FT 012-O Baseball and American Identity
Todd McDorman, Department of Rhetoric
In the classic baseball film Field of Dreams, Terrence Mann (played by James Earl Jones) reflects, “The one constant through all the years has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past. It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again.” “Baseball and American Identity” focuses on this very issue: how baseball tells the story of America. To that end, the course underscores how “America’s Pastime” has been an integral part of the social and political fabric of the United States and a microcosm of the concerns and issues facing the country. For instance, baseball has played a vital role in times of national and international crisis. It also has provided a means for addressing and exposing sensitive social issues, including the struggles of African-Americans, immigrants, women, homosexuals, and the disabled to achieve inclusion in baseball and society at large. However, the course is not only concerned with what baseball “is” but what it has been constructed as being—how it has been held up as vital to the American experience. Central to this element of the course will be an immersion trip to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, NY. There we will see an “official” effort to construct the meaning of baseball, one that offers various articulations of public memory and promotes a sense of nostalgia for baseball and the nation. Thus through readings, films, immersion, and discussion and debate, this course will examine the role of baseball in America while considering its role in American identity, its reflection on and construction of American values, and its centrality to myths and memories of what the nation and the sport stands for. To enroll in this Freshman Tutorial, the student MUST be able to participate in the immersion trip to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum over Fall Break (October 10-13). Students will be responsible for paying for two evening meals, four lunches, and any incidental expenditures. All travel, lodging, and museum admission fees will be paid for by Wabash College. Students planning to participate in fall intercollegiate sports—football, soccer, cross country—must check with their coach before registering for this tutorial to determine how being absent for these dates will affect their position with the team. Students enrolled in this tutorial will be required to be in good standing with the Business Office before departing on the immersion trip.
McDorman, Todd F.