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.
As a child growing up in New York City in the first half of the 20th Century, Corinne Hillman was surrounded by baseball. Yet even with her pick of three New York teams to root for, her passion for the sport did not come until later in life when her husband introduced her to the joy of the game.
Today, Hillman's passion for the game provides a link to the past for local students who visit the Hall of Fame.
Suzyn Waldman has spent most of her broadcasting career overcoming obstacles. Now, after more than two decades of work, she is recognized as a leader in her profession.
Since 2005, Waldman has been joined by John Sterling in the New York Yankees’ WCBS-AM radio booth. In her role as a color commentator, she became the first woman to hold a full-time position as a big league broadcaster.
Helene Hathaway Robison Britton grew up in a baseball family. Her father and uncle, Frank and Stanley Robison, owned the Cleveland Spiders and later purchased the St. Louis Brown Stockings – later changing the team’s name to Cardinals.
Upon the death of Stanley Robison in March 1911, Britton inherited a controlling interest in the Cardinals. At a time when American women did not yet have the right to vote in most places, the 32-year-old mother of two became the first woman to own and operate a team in Major League Baseball history.
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – Making the big leagues is a dream held by millions of young boys on baseball diamonds all over the world.
But lesser-known perhaps, it is also held by little girls.
The latest example is knuckleball pitcher Eri Yoshida, the Japanese pitching sensation who debuted in pro ball in the United States for the Golden Baseball League’s Chico Outlaws. The first female to pitch professionally in two countries, Yoshida donated her game-worn uniform and game-used bat from her May 29, 2010 debut to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Claire Smith has served as a pioneer journalist on two fronts, first as a woman who helped break down the barriers of access to her story subjects, and second as an African-American who continues the struggle for civil rights for all Americans.
Originally hailing from Philadelphia, Smith graduated from Temple University and soon began her writing career with the local newspapers.
Toni Stone's passion for baseball led her to embrace the game through her whole life, while skill and competitiveness made her a pioneer in the Negro leagues. Battling to prove herself to opponents, fans and coaches and teammates, Stone blazed a trail for all women in men's pro baseball.
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – Nobody’s perfect, right?
Tell that to Chelsea Baker and her knuckleball.
Baker pitched her second perfect game in less than a year on April 9, 2010 at the age of 12 for her Little League team in Plant City, Fla. Baker then donated her jersey from that game to the Baseball Hall of Fame. It is currently on display in the Museum’s Diamond Dreams exhibit.
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – In 1988, Julie Croteau filed a sex discrimination lawsuit against her high school for not allowing her to play on the baseball team.
She lost. But Croteau didn’t let the lawsuit stop her from playing the game.
She went on to be the first female to play men’s Division III college baseball at St. Mary’s College in Maryland, played the inaugural season of the Colorado Silver Bullets women’s professional baseball team that existed for four seasons in the 1990s and was the first of two women to play in the professional Hawaiian Winter League in 1994.
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – In an era where women were often not allowed even to play baseball, Amanda Clement proved that umpiring the game was not a job exclusive to one gender.
Amanda Clement was baseball’s first female professional umpire. And her contribution to the game is still being felt today.