Hot topics get the short treatment

The warm June day was perfect for baseball.

College of General Studies Dean Richard Hendrix donned his Philadelphia Opera Company baseball cap to deliver a meaningful talk—“The Deeper Meanings of Baseball”—in 60 seconds, part of a series of 60-second lectures Wednesdays at noon at 37th and Locust Walk during the summer semester.

The Caribbean Authentics interrupted their island music for the lecture, and about 100 people either interrupted their progress along the walkways or sat around the fountain and tables to eat and hear the talk.

Hendrix, a pinch-hitter replacing a speaker who had bowed out, stepped up to the plate, so to speak, and declared that the meaning of baseball has to do with its acceptance of failure. Hendrix marveled at baseball’s celebration of a .333 batting average, which reflects a .666 failure; he wondered at the careful recording of errors: “There are foul balls, wild pitches, passed balls, balks, steals and the much-appreciated sacrifice,” he said. “…Baseball is about the potential for surprising success—the home run or the squeeze play, especially in a low-scoring game, or alternatively the rarity of the no-hitter—against the all-too-present expectation of failure.”

Then Hendrix doffed his opera company baseball cap for a Phillies cap, the red kind with the white P embroidered on it. “True baseball fans live in places like Boston, Chicago and, above all, Philadelphia, home of the Phillies.” The stands went wild.

The Caribbean Authentics resumed their music.

Friends Pat Pancoast, manager of operations at the Engineering School, and Ruth Hatchell from Wharton Publications finished their lunch.

Director of Summer Programs Valerie Ross (see "Staff Q&A"), who arranges the lectures, declared: “You have to have a sense of humor to be able to come out here and do this. …My goal here is to turn the campus during the summer into a small liberal arts college.”

See “What’s On” for upcoming 60-second lectures.

Originally published on July 18, 2002