April 7, 2008

For the love of the game

By Nancy George
SMU Public Affairs

The Texas Rangers' home opener is this week, and so it is appropriate that the SMU Press has just published a collection of stories on baseball and SMU's DeGolyer Library is launching an exhibit for fans of America's favorite pastime.

Paul Rogers
(See some of the items in the exhibit.)

As an 11-year-old boy in Casper, Wyoming, Paul Rogers played shortstop and pitcher for a Little League baseball team and rooted for a faraway professional ball team – the Philadelphia Phillies.

“To me, that team was on another planet,” says Rogers, a member of the Dedman School of Law faculty since 1980 and dean from 1989 to 1997.

His distant heroes became real to him one day when a personal letter arrived from Phillies pitcher Robin Roberts encouraging him in his baseball career. Rogers’ Philadelphia grandfather had initiated the letter.

The letter is part of Rogers’ extensive baseball collection, which will be displayed with DeGolyer Library’s upcoming exhibit “The Old Ballgame: Baseball in American Life,” April 17-June 30. The exhibit also will include baseball books and photographs from sportswriter Blackie Sherrod’s collection at DeGolyer.

In addition to the exhibit, The SMU Press has just published the latest in its series of baseball books, Anatomy of Baseball, a collection of essays by writers such as Roger Angell, Frank Deford, Katherine Powers and Stefan Fatsis, with a forward by Yogi Berra.

Read an excerpt by Fatsis, a longtime baseball fan and sports business writer for The Wall Street Journal, or hear him talk about the essay on National Public radio.

Related Links:
 • Order the book
 • April 17 panel discussion

"Baseball to me is the greatest game," Baseball Hall of Fame member Yogi Berra writes in the forward to Anatomy of Baseball. "It's loved and played and watched all over the world.  Whenever people ask what I would've done without baseball, I don't know. I played it because it wasn't work, but I worked at it because I loved to play."

DeGolyer also will sponsor a panel discussion on the exhibit on April 17, featuring baseball greats Bobby Brown, Jerry Coleman, and Eddie Robinson, with Rogers as the moderator.

Although Berra dropped out of school in the 8th grade and later played for the New York Yankees, Rogers gave up his baseball aspirations to pursue a distinguished career as an antitrust lawyer and scholar in Philadelphia and Dallas. Rogers never lost his love of baseball – becoming a baseball historian, author and collector.

“Baseball is a complex game with many nuances,” Rogers said. “The geometry of the game is spectacular. I love the sound of the bat hitting the ball and I still get heart palpitations when I step into a ballpark and see the green field.”

Rogers met Robin Roberts in 1992 at a baseball old-timers exhibition game. The two became friends and soon agreed to collaborate on The Whiz Kids and the 1950 Pennant (Temple University Press, 1997) about the legendary Phillies team that beat all odds to take on the New York Yankees in the 1950 World Series. Then age 23, Roberts was a Phillies starting pitcher. The two later collaborated on another book My Life in Baseball (Triumph Books, 2003).

Rogers’ interest in baseball history drives his collection. He collects baseball cards, World Series and All-Star programs, historic photographs, autographed photographs, gloves, press pins, pennants and original baseball art.

His extensive baseball library includes one of his favorite items, The Hungry Hurler (Grosset & Dunlap, 1965 ), the hard-to-find final volume of the 23-book Chip Hilton sports series.

“I found it at an antique mall in Kalispell, Montana,” he says. “I felt a little guilty about buying an $800 book for $4, but not guilty enough to leave it for someone else.”

Rogers also is author with Bill Werber of Memories of a Ballplayer: Bill Werber and Baseball in the 1930s (SABR, 2001) and is editor of the SMU Press book series, Sport in American Life. In addition, he has served as president of the Dallas chapter of the American Society for Baseball Research since 2000 and chairs the Larry Ritter Book Award Committee, which selects the best baseball book each year that focuses on the Deadball Era from 1900 to 1920.

“My baseball collaborations have been a labor of love,” he says. “The stories are the part of baseball I like best.”

# # #