Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Myla from O'Fallon, MO. Myla Wonders, “Why Isn't There Baseball for Women?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Myla!
Have you ever been to a baseball game? Maybe you’ve caught a game on TV or online. Some people really enjoy watching a power hit or a stolen base. But wait. Why are there only men on the field in Major League Baseball? Join the Wonder team today as we explore why we don’t see women on baseball fields.
People in the U.S. call baseball the national pastime. It is based on the English games of rounders and cricket. It was popular even before the Civil War. They played the first professional game on May 4, 1869. It was between the Cincinnati and the Great Western Base Ball Clubs.
There weren’t any women on the professional teams back then—with one exception. Lizzie Arlington joined a Philadelphia team as a pitcher in 1898. She played one inning. After that, her career ended. For a short time, women played baseball in college. Parents afraid for the safety of their daughters stopped that from happening by 1878.
World War II took a toll on the sport. Over 500 major league players went to war. The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) formed in 1943. The League helped to keep the game and its spirit alive during the war years. About 600 women took part in the League. They took the sport seriously.
The League owners held the women of the AAGPBL to high standards. Players had to take classes on things like how to wear their hair. Leaders expected the women to always act well-mannered in public. Female team chaperones made sure the players appeared as feminine as possible in public. On the field, they wore skirted uniforms and makeup.
Black women could not try out for the AAGPBL. A few joined the Negro national baseball leagues. The Negro leagues hired the women mainly to sell tickets. Toni Stone became the first woman to play regularly on a professional baseball team. In 1953, Stone impressed many by filling Hank Aaron’s vacated Indianapolis Clowns position. She also made news by getting a hit off Satchel Paige, the greatest pitcher in the Negro leagues. Stone only played for three seasons, but she is in several baseball halls of fame.
The AAGPBL lasted until 1954. By then, the war was over and women’s game attendance was down. Men’s games showed on TV for the first time. The League couldn’t sustain the interest it needed to survive.
A Supreme Court decision in the 1970s allowed girls to enter Little League. Legally, girls now can play baseball up to the age of 12. In 1972, the government enacted Title IX. This education policy forbids sex discrimination in schools receiving federal funds. Title IX could allow high school and college girls to play baseball. Instead, this law is used to push girls into softball. Many consider softball to be the female alternative to baseball.
There are no women’s baseball teams in high schools or colleges. Women must try out for men’s teams if they want to play the sport. Women cannot apply for college baseball scholarships because they can’t play in high school. They also don’t have a pathway to play professionally.
Some people are trying to break down the barriers that exist for women in baseball. From 1994 to 1997, the Colorado Silver Bullets were an all-women baseball team. The San Francisco Giants hired a woman as an on-field coach. The Miami Marlins brought on a woman as their general manager. There have been women team owners and women sports writers.
Around the world, women are gaining a place in baseball. Countries like Canada, Japan, Australia, and Hong Kong have national groups just for women in the sport. In 2004, the USA Baseball Women’s National Team formed. That year, the team started playing against other national teams in world cups. The women on the team also work to promote the sport to more girls.
Do you enjoy watching and playing baseball? How do you think the sport would change with more women included? Would it change? Maybe you can think of ideas to help break down this and other barriers!
Standards: CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.3, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.4, CCRA.L.5, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.W.6, NCAS.CR.2, NPES.1