I’ve not been attracted to college basketball’s March Madness. Some years are like that. This year, as I look at the sports page list of sports coverage, I feel sucker-punched. Lots of men’s basketball. The only thing The Register-Guard listed was wrap around coverage for women’s basketball. No, I’m not blaming The RG at all; they can only list the major stations.
Yes, I know it’s gotten better. People love to remind me. Hey, at least they let us run the entire floor these days. Doesn’t seem to matter that women’s basketball is just as good as men’s basketball. That wasn’t always the case, but this generation or perhaps last year or so have evolved. You can’t blame the older generations. When you are given second-class provisions and the premise is that the woman’s body can’t handle too much activity. Some of you remember how restricted we were in how much we worked out and how physical we could play or even having the opportunity to play.
Some of you may not think I’m old, but I’m old enough to be discriminated against playing baseball because I was a girl. The next year, the courts changed it, though it’s taken dozens of years for girls to get more opportunity, and there’s still room for change. Did you know that it’s against the MLB for women to play baseball? We can fight on the front lines, but baseball is too rough for us. I’m so hoping that Mo can continue her trailblazing.
On my way home from a University of Oregon football game where I sell Kettle Korn to earn bowling money, I had been standing in a long and non-moving line to get onto the South Eugene bus. It was cold. The buses were empty and much warmer and comfortable. I was complaining to myself, but loud enough for those around me to hear. This woman and I struck up a conversation. I think we talked about the WLA cadets and how most of them can’t do a push up. I don’t expect older women to know about pushups, but this woman probably could have done a few even at the age of 80 or so.
When we finally got on the bus, she patted the empty half of the school bus. The bus trip cross the Willamette River wasn’t long enough. I don’t remember her name, but it turned out that her name is enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. I should have followed her home. She had been a catcher when a woman pitched the first no-hitter. She played all positions during her time on the Women’s Professional teams during the War. Remember the movie, A League of Their Own? Well, here I had a real-life celebrity. Instead of being excited out of my socks, I just carried on a typical conversation. This woman just needs to be named…
I thought that with the internet, I’d be in and out and on my way with name in hand after a handful of searches, but I’m striking out. Did I really think that the list of Baseball players from Eugene, Oregon would come up with something? Most of the names I read or skimmed through I hadn’t heard of and probably didn’t really make it in MLB. I thought that a history of famous Eugene women would have something. Not only was she a great and gutsy ball player, but she was a instigator at the University of Oregon. Ii think she had a PhD in physical education or recreation and basically developed the Duck program. But do you think I can find her name? My brush with fame experience was two to three years ago.
I guess I’m going to have to let go of that quest. Maybe someone who reads this will have better luck than I. She lives in Eugene, but wasn’t from Oregon. I ran through the names of catchers, hoping a name would ring a bell or two. Nothing.
Last year or so, I was going through a reading specialist program and ran across the book about Jackie Mitchell. It was a young adult book. There’s not much written about the woman who struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, and forgive me if I misspell his name; I should just for spite. Anyway, she had signed a Major League Baseball contract and her minor league team played an exhibition game against the Yankees. The sluggers were not just letting her look good; they were really mad. It caused such a ruckus that the commissioner vetoed her contract and the rule of women not playing baseball went into effect. All over a stupid little white ball. If anyone has ever seen the blood of true athlete, whether male or female, it’s the same color, and it usually is on that athlete as they are diving and doing whatever they can to win a game.
I’ve often said that I must have been a Kamakazee pilot, and Thank God I don’t know how to spell it, but that’s the best way to describe how I take on sports. I don’t care if I am bleeding, just had a concussion, or might have broken something, just don’t take me out of the game. And what was at stake? Joy. Pride. Success. It didn’t matter if I was playing on a soccer field cross town from the high school because there wasn’t space for us on their field. It didn’t matter that it was at the crack of dawn and I’m on the ice at Cornell Rink getting frostbite because it was snowing in the outdoor rink that we had to use. I was just happy that Ithaca College had a team.
Dayton Flyers and Ally Malott are giving the Kentucky Wildcats a run for their money. Revenge is a sweet thing for athletics. We don’t forget who beat us. Dayton is a single digit ranked team, but they have never been in the sweet sixteen in the program’s history. Nailing a three-point shot with just twenty-seven seconds. You can’t tell me that this game isn’t worth showing to entire world. What is wrong with our society?
I long to live in a country where gender doesn’t make a difference, where dreams don’t depend on one’s gender.