Another great gathering in Cooperstown for the annual symposium. Not only did we have great speakers and great papers, we had great weather! It didn't rain (our last few town ball games have been rained out) and it wasn't too hot (my motel room was 86F overnight the year between rain outs).
Curt Smith was the keynote speaker, talking about baseball broadcasters, a lively, dramatic, feel good session.
Remembering Branch Rickey was the main plenary session, and it was wonderful. The panel consisted of people (let's say it, MEN) from colleges he was associated with including Ohio Wesleyan, Michigan Law, and Allegheny, institutions where he studied, institutions where he worked, as well as Earl Warren, Jr, Thurgood Marshall, Jr, and Ira Glasser, former director of the ACLU, and Branch Rickey, president of the Pacific Coast League, the grandson. We all know Mr. Rickey's story, creating the farm system, re-integrating major league baseball, and these panelists added depth and texture to the story. Glasser's theory of Rickey and Robinson's influence on a generation that grew up determined to contest discrimination was most interesting and thought-provoking.
Sessions I particularly enjoyed were on Baseball in the Classroom, suffragettes using baseball to advance their cause, MLB marketing to women (we like the players better if they're smiling rather than glowering in their photos on the jumbotron, how much did they pay to learn that?), arbitrators in baseball (Roger Abrams), and baseball players as popular musicians. I knew Tony C had recorded in his early too-quickly-ended career, but this presenter gave me the chance to hear him sing. (I need to dig up my Rick Cerone 45 to add to his collection.)
Barry Lyons was on hand, brought by one of the senior presenters, to talk about his major league career, surviving Hurricane Katrina, and his efforts to bring minor league baseball to Biloxi. Barry was happy to answer questions, but I noted a different sense of communication, of connection, when Dan Ardell, a Symposium regular, member of the expansion Angels, asked Barry about pitchers.
The town ball game was moved to Cooper Park, adjacent to the Hall, and while it was a fine setting, except for the trees blocking the view, it was a little disappointing as the tradition keg of beer was banned. Dinner, instead of a picnic, was in the Hall. Not just in the museum, but in the Hall itself. The Hall of Famers congregate in that very place for their induction weekend reception. Kind of cool.
Mark your calendars: next year's Symposium is June 11, 12, and 13. Friday the 13th.