Photo by Brandon Mowinkel on Unsplash
Women are no strangers to baseball. Various colleges throughout the US have had women’s baseball teams since as early as the 19th century, and the immense talent of female players has been proven through countless examples over time.
Men’s baseball has been a slightly different story. Much like women in football, opportunities for women wishing to work in men’s leagues have been few and far between from a historical point of view. However, a new age of equality of opportunity has given rise to welcome change, and the roles of women in baseball are expanding considerably.
As recently as January of 2022, Rachel Balkovec was appointed as the manager of the Low-A Tampa Tarpons, a single-A affiliate team of the New York Yankees. This made Balkovec the first woman in history to manage an affiliated baseball team.
Also occurring in 2022 was the signing of Kelsie Whitmore to the Staten Island Ferry Hawks, which led to Whitmore being the first woman to play a game for an Atlantic League of Professional Baseball team.
The examples above illustrate baseball’s continued evolution, but the foundations for these changes were built through decades of progress. To understand how we got to where we are today, let’s take a look at the most notable moments that led to this point.
The first women’s baseball team
Vassar College formed the first official women’s baseball team in 1866. The world was a little different back then, and our reliance on rigid gender stereotypes made the formation of Vassar’s team a controversial move in the eyes of the public.
The Vassar Resolutes, as they would come to be known, had to face multiple challenges from the very beginning, such as having to wear woolen dresses that covered their ankles, for example.
Conservative culture and other archaic expectations eventually led to the team’s disbandment in 1878, when the parents of Resolute team members grew concerned over the perception of young female players in baseball.
It would take another decade or so for society to get rid of most of these stigmas. Multiple women’s baseball teams were formed in the early 1890s. Recognition of female athletes quickly gained steam from that point on, and it wouldn’t be long before the skill and determination of female players became self-evident.
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Breaking stereotypes and saving baseball
In 1898, 20 years after the Vassar Resolutes, we had the first professional baseball contract for a woman. The first female umpire came shortly after that, in 1905, followed by the first woman to own a major league team. These were important changes for the world of women’s baseball, but there were greater developments on the way.
The first event came shortly after the women’s suffrage movement when 17-year-old Jackie Mitchell signed with the Chattanooga Lookouts in 1931. Her pitching prowess is nothing short of legendary, due in large part to the fact that she struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig – two of the most prolific Hall of Famers in baseball history.
The second major catalyst for change was World War II. A shortage of male baseball players led to the formation of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, which began in 1943. It lasted until 1954, but its temporary existence was the chief cause for a permanent shift in the general public’s perception of women in baseball.
In the years to follow, unfair societal standards and cultural stereotypes gradually fell to the wayside, and baseball became a far more inclusive sport. 1988 saw the first woman to play in a men’s NCAA baseball team. Six years later, we witnessed the first woman to pitch for a men’s baseball team.
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From then to now
After another decade of progress, the Women’s World Cup of Baseball was inaugurated in 2004. Expanding opportunities for women in baseball followed soon after, and accurate representation of female talent was finally a tangible reality.
For instance, in 2006, Effa Manley became the first woman to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. In 2012, Michele Smith was a commentator for a Major League Baseball game, making her the first female sports analyst to do so for a nationally televised game.
Fast forward to today, and women’s baseball is no longer a separate entity from its male counterpart. Men and women can find equal opportunities in any aspect of the sport, from playing and coaching to broadcasting and umpiring.
Some would say that it took us far too long to attain the level of equality we have today, but the roles of women in baseball have never been as extensive as they are right now. We’ve come a long way from the trials and tribulations of the past, and the future of the sport has never looked brighter.
The post <strong>All You Need to Know About Women in Baseball</strong> appeared first on Off The Bench.
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