Bushman, who made history as A’s broadcaster, dies at 89
Betty Bushman had been a model and a television weather forecaster when Charles O. Finley, the cantankerous owner of the Kansas City Athletics, asked her to join his moribund team’s radio crew in the waning days of the 1964 season.
“I know as much about baseball as the average woman does,” she said at the time.
Bushman, known then as Betty Caywood, was a pioneer — the first woman to call a majorleague baseball team’s games. But her hiring was a promotional ploy by Finley, then baseball’s foremost perpetrator of gimmicks. He needed her to appeal to “the dolls,” as he put it — to turn more women into A’s fans.
As she tried to bring a feminine perspective to baseball, she endured sexism, including the refusal of baseball writers to let her eat in the dining room at Fenway Park in Boston. She was also the subject of headlines like “A Breakthrough! Finley Signs a Girl” and the focus of frequent references to her blond hair and blue eyes.
The job did not last long. She worked only 15 games before her contract expired, and Finley declined to renew it. Nonetheless, she enjoyed working with her partners, Monte Moore and George Bryson; briefly made more money than she had in the past; and was proud to have broken into an exclusively male sportscasting bastion.
Bushman died Sept. 3 in her condominium in Kansas City, Mo. She was 89. Her son Craig said the cause was a stroke.
She moved to Chicago in 1960 and was hired to deliver weather reports on WBKBTV. She met Finley, an insurance magnate based in Chicago, when he appeared on the station. When she left in 1964, Finley suggested she join the A’s radio team.
“I think we accomplished what we set out to do, but I know we’d have done much better with more time,” she told the St. Joseph
Newspress in December 1964.
In 2018 Bushman, who later ran a travel agency and got involved in charity work, recalled Finley’s boozy middle of the-night calls to her.
“When he first hired me, he told me that he wanted me to wear Kelly green and that awful yellow,” she said, referring to the gaudy color scheme he had introduced for the team’s uniform. “And I said, ‘Your male broadcasters wear that?’ And he said, ‘Well, of course not,’ and I said, ‘Neither does your female one.’ ”