A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN
“Girls can’t play ball!” a man yells as he stands on top of the dugout to mock the women playing in the All-american Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL). To shut the man up, Ellen Sue (Freddie Simpson) fires a ball that pegs him right in the shoulder, knocking him down. Twenty-five years later, women in baseball are still experiencing the sexism portrayed in this 1992 feature film.
Girls were initially included in baseball, but when the pastime became a professional sport in the late 1800s, it was marketed toward white men. Now though, girls are fighting to reclaim their space in the sport. Mo’ne Davis was the breakout star of the 2014 Little League World Series, becoming the first girl to throw a shutout game in the tournament’s history. In 2016, the Sonoma Stompers became the first men’s professional baseball team to draft multiple women. This season, pitcher Stacy Piagno collected her first win with the team, making her just the third woman to get a win in men’s professional baseball.
Yet professional baseball teams are much more willing to celebrate the 25th anniversary of A League of Their Own than the actual women of the AAGPBL. Many teams, including the Boston Red Sox and the Miami Marlins, have honored the film. But when it comes to celebrating the actual players, Major League Baseball relegates women to the sidelines, as baseball has done since Albert G. Spalding proclaimed that a woman’s place was in the stands.
Even rarer still is the acknowledgment of Black women in the game. The film alludes to it with a singular scene: A Black woman walks onto the field, picks up a baseball, and fires it to Ellen Sue, who is standing much farther away than the closest catcher, Dottie (Geena Davis). After the throw, the woman simply nods at Dottie before walking away. The Black woman was modeled after Mamie “Peanut” Johnson, who showed up to AAGPBL tryouts but was told to leave because she was Black. Professional teams never honor the women who played in the Negro Leagues because women are still not seen as legitimate ballplayers.
Until professional baseball gets comfortable acknowledging the women who have played baseball, it will be impossible to get to a point where they are equally included. Women players deserve to be recognized, but 25 years is not long enough to undo more than a century’s worth of discrimination. RATING: