No Minor Achievement

Ila Borders pitched in pro ball for four seasons

March 07, 2013
Ila Borders pitching for the St. Paul Saints. (Courtesy of St. Paul Saints)

In March, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum celebrates Women's History Month with a look at women who changed baseball history.

By Cassidy Lent

For four years, the professional baseball world got to experience something that it had rarely seen before. From 1997-2000, a woman by the name of Ila Borders pitched in 52 minor league baseball games with four different teams, finishing with a 2-4 record and 6.75 ERA.

Borders made her first historic debut on Feb. 15, 1994 when she became the first woman to pitch in a men’s college baseball game. She pitched a five-hitter for Southern California College against the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps in a 12-1 victory.

Borders went on to make her professional debut on May 31, 1997 with the Sioux Falls Canaries of the Independent Northern League. She faced three batters and gave up three runs. She made her first professional start on July 9, 1998. She went five innings and recorded a loss. However, 15 days later, on July 24, Borders recorded her first win as a profession baseball player. In six innings, she gave up just three hits and two walks with two strikeouts. 

She retired in 2000 to pursue a career in firefighting and in 2003 she was elected to the Baseball Reliquary Shrine of the Eternals for her unique contributions to the game of baseball. She had a passion for the game, saying once to Larry Oakes of the Minneapolis Start Tribune: “Every Saturday and Sunday, from the time I was 5, my whole family would play ball…my dad basically taught me everything: The mental part, the control, how to call a game, how to take care of my arm.”

She also knew what it took, on the inside, to play the game, saying to Yvette Lanier of The Denver Post: “You’re going to put in a lot more time and a lot more effort and hard work…you really need that mixture in order to make it beyond puberty. You need to have a strong, think skin and you have to really want it. You have to really love the game.”

Celebrate Women's History Month with the Museum's Girls Got Game features. Subjects include Alta Weiss, Ila Borders, Mamie Johnson, Nicole McFadyen, Eliza Green, Kim Ng, Nancy Faust and Penny Marshall.

Cassidy Lent was a 2012 Library-Research intern in the Hall of Fame’s Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program for Youth Leadership Development. For information on how to apply for the Class of 2014 Steele Internship Program, click here