A Look at Undergraduate Research: The Historic 1967 Pennant Win

in Alumni, News and Events, Of Special Interest, Research, Spotlight, Students
February 6th, 2017

This post is part of a series that profiles the faculty-undergraduate research partnerships offered to CGS students.

Makinna Akers

Makinna Akers helps Professor Tom Whalen research the 1967 World Series.

In the 1967 baseball season, the Boston Red Sox bounced back from a ninth place finish the year before to win the American League pennant. The year was a turning point in Red Sox history—their first pennant since 1946—and an important moment in the cultural history of baseball as well. Despite a long, troubled racial history, Red Sox had the most racially integrated team in the American League by 1967. Thomas Whalen, associate professor of social sciences at Boston University College of General Studies, is working on a book about this historic game, with the help of Makinna Akers (CGS’15, SAR’17), a player on the BU softball team and student researcher.

Since her research started with a directed study in January 2015, Akers estimates that she has spent 300 hours in research—poring over newspapers and magazine accounts in the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center at BU, and learning about racial integration in the 1960s and the feelings around it. Her time in the archives introduced her to the Center as a resource for her own papers and research interests. She has also spent time at the Boston Public Library combing through newspapers and magazine articles of the time to understand the historical context. “I don’t think I would have ever gone to the Public Library if it wasn’t for this project,” she said. “Now that I’ve gone it is amazing–the opportunities and knowledge at our fingertips.”

She also helps set up interviews with former baseball players and transcribes Whalen’s interviews with the 1967 World Series greats. She was even able to interview Steve Buckley, acclaimed Boston Herald sports columnist, about his personal story of seeing his brother, who died tragically young in a car accident, in a photograph taken right after the game when fans swarmed the field. “I was honestly pretty nervous to speak with him but he was very excited to talk about the 1967 World Series and even about softball at Boston University,” she said. “Just spending a short hour with him I learned so much about Boston as a community and the Red Sox history.” She was surprised to learn more about the economics of baseball at the time, the low pay, and the inequality between players.

As a pitcher on the BU women’s softball team, Akers was drawn to the project “for the love of baseball.” Whalen said her experience with the game gave her a valuable perspective, since she had “such a great insight into baseball itself.” “I never thought, as a student athlete, I would be able to have an opportunity like this with my time constrictions,” Makinna said, adding this has been “the opportunity of a lifetime.” Whalen’s forthcoming book is titled, Spirit of ’67: Cardiac Kids, El Birdos and the World Series That Captivated America. It will be published in 2017 by Rowman and Littlefield.

Learn more about student research opportunities—including directed study, stipends for research work through the Center for Interdisciplinary Teaching & Learning, and the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program. Contact CITL at citl@bu.edu for more details.

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