The pride of a pitcher rests in his arm.
The Gentle Sex couldn’t afford to appear
Ladies first entered the game
only in exclusive women’s colleges up north.
Vassar, for example, though a few
female teams not college-associated
formed in upstate New York.
In the South, women didn’t go to the games.
In the rare instances when they did,
they were put in special sections
at some distance from the men
and their “vulgarities.”
The nineteenth century pretty much
confined their presence to special
“Ladies Days,” which were held
periodically to provide a calming effect
on the male fans.
Mill towns developed teams, and,
beginning in the late thirties,
some of them made it to the semipros.
Self-appointed cheerleading squads
of local factory girls opened the way
for women onto baseball fields
but were looked down upon by “the quality.”
Generally, in the days of yore,
when women took to the front porch of evenings,
men gathered at places like the drugstore.
There’d be ten to fifteen regulars.
Their favorite topic was baseball.
At such favored haunts, the man of the hour
received information about the plays
at the telegraph station and broadcast games
from a radio loud-speaker system set up out front.
A lot of community teams played on Saturdays.
A guy behind in plowing his corn might have to
give his wife a quarter to finish for him
so he didn’t have to miss a crucial match.
In my hometown, according to my grandmother,
baseball ceased to be déclassé when
the superstar right fielder married his society deb
at home plate during the fifth inning
before the largest crowd
in the history of local athletics or for a wedding.
The members of both teams formed
an arch of bats for the pair, then resumed play
when the ceremony, replete with singing, was over.
As Yogi Berra said, “Baseball is 90% mental—
the other half is physical.”
English teachers also made a crucial breakthrough.
Annie Savoy in Bull Durham
serves up Whitman and baseball
and Whitman on baseball
faster than any fast ball alive.
I guess Ms. Savoy, however,
must be regarded as just the “Joan the Baptist”
for Baseball Commissioner Bart Giamatti,
English Professor and President of Yale.