Saturday, October 23, 2004

Tonight begins the 2004 World Series between the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals. Twenty years ago, during my cohort's first semester of graduate school, baseball fans in the UM community got to root for the Detroit Tigers as they won the 1984 World Series. One list places this Tiger squad as the No. 9 best World Series-winning team of all-time.

At the start of the Fall '84 semester, there was about a month left in the regular season, as the Tigers coasted to the American League Eastern Division title. The Tigers then made short work of the Kansas City Royals in the American League Championship Series and the San Diego Padres in the World Series (back then, there was one fewer round of play-offs than today).

The '84 Tigers started the season off 9-0 (including a no-hitter by Jack Morris against the White Sox) and 35-5 (click here for a full game-by-game log). That they were in first place every day of the season inspired the title of George Cantor's book on the team, Wire to Wire, which I read recently. The book, published earlier this year, features a series of short chapters each focusing on a different member of the '84 Tigers. Many former players were interviewed to get their reminiscences on the championship they won two decades earlier.

That Detroit team was noteworthy for the fact that its core consisted of a number of players who had come up through the Tiger farm system within a few years of each other. These players included the aforementioned Morris, Alan Trammell (now the Tigers' manager), Lou Whitaker, Lance Parrish, and Kirk Gibson (pictured on the book-cover photo linked above).

Gibson is well-known for a dramatic home run he hit while injured for the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1988 World Series. He also hit an important one for the Tigers in the closing (fifth) game of the '84 World Series; against San Diego pitcher "Goose" Gossage, who had overruled his manager's decision to walk Gibson intentionally, Gibson blasted a late three-run homer to give the Tigers, who had been leading by only one run at the time, some insurance runs. In fact, on one list of greatest World Series moments, Gibson appears twice: his '88 homer is No. 1 and his '84 homer is No. 9.

I lived in a graduate dormitory (Baits) on North Campus my first year and I remember watching Gibson's homer off Gossage, as well as the Tigers' recording the final out against the Padres, from one of the nearby dining halls, where I had gone for a late afternoon snack on a Sunday.

Among the Detroit pro sports teams, the Tigers appeared to have the most support among the people I hung out with at UM. Now that the Tigers' on-field performance has plummeted in recent years, it wouldn't surprise me if hockey's Red Wings and basketball's Pistons, both of which have won championships in their respective sports within the last few years, have overtaken the Tigers.

The '84 Tigers are one of the very few World Series champions to have none of their players in the Hall of Fame (among teams going far back enough so that their players would have sufficient opportunity to be voted in). Morris, Trammell, and Whitaker are most commonly discussed as potentially deserving to get in. Cantor discusses this a few times in his history of the '84 Tigers, but even people not linked to the Tigers make similar arguments. Rob Neyer, whose Big Book of Baseball Lineups seeks to determine the best historical lineups fielded by every team, writes that:

"If you study the issue with any sort of sophistication, it's pretty clear that Trammell, like... [teammate Darrell] Evans, ranks among the all-time greats at his position" (p. 90).

The Tigers were managed by Hall of Fame skipper Sparky Anderson, who had previously managed two World Championship teams with Cincinnati. (As an aside, this year the Cardinals' Tony LaRussa will attempt to join Anderson as the only people to manage World Series winners in both leagues; LaRussa led the 1989 Oakland A's to the title.) Anderson was (and presumably still is) a very colorful personality, with his own unique style of expression.

I also had the opportunity during my Michigan years to listen to Hall of Fame broadcaster Ernie Harwell on the radio. I consider Harwell and the Dodgers' Vin Scully (whom I listened to growing up in L.A.) to be the two top baseball broadcasters I've ever listened two (not favoring one over the other).

Another important piece of the team's history is Tiger Stadium, which hosted its last game at the conclusion of the 1999 season. Author Tom Stanton attended every Detroit home game that year in doing research for his book The Final Season. The book, which I read a couple of years ago, really transcends baseball. Stanton used the Tigers as a vehicle for blending in reflections on his family life. He also interviewed a lot of the "everyday people" who worked at Tiger Stadium.

Since 2000, the Tigers have played at the new Comerica Park. I attended one game at Tiger Stadium, in 1987, during my graduate school days.

Monday, October 18, 2004

With the 2004 presidential election quickly approaching, people are paying increasing attention to the polls (my favorite poll compendia are Polling Report for national polls and Race 2004 for state ones). For a variety of reasons there are questions about how accurate the polls will ultimately turn out to be on Election Day. As one example, a small but growing segment of the American population does its telephone communication only by cell phones, which survey researchers are by law not allowed to call.

Mark Blumenthal, who works in the polling industry, recently created a blog called Mystery Pollster in an attempt to address virtually the full spectrum of issues regarding how pre-election surveys are conducted and what the implications of these controversial issues are for the polls' potential accuracy. Blumenthal's biographical sketch notes that he is a graduate of the University of Michigan in political science and that he later did some graduate work at the Joint Program in Survey Methodology at the University of Maryland.

As part of the research methods course I teach at Texas Tech University, I had developed a website on one specific aspect of this year's polling controversy, sample weighting by party ID. I e-mailed Blumenthal to let him know about my webpage and also the UM connection, and he sent me a nice reply. It turns out that Don Kinder, from whom I took a graduate seminar in public opinion in Fall 1985, advised Mark on his undergraduate honors thesis. (Don is also mentioned in my June 5, 2004 entry on the Michigan-UCLA connection; click here for June archives.)

Yet another Michigan graduate is playing a role in 2004 presidential polling. Jon Krosnick, a 1985 UM social psych Ph.D. who is now at Stanford after many years on the faculty at Ohio State, is collaborating on a large Internet-based survey with The Economist magazine and "You Gov" polling firm, both British concerns. Further information is available via a Boston Globe article on the project. The paper by Morris Fiorina and Jon that was alluded to in the article can be accessed here.

Jon is quite a versatile guy. He has academic appointments at Stanford in communications, political science, and psychology. He is also an accomplished jazz drummer, as noted in my May 14, 2004 entry (May archives).

Saturday, October 09, 2004

In various previous postings, I have alluded to the wide array of seminars, colloquia, and lecture series available for individuals in the University of Michigan community to attend on campus. One that I have not yet discussed is the Group Dynamics Seminar, hosted by the Research Center for Group Dynamics (RCGD) in the Institute for Social Research (ISR).

Just as a historical note, the original RCGD at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was founded by Kurt Lewin, one of the most eminent social psychologists of all time. According to a UM biography of one of Lewin's colleagues, Ronald Lippitt:

"In 1946 Lippitt resumed work with Kurt Lewin, helping him to found the Research Center for Group Dynamics at M.I.T., where Lippitt was also an associate professor of social science from 1946 to 1948... Upon Lewin’s death in 1948, Lippitt moved the Research Center for Group Dynamics to the University of Michigan’s Institute of Social Research, acting as program director in the Research Center, as well as associate professor of sociology and psychology at the university."

Back during the 1980s, social psychology faculty, staff, and graduate students had their offices within RCGD; other subdisciplines of psychology such as developmental, personality, and biopsychology were also scattered around the campus. Some time in the early-mid 1990s, however, the long-awaited psychology building (East Hall, a renovation of the former East Engineering) finally opened, bringing all the areas under one roof. Never having been based full-time at UM in the "new-building era," I cannot compare the experiences of being in the social psych program in the ISR versus East Hall. My strong speculation, however, is that links to the Group Dynamics Seminar and other RCGD activities would have been stronger in the former era.

For the first few years I was in grad school at UM (starting with Fall '84), the "Group Dy," as people referred to it, was held every Tuesday night during the Fall and Winter semesters. Toward the latter years of my time at UM, it moved to a late-afternoon time.

As is still the case today, each semester's Group Dy series would have a theme. One thematic series that I'd like to discuss in the remainder of this posting is the one focusing on social conflict, which as I recall was held during Fall '84 (I have a folder with handouts from many Group Dy talks, but none from the social conflict series).

Given UM's strong overall social science portfolio, the Group Dy series on social conflict included, among others, professors speaking on anthropological and political science approaches to conflict. Each semester's series is organized by one of the social psych faculty members; this one was organized by Gene Burnstein.

Interestingly, among the attendees during the semester on social conflict was Robben Fleming, who had served as UM President from 1968-1979 (and then later as Interim President in 1988 during the gap between Harold Shapiro and James Duderstadt). Fleming's background was as a law professor and labor mediator. Given the tumult on the UM campus in the 1960s and '70s over the Vietnam War and Civil Rights issues, the book The Making of the University of Michigan 1817-1992 by Howard H. Peckham, notes that Fleming "brought to the office of president... a unique combination of skills that seemed tailored for the times" (p. 290).

The book reported on one incident during Fleming's tenure as president that I find absolutely fascinating:

"Despite public criticism, Fleming refused to take inflexible stands on unimportant matters. When the Inter-Faith Council for Peace wanted to dig a large 'bomb crater' on the Diag to symbolize the destruction of North Vietnam, Fleming found them a safe place to do it. His reaction to the crater affair was typical of his willingness to co-operate with peaceful dissent. 'Why not let them dig one? Everybody else is digging holes for new buildings, and so forth. It's not a big job to throw the dirt back in the hole after they get tired.' In response to those who objected to his willingness to compromise, Fleming reasoned, 'If you make an issue of activities that do no harm and don't interfere with the running of the University, you run the real risk of attracting a lot of other students who will then be sympathetic to their other demands' " (p. 292).

Fittingly, toward the end of the Group Dy semester on social conflict, Fleming himself was the speaker. He recounted various instances of protests he had to handle, and how he did so. One had to do with students who occupied the Administration Building. I don't recall the details, but I remember Fleming saying that it had been resolved satisfactorily to both sides, to the point where the protesters exited the building singing the UM fight song, "The Victors."

According to a 2003 article on the lives of retired academics, "Fleming, now 86, has lived on one campus or another since he and his wife Sally were college sweethearts at Beloit College in Wisconsin. The couple decided to retire to Ann Arbor and Michigan's 92-unit University Commons."

I'm tempted to say that "only at UM" could you have a speaker series where you'd hear stories like that; it may not be "only" at UM, but the number of such universities would likely be very small.

As a concluding note on the topic of social conflict, I would like to recommend strongly the new (2004) book How Soccer Explains the World, by Franklin Foer. In this book, you'll learn of bands of soccer fans who, in their cheers (more like taunts) and fight songs, spew the most hateful and even violent rhetoric you could imagine (sometimes followed up by actual violence). I wrote a review of this book for the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) electronic discussion list.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Seeing the first Bush-Kerry presidential debate a few nights ago prompted another memory from my first semester of graduate school 20 years ago. In 1984, the incumbent President Ronald Reagan, a Republican, was being challenged by former Vice President Walter "Fritz" Mondale, the Democratic nominee. During the Fall '84 semester, Mondale spoke at a campaign rally on the UM's Diag and -- as best I can recall -- that appearance took place just a few days after the first Reagan-Mondale debate.

Nowadays (and perhaps then, too) political analysts talk about "rallying the base" of support within a candidate's own party, then "reaching out to the middle," i.e., moderate and undecided voters. Although it did not occur to me 20 years ago, the fact that Mondale was still rallying the base (very few cities in America are more liberal than Ann Arbor) in mid-October was a sure sign of how deeply in trouble Mondale was. In fact, despite by most accounts winning the first debate, Mondale ended up losing the election 59-41%. Mondale carried only his home state of Minnesota and the District of Columbia.

I attended the Mondale rally along with two other grad students. We found a spot behind a tree and got a decent view. Mondale was accompanied at the rally by former Sen. Gary Hart (D-CO), Mondale's nearest rival during the primary campaign. I searched pretty hard on the web for any record of the rally, but couldn't find anything. Twenty years ago would probably be too far back for web-archived newspaper accounts of the event. Further, given Mondale's lopsided defeat, it's understandable that nobody associated with the campaign would create a web-based tribute to Election '84.

Many of you will remember Hart from his failed 1988 campaign, which he started in many people's minds as the front-runner. Suffice it to say that Hart, the self-proclaimed "candidate of new ideas," got into trouble from something resembling one of the world's oldest ideas.