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Tuesday, October 16, 2018

What It Took to Write About Baseball as a Woman

In 1983, she met Mantle, her hero, in Atlantic City. The retired center fielder, then fifty-one, was directing a golf tournament. Leavy caught up to him at a breakfast buffet. “He puts out his hand and says, ‘Hiii, I’m Mick,’ ” she recalled. “And I said, ‘Hi, I’m nervous.’ And he said, ‘Why? Didya think I was gonna pull on your titty?’ ”...

Leavy would endure more indignities in locker rooms over the years. One player covered her eyes and ran a hand down her side, but she never reported the incident. “I saw it as a test to see whether I had the—I don’t want to say balls, but whether I had the whatever to deal with them,” she said. Soon after, a coach began masturbating in front of her before a player came to her aid. Some Oakland Athletics players once pressured her into sipping a beer that turned out to be drugged. The next day, the team’s manager, Billy Martin, asked her, “Sleep well, Jane?” She concluded, “All of this is why nothing about the Babe phases me.”

A Baseball Fan Posted: October 16, 2018 at 06:44 AM | 26 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: women in baseball

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   1. Lonnie Smith for president Posted: October 16, 2018 at 08:27 AM (#5767414)
On the recent thread re: the dearth of women in broadcasting, there was some question (among what surely have been an all-male BTF commentariat sample) as to why women would want to bother in the first place, as baseball and pro sports in general are not welcoming cultures to women. Fellow man-splainers, for our further enlightened consideration, here is Exhibit A aka the long-suffering Jane Leavy.
   2. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 16, 2018 at 10:45 AM (#5767544)
Before this thread devolves into a political discussion, I'll only say that Leavy's book on Mantle is one of the better baseball bios I've read, and I've read a ton of them. The part on his father's life in the mines was particularly compelling.

(Full Disclosure: Leavy was a customer of my former book shop, but so were many other authors whose books I wouldn't necessarily recommend.)
   3. dlf Posted: October 16, 2018 at 11:10 AM (#5767572)
I haven't read Leavy's book on Mantle, but did really enjoy and would recommend her book on Koufax.
   4. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: October 16, 2018 at 12:32 PM (#5767662)
Joyce Carol Oates did some good writing on boxing. Not great writing, but certainly competent and enthusiastic. She tended to lapse into "print the legend" thinking which can't always be helped in a sport as full of larger-than-life characters and wild history as prizefighting.
   5. Blastin Posted: October 16, 2018 at 12:32 PM (#5767663)
Let's see how the menz on here say dumb, dumb, dumb things about women as they tend to.

I hope more women write. Sheryl Ring and Meg Rowley are two of my absolute favorites over at Fangraphs.
   6. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 16, 2018 at 12:35 PM (#5767666)
I hope more women write. Sheryl Ring and Meg Rowley are two of my absolute favorites over at Fangraphs.

And Sally Jenkins may be the best general sports columnist writing in the mainstream print media.
   7. BDC Posted: October 16, 2018 at 12:49 PM (#5767674)
I'll recommend some books by my colleagues: Angie Abdou's novel The Bone Cage (swimming and wrestling), and her memoir Home Ice (hockey); and for those who follow the sports of Oz, The Women's Footy Almanac, which Kasey Symons and others had a hand in creating.
   8. PreservedFish Posted: October 16, 2018 at 12:55 PM (#5767679)
If the Bible has taught us nothing else, and it hasn't, it's that women should stick to girls' sports, such as hot oil wrestling, foxy boxing, and such and such.
   9. A Baseball Fan Posted: October 16, 2018 at 01:01 PM (#5767689)
Jane Lee, Susan Slusser, Allyson Footer, and Maria Torres are very solid beat writers.
   10. Perry Posted: October 16, 2018 at 01:28 PM (#5767719)
I'll second the endorsements of Jane Leavy and Sally Jenkins and add Cait Murphy, whose book on the 1908 season was terrific.
   11. Perry Posted: October 16, 2018 at 01:34 PM (#5767726)
She concluded, “All of this is why nothing about the Babe phases me.”

OMG. The New Yorker. I need to lie down.
   12. The Run Fairy Posted: October 16, 2018 at 01:48 PM (#5767749)
I like Rowley a lot, she's probably my second-favourite writer at Fangraphs after Szym. But I can't read Ring. Maybe she's changed since the start of her tenure at Fangraphs, but when I read her far too many of her articles felt like clickbait that proved Betteridge's law of headlines. The had totally implausible possibilities being treated as if they were worthy of serious discussion. I'd probably like her more if she wasn't on a weekly schedule, it can't be easy to churn out so many articles on the subject.

I haven't read it in ages but I found Angell's article "Sharing the Beat" to be an interesting look at the first female beat writers.
   13. Tulo's Fishy Mullet (mrams) Posted: October 16, 2018 at 02:20 PM (#5767778)
Cait Murphy, whose book on the 1908 season was terrific.


Indeed. One of my favorite books on baseball.
   14. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: October 16, 2018 at 03:17 PM (#5767833)

How about Shirley Povich?
   15. dlf Posted: October 16, 2018 at 03:27 PM (#5767845)
How about Shirley Povich?


Mary Povich's mother, right?
   16. McCoy Posted: October 16, 2018 at 03:35 PM (#5767860)
I recall reading 1908 (crazy 08) back in the day and I'm happy to say it suffered the same problems that historical baseball books that were written by men do. I don't recall all of the specifics that she got wrong and it wasn't dozens but I recall her history on keeping foul balls was wrong. There was at least one other historical tidbit that was wrong as well but I forget.

A lot of the modern historical baseball books seem to rely heavily on newspaper accounts and are severely lacking in the first hand account department.
   17. McCoy Posted: October 16, 2018 at 05:30 PM (#5768011)
About balls in the stands

I was reading a book called 1908 the other day and in that book they have a snippet about a young kid named Reuben Berman who in 1923 refused to give a foul ball back. The Phillies pressed charges, the boy was detained overnight, later a judge tossed the case out stating that this is what little boys do therefore it isn't larceny. Then they state that since then fans get to keep foul balls.

I decided to do some digging and I found some discrepancies. A lot of sources like to state the kid got in trouble in Philadelphia at the Baker Bowl in 1923. Unfortunately using the NYT archive I see no record of any such thing happening. None of the sources ever give a date for a 1923 occurrence.

Baseball Library actually puts the event in New York at the Polo Grounds on May 16, 1921 in a game against the Reds. Reuben refuses to give the ball pack. The giants refund his ticket to him and eject him from the game. Reuben or I should say his parents sue for $20,000 and ends up getting $100. Afterwords the Giants allow fans to keep the ball (and BL states that Pittsburgh follows suit a couple of months later), but this does not mark the first time that this rule change happened. The Cubs actually in 1916 had already changed their policy and were allowing fans to keep foul balls.

Looking it up in the book the Game of Inches I see that Cubs owner Charles Weegham was indeed the first of the Club owners to allow fans to keep foul balls, and he did so in 1916. Though not all were happy about it. When the Phillies came to town they requested compensation for 8 lost balls during batting practice.

Reading Peter Morris' book we find that people got the events confused. Reuben Berman was not some 11 year old boy but a man who on May 16th 1921 got a foul ball and then tossed it to another fan. This was a common practice in those days originating from the War days, where a fan who caught a foul ball would then toss it to a man who was in the service. The club would not demand the ball back if an Army or Navy guy had it. This practice continued on after the war (though no longer needed to involve a serviceman) and it seems it was done on this particular case. Berman was interrogated, refunded his money, and ejected. He turned around and sued for $2,000 not $20,000 and won $100.

In Pittsburgh a couple of months later 3 fans are arrested for refusing to return foul balls. The city basically tells cops to stop arresting people for this and that is basically why the Pirates change their policy.

We finally get to the Philadelphia boy and it turns out it happened in 1922 and his name was Robert Cotter. He indeed was arrested and jailed overnight and he was indeed 11 years old. A judge did in fact dismiss the charges stating " Such an act on the part of a boy is merely proof that he is following his most natural impulses. It is a thing I would do myself"


As it turns out once Weegham sold off the Cubs they reversed policy and no longer allowed fans to keep balls. In 1930 a 17 year old fan was arrested when he caught a foul ball hit by Hack Wilson. That was pretty close to the last event in regards to fans not being able to keep foul balls.
   18. AndrewJ Posted: October 16, 2018 at 07:41 PM (#5768150)
By coincidence I just got Leavy's book on Babe Ruth from the library an hour ago.

A lot of the modern historical baseball books seem to rely heavily on newspaper accounts and are severely lacking in the first hand account department.

I agree, and I say this as somebody with a Newspapers.com account. Fact-checkers always rely on newspapers -- which have never used fact-checkers themselves...
   19. McCoy Posted: October 17, 2018 at 09:33 AM (#5768748)
Yeah, which lead to some dusty dry books with a good bit of inaccuracies. I think I first encountered this problem with a Honus Wagner bio book that I read. The book was full of day by day accounts that you could tell were largely gleamed from proquest searches and was largely devoid of any information of what made Honus tick, what made him a human, and what kind footprint/shadow did he leave? The Tris Speaker one suffered the same problems though it wasn't as dry as the Honus Wagner one. The author would write that Tris Speaker in some important stretch run game made a sensational catch as according to newspaper reports but we not got a sense of how Tris played defense and what a sensational catch in 1917 would look like.
   20. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 17, 2018 at 11:04 AM (#5768839)
About balls in the stands

McCoy, do you have a link for that long quote you posted?
   21. McCoy Posted: October 17, 2018 at 11:21 AM (#5768859)
That was me from many years ago.
   22. . Posted: October 17, 2018 at 11:33 AM (#5768874)
I guess it would be great if more women wrote about sports, but I'm not sure why. I certainly don't feel I've been deprived of anything over the years, or otherwise underserved as a consumer of writing and sports generally by the demographics that have pertained during my period of consumption.(*)

Can someone explain what I might have missed with the obtaining, apparently improper, producing demographics? The writer who's covered the U-Mich football beat for the Detroit News for several years is a woman, and she's really good and I read her all the time, but I'm not quite exactly sure what it is that her being a woman, rather than being excellent at her job, brings to the table that an excellent man wouldn't otherwise bring.

(*) Nor do I think very many other people honestly feel as if they've been deprived or underserved, as faddish as it might be now to loudly state otherwise.

   23. McCoy Posted: October 17, 2018 at 12:19 PM (#5768922)
I don't think the issue is that there needs to a be a female view but that for the longest time there was a barrier that prevented women from getting into and succeeding in this field and that it still exists in some form and strength even today.

   24. A Baseball Fan Posted: October 17, 2018 at 01:01 PM (#5768968)


Can someone explain what I might have missed with the obtaining, apparently improper, producing demographics? The writer who's covered the U-Mich football beat for the Detroit News for several years is a woman, and she's really good and I read her all the time, but I'm not quite exactly sure what it is that her being a woman, rather than being excellent at her job, brings to the table that an excellent man wouldn't otherwise bring.


Expand the talent pool. There are no doubt excellent women writers out there who, if they are discouraged from entering the field because of boorish behavior/assault, we would be missing out on.

I also think that the more issues like domestic violence are covered in baseball, it would help to have a female perspective.
   25. jingoist Posted: October 20, 2018 at 05:36 PM (#5771762)
I second or third the Sally Jenkins applause.
Dan’s daughter has surely made the old man proud.
I try not to miss her articles in the WaPo on any and all topics.
   26. AndrewJ Posted: October 21, 2018 at 10:27 AM (#5772020)
I completed reading The Big Fella the other day. Highly recommended.

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