Women, Baseball, and the Promise of Summer

I cannot get enough of the sunshine these days.  I am beyond happy for the coming summer.  Which takes me to baseball, my favorite sport.

I didn’t have a chance to write about Women’s History Month in March, so I thought I’d give it a go for the opening of the baseball season.  Yes, there were women in baseball!  They are in categories from players, broadcasting, and the executive offices of major league teams.  They were coaches and even batting practice pitchers as recently as 2011 when Justine Seigel, a professional pitching coach, pitched BP for my beloved Cleveland Indians (now Guardians) in spring training.  She also pitched batting practice for the Oakland A’s, Tampa Bay Rays, St. Louis Cardinals, Houston Astros, and New York Mets.  She obviously strengthened some formidable hitting champions in that time, and she had to have had the same skill as any major league pitcher.  No manager wants his hitters getting sloppy due to poor pitching!  Some women have earned recognition in the Baseball Hall of Fame.  Effa Manley is a member of the Hall of Fame; she co-owned the Newark Eagles in the Negro Leagues from 1953 to 1948.

Women have played baseball since it started even though it was not considered ‘normal’ for them to play.  Elite women’s colleges broke the barrier by establishing teams and encouraging the wearing of ‘bloomers’ as opposed to skirts for playing.  ‘Bloomer girls’ preferred the roomy, loose type of pants arguing that they were more modest and allowed for faster running.  Their teams became nationally organized playing all across the country well into the 1920’s.  Finally, the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League operated from 1943 to 1954 in twelve cities and inspired the movie, A League of Their Own in 1992.

My brother sent me down this rabbit hole after telling me about an amazing pitcher he had been reading about.  Jackie Mitchell was a 17-year-old on the Chattanooga Lookouts farm team in 1931.  The Lookouts were playing against the New York Yankees in an exhibition game in Yankee Stadium and Mitchell was called on to relieve the Lookout’s starter.  Mitchell struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in tandem.  The third batter popped out with a fly ball.  Major League owners began telegramming contract offers to Mitchell immediately.  But the Commissioner of Baseball, Kennesaw Mountain Landis voided Mitchell’s contract with the Lookouts and said, “Baseball is too strenuous a game for women to play.”  Yep.  Jackie Mitchell was a woman, much to the chagrin of both Ruth and Gehrig.

Another significant achievement of women in baseball occurred in 1993 when left-handed pitcher Carey Schueler was drafted by the Chicago White Sox, the first woman ever drafted by a Major League Baseball team.  Her father was Ron Schueler, the manager of the Chicago White Sox and a retired pitcher.  He resisted the idea that the front office wanted to sign Carey but eventually he relented after she was drafted in the 43rd round.  Carey had spent her childhood in ballparks instead of playgrounds.  She was called “little Schu” by her dad’s teammates and would even catch fly balls from them in batting practice.  Her dad taught her pitching, and she took to it seriously enough to develop a fast ball in the high 80’s (mph) when she was 18 years old.  She was a versatile athlete in other sports as well throughout high school and college.  She did not last in the majors but the fact that she made it to them is fame enough.  Today she runs a highly successful physical training and health care program in Chicago.


So, what has all this to do with a spirituality blog?  I taught many years in an all-girls high school making efforts every day to encourage my students to be the real persons God made them to be.  Many times, I found an unhappy student in tears because her parents did not encourage her art, or writing, or science, or athletic abilities.  Involving the parents to see what a wonder they had in that child took lots of persuasion because these were the days before Women’s Rights and Title IX, and so much more for the advancement of women.  “But they’re only going to get married and have kids,” I heard over and over.  As if their sons were not going to do the same thing!  “They can become secretaries, have a job ‘til marriage,” parents would say.  The more enlightened would offer that it was ok to become a teacher or a nurse. 

My colleagues and I worked with councilors and administrators developing programs to release the inner spirits of these young women but watching the women’s basketball teams in March Madness last week made my heart skip with joy.  I thought of our nascent athletic programs when I taught high school; I recalled the same joy I experienced while watching these college athletes.

For this post-Easter time, think of the resurrection expected of all of us.  Think of how you might rise to the occasion of helping some young person, especially a young woman, still in the shadows of progress, and join a group for mentoring or tutoring.  There are many such organizations in every city, and there might be some in your parish or congregation.

We can celebrate Women’s History Month all year by learning more about the achievements of women and supporting the programs that exist to help them now.

In the life story of Jesus, women were key to the foundation of the faith: They stayed at the foot of the cross; they announced His resurrection to the disciples.  We have reason to believe that in the first Christian community the women were knowledgeable preachers and deacons.  Pray for guidance and do something.  You’ll be happier in Easter joy! 

On a very secular twist now:  Go Guardians!!   Let the games begin!!!

3 thoughts on “Women, Baseball, and the Promise of Summer

Add yours

  1. I never was that interested in sports, but love your enthusiasm and all the details of women in baseball, most of which I didn’t know. Thank you! May we spread the joy of Easter to all! Peace, Marg


  2. The Sag Harbor Whalers of the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League will have the first D1 female player this summer as well as a female co head coach.


  3. Wow! That. is tremendous, Tom. Thanks for telling us. I’ll look her up and the coach as well. I’m so supportive of this. I made my little town’s team in 1953 but was dismissed before our first game when the manager found out I was a girl. (Someone had told him of my deceit and that my pony tail was wrapped tightly under the ball cap, if he needed proof.) Alas, we are nearing more women as players and male players often wear pony tails and long hair!! It’s great to live so long–sometimes. Mary Ann


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