She Made the Call

Amanda Clement earned respect as the first woman paid to umpire a semi-pro men’s baseball game

March 06, 2012
(NBHOF Library)

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. 

Clement was only 16 years old in 1904 when, thanks to her mother Harriet’s permission, she stepped into history and became the first female paid to umpire a men’s semi-professional baseball game. The knowledge of the game that led her from the stands to the field – at a time when girls and women were viewed differently than today – came from her childhood, watching her older brother Allen, nicknamed Hank, cousin, Cy, and neighborhood boys play in her hometown of Hudson, S.D.  She loved baseball and wanted to play, but the boys only asked her if they were short on players. They often, however, asked her to umpire. She earned their respect with her skills, and that respect would change her life. 

While Amanda and her mother waited for Hank to pitch in a semi-pro game in Hawarden, Iowa, an amateur team playing prior to his game realized the umpire had failed to show up. Hank asked if Amanda would fill in. Persuading her mother to let her, Amanda took her place behind the pitcher’s mound, where the only umpire stood, and gave it her best.  She was so impressive, managers paid her to umpire their semi-pro game and a six-year career was born.

She drew large crowds to the sport throughout the Dakotas, Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska, not only because of her gender, but also for her no-nonsense umpiring and the respect she earned from the men. She was tough, once ejecting six players from one game, but if they questioned her call, they spoke politely.

“Beg your pardon, Miss Umpire, but wasn’t that one a bit high?”   

She was in constant demand, paid as much as $25 a game and her early uniform was a long skirt, blouse, black necktie and cap.  Later, she replaced the tie with UMPS across her blouse. No protective gear was allowed.

A file on Clement is maintained in the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s Library – one of more than 23,000 biographical files dedicated to recording the history of the National Pastime. Her contribution to the game will be preserved forever in Cooperstown.

 “Yes, I like umpiring,” Clement said. “It isn’t as easy as it looks, but for all that, there is a good deal of enjoyment in the work. Of course the players kick, sometimes just awfully, but not when I’m umpiring. Maybe it’s because I’m a girl, but I believe that I give decisions exactly as I see it and in doing that, I seem to satisfy the players and the patrons of the game.  You’ve got to have confidence in your ability or you won’t do well at anything.”

Tina Zayat is a fulfillment and shipping associate for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum