HOFSTRA started being a college the year, 1935, that Babe...

salmagundi

March 22, 1995

HOFSTRA started being a college the year, 1935, that Babe Ruth stopped being a ballplayer. This may or may not be why Hofstra, by now a university, is putting on a conference called "Baseball and the Sultan of Swat: Commemorating the 100th Birthday of Babe Ruth." Hofstra, 25 miles out on Long Island, periodically does this sort of thing, but Ruth's predecessors were all former presidents.

From another angle, Baltimore had its turn last month on the actual birthday (and did very well, too). Now, New York steps up to the plate.

The 40-page program lists 100-plus speeches and events; all on April 27, 28 and 29. Celebrities? The mayor of New York, the mayor of Baltimore. Actual Ruth-years players? Aldon Auker, Billy Rogell, Ray Hayworth. The banquet speaker is somehow Phil Rizzuto; Hofstra then gives him an honorary doctorate.

The academic turnout is enough to put a funny look on the round face of that famous high school non-graduate: universities including South Dakota, Central Florida, Lock Haven, York (in Canada), Southern Utah, Nova Southeastern, Edinboro and Hawaii; colleges including Morris County, Wisconsin Lutheran, North Carolina Wesleyan, Seneca (in Canada), Plymouth State, Shepherd. For balance, the program offers Pat Walsh, proprietor of Walsh's Corner Cocktails, in Kansas City.

Maryland will be represented by Lyle Spatz, of Olney, chairman of the records committee of the Society for American Baseball Research; and by Michael Gibbons, Lois Nicholson, Norman Macht and John F.Steadman.

For a ticket, send $80 (registration; the banquet is another $80) by April 20 to Babe Ruth Conference, Hofstra Cultural Center, 109 Hofstra University, Hempstead, N.Y. 11550-1090.

One panel topic is "Babe Ruth Poetry," with presentations by 30 poets. The cast of Broadway's "Damn Yankees!" will sing, "You Gotta Have Heart!"

Some topics have allure: "What Would Babe Ruth Earn Today?", "Who the Hell Does That Big Ape Think He Is?", "Babe Ruth, a Pure Expression of American Id," "Slugger or Slacker? Babe Ruth and the Bethlehem Steel League, 1918," "'I Was Babe Ruth's Sex Slave': How the Media Would Cover Babe Ruth Today." And, by a Shimer philosophy professor, "Forces of Darkness and Light."

As for Mr. Walsh from Kansas City, his part comes under "The Babe Is Alive; the Game Is Dead."

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