Books | Sports

September 26, 2009

Why Do Men Need a League of Their Own?

Jennifer Ring, political scientist and mother of an outstanding female baseball player, wants to see the national pastime opened up to everyone in the nation, regardless of gender

Garey Ris

Lilly Jacobson has always been enamored of baseball. From the time she was a little girl, Jacobson watched baseball with her mother and played baseball with her friends, moving up over the years to Little League, where "Little Miss RBI" excelled playing on a boys team.

The older she got, though, the more she was isolated, despite her undeniable talent. After playing ball both in high-school and at Vassar College, Jacobson's dream of a professional career playing the sport she loves was over.

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- Sports
- posted on Oct 27, 09
Tom Flynn

Hi Gelfers --
I played baseball actively as an adult for twenty years, and have several family members that were minor league professionals. I've coached perhaps 200 players on youth teams from T-ball to high school (including a handful of girls that have ranged in talent), and I've written quite a bit about baseball, including an article on Ila Borders, who pitched briefly for the St. Paul Saints and several other pro teams. Additionally, my sons have played on teams with female teammates on several occasions. Although this does not represent a huge body of empirical data, it has given me the opportunity to spend 1,000's of hours around baseball diamonds.

I've not read this book, so need to clearly make that caveat, but this article reads to me like a fairly clear case of evidence being force-fitted around a conclusion drawn up Jennifer's unfortunate experience with her daughter's own career.

The lens that Jennifer has chosen is that women are being discriminated against on the baseball diamond. Through that lens, not surprisingly, Ms. Ring sees a baseball world tilted against the female player.

In my experience I have seen just the opposite. I've had little girls encouraged by their fellow male players far more than they do one another, and had my own sons speak with reverance towards the ability of a girl on the high school team that was heartening (in its absence of chauvinism) but after seeing her play, not truly proportionate to her talent.

I believe in reading the stats of Ila Borders very closely, and looking at her number of pitching starts, innings pitched, ERA and overall career, she was given an excellent opportunity to succeed. To the objective eye her career took her to the highest level of her ability. No higher, no lower.

If women are being locked out of baseball, by every means spring the lock and allow them to play. However one shouldn't - for the purposes of validating what is at best a thin premise for an entire non-fiction book - use worst-case examples as being broadly reflective of the sport or draw dubious analogies as validation of said premise.

The Negro League comparision is at very best, tenuous, and more accurately a belittling and fairly offensive comparison of women's unfortunate experiences in baseball to the very real and constant threat of bodily violence that players faced in many Southern cities in the early 20th century. However, itt's a very easy assertion to make and quickly draws reflected - and undue - poignancy to Ms. Ring's claim.

I will read the book, and chime back in here if I conclude differently, but this strikes me as an example of a non-fiction topic perhaps suited for a magazine-length article, stretched thin - (and skewed in the process to maintain thematic consistency)to fill out the margins of a non-fiction book.

- Tom Flynn

- Sports
- posted on Oct 27, 09
Tom Flynn

PS -- Please pardon the several typos. -- TF

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