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Book discussion series takes on America's favorite pastime

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In many ways, baseball can be seen as the measuring stick of American history.

The sport has been played in some iteration in this country since the late 1700s. In that time, it became so entrenched into American culture and lore that it is impossible not to observe the impact certain historical periods have had on it or how it has impacted history itself.

In that sense, it cannot be too much of a surprise that baseball is a topic in Oklahoma Humanities Council’s Let’s Talk About It, Oklahoma book discussion series.

Oklahoma City University (OCU), 2501 N. Blackwelder Ave., will host the five-part discussion series Play Ball: The American Sport Meets the American Dream in room 151 of Walker Center, located near the center of campus at NW 26th Street and Florida Avenue. The series begins 7 p.m. Jan. 12 and continues each alternate Tuesday.

Scholarly game

OCU professor Harbour Winn, director of the series, said baseball holds a special place for him. He grew up in Houston and has fond memories of the old Texas League that pitted minor league clubs in cities like Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and El Paso against each other.

“It’s the sport that is most steeped in statistics and strategies,” he said. “You know all the records of each individual player and that pitcher versus that batter. Brainwise, it’s challenging to me.”

In each of the book discussions, a scholar will present a 45-minute lecture on the book before the larger group breaks into several smaller discussion groups of seven to 10 participants. The speaker will float between the groups, hearing feedback before providing some closing thoughts at the end of the session.

The required reading is free and loaned to readers in a set by Oklahoma Humanities Council.

The selection of books for the series includes two female authors and an Oklahoma-centric book about a Choctaw baseball team: Miko Kings: An Indian Baseball Story by LeAnne Howe.

Another book in the series, The Boys of Summer by Roger Khan, focuses on Jackie Robinson and the race dynamic that existed within baseball and within his own locker room.

“These books really are about baseball, but they’re about much more than baseball,” Winn said.

While this particular series obviously has an appeal to baseball and sports enthusiasts, Winn pointed out that Let’s Talk About It, Oklahoma goes back years and has included nearly every topic under the sun.

“Most people come semester after semester,” he said. “They get hooked. I think it’s a way that people use their leisure in a fashion that keeps their mind alive rather than just parking in front of the television set or video games.”

Other books on the list include Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella, Bang the Drum Slowly by Mark Harris and Wait Till Next Year by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

Those interested in the series can register by calling Winn at 208-5472 or emailing hwinn@okcu.edu. They may also visit room 211 or 207 of OKCU’s Dulaney-Browne Library for more information.

Print headline: Sports talk, A book discussion series takes a crack at America’s national pastime.

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