Baseball fans celebrated Major League Baseball's Opening Day just two days ago. Major league baseball is the oldest of four major professional sports leagues in the U.S. and Canada. And of course, baseball is our national pastime.
Like so much in our culture, baseball has always been considered a male sport, but did you know that women athletes began competing with men, sometimes playing on the same teams, in bygone, semi-pro leagues?
One of the most famous female ball players is someone you probably never heard of: Jackie Mitchell, a multi-sport athlete, who appeared on the mound in 1931.
Mitchell is believed to be the first woman to be given a professional baseball contract. She signed on with her city's Class AA minor league team, the Lookouts.
Mitchell is best known for striking out both Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in an exhibition game with the New York Yankees.
The next day, the baseball commissioner voided her contract, claiming baseball was too strenuous for women! The ban was not lifted until 1992.
However, during the Second World War, the All American Girl's Professional Baseball League was formed so that the game could continue to be played while our men were off at war.
The following are some of the requirements these female ball players had to meet:
-attend evening charm school classes
-learn proper etiquette & personal hygiene
-adhere to a dress code
-wear their hair long
-refrain from smoking or drinking in public
-wear lipstick at all times
Fortunately, a great deal has changed since Mitchell's time and there are, in fact, fewer obstacles to women succeeding in professional baseball. In 2011 Justine Siegal became the first woman to throw batting practice for a major league team.
Thank goodness for the women who came before us, the veteran players who continue to be an inspiration to girls and women in softball and baseball today.