Baseball stadiums are iconic for the fans who call them home. Others who work in baseball spend hours in the front office helping to ensure that the experience of those attending a baseball game is the best it can be for each fan.
And then there are those whose job it is to make sure that the baseball stadium itself captures the vision, essence, and personality of the team, the city, the players, and the fans who bring the game to life. One of the most talented women working in baseball today holds this important and influential job – and her name is Janet Marie Smith.
During World War II, many women took jobs previously held by men who left to serve in the war effort. The work of these women, though crucial to keeping the country running, was often erased from memory soon after the war ended.
One such woman was Janet R. MacFarlane, who ran the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum from 1943 to 1946.
Referred to as “Baseball’s Lost Chalice” by Major League Baseball’s Official historian John Thorn, the Dauvray Cup was the precursor to the modern World Series.
The woman behind that Cup made her fortune on the stage, but her baseball legacy remains intact thanks to one of the game’s earliest stars and an award that was ahead of its time.
Commissioned by 19th century stage star Helen Dauvray in 1887, the Dauvray Cup has more in common with the National Hockey Leagues’ Stanley Cup than with modern World Series trophy.
Following in the footsteps of Bernice Gera and Christine Wren, Pam Postema became the third woman to serve as an umpire in professional baseball when she appeared in the rookie Gulf Coast League in 1977.
Then a recent graduate of the Al Somers Umpire School, Postema’s goal was simple, “I wanted to become a major league umpire.”
Little League Baseball was officially founded in 1939, the same year that the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum opened its doors in Cooperstown, N.Y.
With only three teams in 1939, Little League started small in the neighborhoods of Williamsport, Pa. But by 1947, the Little League board of directors organized a national tournament for the existing 17 teams in the organization. This later became known as the Little League Baseball World Series. By 1964, Little League Baseball was granted a Federal Charter and signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
The release was terse and understated, but the news rocked the baseball world.
Eleanor Engle, it seemed, was going to play professional baseball. And in 1952, that got everyone’s attention.
It was 1973, and change was in the air. The Equal Rights Amendment had recently been passed by Congress and was sent to the states; President Nixon had just signed Title IX; and in Pawtucket, R.I., the Darlington American Little League was being sued for refusing to let nine-year-old Alison “Pookie” Fortin play baseball.
The situation in Pawtucket was not unique: Little League Baseball had barred girls from its affiliates since the early 1950s, and backed up its decision by voiding the charters of leagues that allowed girls to play.
For the final games of the 1977 regular season, the New York Yankees granted Melissa Ludtke, an accredited sports reporter for Sports Illustrated, permission to enter its clubhouse to interview players. Such access was important because every sportswriter knows that the locker room is where interviews with players traditionally take place. It's also where reporters are able – before and after games – to observe the players’ interactions, talk at length with individuals, and absorb the tenor of the team.
“I love the process of discovery. I‘m constantly looking for more to learn and new places to search for material I’m curious about,” says Dorothy Seymour Mills, a woman who labored in behind the scenes in baseball for almost 50 years.
Married to Professor Harold Seymour, she worked with him as a literary team that helped put baseball on the academic map.
Before there was Abby Wambach, Jenny Finch or the Williams sisters, there was Dottie, Kit and “All the Way” Mae.
These characters from the 1992 hit film “A League of Their Own” may not have been real, but they were based on the women who played in the All American Girls Professional Baseball League from 1943-54. Forty years later, the movie created icons out of female athletes and gave young women role models who were strong and tough on the diamond but wore dresses and makeup off it.