New class on baseball to be offered in spring semester

By Daniel Kerwin

At the American Studies Luncheon Colloquium on Wednesday, presenter Dan Gilbert’s talk took on the theme of baseball, but it won’t be the only time this year that baseball takes center stage inside the classroom. Gilbert, a Visiting Professor of American Studies, will be teaching a new American Studies course in the spring called “Baseball: The Cultural Politics of Race, Gender and Nation.” The class is listed as examining “the ways in which baseball’s players, owners, writers and fans have made the sport a central stage for the elaboration of a range of political, economic and cultural projects.”

“I wanted to teach this class because baseball, like sport in general, is such a central part of the world we live in,” Gilbert said. “Taking a critical perspective on the history and politics of sport can be a valuable way to access greater questions of race, gender, nationalism and power. And I love baseball, I love thinking about it and talking about it.”

Gilbert said that the course will explore topics such as the history of different teams and leagues, the history of scouting and talent development in Latin America, and the meanings that writers and fans have attached to pivotal moments in the sport. The course will also serve as a way into discussions of bigger questions about American spirit and culture.

Wednesday’s talk wasn’t exactly along the same lines as what will be taught in the class, focusing more on city politics than on the field issues, but served as a good first sampling of what is to come. It was titled “Seattle’s Global Mariners: Baseball’s Politics of Location, 1970-2001” and focused on the territorial politics involved in the relationship between Major League Baseball and the city of Seattle.

The talk examined the protests against the building of the Kingdome for the Mariners in the international district of Seattle, a movement largely led by the city’s Asian-American population. It then moved to topics such as the early 1990s efforts made by the MLB commissioner to prevent the sale of the Mariners to the Japanese company Nintendo, the opening of a new stadium, Safeco Field, in 1999, and the way that the Mariners have come to embrace their ties with Pacific Rim culture with the coming of Japanese superstar Ichiro Suzuki in 2001.

Gilbert completed undergraduate studies in music at Wesleyan and graduate studies at Yale in American Studies. He is currently teaching two classes this semester, including “Race, Place and Space,” and will be teaching two other courses in the spring along with the class on baseball, “Explorations of Race/Racism” and “Race and Sound”. He is also currently working on a book titled “Expanding the Strike Zone: Baseball in the Age of Free Agency.”

The baseball class will take place Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10:50 a.m. to 11:50 a.m.