Friday, May 11, 2018

Women Baseball History

Women have always played baseball for a long time. There were women baseball teams back during the 19th century too. Women colleges have women baseball teams in New York and New England back in the mid-nineteenth century. There were teams formed at Vassar College, Smith College, Wellesley College, and Mount Holyoke College. Women baseball teams started at Vassar College in 1866. Back in 1867, an African American women’s baseball team called the Philadelphia Dolly Vardens was created. There were many women’s barnstorming teams and many women played alongside major league players in exhibition games. By September 11, 1875, there was the first women’s baseball game for which fans were charged and women players were paid (between the Blondes and the Brunettes in Springfield, Illinois). The Resolutes, modeled after the Vassar College team, developed their own version of uniforms which included: long sleeved shirts with frilled high neckline, embroidered belts, wide floor length skirts, high button shoes and broad striped caps back in 1876. In 1898, Lizzie Arlington became the first woman to sign a professional baseball contract and she signed with the Philadelphia Reserves. The U.S. baseball national anthem, “Take me out to the ball game,” was inspired by and written about a young girl’s love of the game from 1908. In 1928, Mary Gisolo joined the nationwide American Legion Junior Baseball Program and she helped to lead Blanford Cubs to the Indiana state title. On April 2, 1931, 17-year-old Jackie Mitchell (originally known as "Virne Beatrice Mitchell Gilbert") of the Chattanooga Lookouts, struck out both Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in an exhibition game. Commissioner of Baseball Kenesaw Mountain Landis voided her contract as a result. The voiding of her contract is a total example of sexism. Olympic hero Mildred Ella "Babe" Didrikson Zaharias pitched exhibition games for the Athletics, Cardinals, and Indians back in 1934. Eulalia Gonzales became the first Cuban woman to play baseball in U.S. She played with the Racine Belles in 1947.

In 1946, former player Edith Houghton became the first woman to work as an independent scout in Major League Baseball when she was hired by the Philadelphia Phillies of the National League.  In 1989, NBC's Gayle Gardner became the first woman to regularly host Major League Baseball games for a major television network. In 2015, Jessica Mendoza was the first female analyst for a Major League Baseball game in the history of ESPN. Margaret Donahue was the first female front office executive in Major League Baseball who was not an owner. By the 1890’s more women played sports in America. There was the popularization of bicycles back then. The Boston Bloomer Girls baseball club was a successful women’s baseball group. The Bloomer Girls toured America in 1897. The press called them as the “champion women’s club of the world.” One pitcher form the team was Maud Nelson. She had great skill. Some of them included male players during 1907-1908. The Boston Bloomers were innovative. By the 1920’s, more women amateur and semi-pro baseball 'teams existed. Some played for all men teams. Perhaps the best known young woman playing baseball in the early 1920s was Rhode Island's Lizzie Murphy. As first baseman, she played for the Providence (RI) Independents, and was praised by newspaper reporters for her fielding skills. Sportswriters said she was every bit as talented as a player (who was a man), and noted that she was paid $300 a week, more than many minor league players of the 1920's received. Murphy, who had begun playing baseball when she was only ten, had dreams of becoming a major league player, but she was not able to achieve that goal. She was, however, able to have a long career in the semi-pro leagues, leading a touring team that played all over the eastern United States. According to newspaper accounts, she developed a loyal following, with numerous fans who came out to watch her and her team play. Lizzie Murphy's baseball career lasted from 1918 to 1935, and included one charity exhibition game in which she was part of a team of all-stars who played against the Boston Red Sox. While Murphy was perhaps the best-known woman playing for an all-male team in the 1920's, there was at least one other woman athlete whose abilities included playing baseball. Philadelphia's Betty Schenkel not only played baseball with the boys during high school, but she was said to be adept in other sports, including basketball, soccer, and cycling.

During World War II, many men baseball players were drafted like Ted Williams, Stan Musial, and Joe DiMaggio. Many wanted ideas to increase the players in the league since many players were gone off to war. The owner of the Chicago Cubs back then was Philip K. Wrigley. He created a committee to come up with ideas to keep baseball financially afloat during the war. The result of that committee was the organization of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, which operated from 1943 to 1954. At the height of its popularity, it had teams in twelve cities. One of the most successful of the teams in the league was the Rockford (IL) Peaches, which won four championships. The Peaches, and the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, were commemorated in a 1992 movie, A League of Their Own, starring Geena Davis. In 1946, Sophie Kurys set the stolen base record for the AAGPBL with 201 stolen bases in 203 attempts; this record continues to be unequaled in baseball history, as Ricky Henderson is 2nd in stolen bases with 130 (1982). During the 1950’s, black women whose names are: Toni Stone, Connie Morgan, and Mamie “Peanuts” Johnson played on men’s professional teams in the Negro Leagues. Yet, they weren’t allowed to play in the AAGPBL because they are African Americans. That was wrong. By June 23, 1953, the major leagues banned women from playing in the minor leagues. The ban continues to this day unfortunately. Pam Postema umpired in Class A Florida State League from 1979 to 1980. In 1988, American Women’s Baseball Association (AWBA) founded in Chicago. That was the first organized women’s league since AAGPBL (1943-1954). Also, 6 players from the AWBA were extras in the movie “A League of Their Own.” Julie Croteau played semi-pro baseball for the Fredericksburg Giants of the Virginia Baseball League in 1988.

In 2008, Eri Yoshida, at 16 years old, became Japan's first professional girl teenager baseball player to play in a men's league by signing a professional contract with a new Japanese independent league. In April 2010, she signed a contract with the Chico Outlaws, becoming the first woman to play professionally in two countries. In 2009, Justine Siegal became the first female coach of a men's professional baseball team. In 2011, she was the first woman to throw batting practice to a MLB team, the Cleveland Indians at spring training. She also threw BP to the Oakland Athletics, Tampa Bay Rays, St. Louis Cardinals, Houston Astros, and New York Mets.  In 2015, Justine Siegal became the Oakland Athletics guest instructor for their Instructional League Club, thus making her the first female coach in major league baseball history. For one day in May 2016, Jennie Finch was a guest manager for the Atlantic League's Bridgeport Bluefish, thus becoming the first woman to manage a professional baseball team. The team played and won one game on that day. In 2008, Mamie "Peanut" Johnson was drafted (at age 72) by the Washington Nationals in a special Negro leagues honorary draft that preceded 2008 Major League Baseball draft, marking the first time a woman was draft in the MLB's yearly new player draft. NBC’s Gayle Gardner was the first woman to regularly host Major League Baseball games for a major TV network on 1989. Lesley Visser was the first woman to cover the World Series on 1990. By August 3, 1993, Gayle Gardner was the first woman to do television play by play for a Major League Baseball game. By 1995, Hannah Storm on NBC was the first woman to serve as solo host a World Series game and the first woman to preside over the World Series Trophy presentation. On August 24, 2015, Jessica Mendoza was the first female analyst for a Major League Baseball game in the history of ESPN, during a game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Arizona Diamondbacks. John Kruk, Dan Shulman and Jessica Mendoza called the 2015 American League Wild Card Game on October 6, 2015, and Mendoza became the first female analyst in MLB postseason history. There is evidence that at least one woman, Amanda Clement, was umpiring semi-professional games as early as 1905. Also, women and people of every sex play softball to this very day as well. Softball include women in diverse leagues in our time as well.

The first woman to umpire a professional game was Bernice Gera. A former Little League coach and a passionate fan of baseball, she entered umpiring school in 1967 (the first woman ever to attend the Fort Lauderdale Baseball School). After a lengthy court battle with major league baseball, she finally won the right to umpire. Her first pro game was in the minor leagues in June 1972—a game between the Auburn Phillies and Geneva Rangers in the New York-Penn League, but after several disputed calls, she decided to resign and never umpired another professional game. The first woman to own a baseball team was Helene Hathaway Britton, who owned the St. Louis Cardinals National League baseball team from 1911 through 1916. On 2003, Women’s baseball became an official sport (39th) of the AAU. This  marks the first time in U.S. history that a U.S. national organization began sanctioning and supporting women’s baseball. USA Baseball sanctioned the first official national women’s baseball team. The women's baseball team competed in the 2004 WWS (in Japan) and in the 2004 Women’s World Cup of Baseball from 2004. Tiffany Brooks becomes the first woman in the U.S. to sign a pro baseball contract in the 21st Century. She signed with the Big Bend Cowboys of the independent Continental Baseball League on 2010.  Margaret Donahue was the first female front office executive in Major League Baseball who was not an owner. She worked for the Chicago Cubs from 1919 to 1958 and introduced marketing concepts such as the season ticket and reduced prices for children under 12, both still used in the 2000's.  Since then, many women have held executive positions in business and financial areas of Major League Baseball. One woman who has a position in player personnel at the Major League level is Kim Ng. She first worked for the Chicago White Sox, where she successfully presented an arbitration case. After working for the American League as director of waivers and records, she was hired as Assistant GM by the New York Yankees. When she left the Yankees in 2001 for the same position with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Yankees hired another woman to replace her, Jean Afterman. Afterman still holds the same position as of July 2015. Kim Ng has since moved on to work for Major League Baseball as Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations.

By Timothy

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