Major League Baseball Hall-of-Famer Ferguson Jenkins will deliver the luncheon address at the 15th annual Baseball in Literature and Culture Conference at 12:45 p.m. Friday, March 26, in the Tennessee Room of MTSU’s James Union Building.
Jenkins, who was enshrined at Cooperstown in 1991, compiled a 284-226 career record between 1965 and 1983 with the Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers. He won at least 20 games in each of six consecutive seasons he pitched with the Cubs from 1966 to 1972, chalking up 24 victories and the coveted National League Cy Young Award in 1971.
With the Rangers in 1975, Jenkins led the American League in victories with 25, hurled six shutouts and put 29 complete games in the books. In seven of the next eight seasons, he amassed double-digit win totals.
Jenkins is also the author of three books, the latest of which is Fergie: My Life from the Cubs to Cooperstown. He will sign books following his speech and a brief question-and-answer session in the Tennessee Room.
James Carothers, professor of English at the University of Kansas, will deliver the keynote address titled “Baseball Facts and Baseball Fictions” at 8:30 a.m. also in the Tennessee Room.
A St. Louis native who grew up admiring the Cardinals and their slugger, Stan “the Man” Musial, Carothers has taught a class titled The Literature of Baseball at Kansas since 1974. He has lectured widely on baseball, and his comments on baseball books have been included in both editions of the Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract.
The daylong conference, which is sponsored by the MTSU Department of English, will include presentations by baseball scholars on numerous topics, including “Baseball and Dating,” “Envisioning the Baseball Intellectual,” “Logic and Mysticism in the Philosophy of American Baseball,” “The Marriage of Radio and Baseball, 1930-1960,” “Jackie Robinson, Richard Nixon and the Politics of Race” and “Umpiring as Principled Negotiation?”
“The game lends itself to a lot of literary themes like coming of age, tragedy, redemption, the journey homeward, the passage of the seasons and the corresponding of the baseball game with the cycles of life,” said Professor Warren Tormey, a member of MTSU’s English faculty and conference organizer. “The game does that. We can’t take credit for that. It’s in the game, and we just try to create this forum for people to present various versions of that story.”
Dr. Pete Carino originated the conference at Indiana State University in Terre Haute in 1995. Tormey and two other MTSU professors, Drs. Ron Kates and Crosby Hunt, were regular attendees starting in 2000.
“After 10 years of service as conference organizer, Pete Carino was looking for some help,” Tormey said. “With our regular participation, it made sense to move the conference to Murfreesboro.” (The first Murfreesboro conference was in 2006.)
“We attract fiction writers, essayists, bloggers, historians, people who study media and the business of sports, literary scholars—we’ve got a nice field,” Tormey said.
Baseball players who have addressed the conference in the past include Bill “Spaceman” Lee, Denny McLain, Orestes Destrade and last year’s luncheon speaker, Jim “Mud Cat” Grant.
Registration info: Breakfast, lunch and the conference program are included in the $70 registration fee, which is payable by check or money order in advance or on the day of the conference. Advance payments should be mailed to Connie Huddleston, Baseball Conference, MTSU Box 97, 1301 E. Main St., Murfreesboro, Tenn., 37132.