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Kenneth Womack

Monmouth Dean’s Work Receives National Recognition

WEST LONG BRANCH, N.J. (March 6, 2017) — A book co-authored by Monmouth University Dean Kenneth Womack has received a prestigious national accolade. “The Eighth Wonder of the World: The Life of Houston’s Iconic Astrodome,” which Womack wrote with Robert C. Trumpbour, is the recipient of the Dr. Harold and Dorothy Seymour Medal from the Society of American Baseball Research (SABR).

SABR awards the Seymour Medal to the best book of baseball history or biography published during the previous calendar year. According to the SABR website, the winning book must “significantly advance our knowledge of baseball and shall be characterized by understanding, factual accuracy, profound insight and distinguished writing.”

According to Mike Acosta, the in-house historian of the Houston Astros, Trumpbour and Womack have done just that. “[They] have produced a magnificent examination of one of our greatest undertakings, the Houston Astrodome. This book is a great tribute to the human energy and triumph that reached across the United States and the world.”

The Seymour Medal selection committee noted in a statement that the book, “raises the bar for future ballpark and stadium histories. In a book that is well-researched, well-written and well-documented, the authors demonstrate the Astrodome’s role in transforming Houston from an oil and cow town to a world-class city and consider the iconic stadium’s impact on all subsequent stadium construction.”

The book has previously received Shelf Unbound’s Pete Delohery Award for Best Sports-Related Book.

While Trumpbour is known as a stadium scholar, Womack, who is dean of the Wayne D. McMurray School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Monmouth and an internationally known Beatles expert, is not. He is, however, a native Houstonian with a special attachment to the Astrodome. His grandfather, Kenneth Zimmerman, was the building’s structural engineer.

Womack admits that an English professor writing about engineering might sound strange to some, but he noted, “I’d heard the stories my whole life. My grandfather would talk about the creation of the building and all of the things that went into it, but he wasn’t the kind to boast about exactly how instrumental he was in its creation.”

Zimmerman developed the “knuckle column” and the “star column,” two features, said Womack, which are still holding the building up today.

The Astrodome, which ushered in a new era of stadium construction, opened to great acclaim in 1965. It was the home of Major League Baseball’s Houston Astros from 1965 until 1999 and of the National Football League’s Houston Oilers from 1968 until 1996. The first major sports venue to use an artificial playing surface — Astroturf — the Astrodome closed in 2008. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2014 and earlier this year it was designated as a State Antiquities Landmark by the Texas Historical Commission.

The Seymour Medal was presented at a ceremony on March 4.