Twenty years ago today, Ila Borders broke barriers in baseball when she became the first woman to pitch in a professional minor league baseball game. In 1997, Borders signed with the St. Paul Saints and played in her first game on May 31. Borders was also the first women to receive a college scholarship to play men’s baseball, the first woman to earn a win in college baseball, and the first woman to earn a win in a professional baseball game.
Today Borders is a firefighter and paramedic in Portland, OR, but she still makes time to talk about her experiences in baseball. The St. Paul Saints recently had an Ila Borders bobblehead giveaway to commemorate the 20th anniversary of her first game and her book, Making My Pitch: A Woman’s Baseball Odyssey, was published last month.
Other women’s firsts in baseball include:
- Jackie Mitchell, the first woman to pitch for a minor league team, the Chattanooga Lookouts, in an exhibition game in 1931.
- Toni Stone, the first of three women to play in the Negro Leagues. Stone played for the barnstorming team, the San Francisco Sea Lions, in 1945 before signing with the New Orleans Creoles in 1949. (The other women to play for the Negro Leagues were Mamie Johnson and Connie Morgan.)
- Mamie Johnson, the first woman pitcher in the Negro Leagues. She signed with the Indianapolis Clowns in 1953.
- Eri Yoshida, the first woman drafted by a Japanese professional baseball team. Yoshida signed with the Kobe 9 Cruise of the Kansai Independent Baseball League in 2008.
Happy anniversary, Ila!