On March 9, 1979, then-Commissioner of Baseball Bowie Kuhn instructed MLB teams to give access to locker rooms to female reporters. Kuhn’s edict was in response to a 1978 court ruling that found MLB guilty of discriminating against female reporters. The case stemmed from an incident during the 1977 World Series in which Sports Illustrated reporter Melissa Ludtke was denied access to the New York Yankees clubhouse for post-game interviews because she was a woman. In 1978, the district court decided that Ludtke’s fourteenth amendment right was violated as well as “her fundamental right to pursue her profession.”
The court did not specify how MLB was to provide equal access to reporters for locker room interviews. The Yankees’ solution was to declare that all reporters would be given 10 minutes to interview players after a game, but then would have to leave for 30 minutes to allow the players to shower. MLB soon realized such a solution was not optimal.
In March 1979, Kuhn announced that each club could set their own policy for locker room access. Later, Ludtke pointed out that such a policy did not provide equal, consistent access, making it difficult for women as they reported on different clubs. She was quoted as saying, “Baseball has succeeded brilliantly in making equal access appear as a moral and not a political problem, and as sexy, but not the sexist issue that it is. I, and others like me, were presented as women who wanted nothing more than to wander aimlessly around a locker room, to stare endlessly at naked athletes and to invade the privacy of individuals whose privacy had already been disrupted for years by our male colleagues.”
Yesterday I stumbled upon a great resource for baseball fans and researchers: the Luis J. Botifoll Oral History Project digital collection at the University of Miami. The collection includes several videos of oral history interviews that were conducted with “members of the first generations of Cubans to leave the island after the Cuban Revolution.”
The online collection contains two baseball-related interviews. The first is an oral history interview with Andres Fleitas, former player for the Almendares Blues of the Cuban baseball leagues. The University of Miami libraries blog includes a summary of the interview, and the online collection has a video of the interview. The other interview is with Rafael “Felo” Ramírez, the Spanish-language broadcaster for the Miami Marlins. The online collection contains a video of his interview, as well.
I decided to jump on the band wagon and see what all the fuss is about the 1940 Census. My first thought was, should I really care? My second thought was, how can we use it for baseball?
Until a name index is created, you have to know a person’s enumeration district – i.e., where a person lived – to find them in the census. In the case of Babe Ruth, who lived in New York City, it can be rather daunting. That place is kind of big. (Fortunately, someone else already found him!) I first tried searching for Bob Feller, Brooks Robinson, and Willie Mays, but Cleveland, Little Rock, and Birmingham are also kind of big.
However, sometimes its easier to guess a person’s 1940 address. For example, I knew Walter Johnson had lived was somewhere in Montgomery County, MD, I just wasn’t sure where. With a little bit of reach on Wikipedia, I was quickly able to find out that he moved to Germantown, MD, after he retired from baseball. Fortunately, Germantown wasn’t that big in 1940. The entire city was contained in only two enumeration districts. It was just a matter of going through page by page looking for the former Washington Senators’ pitcher. After going through about 50 pages, I found him! He was a 53-year old dairy farmer living on a farm in Germantown with his mom, Minnie, and his five kids. Cool!
So, what would be the point of looking up baseball players in the 1940 Census? Either serious historical baseball research… or just plain nosiness. Happy searching!