David Vaught is a professor of history at Texas A&M University. He is the author of four books: The Farmers’ Game: Baseball in Rural America (2013), winner of the 2014 Society for American Baseball Research SABR Baseball Research Award; Teaching the Big Class: Advice from a History Colleague (2011); After the Gold Rush: Tarnished Dreams in the Sacramento Valley (2007); and Cultivating California: Growers, Specialty Crops, and Labor, 1875-1920 (1999). His research has been funded by three fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities. He is a past president of the Agricultural History Society, former head of department, University Distinguished Lecturer, and recipient of the Melbern G. Glasscock Professorship in Undergraduate Teaching Excellence. He currently is writing a book with the working title, “Spitter: The Notorious Gaylord Perry,” a biography of the notorious Hall of Famer, for both scholarly and general audiences, that examines his rich and revealing life experience from his innovative ascent from rural poverty in eastern North Carolina, to baseball stardom, to his subsequent descent to failure on the farm during the 1980s agricultural crisis.
Broadly speaking, this lecture argues that baseball played a central role in southern rural culture in the twentieth century, countering the long-held view that the game, from its origins in the mid-nineteenth century to the present, has been primarily an urban phenomenon--a "city game for city people." Through the life experience of Hall of Fame pitcher Gaylord Perry, the lecture explores, among many themes, the last generation to come of age in the segregated South, the last generation of sharecroppers, race relations in baseball after Jackie Robinson, and the links between rural southern culture and American popular culture.