Contact: Craig D'Ooge (202) 707-9189

March 17, 1995

Folklorist To Present Lecture on Baseball

The American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress will present an illustrated lecture entitled, "Of Heroes and Ballparks, Real and Imagined: A Folklorist's View of Baseball," on Thursday, March 23, at noon in the Mumford Room, sixth floor, Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E. No tickets are required. The lecture will be presented by Charles Camp, State Folklorist, Maryland State Arts Council. In addition, Greg Schwalenberg, curator of the Babe Ruth Museum in Baltimore, will discuss the importance of baseball in American culture.

Mr. Camp has written, "Beneath baseball's surface is a world of belief and custom that connects the people on the fields with the people in the seats. In a famous line most frequently (and incorrectly) attributed to Casey Stengel or Yogi Berra (two of baseball's better-know malapropists), journeyman outfielder Jim Wohlford said, 'Ninety percent of the game is half mental.' The 'mental' part of baseball unites those who play and those who watch the game in a continuing attempt to bend laws of physics and probability by the application of optimism and willpower. The famous (and historically disputed) home run that Babe Ruth "called" by pointing to the outfield or Carlton Fisk's 1975 World Series home run, "pushed" by force of his waving arms just inside the Fenway foul pole, are oft-cited examples of baseball's common culture.

Adherence to habits such as eating a lucky pregame meal (a la "Cakes" Palmer), dressing and warming up in an unchanging routine, or borrowing a teammate's "hot" bat represent players' attempts to exert personal control over uncontrollable and unpredictable forces.

The fans who invest private hopes in the players' public contests acknowledge (and occasionally emulate) these practices. In their way, the fans also have a stake in the game, and may follow game-day practices of their own, wearing "lucky clothes," or joining fellow-fans in moments of silent concentration when a game is on the line.

In these and other ways, baseball weaves together memories and aspirations, thoughts and actions, players and fans, and thereby gains an importance that seems at once absurdly overblown and spiritually essential. Therein lies the tale, as writer Thomas Boswell has observed, of how 'life imitates the World Series.'"

Interpreting services (American Sign Language, Contact Signing, Oral and Tactile) will be provided if requested five business days in advance of the event. Call (202) 707-6362 TTY and voice to make a specific request. For other ADA accommodations please contact the Disability Employment Program office at (202) 707-9948 TTY and (202) 707-7544 voice.

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PR 95-033
3/9/95
ISSN 0731-3527

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