9 Books About Women In Baseball (And Softball) That Show A Different Side Of America's Favorite Pastime
Baseball is definitely known as America's Favorite Pastime for a reason. Catching an MLB game at the stadium on a Sunday afternoon, or watching a little league or local league game are all quintessential summer activities. But, it's no secret that women players are basically nonexistent in modern baseball. The MLB is a men's only league and there is currently no women's league. And although there are some baseball and softball players, like Mo'ne Davis and Jennie Finch, who have been hugely in the public eye and have done their part to prove that women can play ball, we still have a long way to go until their skills are allowed to be tested on the world stage.
But still, there are women in sports who have made waves in baseball, and softball, to a historical degree. If you've ever watched A League Of Their Own, you know that during the war years, women were actually the biggest names in the sport. And there are women who are trying to change the game of contemporary baseball, too, both as players and as fans, trainers, and sports writers. The below picks combine non-fiction, fiction and memoir from both the past and present of women in baseball, telling the stories of female players who are throwing a curveball at how we think of the nation's most beloved sport.
1. 'Bloomer Girls: Women Baseball Pioneers' by Debra A. Shattuck
Though baseball began as a gender-neutral sport, women of the 19th century faced many obstacles on their way to the diamond. Yet all-female nines took the field everywhere. Debra A. Shattuck pulls from newspaper accounts and hard-to-find club archives to reconstruct a forgotten era in baseball history. Her fascinating social history tracks women players who organized baseball clubs for their own enjoyment and found roster spots on men's teams. Entrepreneurs, meanwhile, packaged women's teams as entertainment, organizing leagues and tours. If the women faced financial exploitation and indignities like playing against men in women's clothing, they and countless ballplayers like them nonetheless staked a claim to the nascent national pastime. Shattuck explores how the determination to take their turn at bat thrust female players into the women's rights movement.
2. 'Fastpitch: The Untold History of Softball and the Women Who Made the Game' by Erica Westly
Softball is played by millions all around the world, but the origins of this beloved sport, and the charismatic athletes who helped it achieve prominence in the mid-20th century, have been shrouded in mystery…until now. Fastpitch brings to life the eclectic mix of characters that make up softball’s vibrant 129-year history. Because softball was one of the only team sports that also allowed women to play competitively, it took on added importance for female athletes. Women like Bertha Ragan Tickey, who set strikeout records and taught Lana Turner to pitch, and her teammate Joan Joyce, who struck out baseball star Ted Williams, made a name—and a life—for themselves in an era when female athletes had almost no prospects. This read chronicles softball’s unique history as well as its uncertain future.
3. 'Curveball: The Remarkable Story of Toni Stone the First Woman to Play Professional Baseball in the Negro League' by Martha Ackmann
From the time she was a girl growing up in the shadow of Lexington Park in Saint Paul, Minnesota, Toni Stone knew she wanted to play professional baseball. There was only one problem: every card was stacked against her. Curveball tells the inspiring story of baseball’s “female Jackie Robinson,” a woman whose ambition, courage, and raw talent propelled her from ragtag teams barnstorming across the Dakotas to playing at Yankee Stadium. Toni Stone was the first woman to play professional baseball on men’s teams. After Robinson integrated the major leagues and other black players slowly began to follow, Stone seized an unprecedented opportunity to play professional baseball in the Negro League. Curveball chronicles Toni Stone’s remarkable career facing down not only fastballs, but jeers, sabotage, and Jim Crow America as well.
4. 'The Origins and History of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League' by Merrie A. Fidler
This is an in-depth treatment of the organization and operation of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Referencing primary documents from league owner Arthur Meyerhoff and others, the book offers a unique perspective inside the AAGPBL and examines its rise and fall, with an emphasis on league and team administration. The study begins with a brief history of women's softball, noting its importance as a precursor to, and talent pool for, women's professional baseball. Next the book investigates changing league administration and organization. Publicity and promotional philosophy and practices receive particular attention. Later chapters cover team administrative structure, team managers, and chaperones. Finally, discussion focuses on player backgrounds and league policies and regulations for the players, including salaries, trades, waivers, and allocation procedures and problems.
5. 'A Season of Daring Greatly' by Ellen Emerson White
Eighteen-year-old Jill Cafferty just made history. Her high school’s star pitcher, she is now the first woman drafted by a major league baseball team. Only days after her high school graduation, she’ll join the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Class A Short Season team... but not everyone is happy to have her there. On top of the pressure heaped on every pitcher, Jill must deal with living up to impossible expectations, all while living away from home for the first time. And to top it all off, Jill is struggling with the responsibilities of being a national hero and a role model for young women everywhere. How can she be a role model when she’s not even sure she made the right choice for herself? Didn’t baseball used to be fun?
6. 'The Girl Who Threw Butterflies' by Mick Cochrane
Molly Williams has more than her fair share of problems. Her father has just died in a car accident, and her mother has become a withdrawn, quiet version of herself. Molly doesn’t want to be seen as “Miss Difficulty Overcome”; she wants to make herself known to the kids at school for something other than her father’s death. So she decides to join the baseball team. The boys’ baseball team. Her father taught her how to throw a knuckleball, and Molly hopes it’s enough to impress her coaches as well as her new teammates. Over the course of one baseball season, Molly must figure out how to redefine her relationships to things she loves, loved, and might love: her mother; her brilliant best friend, Celia; her father; her enigmatic and artistic teammate, Lonnie; and of course, baseball.
7. 'Making My Pitch: A Woman's Baseball Odyssey' by Ila Jane Borders
Making My Pitch tells the story of Ila Jane Borders, who despite formidable obstacles, accomplished what no woman had done since the Negro Leagues era: play men’s professional baseball. Borders played four professional seasons and in 1998 became the first woman in the modern era to win a professional ball game. Borders had to find ways to fit in with her teammates, reassure their wives and girlfriends, work with the media, and fend off groupies. But these weren’t the toughest challenges. She had a troubled family life, a difficult adolescence as she struggled with her sexual orientation, and an emotionally fraught college experience as a closeted gay athlete at a Christian university. Making My Pitch shows what it’s like to be the only woman on the team bus, in the clubhouse, and on the field.
8. 'Remember My Name: My Story from First Pitch to Game Changer' by Mo'ne Davis
At the age of 13, Mo'ne Davis became the first female pitcher to win a game in the Little League World Series and the first Little Leaguer to be featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated. A month later she earned a place in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. This inspiring memoir from a girl who learned to play baseball with the boys and rose to national stardom before beginning eighth grade will encourage young readers to reach for their dreams no matter the odds. Mo'ne's story is one of determination, hard work, and an incredible fastball.
9. 'A Game of Their Own: Voices of Contemporary Women in Baseball' by Jennifer Ring
A Game of Their Own chronicles the largely invisible history of women in baseball and offers an account of the 2010 Women’s World Cup tournament. Jennifer Ring includes oral histories of 11 members of the U.S. Women’s National Team, from the moment each player picked up a bat and ball as a young girl to her selection for Team USA. Each story is unique, but they share common themes that will resonate with young female players and fans alike: facing skepticism and taunts from players and parents when taking the batter’s box or the pitcher’s mound, self-doubt, the unceasing pressure to switch to softball, and eventual acceptance by their baseball teammates as they prove themselves as ballplayers.