Because this is the centennial of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" the song was, of course, the topic of a presentation. Timothy Johnson's Music Theory for Dummies ("Analysis of Melodic Shape") look at the song was an interactive session, opening with the audience rising to sing the National Anthem, fixing the particular musical theory Dr Johnson was addressing firmly in our own experience. There were a couple other songs we rose to sing, including TMOTTB, and someone nearby expressed exactly what I was thinking, that this session was like being at Mass. We talk about the chuch of baseball and the green cathedrals, so this made perfect sense.
There was a session with guest umpires who were with us via video tape and through a son/co-author, talking about umpiring in the Negro Leagues and the Pacific Coast League. (I got a souvenir at this session, a baseball autographed by Branch Rickey. Branch Rickey III, that is, Mr. Rickey's grandson who is president of the PCL. And who looks eerily like his grandfather more than ever.
One participant brings his primary source to the conference and lets the other participants ask what they want to know. Last year he brought a member of the 1986 Mets, who was on the DL and didn't play in the World Series. This year he brought Mario Ramos who is transitioning from being a professional athlete to civilian life. His willingness to speak with a roomful of baseball academic geeks was appreciated as was his apparent introspective take on his role in life. Another former minor leaguer present commented that Mario was much farther ahead, had a more mature outlook, than he himself had at the same age. I suggested that the two of them hold a panel presentation next year with our resident cultural anthropologist and former minor leaguer as moderator.
My favorite session, possibly of all time, was by Stephen Wood and David Pincus. These two have presented in the past and each time it's been a stand out. They've covered music (sung a few songs in the presentation) , they've covered films (I use their movie website http://www.reelbaseball.com/ as a source in my class. This time they presented photos. They're both professional photographers who like to take busman's holidays at ball park, and they've gathered a beautiful collection in a book, Baseball Revealed: A Photo Essay On The Hidden Art In America's Game. I loved this mostly visual presentation. They talked about taking pictures of things other than the action of the game, lines and angles and colors and lighting in and around ballparks that are interesting, and as I watched the images flash past I was enthralled, mostly because they were great shots, but also because they were photos I would have taken. I love the quirky things one can see at a ballpark, the dramas and comedies being played out. People who haven't attended a live professional game, a minor league game in particular, don't understand that the game, the action on the field, is only a part of the experience, and their collection highlights this.