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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Do Women Have a Place in Cooperstown?

The other day, I reviewed Zev Chafets’ book Cooperstown Confidential. There were plenty of things that I wanted to write about from the book. For example, I agree that Marvin Miller is being snubbed from the Hall of Fame. Ditto on Buck O’Neil. Plenty of people write about them every year for election, and know much more about them and why they’re deserving. But there was one entire group of players that has been excluded from the Hall, and I’m not totally clear on why that should be the case.

Why are there no women in Cooperstown?

Granted, that’s not 100 percent true. Effa Manley was elected in the mass Negro League election from 2006.* But that was as an owner. Why are there no female players in the Hall of Fame? Chafets brings up women in baseball when he discusses a Hall exhibit, but points out that none have officially been inducted.

*Which had plenty of problems of its own. Chafets touched on some of them in his book, so I’ll leave those alone for the moment. Maybe I’ll touch on them more in the future.

At first, you might point out that there are no women in Major League Baseball, which is true. There aren’t players from the NPB either. Cooperstown is pretty much just for MLB players then, right?

But that isn’t totally true, either. There weren’t any black players in the Major Leagues from 1890 to 1946 either, but the Hall has since chosen to recognize the Negro Leagues and their players. And, to prevent anyone from taking a “slippery slope” stance, the Hall’s official name is the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Inducting women wouldn’t mean that you’d be forced to recognize players from Japan’s league, or Mexico’s, or anything like that.

And the Hall wouldn’t be without choices. The most obvious choice would be the players from the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League back in the 1940s and ‘50s. I really know nothing about the league, so I’m not sure who they should elect. However, there are stats for the league, and even a provisional Women’s Hall of Fame that already has five members from the league. Those seem like good places to start investigating.

And even then, they wouldn’t necessarily have to stop there. If they’re willing to recognize women’s softball (which, for all intents and purposes, seems to have supplanted women’s baseball), there’s the National Pro Fastpitch league. The drawback with that is that no one (myself an hour ago included) knows about it.

There’s also the women’s national team. The U.S. team dominated the Olympics, much more than even the men’s baseball team. And even though softball (and baseball) are no longer Olympic events*, there’s still international competition, with the U.S. team still the dominant force. Players like Jennie Finch and Cat Osterman stood above the rest of the competition like the best baseball players have, to the point where people recognized their names during the Olympics (which, given normal softball’s lack of publicity, is a pretty big feat).

*To keep from going too far off-topic, I’ll just say that baseball and softball being dropped from the Olympics is a pretty big farce in and of itself.

Basically, I guess my argument boils down to this: Softball is now, in spirit, women’s baseball. Even failing that, there actually was women’s baseball in the past. If the National Baseball Hall of Fame exists to recognize the biggest players in the sport, and they’ve already recognized non-MLB players in the form of inducting Negro League players, why not recognize the top women in the sport too in the same way?

3 comments:

  1. When I went to the HOF this summer, I was very disappointed in the museum itself. The 'Hall' is esentially an MLB hall of fame, and I couln't believe how small the exhibit on the girls baseball was. Besides that, there was nothing on Minor League baseball, college baseball, or Little League Baseball. There are girl ballplayers from the past that deserve to be inducted more than some of the current inductees for sure. And I totally agree on baseball/softball being dropped from the Olympics. What a joke...
    --Mike
    http://burrilltalksbaseball.mlblogs.com

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  2. Good points. Should happen. AAGPBL is a no-brainer.
    And, there are no woman's hardball leagues?! Hard to believe.

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    1. Actually, there apparently is: http://www.awbf.org/

      I wasn't aware of it until today because it gets even less exposure than softball.

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