Katherine Aiken can still recall the dismay of seeing the grounder slowly roll between Bill Buckner's legs in the 1986 World Series.

She thinks Pete Rose belongs in the Hall of Fame, "Bull Durham" and "Field of Dreams" are antidotes for the most powerful depression, Jose Canseco is overpaid, the Mariners need another long-ball hitter, one of the great moments in sports is Bobby Thompson's home run and a play at the plate is the perfect spice for a ball game.She also thinks baseball - a team sport with individual stars - epitomizes a fundamental tension in the United States between individual and community, that Jackie Robinson's career typifies the integration struggle and that there probably is a doctoral dissertation to be written about the efforts of expansion ball clubs to create team loyalties and traditions where none exist.

Aiken is an assistant professor of history at the University of Idaho, and a baseball fan.

Or vice-versa.

At any rate, signing up for her classes is an invitation to learn about the forces that shaped the course of the United States - particularly as they are played out through the national pastime. If she can work baseball into a lecture, she will. If her students can bring the sport into course subject matter, they will profit from the effort.

"I've got one of my classes reading `The Great Gatsby' now. If they find the references to baseball (the 1919 Black Sox scandal) they think they'll get extra credit - and they will," she acknowledges.

Aiken just missed out on playing the game. She is of the generation that grew up before girls played Little League and before federal Title IX opened up interscholastic sports to females. As history is measured, Aiken arrived on the scene in time to be a feminist but too late to be a jock.

Her husband, who played baseball while growing up, can tell from the crack of the bat where a ball has been hit. Aiken can't.

Society may have left her shortchanged on baseball experience but not bitter toward the game. It may be a strange dichotomy to be both a feminist and a fan, she concedes, but there you have it.

She came by her love for the game early.

"My mother grew up in Washington, D.C., and she was a Senators fan. She also has Joe DiMaggio's autograph. My mother still keeps score at all the games, and she's the one who taught my 11-year-old son how to keep score. That's another thing about baseball, it's very inter-generational."

Aiken has both an historical appreciation of baseball and a contemporary zeal for it. She has Ken Griffey Jr.'s autograph - after prevailing upon a nephew to get it for her during his visit to the Mariners' clubhouse.