Monday, February 28, 2011

But... Girls?.... Playing Baseball?

Justine Siegel has become the first woman to pitch batting practice in a Major League Baseball spring training camp. Siegel, 36, has coached baseball at both the professional and collegiate level. Although it is common for men to coach women's sports teams, it is still rare for women to coach men's teams.

One quote from the SI article stood out, which perhaps underscores this gender-disparity in coaching:

"'If you didn't see the ponytails, she would have fit right in,' said catcher Paul Phillips, one of the players who took swings off Siegal's pitches. 'She did great.'"

Perhaps what he means is, if she wasn't a lady, she might have had more opportunities as a player and a coach, you know, since she would otherwise "have fit right in" and all if we were just looking at her ability.

In 1931, Kenneshaw Mountain Landis, the first commissioner of organized baseball declared women unfit to play baseball, as the sport was "too strenuous" (and the MLB officially banned women from signing contracts in 1952). This announcement came the day after a 17-year-old girl named Jackie Mitchell, who played on a minor league team, struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in an exhibition game.

Prior to this game, one media outlet opined:

"'The Yankees will meet a club here that has a girl pitcher named Jackie Mitchell, who has a swell change of pace and swings a mean lipstick. I suppose that in the next town the Yankees enter they will find a squad that has a female impersonator in left field, a sword swallower at short, and a trained seal behind the plate. Times in the South are not only tough but silly.' Source: The New York Daily News (April 2, 1931)"

I love it. In 1931, it was such a commonsensical self-evident truth that men and were So Very Different that of course a woman playing baseball would portend America's pastime turning into a three-ring circus. I guess it's progress that these differences have been reduced to ponytails?

[Tip of the beret: Nooz]

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