I’ve gotten a number of e-mails and a lot of attention from other blogs with respect to this idea of a conference about the Mets at Hofstra University. I’m very hopeful that this can happen. Hofstra has a long history of sponsoring significant conferences, often on topics that have not received as much attention as they deserve in the academic community (e.g. the Babe Ruth conference in 1995 and the Frank Sinatra conference in 1998). Since there has been so much interest, I’m putting up a slightly condensed version of the proposal that Professor Richard Puerzer and I have submitted. I will keep everyone posted as things develop. If it happens, the conference is still a few years off, but as it approaches we will ask the Internet community for ideas about how to make it an enjoyable, interesting, and important experience for everyone.
To: The Hofstra University Cultural Center
From: Professors Dana Brand and Richard Puerzer
We are two Hofstra professors with scholarly and literary credentials in the study and appreciation of the sport of baseball. Under the auspices of the Hofstra University Cultural Center, we would like to organize and direct a conference to mark the 50th anniversary of the New York Mets, New York’s National League baseball franchise.
Like any hugely popular cultural phenomenon, baseball can be considered from many different perspectives. It is a sport with its own history, rules, requisite skills, economics, architecture, and legal parameters. It is a social phenomenon, producing an extensive culture of fandom that reflects and often determines regional identity and personality. It has had a significant impact at important moments in the history of the United States, and in the history of individual cities and regions. More than any other sport, baseball has an influence on American artistic culture, as it has always attracted the attention of distinguished writers, artists, musicians, and philosophers.
At the Hofstra Conference on The New York Mets, we would like to represent all of the different possible perspectives on baseball and we would like to bring them together so that they can communicate with each other. We would like to involve players, management, fans, journalists, broadcasters, analysts, bloggers, social historians, writers, baseball researchers, artists, and entertainers. In 1995, the Hofstra Cultural Center hosted a conference that focused on a single baseball player, Babe Ruth. This conference created a great deal of visibility for Hofstra and is still spoken of with admiration today in baseball scholarly circles. Our idea is to have a similarly wide-ranging multi-disciplinary conference that would find its focus not in the career of a single colossal ballplayer, but in the fifty-year history of one of baseball’s most popular teams. To the best of our knowledge there has never been a multi-disciplinary conference on a single baseball team. We would be breaking new ground. We would also be creating a great deal of visibility for Hofstra University and we would be contributing to the growth and the legitimacy of a rapidly developing field of study.
The Mets are an appropriate focus for a Hofstra conference of this nature for several reasons. The Mets are celebrating their 50th anniversary at some point between 2010 and 2012, depending on when you consider them to have come into existence. …Hofstra is an appropriate location for a Mets conference because it is located in the Mets heartland. All demographic studies indicate that Mets fans are in the majority in Nassau, Suffolk, and Queens counties and the team receives the allegiance of roughly half of Brooklyn’s baseball fans. … Most people who are most actively interested in the Mets live within fifty miles of the Hofstra campus. Because of the relatively short history of the Mets, most people who have been actively involved in the team are still alive. The fiftieth anniversary of the franchise will offer an unusual opportunity to have a comprehensive conference on the entire history and culture of a baseball team, including a consideration of its roots in the history of the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants. It would be impossible to have a similarly comprehensive conference on New York’s other, older franchise.
Among the sessions we would expect to see at the conference are these: The Origins of the Mets (how the team was created); The Roots and Mythology of Mets Fandom (the way in which the fan cultures of the Dodgers and Giants merged in the early sixties, why didn’t these people become Yankees fans when the National League teams left? How has their image and personality changed or remained the same over the years?); The Creation of the Image of the underdog Amazin’ Mets in the Early 1960s; The 1969 Miracle Mets Season: How it Happened, What it Meant to People, How It Survives as a Cultural Metaphor; The Mets in Subsequent Eras (sessions on the distinctive character, myths, and dynamics of such identifiable Mets eras as 1970-76, 1977-83, 1984-1990, 1991-1996, 1997-2001, 2002-2005, 2006-present); The Mets and Queens; The Mets and Long Island; The Mets and the Yankees; The Mets in Film; The Mets in Literature; The Mets on TV (“Seinfeld” and “Everybody Loves Raymond”); The Mets and the Culture and Politics of New York City; Mets Broadcasting; Mets Journalism; Famous Fans (obscure people who have become famous as Mets fans); Famous Fans (famous people who have made their Mets fandom into an important part of their persona); Integration, Cultural Diversity, and the Mets; The Mets and New York’s Latin Community; The Defining Moments in the History of the Mets; Mets Controversies; Shea Stadium; Mets Internet Forums; The Mets Blogosphere, etc. Anyone would be able to apply to make a presentation at the conference or to chair a session, but rigorous standards would be applied to make certain that all sessions were serious and intellectually substantial.
The conference organizers are sufficiently well-connected in the area of baseball research and Mets culture that we are confident that we will be able to attract many of the most distinguished authors, scholars, bloggers, and filmmakers with an interest in this subject to the conference. We are also confident of our ability to attract major Mets players of the past (this is actually not difficult to do, as we know from connections in Mets internet media) and we are hopeful that we will be able to involve players and individuals currently associated with the Mets (this is more difficult to do, but it may be possible, we will certainly make a serious effort). We are also hopeful and reasonably confident that we will be able to attract highly visible and important Mets authors, bloggers, and significant celebrity fans. …
Parallel to the conference, the organizers also plan to make use of their contacts with the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown and with the Society for American Baseball Research to arrange exhibitions at Hofstra and in other venues. We also plan to contact the Museum of the City of New York, which recently assembled an extremely successful exhibition regarding “The Glory Days of New York Baseball: 1947-57,” to see if they would be willing to have an exhibition that would run parallel to our conference.
The Hofstra Conference on the New York Mets would be a lot of fun. It would attract media attention and it would earn the respect of scholars. It could also become a groundbreaking example of the possibility of integrating diverse perspectives in the study of a significant popular cultural phenomenon. We would be very grateful if you gave us the chance to get it all together. Please let us know what you think. Thank you.
Dana Brand, Professor of English Richard Puerzer, Professor of Engineering
Dana Brand is the author of Mets Fan (McFarland, 2007), a popular and critically acclaimed collection of literary essays about the many different aspects of Brand’s involvement with the New York Mets as a fan from 1962 to 2007. He is one of the most prominent Mets bloggers (metsfanbook.com/blog) and is currently completing a forthcoming sequel to Mets Fan entitled The Last Days of Shea. Brand is a Professor of English and American Literature at Hofstra, where he has taught since 1989. From 1993-2001, he was the Chair of the English Department. He has also published a book and numerous articles on topics related to nineteenth and twentieth-century American, English, and French literature, philosophy, and film. He is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research.
Richard Puerzer is an Associate Professor of Engineering and the Chairperson of the Engineering Department at Hofstra University, where he has taught since 1996. He has researched, presented, and written on a broad array of baseball topics and his work has been published in the journals: Nine, The National Pastime, The Proceedings of the Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture, Spitball, and Fan. He presented the Spring 2003 Hofstra University Distinguished Faculty Lecture on Engineering and Baseball. He has also published work in the fields of engineering education and radio frequency identification technology applications. He is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research.