No women in the majors? Let's blame the Babe.

Rob Neyer

At the end of Jack Moore’s succinct and informative history of women playing baseball, I was surprised to read this:

Throughout Baseball in the Garden of Eden, Thorn makes a critical point about rules. Speaking of a rule against professionalism in the game's earliest organized days, Thorn states, "There was no reason to institute a formal prohibition against an offense as yet unseen." The same applies to the National Association's rule banning women from the professional game. It was never about the game being "too strenuous" for women, an absurd statement for a game which is 90 percent standing around and waiting. It was never, as Landis would have had you believe, about protecting or shielding women. Nor was it just a matter of tradition.

Rather, the rule banning women from the National Pastime was a response to the Lizzie Arlingtons and Jackie Mitchells of the baseball world, the women who threatened to show that women could perform on the baseball field. These women threatened the sensibilities of those like "M.S." and the masculinity of the mighty Babe Ruth.

The question, then, isn't when women will earn a spot on the diamond next to men. They have been earning those spots for over 100 years. The question is when the men barring the gates will finally stand aside and let them in.

This passage is what we might fairly describe as “ahistorical.”

Not to get inside Moore’s head or anything, but it seems he began with a point to make – the men who run Major League Baseball are, and always have been, terribly misogynistic – and then shaped his analysis around that.

As opposed, you know, to the other way around. Which is how you’re supposed to do it.

Reading Moore’s last graf, you might just assume that there are dozens of women out there right now who could, if just given the chance, play professional baseball. I just don’t believe that’s true. It might be true in 10 or 15 or 20 years, if more girls grow up playing baseball. I hope it's true. (And by the way, have you ever noticed that nobody wonders why girls in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela aren’t taking their place next to the boys in those countries?)

It's just not true now. Not close to true.

Oh, and the notion that Landis and the Lords of Baseball banned women because they were somehow afraid of Jackie Mitchell and Lizzie Arlington ... there is essentially ZERO evidence that they or any other women could have played in the majors or the high minors. So how did they threaten Babe Ruth’s masculinity, exactly? Now, if there had been a woman who could have played high-level baseball, and she’d been banned from Organized Baseball … then Moore might have a point. Hell, he would have a point, and a great one.

But he doesn’t. Frankly, and I’m sorry to say this because of course I believe in the general cause, but this is just p.c. b.s. and it’s okay for us to notice. Making things up doesn’t help anyone.

Postscript: I was terribly remiss when I first published this item, and should have included this link to the most extensive and well-researched story I've seen about Jackie Mitchell's outing against the Yankees. Not that I think it'll change minds that have been made up already, but I still should have included it, originally. I was in a hurry to get somewhere, but that's a crummy excuse.