The state-of-the-art facility will recognize a beloved teacher—and one of baseball’s biggest fans
Ask alumni from the 1970s, 1980s, or 1990s who their favorite Tufts professor was, and the odds are high that Sol Gittleman will be the response.
Gittleman, A85P, H10, who was provost from 1981 to 2002 and is currently Alice and Nathan Gantcher University Professor emeritus, is legendary at Tufts for his storytelling skills, dynamic presentations, encyclopedic knowledge, and caring mentorship.
He inspired generations of students, whom he taught in subjects as wide-ranging as Judaic studies and German Expressionism and in classes like Yiddish literature.
What’s less well known, perhaps, is the significant role that baseball has played in Gittleman’s life. He was so passionate about the sport that as a student at Drew University he, by his own admission, put it far above his undergraduate studies. He tried out for—but did not make it to—the minor leagues.
He turned his attention to a career in academia, but he never let go of his love for the sport, publishing a book on the Yankees dynasty of 1949 to 1953 and other commentary on the subject—and teaching the perennially popular class America and the National Pastime.
Now Tufts’ new baseball stadium will be named in Gittleman’s honor.
The new Gittleman Park will feature synthetic turf, stadium lights, expanded chairback and bleacher seating, improved bullpens, and high-quality batting cages. It will make Tufts eligible to host NESCAC Tournament and NCAA Regional championship games and will allow for practice and competition even in inclement weather. It will also make Jumbo Baseball more attractive to the highest-caliber student-athletes.
Naming the park after Gittleman is a tribute befitting his lifelong devotion to the sport—rivaled only by his career-long dedication to the university and its students, said Theodore “Ted” R. Tye, A79, A06P, A13P, who took Gittleman’s “Yid Lit” class as an undergrad. (His two daughters did the same.)
“As a trustee and longtime chair of the Athletics Board of Advisors, I love that future generations of Jumbo student-athletes will walk under a sign with Sol’s name as they enter our own Tufts field of dreams,” said Tye. “I can’t think of a name more closely associated with Tufts University—or more closely associated with a passion for baseball. There is no better way to honor his legacy.”
“A Perfect Classroom”
Wendy Selig-Prieb, J82, former president and chairman of the Milwaukee Brewers and daughter of former Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig, agreed. “Sol Gittleman is a legend because of the lasting impact he has had on the university and generations of Jumbos. Having the new ballpark named after him is the perfect honor,” Selig-Prieb said. “I am forever grateful that I was able to take his Yid Lit class and that all these years later I can call him a friend. Now I can’t wait to cheer on our teams at Gittleman Park!” Selig-Prieb is a former member of the Athletics Board of Advisors and the 2017 recipient of the Tufts Athletics Distinguished Achievement Award.
Director of Athletics John Morris characterizes Gittleman Park as “a perfect classroom for Coach [Paul] Svagdis to continue teaching, mentoring, and inspiring our student-athletes to excel on the field and become great leaders and great people.”
This is not the first time that an athletics facility at the university has been named for a Tufts faculty member. In 2017, the field hockey field was named for Economics Professor Daniel Ounjian, who was a close friend of Gittleman’s during their five decades together on the Tufts faculty.
For many years, Gittleman’s popular America and the National Pastime course explored the deep connections between baseball and life in the U.S. “As you watch the evolution of American values in the 20th century, baseball is a metaphor for almost all the social, political, and historic change that went on in the last 100 years,” he has said. He even launched a freshman writing seminar with a baseball theme.
In a series of letters collected in 2009 from Gittleman’s former students in honor of his 75th birthday, one noted that Gittleman “has an infectious love of life that, together with his obvious character, goodness, and concern for his students... enables him to inspire them. His work as a teacher and as an administrator has enhanced the quality of the Tufts experience as well as added to the prestige and good name of the university.”