YAM Notes: September/October 2010

By Rich Banbury

As the afterglow of the half century Reunion begins to fade, there can be no doubt that the magic of our dancing cast its spell, including some highly energetic footwork by Patch Adams and Chris Walsh.  Every Yale class is unique, and each class of course believes that it is very special.  But perhaps in our case, having contributed a President and a Secretary to Yale, there may well be a valid claim to exceptionalism.  In that regard, I cite Matt Freeman’s remarks on page 245 of the Reunion Book:  “I had the privilege of serving for a few years on a 1960 panel to select recipients of the Jack Heinz summer intern fellowships.  It was in this context that I got to know one of the Yale Alumni Office advisors who said that the class of 1960 is often held up as a model for the University’s mission.  When I asked her why, she said if one looks at the important career categories, Government Service, Business, Education, Law, etc., there are multiple names from our class that can be legitimately inserted into serious leadership positions in every one … I bet you get the same rush of pride that I experienced when she told me that story”.  Although we cannot all take credit for the extraordinary efforts of a few, Matt’s sense of pride resonates through our band of brothers.

Not unrelated to the symbiotic relationship of our Class (and others) with Yale, the 50th Reunion class gift exceeds $20.4 million, passing the original goal by more than $4 million.   Good work by gift quad-chairs David Clapp, John Levin, Jim Ottoway and Dave Wood.

The game of baseball, more than any other sport, invites and to some extent relies on statistical analysis.  For instance, each of the major leagues makes a year-end award for the highest batting average, to the third decimal point.  RBI, ERA, OBP and other even more arcane stats constitute the tendons and ligaments of the game.  Who knew that Pete Palmer, an erstwhile Raytheon engineer, is a guru in this field, now known as sabermetrics.  As co-author of The Hidden Game of Baseball, a primary reference for sabermetricians, Pete has established an inside baseball reputation on the same level as the better known Bill James.  As a result of his prodigious efforts in discovering that Nap Lajoie’s 1910 batting average was actually several points higher than Ty Cobb’s, thus correcting an historical error, Major League Baseball rewrote  the record books.  A resident of Hollis, New Hampshire, Peter has also co-authored Total Baseball and five editions of the ESPN Baseball Encyclopedia.  His interests, however, are not limited to baseball.  Pete’s diligence and dedication led to his role as a statistician for the New England Patriots, applying the mathematical tool of sabermetrics to football, and to co-authoring  The Hidden Game of Football and ESPN Pro Football Encyclopedia.  No wonder the Patriots have won three Superbowls.

While you’re browsing through the Reunion Book, I recommend that you make a stop at page 215, and peruse Dave Elliot’s thoughtful and provocative essay.  With a crisp memory for detail, Dave recalls “some memorable courses”, especially Brand Blanshard’s “mesmerizing lectures on philosophy”, as well as faculty notables Henri Peyre and Bill Cobb.  A number of classmates are recalled in this nostalgic memoir, including Luis Mestre, Karl Robinson, Tom Miller and John Ostheimer.  Much of Dave’s early post-graduate education, like so many others, took place in Vietnam.  As a result of “intensive Vietnamese language training in the Army”, Dave acquired “a deep understanding of another culture and learning to see the world from another prospective”.  He reflects on the complexities and contradictions of the American experience in that place, which Dave observed through many prisms during his various roles, in country, over a span of seven years.  Acknowledging the deep ambiguities and sacrifices of that era, Dave writes that “some of our classmates ended up with close associations with Vietnam, but clearly drew very different conclusion from the experience”.  A professor of political science at Pomona College, Dave has authored The Vietnamese War and Changing Worlds: Vietnam Adapts to the post Cold War Era, soon to be published by Oxford University Press.  Finally, Dave observes that today’s Vietnam has evolved in the way we once wished it to be, with a flourishing private enterprise economy, a growing middle class, and with open arms to both  commercial and touring guests from America.