Women have always struggled to make their way into the sports industry. Due to this, the world has missed uncountable opportunities to enjoy their talent and skill. However, there is a rich history of women in baseball, and we will tell you all about it.
It is no news that the sports industry has always been a complex world for women. Nowadays, almost all sports have a female division. What was the case of women in baseball? What history lies behind the very first female league? From Inmersivo, Empointe’s learning platform, we bring you all you need to know about it.
Although there is evidence of women playing baseball in the 1860s, it was still not “normal” to see female players in a sport considered “male-only”. However, this began to change in the early 1890s. Why? Crazy as it may sound, the bicycle became so popular during those times that outdoor activities became a thing for women too. And cycling then led to other sports.
Of course, cycling in a skirt was uncomfortable for women. And so appeared the Bloomer Girls club. This club took the name from the nickname that radical women received. How extreme were they? Well, they went against traditional fashion norms and chose bloomers instead of skirts. At those times, it was quite a female rebellion! Can you imagine that?
This Bloomer Club gave way to the Boston Bloomer Girls baseball club. Of course, and as you may imagine, many local authorities banned this kind of practice. However, other cities welcomed them, and curious fans started showing up. Due to their lack of professionalism and training, they still needed some polishing. Yet skilled female players, such as talented pitcher Maud Nelson drew attention from the crowds. Her curveball gave much to speak about during the games.
The Bloomer Girls baseball club was a hit. However, it was still a touring team. Even though they participated in many matches, these were not professional. Instead, they played in exhibition matches which caused great fan attraction. Still, as time passed, many women became more experienced and, thus, more talented.
One of the best-known young women baseball players was Lizzie Murphy. Rumor says she borrowed her semi-pro father’s equipment as a child and practiced with the local boys. She played as first baseman, and her outstanding skills earned her the nickname of “The Queen of Baseball”. A pure athlete, Murphy made her way to semi-pro teams and led a touring squad all over the eastern United States. Her career lasted from 1918 to 1935.
But this changed radically when World War II began. Over 500 male players, including superstars, were drafted. The major league was suddenly out of players. Due to this situation, the owner of the Chicago Cubs, Phillip K. Wrigley, summoned a committee to find a financial solution to baseball during the war. Thus appeared the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.
The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) existed from 1943 to 1954. Besides Wrigley, other founders were also Branch Rickey and Paul V. Harper. Their biggest fear was that teams would become unable to travel due to the lack of gasoline, and the MLB would disappear for some time.
The AAGPBL consisted of about 600 women divided into ten teams. All of them were in the American Midwest. In this way, they would avoid falling into the same problem. Due to legal issues, the league changed its name several times. They claimed that the rules were not precisely the same as the MLB, so calling it a Professional Baseball League was incorrect.
Until the creation of the AAGPBL, the only ball game played by women was softball. Thus, the board had to create a game combining both men’s baseball and softball rules. Besides, many of the recruited women were semi-pro softballers, and the game’s management had to be a mixture of both. But this was the first of two main issues.
The second problem was finding talented women. They had to be playing either softball or baseball across the country. So scouting began, and players from both the United States and Canada. Teams consisted of fifteen players, so completing them was no simple task. Executives from the baseball industry and other sports, such as hockey, put their efforts into finding talented women who wanted to participate in the AAGPBL.
From the year 2000 and on, many women participated in the men’s league. Ila Borders, for example, pitched for three years at a professional level. In 2008, En Yoshida became the first woman to participate in the Japanese baseball league. She also broke the milestone of being the first woman to play professionally in two different countries.
Nowadays, the AAGPBL continues to exist. IT is a non-profit organization that preserves its history while supporting women and girls across the United States who deserve the opportunity of playing Hardball, women’s baseball. And this is no minor detail. After years of struggling, women achieved an exclusive place for themselves and should maintain it.
Throughout history, women have made their way into the sports industry. At its beginning, this was only for men. Do you know any other example of a female struggle to get professional access to a sport? You can share them with us on our social media! Thanks for reading! See you next time!