Tag Archives: women

Jackie Mitchell: the legend of the woman who struck out Ruth and Gehrig

Did a woman really whiff two of the greatest sluggers of all time … back to back? We’ll never know, but it’s plausible.

My buddy Guy Saperstein sent this around last night.

The Woman Who (Maybe) Struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig

One spring day my son came home from school and asked, “Do you know about the girl who struck out Babe Ruth?” Continue reading Jackie Mitchell: the legend of the woman who struck out Ruth and Gehrig

A league of their own: S&R honors Lavonne “Pepper” Paire-Davis (and baseball-playing women everywhere)

Walt Whitman once said, “I see great things in baseball. It’s our game, the American game. It will repair our losses and be a blessing to us.” You could look it up. – Annie Savoy

My grandfather used to tell stories about his sister, my aunt Janie. She played baseball. Not softball, but baseball. And was better than most of the boys. Her girls team even beat the boys a time or two (I’m guessing that boys in the 1930s were enough like the boys of today that they didn’t want to lose to the girls, so there might have been fewer opportunities for inter-gender matchups after that first win). Then there was Gertrude Hines, and older girl in his neighborhood when he was growing up. Nobody wanted little Sammy Linville on their team because he was too young and small, but Gertrude, who was always one of the captains, would say “I’ll take him if I can have his third strike.”

In my neighborhood, Debbie Altman was maybe the best baseball player. A leftie, she was a great pitcher and could hit the hell out of the ball. (She was also really, really pretty, and the combination of athletic ability and long blonde hotness was responsible for my first major boyhood crush.)

Later, when I managed the Colorado Sun Kings in the Denver NABA 30+ league, we had a woman on the team. Teresa, who played second and short, was set for a tryout with the Coors Silver Bullets, but injured her hand just before camp. I saw the Bullets play, and Teresa would have made that team.

This past week, Lavonne “Pepper” Paire-Davis died at the age of 88. Paire-Davis was our most visible link to a past when girls were allowed to play hardball, owing to the fact that she was the inspiration for Geena Davis’s character in A League of Their Own, the 1992 movie about the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. If you don’t know the story, the AAGPBL was started as an alternative to the Major League, which was hard hit by World War II. It was originally feared the league might fold for the duration of the war; it didn’t, but the quality of play obviously suffered as all the young stars, men in the prime of their lives and careers, marched off to the European and Pacific theaters.

It wasn’t enough for AAGPBL players to be athletes, of course. The original rules (which evolved into something like pure baseball over time) looked more like softball, and the players were required to wear skirts and behave like proper ladies at all times.

During spring training the girls were required to attend Helena Rubinstein’s evening charm school classes. The proper etiquette for every situation was taught, and every aspect of personal hygiene, mannerisms and dress code was presented to all the players. In an effort to make each player as physically attractive as possible, each player received a beauty kit and instructions on how to use it. As a part of the leagues ‘Rules of Conduct’, the girls were not permitted to have short hair, smoke or drink in public places, and they were required to wear lipstick at all times. Fines for not following the leagues rules of conduct were five dollars for the first offense, ten for the second, and suspension for the third.

Paire-Davis was, to all accounts, a very good player.

An All-Star catcher, Paire was a fine defensive player with good range on the field and a strong throwing arm. She exhibited an aggressive catching style, leading to a broken collarbone in her rookie season. She suffered numerous injuries thereafter, but kept on playing. Basically a line-drive hitter, she had a compact swing and tremendous plate discipline, collecting a significant 2.63 walk-to-strikeout ratio (308-to-117). A lifetime .225 hitter she made good contact, hitting safely more frequently with runners on base or when the team was behind in the score, as her 400 runs batted in ties her in fourth place with Elizabeth Mahon on the all-time list, behind Dorothy Schroeder (431), Inez Voyce (422) and Eleanor Callow (407). In addition, the versatile Paire played shortstop and third base, and even pitched. She also was a member of a championship team and made the playoffs in nine of her ten seasons.

In 60 playoff games, she hit .211 with one home run and 16 RBI, including one triple and seven stolen bases.

In fact, a lot of women were good players. And would be today if they were allowed to play the game. But instead they’re stuck playing softball, and I can only assume this is because it’s presumed to be safer. (This isn’t a logical conclusion that takes into account the speed with which some women pitch or the fact that the ball is plenty hard, but the fact is that little girls don’t have the option of playing the American pastime once they get past coed tee-ball age.) This system has always felt a little like the old six-on-six basketball rules, which were finally eradicated for good in the ’90s (Iowa and Oklahoma were the last two holdouts).

Is softball a remnant of a paternalistic culture that feels girls and women have to be protected? Probably. But I’ve played a number of sports with women – basketball, baseball, softball, volleyball, soccer, tennis, you name it. The idea that these are delicate flowers who can’t handle the full measure of the game is ludicrous, and we have all the examples you’d ever need in pretty much every game except baseball and American football (which frankly, I’m not sure anyone ought to play, male or female). Do Mia Hamm and Alex Morgan and Abby Wambach look fragile to you? Maya Moore and Candace Parker?

A League of Their Own sparked a brief revival in women’s baseball. The Silver Bullets were founded shortly after the movie popularized the idea of women with fastballs. Here in Denver, the NABA launched a women’s league. The whole fad fizzled, though, and with our last links to that legacy of women’s baseball dying out, it’s hard to see how the vaguely sexist softball culture might ever be replaced with a baseball option.

It’s a shame to think that there will be no more Pepper Paires. There will certainly be plenty of Debbie Altmans ripping doubles into the gap on the playground and Gertrude Hineses taking little Sammy LInville’s third strike and Aunt Janies who show up the boys every time they step on the field. The occasional Teresa will love the game so much that she’s willing to deal with being stared at and whispered about when she steps into the box as the only woman in a man’s league, and her teammates will scream their fool heads off when she smacks an RBI single up the middle off a pitcher who now has to go back to the dugout and endure the humiliation of having given up a hit to a girl.

Perhaps no character in the canon of American culture has ever loved baseball so completely as Bull Durham‘s Annie Savoy. Few have known more about the game or more fully inhabited its spiritual essence. I have always called Bull Durham the greatest sports movie ever made, and in part this is because not of what happens on the field, but because of the negative space in the social fabric: Annie, the soul of the narrative, is only allowed to play the game in her back yard. She has no league of her own.

For a few years, Lavonne Paire-Davis and the rest of the women in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League did. S&R honors them and the grace with which they crashed the gender barrier, if only for a while. We hope that the US, as it evolves on questions of fairness and equity, finally creates a place where little girls and young women can fully share in what the Boston Globe‘s James Carroll once called the “baseball communion.”

If we do, it will repair our losses and be a blessing to us.

Image Credits: NBC Sports, Feminist Guide to Hollywood

The seven kinds of rape (thx to the GOP for sorting this out)

Back in the old days rape was rape. Or, at most, there were two kinds. There was the “put on a ski mask and rape her at knifepoint” type and there was the “she said she was 18” statutory type. Which wasn’t really rape at all, because, I mean, LOOK at her. And she really wanted it.

These days it’s more complicated. There’s ALL KINDS of rape, and it’s important to understand the differences because some of them have distinctly religious implications. That is, if you’re being raped, it helps to be aware of whether or not it’s God’s will, for instance. That way you can know whether or not you should be enjoying it (in a holy spirit way, not a sins of the flesh way, you whore) and you can even be thinking about whether or not you’ll be blessed with a pregnancy. Maybe you can even start thinking about baby names. Continue reading The seven kinds of rape (thx to the GOP for sorting this out)

Mitt Romney, Man of the People® Tour mysteriously blows an opportunity to score points with the womenfolk

We know that the Romney campaign is ramping up its attempts to lure female voters, and we were optimistic about the entertainment prospects of these efforts when, a few days, Mitt garnered the much sought-after Gene Simmons endorsement (which, now that Wilt Chamberlain is dead, is pretty much the gold standard of playa cred).

So we weren’t surprised to see Mitt on the stump wailing away at Team Obama.

Romney rebuts claims that he, GOP are anti-women
By Charles Babington
Associated Press / April 11, 2012

HARTFORD, Conn.—Presidential candidate Mitt Romney intensified his efforts Wednesday to rebut claims that he and fellow Republicans are insufficiently supportive of women, or even hostile to them. Continue reading Mitt Romney, Man of the People® Tour mysteriously blows an opportunity to score points with the womenfolk

Limbaugh atones for attacking young woman by attacking another young woman

Seriously?

It seems that after several days of mounting public pressure, Rush Limbaugh has finally cracked. How else could you explain his attempt to move beyond this whole “hating on young women” debacle by continuing to attack young women? Today’s victim? Author Tracie McMillan, who represents another one of those awful “overeducated” young unmarried women Rush so emphatically resents. (More)

This one isn’t as vitriolic as the Sandra Fluke case, but it certainly makes clear that Rush is committed to the War to Keep ‘Em Barefoot and Pregnant for the long haul.

Limbaugh’s remaining advertisers have to be just loving this stuff….

As boycott pressure mounts on Limbaugh, two words come to mind: hoist, petard

I don’t know when the very first boycott of a product or company happened, but I suspect the tactic has been around in some form or another for a long time. I do remember the onset of the modern form of the practice, though. Back in the ’70s and ’80s, social conservatives began going after businesses who advertised on shows they didn’t approve of as a key part of their culture war strategy and they did so with a good deal of effectiveness. So much effectiveness, in fact, that a lot of people today (both conservatives and more progressive types like myself) routinely make purchasing decisions based on a company’s political behavior. (I miss Buy Blue, which made the process a lot simpler.)

A lot of conservatives this week seem to have conveniently forgotten their history. Continue reading As boycott pressure mounts on Limbaugh, two words come to mind: hoist, petard

“Apology” to Sandra Fluke shows libel threat and advertiser defections have Team Limbaugh running scared; what to do next

Rush Limbaugh has apologized to Sandra Fluke. Sort of – he uses the opportunity to reiterate everything except the actual insults. If he were concerned about sincerity, he wouldn’t have buried the apology on Saturday afternoon, he have delivered it in the same medium as he did the attack.

Here’s what the move by Limbaugh means:

  1. His lawyers told him that a libel suit had merit, and
  2. he was feeling the backlash against his advertisers.

Here’s what it doesn’t mean: Limbaugh’s opponents have won. Continue reading “Apology” to Sandra Fluke shows libel threat and advertiser defections have Team Limbaugh running scared; what to do next

Komen Foundation pretends to change its mind. One corporate communications executive wonders: is the public stupid enough to buy it?

Read. The language. Closely.

Contrary to what Komen’s highly-paid PR crisis hacks and gullible headline writers at newsdesks around the nation would ask you to believe, The Susan G. Komen Foundation does NOT promise to fund Planned Parenthood in the future. They promise to let PP APPLY for grants in the future. Applying and receiving are different things, as anyone who ever applied and got rejected for a job ought to know. Continue reading Komen Foundation pretends to change its mind. One corporate communications executive wonders: is the public stupid enough to buy it?

Is George RR Martin a creepy misogynist? Alyssa Rosenberg brings a big dose of perspective to the “debate” (plus some comments on Terry Pratchett, while we’re at it)

Last week, Sady Doyle published a protracted rant against George RR Martin’s Song of Ice & Fire series at TigerBeatdown.com. My initial reaction was that while her piece was certainly stylishly composed, the level of intellectual rigor informing it was lacking. Acacia Graddy-Gamel, commenting in an online discussion thread earlier this afternoon, put it this way: “the Doyle piece is everything I absolutely hate about feminist or postmodern critique in that it is just as insular, smug, narrow-minded and condescending as the hegemonic structures they’re railing against.” I don’t want to be that harsh, but I can understand her frustration.  Continue reading Is George RR Martin a creepy misogynist? Alyssa Rosenberg brings a big dose of perspective to the “debate” (plus some comments on Terry Pratchett, while we’re at it)