Thursday, September 27, 2012

Director's College Event - Baseball Is More Than a Sports Season

On Wednesday, September 26, we kicked off the Fall 2012 season of the Director's College with a talk from Steven Wisensale, Professor of Human Development and Family Studies at the University of Connecticut.  Professor Wisensale has been teaching Family Law, Family Policy, and Comparative Family Policy at the university for the past twenty-nine years and in the spring of 2012 offered a new course: Baseball and Society.

He asked students to petition for entry into the course, and he received an unexpected 180 applications.  He accepted 60 students into the course and, through attrition, had a class size of 50 students, divided equally between male and female.

A main reason for the attrition was the amount of rigorous work required for the course.  Given its name, it's not just a class about baseball.  Throughout the semester he covers:

  • Origins of the Game - Sorting myth from fact from Cooperstown to Hoboken
  • Baseball as Business - From an amateur game to a professional sport
  • The Deadball Era- The game amidst labor conflicts and scandal
  • The Long Ball Era - Babe Ruth’s America
  • Baseball and War - From World War I to 9/11 and beyond
  • A Parallel Universe - Racism, Jim Crow laws, and the Negro Leagues
  • Addressing Racism - Jackie Robinson, Hank Greenberg, and Roberto Clemente
  • Baseball and Economics - Expansion, relocation, and the financing of ballparks
  • Labor Wars- Collective Bargaining and the Rise of Free Agency
  • Steroids, Gambling, Sabermetrics and Moneyball
  • Women and Baseball- A League of Their Own?
  • The Closet in the Locker Room - Gay athletes in a macho world
  • Baseball and Globalization - The game in Latin America and Asia
  • The Future of the Game - The pros and cons of proposed reforms

Examples he shared in last night's talk included:

...The community impact on Brooklyn and Los Angeles when the Dodgers moved from one location to the other...
...How a copy of Ebony magazine with a photo of Jackie Robinson on its cover somehow made its way to South Africa, where a young fourteen year-old boy saw the picture of a black man in a group photo with his white teammates. This revelation started a new way of thinking for this boy . . . who grew up to help overturn apartheid. We know him as Archbishop Desmond Tutu...

...How Marvin Miller, executive director of Major League Baseball in 1966, broke the reserve clause and made the way for free agency -- a move that proved the strength of collective bargaining and created the powerful baseball players union...

...How the use of economics and statistics has helped smaller market teams be competitive against the baseball giants. This applied science, known as sabermetrics, was featured in the books Moneyball and The Extra 2%...

In short, he relates the sport to the social issues of our time, giving meaning to these historical and significant events through something relatable to his students: baseball. Audience members can tell when a subject is near and dear to a speaker's heart, and this was the case with Professor Wisensale.  He is a walking encyclopedia and enthusiastic ambassador of the game, with a knowledge that transcends statistics and the history of player personnel. He appreciates the game as a true reflection of the broader issues facing our country.  He loves the game and explores its implications; in our brief introduction last night we could see that love and his true skill as a teacher shine through.

Samples of memorabilia he brought for display include a baseball hat of the Silver Bullets, the last professional women's baseball team; a baseball hat of the Brooklyn Dodgers; a baseball hat of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (located in Kansas City, MO); a baseball hat of the Pittsburgh Crawfords of the Negro Baseball League; the children's book, Teammates by Peter Golenbock, telling the story of Pee Wee Reese and Jackie Robinson; and the children's book, Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki, which tells the story of what baseball meant to children in the Japanese internment camps.

For more information on Professor Wisensale and his course, visit the UConn web site.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Director's College Event - Baseball in the College Classroom

On Wednesday, September 26, Dr. Steven Wisensale, Professor of Family Studies at the University of Connecticut, will speak at the Farmington Libraries on how he uses the game of baseball as the primary teaching tool in his new and popular course, “Baseball and Society, Politics, Economics, Race, and Gender.”

Baseball serves as a mirror of American culture over time, reflecting the nation’s strengths and weaknesses, its accomplishments and failures.  Or, in the words of Hall of Fame broadcaster Ernie Harwell, “Baseball is just a game, as simple as a ball and a bat, yet as complex as the American spirit it symbolizes. It is a sport, a business and sometimes a religion.”  In this lecture, Professor Wisensale will share how he uses the game of baseball to teach his students wide-ranging and challenging lessons on the sport’s history, cultural implications, and influence in areas ranging from race relations to public finance.

Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball.” This quote from Jacques Barzun hits at the heart of this fall season, where America’s attention will be fixed on the annual baseball play-offs as well as the emotionally-charged national Presidential election. This timely discussion is free and open to the public.

More information on Steven Wisensale can be obtained at his website:

Advance registration is required for this program. Please call 860-673-6791 for details or register through the library’s web site at The event will take place at 7:00 p.m. in the Community Room of the main library at 6 Monteith Drive.

The Farmington Library is part of the Farmington Village Green and Library Association.  If you have special needs to attend library programs, contact the library in advance.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Good Bye Hal. Hal Bright's, Director or Informatiuon Services resignation

It is with mixed emotions that I announce Hal Bright's, Director or Informatiuon Services  resignation effective September 4, 2012 to return to the West and his extended family. Hal has been a tremendous asset to us; forthright and capable in rolling out and developing new strategies and programs to benefit the libraries. It was always fun working with Hal as a partner: on Koha, the webpage, e-books, Boopsie and other projects. Hal’s special sense of humor and kindness to others is a great trait and contagious.

I shall miss Hal; however, I am gratified to know he is going where he needs to be for his family. I can only wish Hal smooth sailing and Godspeed.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


I remember September 11 2001 as vividly as yesterday, clear azure sky and an autumnal nip for punctuation. It was a beautiful day filled with anticipation and yet within a few moments everything began to unravel. The first plane seemed to be OK, just pilot error, but no, this second plane was  not an error but clearly intentional suicide and its fall-out was unmistakably about to change everything that was into everything that is not.

As I write this exactly eleven years later, I look to the clear blue and wonder how those who lost their lives and their families are today?  I hope they are healed and able to enjoy this lovely Fall day without the ghosts of the past yet, you see, I rode the train with a few who worked in Building One whom I would occasionally see from afar or give a wave. And, those ghosts are with me now and I can see them smile which gives me strength and belief in the future. I hope we will never forget and always keep those who passed with us in memorial and in spirit.