Business woman, baseball team owner, civil rights activist, and member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, Effa Manley:
Phyllis George passed away over the weekend at the age of 70. Wikipedia summed up her career as follows: “[She] was an American businesswoman, actress, and sportscaster. She was also Miss Texas 1970, Miss America, 1971, and the First Lady of Kentucky from 1979 to 1983.” In other words, she did it all.
George broke barriers in the 1970s, becoming one of the first female NFL broadcasters as a reporter and host on “The NFL Today,” the CBS football pre-game show. As news spread of her death, women in sports, including several current baseball reporters and broadcasters, expressed their condolences, recognized George’s impact on the industry and their careers, and thanked her for being a trailblazer:
Rest In Peace, Ms. George.
As folks continue to stay inside looking for ways to entertain themselves and their kids, a lot of people are doing virtual visits to museums. The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum has a lot of great exhibit videos, though they are all very short. They have links to additional resources and online exhibits on their website.
Here are their exhibits focusing on minorities and women in baseball:
Happy birthday to Lucille Moore! Moore would have turned 102 today (she passed away in 2004). She was a chaperone for the South Bend Blue Sox of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Chaperones were assigned to each team and acted as surrogate mothers to the players. They traveled with the team and were responsible for making hotel reservations, disbursing payroll and meal allowances, laundry, social engagements, and enforcing curfews.
Lucy Moore was born on March 25, 1908, and attended Indiana State Teachers College. She was a physical education teacher and swim coach for South Bend Central High School. She served as a chaperone for the South Bend Blue Sox between 1945 to 1948. According to the AAGPBL website, the players were very fond of her and nicknamed her “Too-Ra-Loora.”
Unfortunately, I couldn’t locate any additional information on Lucy Moore, though you can search the Winthrop University archives for pictures of Moore. Also, check out a picture of Moore with other AAGPBL chaperones online from the Baseball Hall of Fame.
On this date in 1911, Helene Hathaway Robison Britton became the first woman owner of a Major League Baseball team. Britton inherited the St. Louis Cardinals after the death of her uncle, Stanley Robison.
Britton was born on January 30, 1879, into a future baseball family. Her father, Frank Robison, owned the Cleveland Forest Citys (later known as the Cleveland Spiders) from their establishment in 1887 until 1899. Frank and his brother Stanley also owned the St. Louis Cardinals from 1899 to 1911. Stanley managed the team for the last 50 games of the season in 1905, during which time the team went 19-31. In 1891, Frank Robison paid for the building of League Park in Cleveland, Ohio.
In 1891, Helene married the president of the Cardinals, Schuyler Pearson Britton (they divorced in 1916). When her Uncle Stanley passed away in 1911, she inherited the team (her father having passed away in 1908). Upon taking over ownership, Helene was interviewed by reporter Marguerite Martyn of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch who, according to Wikipedia, asked, “’Don’t you think being a woman will handicap you in accomplishing anything in this particular field, so thoroughly monopolized by men?’” Helene responded:
“’On the contrary, I think there are some ways in which I can take a positive stand and actually aid the prosperity and popularity of baseball by very reason of my sex. … I shall feel it my duty as well as my pleasure and advantage not to shrink from doing everything in my power to further the interests of the Cardinals. And the team is not for sale.’”
On this date in 1993, the San Francisco Giants hired Sherry Davis, the first woman hired to be a full-time MLB public address announcer. Davis worked from the Giants from 1993 to 1999.
I first wrote about Davis last year and am re-posting about her in honor of Women’s History Month. If you want to learn more about Ms. Davis, check out a video of her at work on the MLB website and a Los Angeles Times article from 1993 about her debut.
Today is “Women’s Baseball Day” – commemorating the first professional women’s baseball game in which fans were charged an entrance fee and women players were paid. It occurred on September 11, 1875, in Springfield, Illinois. The Blondes beat the Brunettes 42-35, although only three of their runs were earned. According to MLB.com’s Cut4, the games played by these two teams “were meant to be more like vaudeville shows.” Several of the players were actresses who learned the game from the event organizers.
Since then, women’s baseball has become a serious endeavor. The early 20th Century saw the “Bloomer Girls” and the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League debuted in 1943. Currently, women are having success in amateur and professional baseball, but there is more work to be done.
Today marks the 99th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. Women’s Equality Day was first celebrated in 1973, and has been noted with a presidential proclamation each year since them.
So, how are women faring in other social realms… including baseball?
Most of us are familiar with the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, which was established in 1943 and ended in 1954. Many of us might remember the Colorado Silver Bullets, a women’s professional baseball team that played from 1994 to 1997. Fewer of us might remember that time (1984) Bob Hope founded an all-women’s minor league team (that was not allowed to enter the Florida State League). Other attempts have been made to create women’s baseball leagues and some women have even made progress in the independent leagues or as umpires or broadcasters, but these women have been the exception rather than the rule.
What about elsewhere in baseball? In 2018, the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports noted that women occupied nearly 32% of MLB front office jobs, which was a increase from 29% in 2016. Women accounted for 24% of senior executive level positions, up from 21% in 2016.
Women in MLB include the following:
- Melanie LeGrande, Vice President, Social Responsibility, Office of the Commissioner
- Alicia Mullin, Vice President, Social Media, Office of the Commissioner
- Renée Tirado, Vice President and Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, Office of the Commissioner
- Rachel Balkovec, Latin American Strength and Conditional Coordinator, Houston Astros
- Cecilia Clark, Performance Coach, Cleveland Indians
- Sabrina Gomez, Mental Skills Coach, New York Mets
- Jacqueline Coleman, Vice President, Broadcasting and Game Presentation, Washington Nationals
- Elaine Hendrix, Vice President Community and Public Affairs, Detroit Tigers
- Sabrina Jenkins, Vice President, Special Events, Atlanta Braves
- Naomi Rodriguez, Vice President, External Affairs, Los Angeles Dodgers
- Susan Jaison, Senior Vice President, Finance, Miami Marlins
- Jean Afterman, Senior Vice President, Assistant General Manager, New York Yankees
- Raquel Ferreira, Vice President, Baseball Administration, Boston Red Sox
- Mary Giesler, Vice President, General Counsel, Minnesota Twins
- Amanda Hopkins, Area Scouting Supervisor, Seattle Mariners
- Nikki Huffman, Head Physical Therapist, Toronto Blue Jays
- Nicole Sherry, Head Groundskeeper, Baltimore Orioles
Women are making progress in baseball and opening doors for others. Hopefully, their success will continue.
Happy Women’s Equality Day!
Today is National Women in Baseball Day (not to be confused with National Girls and Women in Sports Day, February 6, or Women’s Baseball Day, September 11). The day marks the day – May 30, 1943 – that the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League played their first game. The first games were played in Rockford and Racine, with the South Bend Blue Sox playing the Rockford Peaches and the Kenosha Comets facing the Racine Belles.
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.”
While the issue was decided in the courts, there is evidence that the struggle for equal access continues.