Alex Rodriguez entered a weekend series in Baltimore needing eight hits to become the 29th player in major league history to reach 3,000. Dr. Fan’s plan as of Friday was to remain in St. Paul and use the 20-year-old, 22-inch RCA television in his cluttered bedroom to monitor A-Rod’s pursuit.
“Cluttered is such a judgmental word,” Dr. Fan said. “We prefer to call it a ‘crowded decorating environment.’ ”
The collective “we” in this case would be Dr. Fan, the follower of baseball milestones, and his true self, Dr. Seth Hawkins, the academician. There are also the benefactors that Hawkins mentions when he talks about his home, the Julian H. Sleeper House and Museum, or his journeys to see historic baseball moments.
As Dr. Fan, Hawkins has been in the ballpark to see the past 20 big-leaguers achieve 3,000 hits, from Henry Aaron’s infield single at Crosley Field in Cincinnati on May 17, 1970, to Derek Jeter’s home run on July 9, 2011, in Yankee Stadium.
Now, he will be there for Rodriguez, getting on a plane for whatever city is required as soon as A-Rod gets within four hits of 3,000.
“I’m estimating that I will be flying to Miami on Monday, although we shall see,” Hawkins said. “Dr. Fan has his rules. Four is four, and if need be, I could be in Baltimore watching A-Rod on Sunday.”
Miami would be a good place for A-Rod to reach 3,000, since it is his hometown, or then back in New York, in his home park. Anywhere else, the reaction to Rodriguez, the PED cheater, would not feature the warm reception that takes place with most milestones.
Yet, whatever the location and degree of celebration, it will not prevent Hawkins from greeting A-Rod’s 3,000th as he has the past 20.
“Dr. Fan will tuck his scorecard under his arm, stand up and applaud,” Hawkins said. “And he will stay standing as long as it seems appropriate.”
Whether it is A-Rod, who immediately will become the most-controversial of the 3,000-hit immortals, or Jeter, one of the most heroic to the public, Dr. Fan is there to mark the accomplishment.
“I am a foe of subjectivity,” Hawkins said. “I am merely a conduit for the truths that exist. Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas … they are calling the shots.”
Dr. Fan was sitting on the porch of his house and museum on a warm morning this week. He is a charming and extra-talkative man in his 70s, and when he gets rolling, a fellow from Murray County who avoided study of the great philosophers can be left struggling to connect the dots.
Right off the bat, Hawkins was asked to explain his vision of Dr. Fan, and he said:
“I maintain the personae to represent all dedicated baseball fans that do not possess the flexibility — be it financial, or family or job obligations — to be present for these milestones. I have that flexibility and can be there to represent them and show their appreciation for a historical event.”
Dr. Fan offers assurance that he will be representing you in an objective manner.
“I do not cheer for a specific team,” Hawkins said. “I honor the athletes and their feats. The only team to which I will declare an allegiance is the New York Rangers, and that’s because my mother and I had seats in the front of a balcony at Madison Square Garden for my four years of high school.”
What’s interesting about Hawkins is that his Dr. Fan personae and his tracking of baseball milestones might rate only third on his list of obsessions, trailing James Garfield, the 20th president who was assassinated early in his term, and the country of Slovenia.
Hawkins has an undergraduate degree from St. John’s in New York, a master’s from Boston College and a Ph.D. in rhetoric from Bowling Green in Ohio. He accomplished all of these academic feats early in life, and was a professor in communications at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven for 30 years.
He was fascinated by the Gilded Age (1865-1899) in this country, with a focus on the 1880s. He had what he called a “starter museum” at his home in New Haven, needed more room, found the Julian Sleeper House on a visit to St. Paul in the early ’90s, and moved here and turned it into a real museum.
The main floor and some rooms upstairs are dedicated to the 1880s. Also upstairs is a fantastic room dedicated to Garfield, the tragic president.
Garfield’s papers were stored at Bowling Green, and Hawkins turned Garfield’s speeches and life into his doctoral thesis. He can give you as many words as you require on Garfield’s unappreciated greatness.
The room includes a lifelike Garfield sitting on a couch. It was commissioned by Hawkins a few years back from Dorfman Museum Figures of Baltimore.
The bulk of the ancient basement is dedicated to artifacts from Slovenia. So, Hawkins traces his ancestry to that land, you would guess?
He was preparing for a self-guided tour of Central Europe, bought the proper guide books, came across Slovenia and asked himself: “Why don’t I know more about this country?”
Seth Hawkins saw the puzzled look on his guest’s face at this explanation for hundreds of Slovenian artifacts in glass cases and said:
“You’re right. I’m somewhat obsessive/compulsive.”
That’s OK, Dr. Fan.
As long as you’re there to represent us for our 21st consecutive 3,000th hit, we’ll forgive you.