“Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.”
– Proverbs 31:25
Several million watched “The Pitch”, a television show about the first woman to play for a major league team. In fact, this is recent, 2016, but the show did not make it past one season.
Therefore this article, which is about the potential of women playing major league ball, is probably a pipe dream, right? But the movie “League of Their Own” was quite popular, told us about women who played and drew good crowds during World War II. The women on the team had unique personalities, just like the men on our favorite teams. And we learned “there’s no crying in baseball…”
But you say “there’s no women in major league ball either…”, and that seems to be a given. Done. Over…
So, then, here in the United States, where baseball is, or at least has been our national past time — and we have mythic like figures from Babe Ruth to Sandy Koufax — I guess women should just give birth, run companies, serve in the military, be United States Senators, professors, waitresses, actresses, financial advisers… and…. well, hold on a sec, wait a second. Wait a second! Didn’t a woman run just a couple years ago for President, at the top of her party’s ticket? She won the popular vote, right?
Equal right, equal pay, and parity, but not on the baseball diamond? I thought diamonds were a girl’s best friend…
We acknowledge differences between the sexes, of course. We also know this story quite well: In the 1930’s, at an exhibition, minor league pitcher Jackie Mitchell became very well known for striking out no less than Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in succession, which led to this apparent statement from the great Bambino: “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.
If Babe’s remark wasn’t enough, the Commissioner of Baseball would then ban women from major league baseball all together! The good news… the ban was lifted in 1991, but we still don’t see any women playing in the MLB. Yet, women are in broad casting. There are women umpires. Women executives — in fact the first woman to own a baseball team was Helene Hathaway Britton. She owned the St. Louis Cardinal from 1911 through 1916 — that’s over a century ago. Margaret Donahue worked for the Chicago Cubs from 1919 to 1958; she was the first women executive in the MLB who was not an owner. Margaret introduced marketing concepts, not the least of which is the season ticket, and she lowered prices for kids under 12, both still quite viable today.
To be very clear: Women’s baseball is indeed gaining momentum world wide. Witness the Women’s Baseball World Cup that was completed earlier this year in Florida. Japan remains the strongest to date, and Ayami Sato is considered “the best female pitcher on the planet”. She earned her third consecutive Most Valuable Player Award. In Japan, 20,000 girls and women play baseball, some with a rubber ball, some with a hard ball. Thirty high schools in Japan offer girls baseball programs; eight different universities offer women’s baseball, with scholarships.
You probably remember Mo’ne Davis, the charismatic 13 year old Little League dynamo who could throw 70 miles per hour… She was the first Little Leaguer to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated. Still, Mo’ne said “I can’t proceed with baseball…” So I want to ask: How would you react if a 13 old boy said that, if he had her talent?
Folks, it’s an old argument that women just wouldn’t cut it. Bottom line, the argument goes: Women aren’t good enough, strong enough, tough enough, or some combination thereof.
Sorry, but I just don’t buy it. This from Glenn Fleisig, the Research Director for the American Sports Medicine Institute, and a medical adviser to USA Baseball: “A female pitcher will likely throw a fastball with lower velocity than a male pitcher… but that is not going to disqualify her from pitching in the majors. If you watch major league baseball, you will see that there is a wide range of fastball velocities among pitchers there. And there is no obvious correlation between those who pitch the fastest and those who are the most successful pitchers.”
From the New York Times, September 2016, an article entitled Will Women Play Major League Baseball (And Not Just on TV)?: “Female pitchers might even have a slight physical advantage because their physiology may insulate them against some of the worst physical effects of high-speed pitching…” Then, quoting Dr. Steve Jordan, an orthopedic surgeon at the Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine (which treats many professional and amateur baseball players): “Women tend to have somewhat more laxity in their tendons than men… They are more limber.”
I just keep thinking that Jackie Robinson was never going to play major league ball. Negroes were in a separate league — not in major league baseball.
Similarly, we were never going to make it to the moon, Bobby Riggs was going to demolish Billy Jean King…. and Michelle Wie was a fluke in golf. Right?
Well, I don’t think so.
My pitch? The gates should be opened, not just to those who buy a ticket and watch the game. More than half the planet are female.
If women play in the major leagues, is it going to take a “sea change”? Will it require a lot of adjustment? Is it going to possibly seem awkward, maybe even be awkward, at least initially? Ok, I guess so! But: Could it greatly increase the popularity of baseball, and stimulate more money and more excitement?
We are not even going to try?