SUU In View (Alumni Magazine - Spring 2002)
Love Of The Game
Most think of history professors as individuals who have devoted their lives to the classes they teach-experts in the classroom-but narrow in specific disciplines. Such initial impressions quickly change as you leave the cursory conversation and begin to understand just what makes Jim Vlasich tick.
Jim is passionate about teaching history-he began teaching at SUU in 1981 and was honored as Teacher of the Year in 1986 and Distinguished Professor in 1989-however, when the subject turns to baseball or to the history of the Pueblo Indians of the American Southwest, one will witness a world of two of the true loves of his life reveal itself.
His love of the game of baseball began early in his life and apexed during his intense doctoral studies of the national pastime. Jim is an admitted fan of the Dodgers with a vast knowledge of baseball and Dodgers trivia. To illustrate, we all know individuals who are "baseball nuts" and engage in ongoing trivia contests. When they see each other, they likely begin their conversation with questions like, "Who was the second baseman for the Brooklyn Dodgers during the 1946 season?" or "Who hit the game-winning double in the bottom of the ninth inning in the sixth and deciding game of the 1964 World Series?" Then, the next question often asked is, "What was his batting average?" And, on and on. That's descriptive of Jim, and so, if you want to know anything about the Dodgers, just ask him.
It is his passion for history and baseball that led him to attend a meeting of the Society for American Baseball Research. There he met Don Alexander, the grandson of Alexander Cleland, whose idea it was to create the Baseball Hall of Fame. After a conversation with Don, Jim found himself sifting through a treasure trove on information-800 letters written in the 1930s, and Mrs. Cleland's scrapbook which chronicled the development of the idea of the Hall of Fame.
Jim began writing the authoritative history of the Baseball Hall of Fame titled A Legend for the Legendary: The Origin of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Jim has used his impressive skills as a historian in creating a compelling history of the development of the shrine in Cooperstown, N.Y., which honors the individuals credited with creating and preserving our national pastime. His book is widely-recognized as the definitive work on the Hall and led to his appearance on a special edition of NBC Today with Bryant Gumbel on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Additionally, he was cited in a Sports Illustrated article regarding the Hall, and chosen as the keynote speaker at the first Baseball American Cultural Symposium in 1989 at Cooperstown.
Copies of the book are available through the SUU bookstore or Sherratt Library.
Jim knows Pueblos, too
While teaching at Ft. Lewis College, where there is a 12 percent Native American population, Jim began studying the ancient Pueblo Indians. He teaches American Indian history at SUU and is deeply-involved in the Intertribal Club and Multicultural Club. In October 2001, his article "Post-War Pueblo Indian Agriculture, Modernization Versus Tradition in the Era of Agribusiness" was published in the New Mexico Historical Review. Dr. Vlasich is currently putting the finishing touches on his book on the history of the Pueblo Indian Agriculture in the American Southwest.