In the interdisciplinary course, “Baseball and American Culture,” students encounter the perhaps unlikely amalgam of politics, theatre, baseball and the cultural landscape of the United States — but then again, says Professor of Political Science Iva Deutchman, “Baseball is drama, politics is drama — it’s all American culture at large. Baseball, and what it has come to symbolize, is pretty darn important in terms of American culture.”
Taught within the American Studies program, “Baseball and American Culture” is the brainchild of Deutchman and Assistant Professor of Theatre Chris Hatch, whose friendship, like the course, evolved out of a mutual love of the national pastime.
Deutchman and Hatch met at a faculty dinner, where they talked baseball, and over the next year and a half, they crafted a course, premiering this semester, that explores the many points of intersection between baseball and the cultural and social mores of the United States.
Hatch admits that, “at first glance, it is a tad baffling to see a Theatre professor and a Political Science professor teaching a course on baseball. Yet baseball is a sport that seems to permeate many disciplines. So while I may be coming from Theatre and Iva may be coming from Political Science, those are only starting places that, along with our love for baseball, sparked our curiosity. We do talk politics and we will discuss a play or two in class but we also talk about race relations, drug use, religion, memorabilia, what it is to be a fan, economics, statistics. To know baseball is to know things about a huge variety of topics.”
In the midst of this rigorous in-class coursework, students have the opportunity to engage firsthand with the past, present and future of the sport, in part thanks to Geneva’s convenient location.
Last spring, Deutchman, Hatch and their class have attended a baseball game in Rochester between the Triple-A teams, the Rochester Red Wings and the Pawtucket Red Sox, the subjects of one of the course’s books.
Written by author Dan Barry, “The Bottom of the 33rd: Hope, Redemption and Baseball’s Longest Game” chronicles a 33-inning ballgame between the Wings and the Sox that spanned a Saturday night into the next morning, Easter Sunday, in April of 1981.
Barry, a New York Times columnist, joined the class, alums and other members of the HWS community to watch this year’s rematch between the two teams and discuss his work.
Students taking “Baseball and American Culture” also had the chance to travel to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Both events were made possible thanks to support from the Office of Student Affairs.