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Rotblatt vs. Rotblat

Most of us go through our lives without thinking much about the letter “T.” There are not many people, I assume, who have particularly strong feelings about the letter. Before writing this article I did quite a bit of research, too much perhaps, on the letters of the alphabet. I looked at numerous lists online that ranked the twenty six letters of the alphabet in order of their coolness. On these lists, “T” never ranked lower than the eleventh coolest letter and never higher than the ninth coolest letter.  So while “T” is certainly not an uncool letter, such as the lowly letter “B” which consistently ranked as one of the least cool letters, it is also by no means one of the coolest letters. “T” is mediocre, the manila folder of letters.

However, every letter deserves its time to shine, its fifteen minutes of fame. For the letter T, that time is now. See, there are two different Rotblat(t)s. Marv spells his last name with two Ts at the end. He is the namesake baseball player of the Rotblatt that we all know.  Joseph spells his last name with one T at the end. He was a Nobel Peace Prize winning physicist. To underscore the importance of the letter T in this situation and to introduce another Rotblat worthy of our collective attention, I will be comparing the collective achievements and careers of Marv and Joseph, or to confuse you, Rotblatt and Rotblat.

Marv Rotblatt, nicknamed “Rotty,” pitched for the Chicago White Sox in parts of the 1948, 1950 and 1951 seasons. By all statistical accounts, Rotblatt was one of the worst professional players of all time.  In both 1948 and 1950, he allowed the most runs per game of any pitcher in the Major Leagues. Rotblatt was an equally inept hitter. In his fifteen career at-bats, he did not record a single hit. Quite literally, the White Sox would have been no worse off if Lyman the cat went up to bat fifteen times instead of Rotblatt.  With all this said, Marv Rotblatt was still a very talented athlete.

Marv Rotblatt, believe it or not, attended a number of Carleton Rotblatts. In 1964, Rotblatt’s founders were looking for a namesake for their newly-created softball event, which began as a serious intramural softball league. In a remembrance of Marvin Rotblatt in the Voice magazine, Robert Strauss ’73 wrote, “the “founders were looking for the most obscure major leaguer from their childhood years.” Enter Marv Rotblatt, who was quite possibly the most insignificant baseball player of the 20th century. Having caught wind of Rotblatt at Carleton, Marv Rotblatt made a semi-annual pilgrimage to Rotblatt during the 60s, 70s and 80s.  Rotblatt said that at one of his appearances he “swung three bats over my head going up to hit, threw them all aside, walked back to get one, thumped my chest, pointed to the outfield like Babe Ruth and hit the first pitch into the [Lyman] Lake.” Rotblatt’s son said that his dad “ just loved that he was a part of [Rotblatt]. He knew he was picked as sort of a joke, but he was good at making fun of himself” and “loved that these college kids held him in their hearts.”

Unsurprisingly, Rotblatt was known for his “self-deprecating sense of humor that made him a charming character.” Rotblatt really does suit Carleton to a tee.

Still, there is no getting around that Rotblatt was a terrible MLB player.  Rotblatt, who himself invited an ironic comparison to Babe Ruth, was certainly Ruthian in his ability to be utterly incompetent on the baseball diamond.  

Joseph Rotblat, on the other hand, was the Babe Ruth of his field, the Babe Ruth of world peace. Rotblat and the Pugwash Conference on Scientific and World Affairs were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995 “for their efforts to diminish the part played by nuclear arms in international politics and, in the longer run, to eliminate such arms.”

Let’s compare career statistics. Joseph Rotblat has more Nobel Peace Prizes than Marv Rotblatt does hits. But Marv Rotblatt does have twenty more strikeouts and seventy four more innings pitched than does Joseph Rotblat. And Marv does have one more intramural softball game named after him than Joseph.  So the margin really is razor thin as to which Rotblat(t) has had more of an impact on the world stage. Sure, Joseph brought us all a bit closer to a nuclear-free world, but Marv brings Carleton a bit of happiness each spring. But both Marv and Joseph have made the world a better place, regardless of how many Ts are in their last names.  

With all of this said, enjoy Rotblatt tomorrow, and at some point, even for just a second, I implore you appreciate both of the Rotblat(t)s for all their good deeds, even if those deeds could not be more different from each other.

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