Honors Students Present at Baseball Hall of Fame
This story is written by Honors student MP Geiss and slightly edited by Honors.
In June, four Honors students, Mira Berenbaum ’23, Caitlyn Pritchard ’23, MP Geiss ’23, and Philip Galati ‘24 presented their research at the Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball & American Culture at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Their research was influenced by the content in Professor Rick Burton’s Honors course, Baseball and American Culture course.
In-person for the first time since 2019, the Symposium featuring diverse speakers, a group dinner, and a 1840s town ball-game re-enactment. Presentation topics ranged from Jackie Robinson’s remarkable legacy to baseball patents to Babe Ruth’s infamous undergarments line.
Galati’s talk, ‘The Brooklyn Dodger Sym-Phony Band: An Exploration into the Music of Ebbets Field,’ focused on a group of rag-tag Brooklyn Dodgers fans that pioneered the intersection of music and baseball. The “musicians” were never formally trained, often using crude or homemade instruments, and were characterized by their cacophonous sound but nonetheless loveable and hilarious antics. In the most comprehensive written account of the Band to date, Galati’s presentation examined the time of the Band’s formation in the late 1930s to the Dodgers’ departure from the Big Apple in 1957. Major historical events included a “Music Appreciation Day” in 1951 and a feud with the local musicians union, to beginning the tradition of walk-up songs and the folklore surrounding umpires being welcomed to the tune “Three Blind Mice.” Galati is now working with the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum to submit a paper on the Band to the Museum’s permanent archives.
Geiss’s presentation, ‘Why Syracuse University Baseball Matters: Revisiting a Storied Program’s History 50 Years Later’, highlighted SU Baseball’s storied history 50 years after varsity baseball was cut in 1972. From 1873-1972, SU Baseball finished 3rd at the D1 College World Series in 1961, had the 2nd best record nationally in 1915, and led the NCAA in runs per game in 1968. SU also produced high-caliber pro talent: 26 former Syracuse baseball players played in the major leagues. Jim Konstanty ’39 won the NL MVP award in 1950, Dave Giusti ’61 led the NL in saves as an All-Star in 1973, & Billy Connors ’61 was the NY Yankees pitching coach When they won the World Series in 1999 and 2000. For first-hand accounts, MP worked with former players, including Newhouse Professor Herm Card ’68, SU’s last varsity baseball coach; John DeFrancisco ’68; Dr. Brian Mihalik ’70; Wood Woodridge ‘73; and relied on the Special Collections Research Center at Bird Library.
Berenbaum’s presentation, ‘America’s Pastime: Baseball and Jewish American Assimilation,’ highlighted how baseball helped early Jewish immigrants assimilate and acculturate into American society. While the Jewish population was considered a minority group in much of American society and baseball continued to ban people of color from playing professionally, the segregation within the game of baseball did not apply to Jewish players, who are often light skinned. Early players, including Lipman Pike, who was the first and most prominent early Jewish baseball player, demonstrated that players could be a part of secular society. Ultimately, the Jewish involvement in secular society led to the establishment of Reform Judaism, which is based on the fact that tradition can change and incorporate secular experiences into the religion. Players like Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax proved that members of the Jewish faith can contribute talent to baseball. Greenberg was one of the biggest supporters of the desegregation of baseball, speaking up when Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers. Today, Jewish players, coaches, and owners continue to thrive in the league.
Pritchard’s presentation, ‘The Robopocalypse: The Effects of Technological Advancements in Baseball on Umpires,’ explored how advanced technologies, such as replay reviews and the new Automated Ball-Strike system, are transforming gameplay in professional baseball leagues, specifically regarding umpires. Focusing on the two most prominent technological aspects of Major League Baseball, instant replay and “robot umpires”, her presentation examined a series of pros and cons for each and drew conclusions regarding the future of umpires in the game of baseball. Bringing in instant replay in 2008 has increased the accuracy of the game at the expense of time, with instant replay reviews adding 15 minutes to a game that averages three hours. Pritchard posits that instant replay hurts the psyche of umpires by broadcasting their mistake to everyone watching and undermining their authority. Pritchard also discussed the league’s testing of automated strike zones. While the system creates a universal strike zone across the league and limits the fighting between coaches, players, and umpires, she argues that the humanity of the game will be lost. Human umpires have been a part of the game of baseball since it was created, bringing in robots takes away an integral part of the game. Currently, Pritchard is working with the editors of NINE: A Journal of Baseball History and Culture to potentially publish her paper.
Junior Aaron Mooney ’24, who conducted research on how MLB can work to increase its appeal to younger generation fans, was also invited to present but could not attend due to work conflicts.