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Archive for the ‘Women’ Category

When I was a kid, I developed an obsession with the 1955 movie of the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical Oklahoma!. I don’t actually know why this movie was so interesting to me – I can’t even remember when I first became fascinated but I do know I drove my family crazy by playing that VHS almost daily. And I also remember that even then I had no interest in the character of ‘Laurie’, the female romantic lead. Besides one empowering moment of being a strong independent woman in “Many A New Day,” she generally is kind of a wimp. Given the expected roles of women and the gender norms of the days in which both the Broadway production and the movie were made, I shouldn’t be surprised that ‘Laurie’ was young and pretty and looking for a man to complete her, to dream only of making a marriage and of which handsome man will bid on her pretty picnic basket. In popular culture at those times, the characters that were instead allowed to be strong, independent females were usually older, widowed or spinstered women who could offer the sage wisdom of their years and experience.
Enter the character of ‘Aunt Eller’ in Oklahoma!. Even as a kid I recognized that she wasOklahoma_M (2) just plain amazing! She gets to be sassy and sarcastic, she gets to two-step with the cowboys and look at dirty pictures with them and wave a gun at the town leaders. She gets to be kind and loving to her niece and strong and supportive when things go bad. She gets the funny lines, the scene-saving moments, and the homespun charm of a lovable character.
When my high school put on the production of Oklahoma! in my senior year, I was devastated to learn that I had to choose between the honor of representing my region on a trip to the Model United Nations in The Hague, Netherlands OR to fulfill my dream of bringing ‘Aunt Eller’ to the stage. As my father loves to tell the story, I cried for weeks over this horrible event. In hindsight, I am eternally grateful that I took the chance to travel abroad and to have that incredible and unique lifetime experience in the Netherlands and Russia – BUT I can admit that I also regret missing the chance to be ‘Eller’ for even just those few months.
That regret stems mostly from the fact that now, as an adult, I can understand and honor the type of character and the type of woman that ‘Aunt Eller’s’ creators crafted. As a grown woman with more of that famous life experience and less of the high school naivete, I can more deeply appreciate the strength of this character.
Like her counterpart in Carousel, ‘Nettie Fowler’, ‘Eller’ is the foundation of the town and the support system to whom our lovelorn-clueless-tragic female lead turns to when life falls apart in the climactic moments of the show. Her advice when a character dies and threatens the beginning of ‘Laurie’ and ‘Curly’s’ marriage is:
“If you cain’t fergit, jist don’t try to, honey. Oh, lots of things happen to folks. Sickness, er bein’ pore and hungry even-bein’ old and afeared to die. That’s the way it is-cradle to grave. And you can stand it. They’s one way. You gotta be hearty, you got to be. You cain’t deserve the sweet and tender in life less’n you’re tough.”
As in Carousel, once more, a Rodgers and Hammerstein character reminds us to hold our heads high and to keep pushing forward when life gets difficult.
But to me, the quintessential Eller shines through in this one simple line: “I don’t say I’m no better than anybody else, but I’ll be damned if I ain’t jist as good.” It has taken me a lifetime to learn this lesson well, to realize that I don’t live my life for anyone else but me. I FINALLY have grasped the concept that no one, NO ONE, can sit in judgement of me or my life choices. I’m never going to be a millionaire or a Broadway star or a Rhodes scholar. I’m going to live a quiet life and hopefully make a small difference to someone. I don’t have anything that makes me special or noteworthy – I don’t say I’m no better than anybody else. But I am who I am and the older I get, the more comfortable I have become in my own skin. I have my scars and a chip on my shoulder and a list of mistakes that is 9 miles long. But I will no longer allow anyone to put me down or say that I’m not good enough – I’ll be damned if I ain’t jist as good.
So thank you ‘Aunt Eller’ and thank you Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein for creating happy moments from my childhood and learning moments in my adulthood.

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When the cracks first began appearing in my marriage, a male friend of mine tried to help me understand the male psyche in a way that would sink into my confused mind. His advice to me was that Male Brains are Like Waffles, Female Brains are Like Spaghetti.** 

At the time I didn’t fully grasp what the hell he was talking about. Yes, men like to eat. Yes, men can eat endless amounts of carbs and sweets and never gain an ounce. What the hell, Rob, how is that going to help my marriage? 

13658370_1177496062280931_1439568095_nWhat he meant is this: men think of things in tidy little squares. They are able to compartmentalize not only their feelings but also their experiences, their reactions, their entire life. They can keep everything in tidy little boxes and only tackle the sections that they need to at any given time. They can even keep the syrup contained in the areas where they need to.

Women, on the other hand, are a jumbled bowl of pasta, with each strand tangled up in another one and covered 1408069256188totally in sauce. Emotions, experiences, daily moments, they all jumble together and make one massive meal. We aren’t able to separate things out as easily and so can often get confused on what part of life is what.

And yes, males and females are of the same species (follow the metaphor here, we’re both carbs) but are very different. Each are individual creations that can display dizzying arrays of variations (chocolate chip, coconut, plain with butter, pesto sauce, marinara, blond, brunette, thin, fluffy, tall, short, etc). Yet we have to remember that each is undeniably and fundamentally different from one another – which needs to be respected and handled. We need learn to communicate with the other type of food as best we can and to understand that we may never fully comprehend them. A big syrupy strawberry waffle may never be able to understand the bowl of spaghetti ala vodka sauce. But together they’d make a damn good (albeit high calorie) meal. A happy mating of carbs – and humans.

**[I know now that he actually read this theory in a book called “Men Are Like Waffles–Women Are Like Spaghetti: Understanding and Delighting in Your Differences” by Pam and Bill Farrel but at that time I was giving him credit for total brilliance. Definitely read the book, its extremely enlightening and very helpful in opening lines of communication.] 

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When a person, male or female, goes through a divorce, I am convinced that they go through The Slut Phase of their lives. Now this is my own personal theory and based only on anecdotal evidence observed by me as I have watched countless friends and relations go through the breakdowns of their marriages – and I myself lived it. So there is no real science to this theory, only personal observations. I’m not particularly proud of this portion of my life – as I would guess most people aren’t in hindsight – but it happens and if you’re living it, you’re not alone.

When you are newly-separated and/or newly-divorced, you will flirt with, bat your eyelashes at, and ultimately sleep with pretty much anybody that crosses your path that takes an interest. That other person may be plug ugly or stupid or mean or crazy or have a prison record or be juggling 15 other girlfriends. But if they want to talk to you, you will jump at that chance for attention and affection.

I think it has to do with self esteem. And self worth, And self confidence. All of which take major bloody blows in the process of a divorce. Especially, god forbid, if you are not the one initiating the process. You feel hopeless and worthless, like you have lost any appealing qualities that you might have once had. You doubt your attractiveness, your brains, your ability to ever catch the eye of a decent person ever again. In short, you take what you can get and you take a lot of it.

But, rest assured, that phase passes. You wear yourself out, you get bored with the shallowness of it all, 41Ghi3tagLLyou open your eyes to the crazies and the losers. You discover there’s still a lot of yourself left after all – and you want more out of your life. And, unless you harbored a Sense of Slut prior to being in the initial relationship (which, as we all know, some people do), you step out of the Slut Phase and move onto the next chapter.

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Girls, I don’t care how intelligent we are or how much time we spend around men – our brains just don’t work the way theirs do. Our emotions do not play on the same field as theirs do. And the compartments for our feelings and our experiences don’t always mesh.

One of my best guy friends offered me some very sage advice as I began the tedious and challenging process of getting back into dating several years ago. He told me that guys will treat a girl like a convenience store if she’ll let them – hitting them up when its convenient for their needs, stopping in for what they want, and then leaving quick. Cheap, easy, no niceties, and no luxuries. (Ironically, at the phase in my life when this advice was being offered to me by that friend, HE was one of the customers that frequently stopped in to my convenience store but that’s another saga…). At any rate, this advice was actually an eye opener for me and made me realize that was an incredibly wise piece of life wisdom. It made me realize that I want more out of my life than to be a 7-11 – I want to at least be an Applebees, applebees_0dammit! I don’t have any false pretensions to being a 5-star restaurant or a high-end department store – but I do have enough self worth to not let someone just treat me casually and carelessly and then move on down the line. I want more, I need more and I definitely deserve more!

So girls of all ages and experience levels, I can only pass on this bit of wisdom from the guy brain – don’t be a convenience store for any man! Don’t accept that someone just wants to pop in on his schedule and use you to meet his needs – you are worth more than that!

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One of the worst parts about being single again at my age is the serious shortage in available, decent men. I guess I got too comfortable as a married woman and didn’t notice that all the really good guys were being snatched up off the market. But in the time since my husband left, I have found pretty much every possible representative of odd men that are still left on the singles scene. My married and relationshiped friends laugh when I make jokes about creating patches to represent these various different categories of men and wear the badges like a Girl Scout uniform. So, as a representative for single girls everywhere, I’m willing to proudly wear the Red Badges of Shame:

The Rebound Guy – this is the one who comes swooping in and says he knows exactly what you’re going through, he’ll be there for you, wants to rebuild your damaged ego, etc. I am a big enough girl to admit having fallen for that huge mistake – my rebound guy was over 20 years older than me and seriously resembles the cartoon character Shrek – without the sense of humor or lovable charm! Yeah, I’m real proud of this one.

The “You Were Better in My Head” Guy – this was the guy that ended up being so not worth the hype. My particular version of this guy had been the subject of some serious x-rated fantasies for me in the last year of my marriage as things were falling apart. It could have been terribly awkward if the husband had ever found out, since this fantasy-maker was a mutual friend of ours and in the fire service with us. Too bad he ended up being a MAJOR disappointment compared to all the fantasies I had built up in my head….

The Momma’s Boy – this guy couldn’t decide what to wear without consulting his mother. I was actually surprised, the few times we went out to dinner, that he didn’t either ask her to join us or have to call her for guidance on what to eat. And the worst part was that I was actually disappointed when this one dumped me. We won’t even ponder why I waited around long enough to get dumped.

The Pimp – yep, that’s right, he was a real, honest-to-God pimp – in his past, or so he promised me. And he considered it a compliment to me when he said I could have been his house mother. Gee, thanks, I don’t even get to be a ‘service provider’, I just get to babysit and cook for them. Really??

The ‘I Can’t Believe You Dumped Me for HER’ Guy – this is the guy that you see out with the next girl and you literally think to yourself ‘really, THAT girl’s better than me?’!  I went out with a guy once who is in law enforcement and who blew me off for someone he met through work – and NOT on the free side of the bars if you get my general drift. That’ll take a chunk out of a girl’s ego – of course, my husband left me for a woman who is going bald and has a mustache so there wasn’t much ego left but still….

The Control Freak – this is the guy that can’t be bothered to squeeze you into his schedule if it’s inconvenient but he damn well wants to know where you are and who you’re with. And, if you mention that you have guy friends and that you’re spending time with them, be prepared for the Control Freak to go batcrap crazy. You’ve been warned.

The “Are You SURE You’re Not Gay?” Guy – this guy was classy, educated, well-spoken and always dressed well. All in all, way too perfect to have been interested in me. I still haven’t figured out yet if he really is a gay man or just out of my league…

The Merry Widower – this one actually called me for emotional support on the night of his wife’s funeral. His need to ‘talk’ to someone lasted only as long as it took me to fall hard for his wounded, emotionally vulnerable self – and then he was moving on, getting engaged and pregnant within a year. Wow, shame on me, that’s all I can say….

The Baby Daddy – we all know them and love them, the men who just seem destined to be dads. Normally, I am a sucker for a guy with kids, who spends time with them, loves them, and supports them. This particular individual, though, has *4* children – with *4* different women. There is something charming about a loving dad – there is something not so charming about a serial sperm donor.

The Hillbilly – miles beyond the normal redneck man (who we all know I happen to love), the Hillbilly is in a class all by his double-wide-trailered self. This is the guy that thinks “hey, wanna see the deer hide still stuck in the front bumper of my station wagon ’cause I ran him down last month?” is an actual pickup line.

The Loser – this guy lives with his parents (in the basement, the attic, whatever) and doesn’t really seem to be bothered by it. Normally, when an adult child has to move home for some reason, there is a sense of discomfort and unease on the part of the adult child – they don’t really WANT to be there. But with this guy, he’s quite content to let Mom & Dad foot the bills, do the laundry, cook the meals and keep the house.

The Second Date Guy – this particularly charming individual got pissed off at me when I wouldn’t sleep with him on the second date. I will politely refrain from using the phrase Trailer Trash …but suffice it to say, I don’t give this one high marks for class or chivalry.

The Possessor – this guy is the one who wants to know where you are, what you’re doing, and who you’re with at every moment. He needs constant reassurance that you’re interested and wants to know when you will be calling him, seeing him, or texting him. It’s a sad day when I date a man who is a bigger girl than I am!

The One Who Is Just Waiting For Something Better – this charmer is the one who basically tells you he’s just passing the time with you. He checks his texts constantly while out with you, hoping that a better offer has come along. While he gets points for being honest and upfront, he will someday realize that telling a girl straight out that she will be only a booty call is somewhat insulting.

The Emotionally Unavailable One – this is the one that, no matter how hard you try to establish an emotional connection, you just can’t rip through the walls he’s built up. I couldn’t even get a straight answer from this guy on WHY he had built up these walls – it was like trying to ram my head into the proverbial brick wall.

The Egotist – this is the guy that never once asks you a single question about yourself or listens to anything you have to say. He’s too busy telling you about his history, his life, his hobbies, his job, his taste in food, etc. You could stand naked in the corner and whistle Dixie and it wouldn’t interrupt the soliloquy about HIM.

The Friend – this is perhaps the biggest mistake we as newly-single women can make! If he was a friend either from your previous single life or worse yet from your married days do NOT try to have a relationship with him! It will be awkward when things don’t work out and then you’ve potentially ruined a friendship that has survived the test of time. Or, even if you can salvage the friendship, you will always feel a certain resentment when you see him with the next girl.

The Wounded Soul – this guy is the easiest to fall for, especially if you’re like me – a sucker with a big heart. It’s like adopting a homeless puppy – they’re so vulnerable and needy and you can help them and make their lives better. The downfall is that you can either end up with the dog that will one day turn on you inexplicably and bite you in the ass OR you end up with the one who just acts like he’s waiting for you to kick him in the teeth because some woman in the past has done just that. Either way, you can’t win and it won’t be a healthy relationship.

And all of these charmers are the ones I actually went out with – this doesn’t include the variety of men that are still out there, just waiting for me. Oh, come on girls, you know we’ve ALL been out with these guys – I cannot possibly be the only one to have discovered some of these ‘treasures’! In a rare flash of uncharacteristic optimism, I am going to HOPE that I might one day start a relationship with Mr. Perfect. This is the guy that is, in so many ways, the anthithesis of the men that are normally attracted to me – he’s intelligent, kind, educated, well-spoken, with a good job and a sense of decency – and he actually reads books and uses his brain for matters other than sex or fire trucks. He will be able to tolerate me and my quirky ways, he will treat me well, and he will be normal…and then maybe I can throw away the collection of badges? Oh, Mr. Perfect, here I am, ready and waiting….

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Bonnie Baker circa 1945

The long-forgotten contributors to the American pastime are the women in this country. Not just the wives and mothers who have supported and encouraged some of the best players to join the Yankees, the Sox, the Indians and the Giants; not just the few trailblazing women featured in A League of Their Own; but the vast sea of females who have fought for decades to be able to swing a bat at a hard ball, to stand on the diamond and feel the thrill of The Show.  Women have stood in the stands and cheered on their favorite teams, stood on the field as professional and amateur players, stood behind the plate as umpires, stood in the front offices as executives, even stood in the press box as sportswriters. We have, since the game began, struggled to have an equal place at Home Plate – and I wonder if we will ever be able to finally gain full equity?

The argument can be made that baseball itself is a microcosm of American society at large – from the capitalist system of outrageous salaries, free agencies, and merchandising to the socioeconomic disparities between “haves” and “have nots”; from the ethnic opening of the game from its all-white origins to its geographic expansion across this great land of ours. Baseball, too, parallels the struggles that minorities (including women) have had to make to be included in the American pastime. Just as in society at large, women have struggled to break gender, race, and age barriers to participate in a game that they loved. Facing hardship, bias, intolerance and physical difficulties, women have been able to transform their places on the diamond and have forced their way into a game that has been predominantly male.

From base ball’s very beginnings in the 19thcentury, women had to fight the social conventions in order to simply play in gender-segregated leagues. Teams formed at women’s colleges almost simultaneously with the development of professional men’s baseball – but of course women

Vassar College “Resolutes” Base Ball Club (June 1876)

would be discouraged from ever considering a career in baseball. These teams were formed for exercise only and were expected to only play other female teams. The first known women’s professional team was a team of nine African-American women called the Dolly Vardens, formed in Philadelphia in 1867, just one year after Philadelphia’s first black men’s teams organized and two years before the  first white men’s professional baseball club formed, the Cincinnati Red Stockings. These teams could not, of course, interact with their male counterparts or even dress as practically. Most uniforms were long-sleeved, frilled shirts with high necklines, wide, floor-length skirts, and heeled, high-button shoes. In 1870s America, an American woman could not vote or own property in her own name after she married; she could play baseball, though, as long as she could play it in an outfit that weighed almost 30 pounds!

The first women’s professional game (i.e. players received paychecks) was in 1875 in which the Blondes played the Brunettes in Springfield, Illinois and by 1879 the Philadelphia Blue Stockings and the New York Red Stockings (both female ‘nines’) were battling it out in Philadelphia for the female championship. This was just the start of female teams barnstorming the country and by the 1890s, these “Bloomer Girl” clubs were actually allowed to play against men’s town clubs, semi-pro clubs, and minor league teams – they rarely played against other girls’ teams. Interestingly, the average girls’ club of this era usually included at

Star Bloomer Girls Team (Indianapolis, IN) circa 1900

least 3 men playing (often in drag); Rogers Hornsby and Smokey Joe Wood got their starts on these teams.

Around the turn of the 20thcentury, women began to make inroads into the male teams and leagues. In 1898, Lizzie Arlington (real name Elizabeth Stroud) became the first woman to sign a contract to pitch for the Reading Coal Heavers of the Atlantic League. Alta Weiss joined a men’s semiprofessional team in 1907 and was known for her refusal to wear a skirt on the field – and for leaving her baseball career to become a medical doctor. In 1904, Amanda Clement was the first woman to be paid to umpire and umpired professionally for 6 years after that. In 1908, Maude Nelson was the starting pitcher for the men’s Cherokee Indian Baseball Club. And from 1911 to 1916, the St. Louis Cardinals were owned by Helene Britton. Women were taking places all over the game!

Just as women nationwide were pushing for equal rights in the voting booths, the homes, and in businesses, they also found more opportunities in baseball. The 1920s saw the formation of women’s factory teams, the most famous of which was the Philadelphia Bobbies, founded in 1922 by Mary O’Gara, Edith Houghton and Loretta “Stick” Lipski, who made headlines by travelling all over the East Coast and even abroad to play in Japan. But women were under enormous pressure to stay away from the male milieu of baseball – they were ‘supposed’ to be playing softball. Softball, first played in 1887, was really where women were being encouraged to participate. Because of its different rules – including shorter base paths ergo a smaller field, a larger ball, underhand pitching, and no steals – many assumed it was an easier game and more suited to the ‘feminine temperament.’ But it truly is a different game (and, by no means easier or more womanly, just ask any of the millions of men who play it today) and was not what the female baseball aficionado of the time wanted to play!

Edith Houghton, circa 1925

Women were falling in love with America’s game – the traditional seventh-inning stretch ditty, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” was written in 1908 about a young woman’s insistence that her beau can only date her if he takes her out to a game. For the first time in history, women could see themselves in the face of the game, in the face of Lizzie Murphy who in 1928 became the first person, of either gender, to play for both the American League and National League in All-Star games. And in the face of Edith Houghton, who played for the Bobbies and left to play for New York’s Bloomer Girls and the Hollywood Girls, eventually ending up making $35 a week playing men’s minor league teams. (As a side note, after playing for the Navy WAVES in World War II, Edith wrote to Bob Carpenter, owner of the Philadelphia Phillies, asking for a job as a scout, making her the first female scout in

Jackie Mitchell of the Chattanooga Lookouts (1931)

the major leagues). Or in the face of Jackie Mitchell, who was signed at age 17 to the Chattanooga Lookouts in 1931 and, during an exhibition game with the New York Yankees, struck out both Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, causing baseball commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis to void her contract and declare women unfit to play baseball as the game was “too strenuous”. Babe Ruth was quoted in a Chattanooga newspaper as having said:

“I don’t know what’s going to happen if they begin to let women in baseball. Of course, they will never make good. Why? Because they are too delicate. It would kill them to play ball every day.”

Mitchell continued to play professionally, even at one point travelling with the House of David, a men’s team famous for their long hair and beards – she would occasionally wear a fake beard just for the publicity. These were the women that were inspiring a whole new generation of baseball fans, a diverse and plucky bunch of ‘girls.’ Women of all classes could aspire to the highest level of baseball!

Unfortunately, when the Depression hit, all Americans of all genders and races were forced to concentrate on more pressing problems. Opportunities for paychecks were limited and sure weren’t going to be wasted on a girl in the game! Despite the “Bloomer Girls” that had been playing professionally for almost 40 years (the last of which disbanded in 1934), the public opinion in the 1930s was that women had “inferior abilities” in sports. There were but a few bold women who managed to keep their feet in the doors – among them Effa Manley who co-owned the Newark Eagles with her husband and took care of most of the day-to-day operations. An ardent civil rights activists, she would later coauthor a history of black baseball and would lobby for Hall of Fame inclusion of Negro League Players. She herself would become the first woman elected and inducted to the Cooperstown hall in 2006.

In the 1940s, America went off to war – and her men went too. Women’s opportunities in baseball mirrored those in the world at large. As men headed off to war in the 1940s, women moved into the workplace and again took their place on the baseball diamond. Many minor league teams had disbanded due to male personnel shortages and many feared that the major leagues would soon follow. In 1943, Philip K. Wrigley, the chewing-gum mogul who had inherited the major league Chicago Cubs franchise from his father, frantically began searching for ideas to keep his team out of ruin. His committee proposed a female league to attract the crowds to the ballparks and keep the revenue coming in while the men were off to war and the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) was born. Originally intended as a softball league, the trustees soon changed the rules of play to match the existing rules of Major League Baseball – although the retention of shorter infield distances and underhand pitching caused some controversy in the media (which would eventually resolve itself as the league adopted overhand pitching and smaller base sizes). Using some of Major League Baseball’s scouts, talented women players were recruited from all over America and Canada. Sixty women were chosen to play on four teams, which included 15 players, a manager/coach, a business manager and a female chaperone. Sadly, it was believed that each team needed to have a notable male sports figure to coach the teams in order to increase interest in the league so 4 men were chosen to ‘lead’ these new teams.

The women selected for Wrigley’s league were paid between $45 and $85 a week, for which they were expected to be skilled on the field and adhere to strict moral and personal standards off the field. Stiff codes of conduct were imposed and femininity was a high priority – the scenes in A League of Their Own showing deportment lessons and table manner classes are not fictionalized. After their daily ball practices, the teams were requested to attend evening charm school classes. Etiquette, personal hygiene, manners, and dress codes were as much a part of this experience as stolen bases, runs batted in, and pitching styles. With the assistance of Mrs. Wrigley, a new uniform was designed to highlight the delicate

AAPGBL player at work

females of these teams – no longer could they wear the trousers that had become custom for women in baseball. Fashioned after figure-skating, field hockey and women’s tennis costumes, these short-skirted tunics showed off the assets of each player. Thankfully, a pair of satin shorts and knee-high baseball socks were allowed to preserve the modesty of the players and a practical sun-blocking baseball cap completed the ensemble.

These new teams were well-received in their sponsoring cities and by the time the Racine Belles won their first World Championship in 1943, enthusiasm was high. The drastic changes in the roles of women in and out of the home (caused by the war) made for an environment much more suited to accepting women on the baseball diamond. Additionally, a trip to the ball park was an easy, inexpensive luxury in the age of food stamps, gas rationing, and long work weeks. Patriotism abounded at these games, including the opening ceremonies in which the teams formed a giant V (for victory) down the baselines followed by the Star-Spangled Banner. The players also spent time off the field visiting hospitals and veterans homes and playing exhibition games to raise funds for the Red Cross. How could a normal, red-blooded American resist the appeal of this new league?

Things began to decline when the league expanded to larger markets for the 1944 season. The media and the fandom in these larger cities were not as inclined to accept and celebrate the female league – often, they were considered only a brief side note to the daily sports reports. The larger

Rockford Peaches (1944)

stadiums put a distance between the players and the fans and removed the ability for most of the female players to be able to hit the ball over the fences for those exciting home runs. Larger cities, too, offered a more diverse set of opportunities for entertainment and people didn’t need to go to the ballpark. But, with some restructuring of the league and its ownership, the league rallied to keep afloat. And, despite the myth, when the war ended in 1945, the AAGPBL was still swinging. Junior Leagues for girls hoping to move up in the ranks were formed; spring training seasons were organized in Mississippi, Florida, and Cuba; two more teams were added and a 4-team minor league system was set up. The league peaked in attendance in the 1948 season and several notable players attracted fans across the country, including Sophie Kurys who set the stolen base record for the AAGPBL with 201 stolen bases in 203 attempts, a record that remains unequalled in baseball history (note: Ricky Henderson is second in stolen bases with only 130). When the league voted to decentralize management, publicity/promotion, and player recruitment, it was the beginning of the end. Other forms of entertainment and increasing personal wealth lured fans from the poorly organized and advertised games; additionally, the advent of televised Major League Baseball games in the early 1950s made it more comfortable to sit at home and watch the game. Revenues began to fall and several teams folded due to simple lack of money. But, during its run the AAGPBL gave over 600 women athletes the opportunity to play professional baseball on a scale never seen before or since!

With the collapse of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League in the 1950s and the accompanying return to a more restrictive view of a woman’s proper sphere, women’s opportunities in baseball again declined in the postwar years. In 1952, Eleanor Engle signed a contract with the minor league Harrisburg Senators but before she could take the field, MLB commissioner Ford Frick banned women from playing on any major or minor league team, stating that women (and the accompanying attention and publicity) would distract from the game – and Engle’s contract was then quickly voided by team officials. Frick’s ban stands in effect to this day.

As an interesting side note to the AAGPBL story, black women were barred from playing and subsequently found room for their talents on men’s

Connie Morgan getting batting advice from Jackie Robinson (1953)

teams in the Negro Leagues. Three women played for the Indianapolis Clowns in the 1950s, including Connie Morgan of Philadelphia, who played second base for two years. Hilda Bolden Shorter, who grew up in Darby, Pennsylvania, inherited ownership of the Negro league Philadelphia Stars from her father Ed Bolden in 1950 and remained at the helm of the club until 1952. Several of these women, like Toni Stone, Connie Morgan, and Mamie “Peanuts” Johnson, would end their careers with statistics that shamed their male counterparts.

Women’s opportunities in baseball did not increase significantly until after passage of Title IX in 1972, which required schools that received federal funding to provide equal opportunities, including athletic opportunities, to both sexes. The women’s rights movement of the 1970s also influenced younger girls who wanted to play baseball, and in 1974, following numerous suits, Little League opened its fields to girls under court order.

Slowly, women also found positions in the media, management, and umpiring of the game. In 1967 Bernice Gera, who was born in Ernest, Pennsylvania, and grew up participating in sports of all kinds, decided to attend the Florida Baseball Umpire School, and she became the first

Bernice Gera, circa 1972

woman to complete the course. Gera tried for a number of years to break into organized baseball, but it was clear that her gender stood in the way. After taking her case to court, she umpired one game before calling it quits—it was too hard to fight for every game. Major League Baseball opened its clubhouses to female reporters in 1970 but the harassment was endless, including one female reporter who received a dead rat in the mail. In 1977, Mary Shane became the first woman employed on a daily basis to do play-by-play for the Milwaukee Brewers, hired by the famous Bill Veeck. In 1979 Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, continuing his controversial rulings, threw the women out of the clubhouses, thereby removing their ability to compete with their male counterparts. But they haven’t kept us out for long – in 2005 Suzyn Waldman with the New York Yankees became the first full-time female television commentator.

Although organized baseball officially banned women players from major and minor league teams, the women of the 1960s and 70s didn’t let this stand in their way. In 1974, with the passage of Title IX, girls could finally play baseball in their schools, in Little League, and on college teams. Umpire positions, opened up by trailblazers like Bernice Gera, Christine Wren, and Pam Postema, keep women behind home plate as well. Women in the owner’s chairs, like Effa Manley (Neward Eagles), Hilda Bolden Shorter (Philadelphia Stars), Jean Yawkey (Boston Red Sox), Jackie Autry (Anaheim Angels) and Joan Kroc (San Diego Padres) and Marge Schott (Cincinnati Reds) have allowed women to call the shots in management and financing of their teams as well. Joan Payson, as 10% owner of the New York Giants, was the only stockholder to vote against the move to San Francisco. She became majority owner of the expansion Mets in 1962 and in 1969 she became the first female owner to win the world championship and, upon her passing, left the team to her daughter and granddaughters to continue the legacy.

Opportunities for women to play professionally, however, remained scarce. Finally, in 1994 (exactly 40 years after the AAGBL folded), the Colorado Silver Bullets formed and lasted four seasons as a professional team. Women came from all over to join the club, which played men’s

Colorado Silver Bullets circa 1995 [photo courtesy of Laura Wulf  – click here for more of her work]

college, amateur, and semi-pro teams. But, since there was no league for these women to play in, their competition base was limited only to the men’s teams that were willing to play against them.

In the last 20 years, the American Women’s Baseball Association (AWBA), American Women’s Baseball League (AWBL), and Women’s National Adult Baseball Association (WNABA) have been organized in an effort to create an organized united baseball system for women. A Women’s World Series was played in 2001 in Toronto with teams from the USA, Australia, Canada and Japan competing. In 2003, women’s baseball became an official sport in the Amateur Athletic union, the first time a national organization sanctioned and supported women’s baseball. In 2004, John Kovach, the director of the Great Lakes Women’s Baseball League, worked out a deal with Little League to develop girls’ Little League baseball programs around the country. And in 2009, Justine Siegal became the first female coach of a men’s professional team with the Cleveland Indians.

While many male baseball fans may think that the game enjoyed a period of testosterone tranquility or man-cave solitude in its ‘good old days,’ women have been involved in the game since its very beginnings. Individual women, women’s teams, and whole women’s leagues have contributed a tremendous amount to the creation, evolution, and expansion of America’s game. We, as fans of that game, cannot afford to forget that women deserve the right to be a part of America’s pastime. The history of baseball is rich with the stories of the brave females who have helped to build the game, who have proven that baseball is not and cannot be the exclusive playgrounds for the boys of summer. And while we have not yet been as successful in breaking down the barriers as some other groups of minorities, we women are ready and waiting for our chance to shine on the diamond!

 

To learn more about women in baseball, check out:

Sue Macy’s  A Whole New Ball Game

Merrie Fidler’s The Origin and History of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League

The All American Pro Girls Professional Baseball League

 More than a Man’s Game: Pennsylvania’s Women Play Ball

Society for American Baseball Research

Gai Berlage’s Women in Baseball 

Susan E. Johnson’s When Women Played Hardball

Deidre Silva’s It Takes More Than Balls: The Savvy Girls’ Guide to Understanding and Enjoying Baseball

Marilyn Cohen’s No Girls in the Clubhouse: The Exclusion of Women from Baseball

Jean Hastings Ardell’s Breaking Into Baseball: Women and the National Pastime

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My friend Sienna is one of the greatest women I know – because she is a totally free spirit. I have never met anyone who is more open-minded, laid-back, and willing to learn. Sienna will sample any cuisine, give any activity a chance, listem to any music, date any type of guy, and journey to new places – just so she doesn’t miss a single moment of the world around her!

I met Sienna through my friend Stacy, who is one of the other greatest women I know – and almost the exact opposite of Sienna. While Stacy is often reluctant to try some of the more adventurous cuisine that Sienna and I pick out, she CAN be depended on to try almost any activity that might be suggested. She is the ultimately mature, responsible adult – but not afraid to laugh, giggle, cut up and drink massive amounts of wine.

Sometimes I wonder how they first became friends – the two of them are, in so many ways, very different from one another. Stacy has a secure marriage, 2 natural kids and 1 stepdaughter, a house in the suburbs, a sensible vehicle, and a schedule jam-packed with kids’ sports, work, and other parental responsibilities. Sienna, on the other hand, lives in an urban neighborhood, drives a hot rod streetcar, no kids, 2 loser ex-husbands (that she kindly gave numerous chances to become decent human beings), and a schedule full of nights out with friends, exotic restaurants, and studying for her degree. The only thing these women seem to have in common is a love of animals – Stacy has 2 dogs (her good old 14-year old faithful and a young yappy beagle with ADD) and Sienna has 2 shelter kitties and a 3-legged dog.

And yet, while they seem so very different, I have realized that they both have many wonderful qualities that must have drawn them to one another – and me to both of them! I admire so much of both of them – I can only hope that when I grow up I’m just like them!  Loyal, giving, caring friends with nurturing hearts, razor-sharp minds, and spines of steel. They are kind and stable women who do not appreciate the drama that can be created by the troublesome and mean-spirited people in the world. They have very low bullshit tolerances and can be depended on to ‘have your back’ when someone is putting you down. They are wonderfully strong people who have survived disastrous marriages and divorces to come out the other side stronger and better. They are an inspiration to me that better times are coming and are my support network when the tears fall.

So, on this spectrum in which Sienna is The Free Spirit and Stacy is the Sensible One, I think I fall somewhere in between the two of them. I am so glad to have them in my life because they supply the balance I need to stay strong and stable myself. What I would do without Stacy to check in on me when I’ve withdrawn into my sad place or Sienna to suggest I watch a mystery show about two lesbians who kill a midget, without Stacy to include me in her family holidays or Sienna to commiserate with about the truly frightening single men out there.

So, I raise a glass to you, ladies, and send my thanks for the inspiration, the caring, and the laughs!

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