Why dont women play baseball ? I like the fast-pitch style of softball. It’s entertaining and fun to watch, but I don’t understand why it is even necessary. Softball, like most every sport, is a game that was founded by chance.
On Thanksgiving Day in 1887, a group of men were impatiently awaiting the score of the Harvard-Yale football game and decided to create an ad hoc indoor version of baseball to keep themselves entertained.
They tied a baseball glove into a ball and used a broomstick as a bat, and just like that, softball was born.
The game evolved over time, finding its niche as a co-ed activity usually played in non-competitive environments, although several men’s leagues were formed during the early part of the 20th century.
In fact, at that time, softball wasn’t for women at all. Rather, women were finding their way onto baseball fields with leagues forming as early as 1866 when the all-female students at Vassar College fielded teams of their own.
Then in 1875, a women’s baseball club based out of Springfield, Ill., put together two teams: the Blondes and the Brunettes.
The was the biggest obstacle looming for women interested in playing baseball was that their talents simply didn’t hold water, not against the novelty of women playing baseball and the entertainment factor of it all.
Rather than be lauded for their abilities, the women’s leagues were fielded for laughs and advertising ventures.
All-female teams such as the New York Bloomer Girls and the Fort Wayne Daisies formed shortly after the turn of the 20th century and only added to the image that women were frail and much too girly to seriously compete on a baseball field.
Photos of those pioneering women hang in the National Baseball Hall of Fame Library in Cooperstown, N.Y., a far cry from proper redemption but a remembrance nonetheless.
During World War II, when baseball saw nearly its entire employee base get shipped out to Europe, the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League entered the scene to provide a rabid fan base some relief.
More than 600 women took the field as professional athletes, including the Racine Belles, the team popularized in the 1992 film, “A League of Their Own.”
Soon, overhand pitching took over as well, and the only remaining difference between the girls and the guys was the size of the field.
The undersized field still made its way to the softball diamond, though, where the length between bases and the overall field size is significantly smaller than its baseball counterpart, about 50 percent smaller.
A softball field has 60 feet between each base while baseball’s bases are 90 feet apart. The distance between home plate and second base is a little over 84 feet on a softball field, while it’s 127 feet apart on a baseball field.
The distance between the pitching mound and home plate is smaller, too.
So not only do women work with a smaller field, they use the oversized ball as well.
The reasoning behind both items is that women have smaller hands and don’t have the power necessary to throw the ball as efficiently on a baseball-sized field.
I think that’s a big load of poppycock.
By that same logic, why don’t we make the girls soccer net three or four feet larger in diameter and length? And give them a beach ball to kick around, while you’re at it?
Or why not lower the net a foot or two for the girls basketball players, or maybe even let the girls swim team compete in smaller pools with shorter laps?
When Title IX, the 1972 law that required equal funding to both male and female sports teams, finally appeared, women were given fair ground on nearly every sport.
Baseball was not on that list, though. Instead, the law dictated that the school must provide an equivalent sport, and in that case, it was softball. Thus, schools were within their right to deny girls who were interested in baseball as long as a softball team was provided.
Since then, women all over the country, and now the world, have fought for the chance to play on their school’s baseball team. Some have succeeded, and most have failed, but none have made a serious impact.
I’m not sure that’s the right way to go about it either, though. Instead of encouraging a coed venture like that one, why not just create a girls baseball team?
Imagine a fast-pitch softball pitcher with an actual baseball in her hands, instead of that giant neon monstrosity.
Perhaps it would transform softball as we know it. Perhaps only a handful of girls would even sign up, opting for the more traditional softball.
Baseball Isn’t For Girls: HowTitle IX and a Sexist Culture Keep Women Out Of MLB
Baseball is and always has been a male-run, male-dominated sport and there is no incentive to change this.
Let me preface this discussion with this disclaimer: I am a woman who fought in the gender revolution of the 1970s. We made a lot of progress, but we didn’t change everything. I am not blaming men for anything, simply pointing out what I see as facts.
Anytime women attempt to make inroads into male-dominated areas, there is resistance. Not only from men, but from society as a whole.
Americans want their women to fit certain roles. Girls are not socialized to sports as boys are. Boys are encouraged to pick a sport and stick with it, develop their talents, and make a name for themselves on the fields of competition.
Unless it’s a feminized sport, like gymnastics, swimming, or tennis, girls are not similarly encouraged.
American girls are supposed to quit sports and take up cheer leading or to sit demurely on the sidelines, rooting for their boyfriends and brothers. Because much of America still believes that boys don’t make passes at girls who throw passes. Or turn double plays. Or sink three-pointers.
We want our daughters dating boys, not competing against them. And our daughters are taught from early childhood to know that’s what we want.
Of course there are young women all over America excelling at sports, but for the most part, they are the exception, not the rule.
With the advent of Title IX, which required that schools offer all children equal opportunities in all areas of education, girls were offered more opportunity to compete, but were generally allowed to do so in separate arenas.
Girls could now be excluded from baseball because schools offered softball, a more acceptable sport for women. And so it’s remained since Title IX became law in 1972; girls now have sports offered to them, but those sports aren’t always the same as the boys.
It’s largely because of Title IX and its allowance of separate-but-equal sports opportunities for girls, that there are no women in MLB; girls stop playing baseball, generally, around 6th grade and are never given the opportunity again.
Girls don’t get to play baseball on a competitive level, so they don’t get drafted to play baseball at the professional level.
In general, the inclusion of women in all areas of American life has taken time and been met with resistance. Most cultures tend to hang on to their traditions, and this country is no exception.
Witness the gender integration of West Point, which didn’t happen until 1976, despite women’s contributions to the military since the Revolutionary War.
Recall the fight Shirley Muldowney put up to race in the NHRA; all she wanted to do was drive a funny car and have breasts at the same time. Apparently, that was a problem for the men.
No institution likes change, and sports seem to like it least of all. NASA has had female astronauts since 1978, yet it was only in August of this year that a woman piloted an unlimited turbine-powered hydroplane.
Are males reluctant to give up their power, control, and dominance in what are traditionally men’s domains? Perhaps.
Maybe men don’t understand that, given the choice, women do want to compete on the testosterone laden fields of sports, against the men.
After all, real girls don’t play sports, right?
It doesn’t really matter why women haven’t been drafted by the Dodgers or the Cardinals or the Yankees, the fact remains that they haven’t.
There is not enough attention paid to the lack of women in baseball, and not enough pressure brought to bear on the powers that be in MLB, to make this change.
There’s more to be said on this issue, of course. There are mothers who were denied sporting opportunities who now fight for their daughters to be allowed to compete in school athletics.
There are girls willing to take on the establishment to play boys’ sports because baseball or football or wrestling aren’t offered for young women. These girls work hard and set a wonderful example.
There are socioeconomic considerations here, and cultural reasons for the current condition of women’s baseball. There isn’t time or room to go into all of it.
All of this aside, there is still no baseball for girls in a lot of places. Once Little League ends for them, it’s softball or nothing. Which means there are no girls being scouted for, or drafted by, MLB. And that is not acceptable.
For more information on the reasons that women aren’t present in Major League Baseball, check out these resources:
Stolen Bases: Why American Girls Don’t Play Baseball, by Jennifer Ring (University of Illinois Press)
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