New Speaker Series Explores Turning Points in History

Rebecca A. Eckland
turning Points in history speaker series

The Turning Points in History Speakers Series will showcase TMCC faculty's expertise in their fields.

If you had to pick one thing that changed the course of history, what would it be? In the Turning Points of History Speakers Series, debuting this semester, four TMCC faculty are tasked to do exactly that. The event, which will happen mid-month each month this Spring, offers audiences four possible answers to what past event, person, institution, time period (or anything, really) continues to influence us today.

Each presentation will last for an hour, and will be held in Sierra 108 on the Dandini campus. “I came up with the idea for the series last semester,” said series organizer Joseph Domitrovich, a part-time faculty member in the History and Humanities Departments. “I wanted to give faculty a chance to showcase their expertise and offer students insight into history. I hope they will hear something that sparks their interest.”

Domitrovich’s Turning Point: Baseball

The first event in the series, which is happening on Feb. 20 at 12:30–1:45 p.m. in Sierra 108, will feature Domitrovich whose presentation will make the case that baseball—yes, as in baseball the sport—represents a major turning point in history. The timing, Domitrovich claims, is perfect. “It’s the start of spring training,” he explained.

Those who aren’t fans may be skeptical; but Domitrovich promises his search for the sport’s relevance will not be confined by the familiar baseball diamond. “We’re going to go back to the 1330s in France where monks and nuns enjoyed playing a game with a bat and a ball.” Domitrovich’s claim is that baseball was a turning point in history not so much for the game itself, but for the various unexpected, subtle and surprising ways it has saturated our culture.

“How many poems do you know about football or about soccer?” he asked. “Or, if you’re not into poetry: how many songs do you know about a sport? I bet everybody knows one about baseball.” He’s referencing, of course, the 1908 Tin Pan Alley song Take Me Out to the Ball Game that became the unofficial anthem of the game and that has been since recorded and covered countless times.

Domitrovich strings together other associations that locate baseball much closer to our everyday lives than the typical stadium. Ever hear—or use—the idioms: “That came out of left field” or “Take a raincheck”? Both are derived from the game. Popular culture, too, is teeming with references to the sport, everything from Abbott and Costello’s Who’s on First? to major motion pictures like Field of Dreams, The Sandlot, 42 and A League of Their Own, which became famous for Tom Hanks and his iconic line: “There’s no crying in baseball.”

“Baseball is inclusive,” Domitrovich said, citing its inclusion of African American players as impetus for the Civil Rights movement. The sport, at one time, also included a women’s league. “Even though basketball is technically the true American sport,” said Domitrovich, “baseball is the national pastime.”

Why a Speakers Series?

Unlike a class, these presentations are designed to be entertaining. “I want to give students a break from their classes,” Domitrovich said. “I want them to experience something different, and to see how academic study of a subject can be fun and exciting.”

Domitrovich, who has taught for 49 years, claims that he’s never worked a day in his life. His love of the classroom is only matched by his dedication to students who, he says are as smart and curious as ever. He is offering extra credit to the students in his classes who attend each event in the series, and hopes that other academic faculty will, too.

“Events like this are important,” he said. "We don’t do enough of this anymore.” And for skeptics who say studying history is like looking in the rearview mirror? Domitrovich cites former Librarian of Congress David Boorstin, who said: “Trying to plan for the future without knowing the past is like trying to plant cut flowers.”

Future Turning Points in History Series Events:

  • Wednesday, March 27: Wade Hampton, “The Roosevelts as a Turning Point in History” 
  • Wednesday, April 10: Thomas Cardoza, "1965 as the Year that Shaped the Sixties"
  • Wednesday, May 1: Neil Siegel, "The Battle of Gettysburg"

All events in the series will be held in Sierra 108 from 12:30–1:45 p.m. For more information about the Turning Points in History Speaker Series, contact Joseph Domitrovich.