The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

Jacksonian baseball

August 30, 2007


Do you remember Walter Russell Mead’s Jacksonians? A few years ago, Mead wrote a very good book, Special Providence, which described four major visions of American foreign policy. Of the four, the Jacksonian tradition is perhaps the most interesting and important — but also the most obscure to the chattering classes.

Jacksonian tradition is populist, principled, and often quick-tempered. As Mead explained:

Those who like to cast American foreign policy as an unhealthy mix of ignorance, isolationism and trigger-happy cowboy diplomacy are often thinking about the Jacksonian populist tradition.

As Mead explains, Jacksonians populate the armed services partly because they are ready to defend the dignity and honor of America. It is an honor culture.

Professor Thomas Timmerman of Tennessee Tech recently found that Jacksonian honor culture also permeates major league baseball:

Timmerman looked at MLB data on the 27,667 hit-by-pitch events that took place from 1960 to 2004. He found that pitchers were most likely to hit batters when the batter had hit a home run during their last at-bat, when the previous batter had hit a home run and when a pitch in the previous half-inning hit the pitcher’s teammate.

Yet, at the regional level,Timmerman also found that, in all three of these situations, white pitchers born in states typically defined as Southern by the U.S. Census were 40 percent more likely to hit a batter than non-Southerners. This trend may be due to a Southern inclination to act aggressively when their honor is challenged, he says.

I guess this explains why Senator Jim Bunning is #8 in career hit batsmen, even though he’s 53rd in career innings pitched.

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Rodger A. Payne is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Louisville. He serves on the University’s Sustainability Council and was a co-founder of the Peace, Conflict, and Social Justice program. He is the author of dozens of journal articles and book chapters and coauthor, with Nayef Samhat, of Democratizing Global Politics: Discourse Norms, International Regimes, and Political Community (SUNY, 2004). He is currently working on two major projects, one exploring the role of narratives in international politics and the other examining the implications of America First foreign policy.