A press conference this week to announce the new chief baseball officer of the Boston Red Sox turned into an impromptu defense of the liberal arts.
Chaim Bloom, 36, was hired to help turn around the American League team, which won the World Series in 2018 but did not make the playoffs this year despite one of the highest payrolls in the major leagues. He was a classics major who studied Latin at Yale.
“I wouldn’t necessarily proactively recommend a Classics major to anybody to get into baseball, but it worked for me,” Bloom said, according to a report at Masslive.com. “I think what it did do was it really taught me how to learn. I think that’s a really valuable skill when you get into a game that forces you to be adaptable and rewards that adaptability. So it may have not been the most intuitive path. But I do think in its way, it actually really helped me prepare for some of the challenges I’ve encountered in my career.”
The Yale classics department’s website advises that “classics can take you pretty much anywhere.”
This may come as news in Fenway Park, where the players these days are more likely to speak Spanish or Japanese than Latin. It does have a certain resonance, though, in Boston, where two of the oldest schools are the public Boston Latin School (founded in 1635) and the private, all-male Roxbury Latin School (founded in 1645). Another public school, Boston Latin Academy, was established in 1878 as Girls’ Latin School. (Chaim Bloom went to a Jewish high school in the Philadelphia area that also produced CNN anchor Jake Tapper and “Tuesdays With Morrie” author Mitch Albom).
Massachusetts Governor William F. Weld, who served from 1991 to 1997, was a classics major who delivered the Latin oration at his Harvard Commencement. And a previous governor of Massachusetts, Calvin Coolidge, in an address to the American Classical League in 1921, observed: “the study of Greek and Latin is unsurpassed as a method of discipline. Their mastery requires an effort and an application which must be both intense and prolonged. They bring into action all the faculties of observation, understanding and reason. To become proficient in them is to become possessed of self control and of intelligence, which are the foundations of all character.”
Let’s hope it helps the Red Sox.
Ira Stoll is managing editor of Education Next.