Fort Carson archaeologist presents at baseball hall of fame
June 14, 2012
FORT CARSON, Colo. -- For centuries Americans have been defined by the stars and stripes, apple pie and the scrappy sport of baseball. The pastime, which gained momentum in the late 19th century, runs deep with fans and players alike.
For Timothy Dodson, an archaeologist and contractor at Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site, the sport presents more than entertainment and competition.
"Baseball is so intertwined in American culture," said Dodson. "It reflects how we've developed
as a culture."
Dodson combined his interests in baseball and archaeology and, in his spare time, pursued his research on the impact of baseball on American culture.
His findings earned him a spot speaking at the 24th annual Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y., June 1.
Dodson also presented at the symposium in 2011.
"It's a really cool event," he said. "It's where all these baseball nerds get together and talk about how much they love the sport."
A St. Louis native and Cardinals fan, Dodson said he grew up playing baseball and loved watching the game.
"Most kids play some sort of baseball," he said. "I thought why hasn't anyone done the archaeology of baseball?"
With a master's degree in maritime archaeology from Southampton University in the United Kingdom and years of training as a field archaeologist, Dodson combined his passions through what he calls "historical archaeology."
"In America, historical archaeology refers to anything that has happened in this country post-European contact -- so from the 1500s to 50 years ago," he said. "Baseball developed out of the Civil War. It was the working man's way of passing time."
Dodson researched the historical ties baseball fields at all levels of competition had on the surrounding communities.
"Over time, teams take on the identity of the cities, towns and regions they play in," he said.
"For example, Wrigley Field in Chicago reflects the architecture and neighborhood demographics."
Dodson took his research a step further, investigating the impact baseball had on small coal mining camps and towns, specifically in southeastern Colorado.
He found that baseball provided miners with entertainment, a sense of pride in their community and an identity, which helped prevent the workers from turning to other forms of entertainment such as gambling and drinking.
In the description of his talk, Dodson argued that "the communal unification that baseball provided helped ease tension between the various immigrants that worked and lived in the camp as well as the tension that was created between the miners and the coal mining companies."
He concluded that baseball aided in keeping morale, as well as production, high. Because miners continued to work, mines throughout Colorado "accounted for the majority of coal output in the western United States, which, in turn, allowed for the establishment of industrial based communities."
Dodson said he hopes to continue researching the impact of baseball and has considered researching baseball and its influence within the military.
"When many people think about professional sports they think this is just about money and entertaining," he said. "It's so important -- how can you understand where we're going without understanding where we've been?"