The GIST: If you can believe it, the 2020 Major League Baseball (MLB) season was supposed to start today, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the season has been postponed until mid-May at the earliest. Sad. So to fill your baseball void, we’re here to give a brief
history GISTory lesson on women in baseball. Hell yeah, baby.
The 1800s: It may come as a shock, but organized women’s baseball first got its roots all the way back in 1866 when Vassar College formed two teams. Many other colleges followed suit, but due to backlash from the public saying that playing baseball was “unladylike,” these teams were shut down within a handful of years. *rolls eyes*
- And thanks to those organized teams pushing the boundaries, the first paid professional women’s teams — the “Blondes” and the “Brunettes” (very original) — were formed in 1875 in Springfield, Illinois. But for the same reason mentioned above, these teams were forced to fold relatively quickly too. Bummer.
The 1900s: Let’s fast forward to WWII. With many men away at war, there was space for women to thrive in traditionally male-dominated fields, including — you guessed it — sports. If you’ve watched the classic 1992 film A League of Their Own (and if you haven’t, add it to your isolation watch-list) you’re probably familiar with the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) which was founded in 1943.
- Though it was a women’s league, the AAGPBL was founded by former Chicago Cubs owner Philip K. Wrigley (yes, that Wrigley) and men still owned and managed the teams. As you can imagine, there was no shortage of sexism, as Wrigley was once quoted saying, “Femininity is the keynote of our league; no pants-wearing, tough-talking female softballer will play on any of our four teams.” If only he could see us in our sweats today.
- That said, the league lasted for 12 years and saw over 500 women hit the diamond. And, at the height of its popularity, the league saw almost 1 million (!!!) in attendance. Who said people don’t watch women’s sports? Unfortunately, the end of WWII and the re-establishment of a men’s professional league led to the demise of the AAGPBL.
The 2000s: Although softball is the most popular bat and ball sport for women in North America and there’s no pro baseball league, the women who preceded us paved the way so that we can play, coach and talk about America’s pastime. Some women we bow down to today are:
- Alyssa Nakken: In January she became the first female full-time head coach in the MLB after being hired by the San Francisco Giants.
- Jessica Mendoza: Five years ago, she became the first female MLB analyst and in March 2019 she became the New York Mets senior advisor to the general manager.
- Mo’ne Davis: In 2014 she became the first girl to earn a win and to pitch a shutout in Little League World Series history. She’s currently playing softball at Hampton University.