September 23, 2004

Former Baseball Commissioner Delivers Lecture

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The Stephen ’58 and Evalyn Milman ’60 Lecture in American Culture and Baseball was delivered yesterday by Fay Vincent, the eighth commissioner of Major League Baseball to a full Hollis E. Cornell Auditorium.

The lecture, entitled “The Baseball Mystery: Why is it so Special?” outlined the reasons that baseball has captured the minds of Americans over the years.

“We asked Vincent to deliver a lecture … because of his importance in the administrative history of baseball but also because he is an articulate, thoughtful man,” stated Prof. Larry Moore, American studies, in a press release.

Vincent became commissioner following the death of A. Bartlett Giamatti in 1989 and served until his resignation in 1992.

At the start of the talk, Vincent explained that his lectures are usually composed of stories from his years involved with baseball. However, he explained, he thought that Cornell students and faculty were looking for a more serious discussion. As a result, he said that he would “split himself in two.”

During the lecture, Vincent spoke about his various encounters with hall-of-famers, namely Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio and Yogi Berra.

In one story, he said that while attending a funeral, he heard Berra say, “I would come to your funeral so you would come to mine.”

Vincent spoke about the introduction of African-American players such as Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby into the Major Leagues. He said that the step taken by the commissioner of baseball at the time, allowing African-Americans to play the United States, was an extremely important step in baseball as well as U.S. history.

Later, Vincent likened baseball to life in general.

“They don’t call it fourth base, they call it home,” he said. He explained that a trip around the bases is like a long journey and that when one gets home, the team greets them, as their family would.

He also said that baseball is a game of numbers.

“Baseball is a game of threes and fours.” Vincent said. “The threes are all bad and the fours are all good.”

“If you get three strikes, you’re out. Bad. If you get three outs, you’re done. Bad. If you get four balls, you get a free pass to first base. Good. If you get to the fourth base, home, you count, you score. Good,” he said.

Audience members enjoyed the inside look at the baseball industry.

“I liked the Yogi Berra story,” said Daniel Schudroff ’05, “I also appreciate his position on Pete Rose in light of the new movie coming out.”

Archived article by Eric Finkelstein
Sun News Editor