automobile accident last year.

“Fred was a spectacular researcher, an exceptionally giving individual, and the kindest and most thoughtful man one could imagine,” said Tom Shieber, senior curator at the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The keynote speaker of this year’s event was Peter Morris, a leading baseball researcher who was recently awarded the inaugural Henry Chadwick Award by the SABR for invaluable contributions to making baseball the game that links America’s present with its past.

The author of several books, Morris’ “Game of Inches: The Stories Behind the innovations that Shaped the Game” was the only book to win both the Casey Award and the Seymour Medal as the best baseball book of the year in 2006. Morris’ keynote address was entitled: “Who Could Play?:  Inclusiveness and Exclusiveness in 19th Century Baseball.”

04-19-10-Carr_Tour.jpgFollowing the speech, John Thorn – himself the author of several baseball books and influential editor of the classic “Total Baseball” – moderated a panel discussion called “Was Base Ball Really Baseball: Where & How Does the Old Game Survive?” about the newest findings of baseball’s roots and origins with researchers David Block, Richard Hershberger, Larry McCray and David Nemec.

In the afternoon, baseball scholar Tom Altherr, frequently a presenter at the annual Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture – held at the Hall of Fame each year during the first week in June – gave a presentation on baseball as played among slaves in the nineteenth century.

“As a longtime baseball researcher and SABR member, I’m thrilled to be participating in SABR’s Frederick Ivor-Campbell 19th Century Base Ball Conference,” said the Hall’s Tom Shieber.

Shieber presented artifacts from the famous World Tour of 1888-89 taken by Albert Spalding’s Chicago White Stockings.

“It was a pleasure to meet up with the top baseball researchers who have devoted so much of their time and effort to broadening our understanding of baseball’s early days.”

Samantha Carr is the manager of web and digital media at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

A passion for the game

Francis_90.jpgBy Bill Francis

They came because of their love of baseball; they left with an enriched knowledge of the game.

More than 160 people from throughout the country converged on the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum from June 3-5 to attend the annual Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture. The 21st edition, with programs held in the Museum’s Grandstand Theater, Bullpen Theater and Education Gallery, featured more than 60 presenters on such wide-ranging topics as baseball in literature, baseball iconography, Babe Ruth and baseball in American dance.

6-8-09-Francis_Symposium.jpgHall of Fame Librarian Jim Gates, a co-coordinator of the event, said the total of this year’s attendees, who traveled from as far as Australia and Hawaii, surpassed the previous high watermark by approximately two dozen participants.

While most of the participants came from the world of academia, there were also two judges, a dentist, former big league first baseman Dan Ardell — who played seven games for the 1961 Los Angeles Angels — and Hugh Hewitt, who broadcast his nationally syndicated radio show from the from the Hall of Fame Library Atrium for two nights.

According to the Symposium’s other co-coordinator, Bill Simons, a history professor at the SUNY College at Oneonta who has participated in all 21 Symposium’s, this year’s was the best quality.

“We have some incredible people here from a variety of disciplines, and there’s a special dimension that you feel,” Simons said. “We have become a Symposium that welcomes new people, whether it is graduate students or women, which add a tremendous vitality. 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. “This is the preeminent academic baseball conference.”

Keynote speaker Paul Dickson, who was at his first Symposium, opened the conference by talking about his work on the recently re-released Dickson Baseball Dictionary.

“It’s just been absolutely beyond my expectations,” said Dickson, who has published 55 books, including eight on baseball, and is currently working on a biography of Hall of Fame owner Bill Veeck. “There’s a great sense of camaraderie here. 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 Ph.D. 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. And I thought the panel on Curt Flood and anti-trust on Thursday was the level of an Oxford debate.”

On Friday, as his three long days were coming to an end, Gates half-jokingly said he came up with an advertising slogan Thursday night: “This is the ultimate baseball geekfest.”

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, examines the impact of baseball on American culture from inter- and multi-disciplinary perspectives.

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

Culture Clubs

Francis_90.jpgBy Bill Francis

If baseball and cricket aren’t brothers, they are probably distant cousins. And sometimes visiting relatives, when they get together, are not always readily accepted.

Such was the point made by Beth Hise, a guest curator for the Marylebone Cricket Club Museum in London, England, during a presentation on Wednesday afternoon in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s Education Gallery. Hise’s work, entitled The Crowd Began to Shout “Atta Boy” With a Lancashire Accent: The English Response to Baseball Exhibition Games in the Early 20th Century, was one of many presentations that took place on the first day of the annual Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture.

6-6-09-Francis_Wright.jpgHise, who lives in Australia but was raised in Cleveland as an Indians fan, is currently working on an exhibit on cricket and baseball. She combined her appearance at the Symposium with her continuing research at the Hall of Fame.

“Today’s talk was looking in detail at one small element of the exhibition, which is the spreading of the two games,” said Hise. “Cricket spread internationally very strongly through the British Empire, where they weren’t imposing a foreign game; they were imposing an entirely foreign system. And the game came as part of it.

“Where baseball is very different is that baseball tried to missionize and send out teams around the world but they sent out two star-studded teams to play each other,” she added, referring to exhibition games held throughout Europe by the Chicago White Sox and New York Giants in both 1913-14 and 1924. “My talk looked at the reception of those two tours in the early 20th Century and how England, in particular, received those tours.”

According to Hise, England saw in those tours something that was outside of anything that they would have anything to do with.

“It was great spectacle, thousands showed up for the matches, they were watched by royalty, but what I did was I looked at the press response,” she said. “I found a lot of different things that the reporters wrote about – very humorous, very good natured, very much enjoying the spectacle, enjoying what they learned about Americans but keeping it all pretty much at arm’s length.”

Hise added the Major League Baseball International is now promoting the fact that our national pastime isn’t strictly an American game but can be adopted for each country’s own needs and have it reflect what they want it to.

“But in the early 20th Century it was really brought over to England as an American export and very much enjoyed in a very strongly American, patriotic sense.”

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, runs through Friday. Each year, the event brings baseball scholars from throughout the country together to examine the impact of baseball on American culture from inter- and multi-disciplinary perspectives.

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

21st Annual Cooperstown Symposium Begins Wednesday

6-1-09-Carr_Hall.jpgCarr_90.jpgBy Samantha Carr

Twenty-one years strong and bigger than ever before.

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, begins Wednesday morning in Cooperstown. Each year, the event brings baseball scholars from throughout the country together to examine the impact of baseball on American culture from inter- and multi-disciplinary perspectives. 

6-1-09-Carr_Dickson Mug.jpg“This year we have more speakers than ever before and it will last from Wednesday morning until Friday evening,” said Jim Gates, the Hall of Fame’s librarian. “We have a wide range of subject listings, and I’m looking forward to it.”

This year’s event will feature keynote speaker Paul Dickson, author of The Dickson Baseball Dictionary, The UnWritten Rules of Baseball, The Joy of Keeping Score and many other baseball titles. Dickson will be speaking about his work on the historical lexicography of baseball terms and expressions.

The Symposium will feature discussions on everything from baseball and the law to monuments and memorials to music and poetry. It will conclude Friday evening with a screening of Diamond in the Dunes: Hope and Baseball in China’s Wild West, a work-in-progress documentary.

Samantha Carr is the media relations coordinator at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

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