Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Stanley Rothman, Professor of Mathematics

By on March 4, 2009

Leaning back in an office chair and listening to sports talk radio on WFAN, with papers covered with batting averages and on-base percentages scattered about his office, Dr. Stanley Rothman obviously loves baseball.

Rothman, who will be entering his 40th year at Quinnipiac University in 2010, is a professor of mathematics, and also serves as the chairman of the department.

“Someone said to me, ‘When are you going to retire?’ I said never,” Rothman said. “This is not a job, it’s a hobby. I don’t consider this work. This is part of my life.”

Rothman, who might be 5 feet 2 inches tall, on a good day, speaks with a New York accent. At 65-years-old, with a somewhat-messy crop of white hair, Rothman goes to the gym every morning to stay fit. He is also an avid New York Yankees fan, and he has been a baseball fan for as long as he can remember.

“It’s so much a part of the history of America,” Rothman said.

His love of baseball is what eventually led him toward the field of mathematics.

“I used to study the box-scores. It fascinated me, because in those days, they were so incomplete,” Rothman said. “Once a week, they would print cumulative results. Basically you had to keep the records yourself.”

As an only child, Rothman spent his days playing All Star Baseball, a simulation game using a spinner and a player’s statistics to project what he was most, and least, likely to do.

“When you have no brothers or sisters, I would make up teams and set up a league, keep all the box scores and I would play over and over and over again,” Rothman said. “It fascinated me.”

When Larry Levine, now a member of the part-time faculty, approached Rothman about teaching a baseball statistics course for the soon-to-be created Sports Studies minor, he jumped at the chance. It was taking two things he loved, and combining them into a course, and eventually a textbook. For the last three years, Rothman has spent the majority of his free time preparing a book tying together his two loves in life, baseball and mathematics.

“In searching for a textbook, I discovered there wasn’t any,” Rothman said. “It’s hard to teach a course without a textbook. So the next summer, I cobbled together a series of notes to be used in the classroom.”

Rothman thought it would end there, just using the notes for his class. One day, he received an e-mail from Johns Hopkins Press, expressing their interest in the book. He sent the editors a copy.

“They said this is a great idea. There is no book like this on the market,” Rothman said.

He signed a contract, and since then has been working on the book, titled “Base-ic Statistical Concepts: Using Baseball to Bring Statistics to Life.” He said it will be both informative and readable.

“I’ve taught every statistics course we’ve had here, and the students aren’t very interested,” Rothman said. “They’re not interested because they don’t care about the subject matter.”

“If I could take baseball data, which everyone talks about – for anyone that’s a baseball fan – and take the subject matter, and wrap it around something that is loved to begin with, it’s going to make learning more pleasant and they’ll be much more interested in learning. It works,” he said.

The enjoyment Rothman gets out of the book-writing experience is in the journey. Asked what is the toughest part about writing a book, he responded promptly with, “Ending it.”

“I always find more things for the book,” Rothman said. “It’s got to end some day, but I always find something else interesting and I say ‘I’ve got to put it in!’ ”

“Ending the project is the hardest thing. To say, ‘It’s over.'”

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The general manager and publisher of The Quinnipiac Chronicle.