Major league alumnus: Doug Wedge, baseball and the written word

Doug Wedge graduated from The University of Tulsa in 1996 with a bachelor of arts in English. Following that, he headed east to the University of South Carolina, where he completed a master’s of arts in English in 1998. Then, in May 2001, he graduated with a juris doctor degree from the University of South Carolina School of Law.

English alumnus Doug Wedge smiling, sitting in a wooden outdoor chair, wearing a blue-and-white checked shirtToday, Wedge serves as the clerk of court for the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Western District of Oklahoma. As a court administrator, he helps coordinate long-range planning, oversees the budget and ensures the clerk’s office provides public service consistent with the applicable laws and regulations. Wedge is married to Shawn O’Brien Wedge, a Tulsa native who sells real estate in Edmond and the Oklahoma City area. They have four children: Jack, Sloan, Sophie and Sadie.

Cover of Doug Wedge's book Baseball in AlabamaWedge’s hobbies include reading, writing, enjoying music, cooking and gardening. He is also an avid baseball fan and historian. Wedge’s most recent book about baseball is Baseball in Alabama: Tales of Hardball in the Heart of Dixie (The History Press). It blends extended profiles of players such as Chicago Cubs Hall of Famer Billy Williams, who have Alabama roots, with stories about high school, college and professional baseball in Alabama.

Wedge also has an article forthcoming in NINE: A Journal of Baseball History and Culture about Eakly, Oklahoma’s Mike Moore and his contributions to and experiences with the 1989 Oakland A’s team that won the World Series interrupted by the Loma Prieta earthquake.

Wedge recently sat down with us for a conversation about his time at TU, the written word and what majoring in English taught him.

Doug, did you have a favorite TU English professor or class?

One of the best learning experiences I ever had was James Watson’s William Faulkner class.  Faulkner’s novels are complex and intimidating, and I was anxious about spending a semester reading seven or eight Faulkner novels. Professor Watson made the writing accessible. He introduced elements of history and biography to provide context for the works and, as a result, he made it exciting to study this writer and his books. And, after reading seven or eight books by one writer, I walked away feeling like I had received a thorough introduction to and understanding of Faulkner.

I also loved A. Grace Mojtabai’s creative writing class. We sat at tables in a U-shape in McFarlin Library and talked about vulnerability – reading aloud something you wrote that might be good, might be okay, might be bad or a combination of all of the above. Yet, Professor Mojtabai found ways to make students feel comfortable, point out strengths in our writing and offer suggestions on how to improve the pieces.

What is one special memory you have of TU English?

I wanted to write a research paper about the elements of jazz in John Edgar Wideman’s Sent for You Yesterday. I shared the idea with Professor Matsikidze. She was skeptical, but said, “okay, try it.” I researched the topic and I wrote the paper, and I really liked it. So did Professor Matsikidze. She told the class, “Doug said he wanted to write about jazz in this book, and I didn’t think it was a good idea. Well, I was surprised. He pulled it off.” She made me feel 10-feet tall and built my confidence. Not all English departments – or academic departments in general – were as nurturing or encouraging.

What is one of the most valuable lessons being an English student taught you? 

Cover of Doug Wedge and Charlie O'Brien's book The Cy Young CatcherWriting clearly. Presenting your thoughts in a logical order and providing support for these points.

What advice do you have for an English or creative writing undergraduate? 

Read, ask questions, build relationships with your fellow students and your professors. Take creative risks and try new things or approaches. And definitely check out new writers. Balance that risk-taking with some practicality and try to build on the research and work you’ve already completed instead of reinventing the wheel with each assignment.

There is a widespread assumption that completing a major in English is going to lead only to a teaching career, or even that there aren’t any good jobs. What would you, as an English major, say to that? How do you believe your English degree has helped you? 

It’s helped in multiple ways. For one, it really grounded in me a love of reading. I enjoyed reading books and discovering new writers when I was in the TU English department. That same joy has deepened over time. Recently, for instance, I had a semi-celebration upon learning that Richard Ford was releasing a new collection of short stories.

Second, studying English at TU helped me appreciate the importance of presenting information clearly, concisely and logically, and with relevant support. I used those skills in graduate school and in law school, and I’ve used it in my legal career as well as in the baseball history projects I’ve worked on.

How does the written word influence your daily life? 

In court administration, I read the rules and regulations we are required to follow closely. It’s not quite the same thing as reading a poem and looking up the definition of an unfamiliar word and seeing how it contributes to the poem, but it’s close.

In my baseball history writing, I strive to write crisp sentences with strong verbs and no unnecessary words, just like The Elements of Style by Strunk and White recommends. For fun, I look forward to opening a book and seeing where it leads, whether it’s a collection of short stories by Brad Watson, a novel by Charles Portis or a baseball history book by Jane Leavy.

What is a book you were assigned for a class and claimed to read, but never actually read? 

I read everything assigned! But I’m slightly ashamed to admit that I’ve never read Moby Dick. It wasn’t assigned on any syllabus, but it’s a monumental work that I need to read. It’s on my to-do list.