American Culture Studies Ph.D. Dissertations


Face on First, Class on Second, Gender on Third, and Sexuality Up to Bat: Intersectionality and Power in Major League Baseball, 1995 - 2005

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


American Culture Studies/Ethnic Studies

First Advisor

Philip Terrie


Baseball, in one form or another, has existed in the United States for well over one hundred years, and during that time it has become an important part of the nation's history and culture. Because of its long–standing presence, baseball has helped to create and maintain national sensibilities on a variety of topics, including race, class, gender, and sexuality through the use of symbolism and imagery. This study will utilize elements from Black Feminist Thought, Critical Race Theory (CRT), and Latina/o Critical Theory (LatCrit) to explore white privilege as well as the ways in which power relationships are structured by the axes of race, ethnicity, class, gender, nationality, and sexuality within Major League Baseball (MLB). Relying on textual analysis as well as Susan Birrell and Mary McDonald's notion of reading sport critically, this dissertation analyzes the cultural meanings of four salient moments from the 1995 through the 2005 season to determine their cultural meanings which in turn will illustrate the persistence of racism, sexism, heterosexism, etc., in MLB and American culture overall. The four moments include the 1998 home–run chase between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, the focus on Mike Piazza's and Kazuhiro Tadano's sexual orientation, Alex Rodriguez's contract worth approximately $25 million annually for ten years, and Barry Bonds' record–breaking seasons from 2001 through 2005. This study asks the questions: how does each incident illuminate the different ways in which power operates in MLB; how do the ways in which power operates amidst these events help to create and maintain national sensibilities regarding race, class, gender construction, sexual orientation, nationality, and age; and how is the operation of power in MLB made visible or rendered invisible by the media in their handling of each incident?