It’s 1943, the middle of the second world, war Americans, young and old are proudly doing their civic duty, rationing butter growing Victory Gardens and buying war bonds.
But in the midst of the war effort, there’s one some might say, equally pressing issue, facing the American people.
How do we watch baseball when all the men are gone, Debbie eyes and slides home with a run and a nice libros leg better.
A bruised and long pants heh.
Luckily, America’s women were ready to lace up their cleats and get down with the All-American.
Girls baseball league, AKA A League of Their Own.
If you’ve seen the famous 1992 movie, the one with Legends, like Tommy Hanks Madonna and Rosie.
You probably think, you know, the story of women in baseball.
But in fact, the real story of why baseball has remained a game for men, for more than a century actually has very little to do with Rosie and Tom Hanks, that reason can be traced back to the kids game to Little League Baseball.
Judo is going to be such a big deal.
And you started to try out, I didn’t think all this would happen.
This is not passed it a show about the stories.
We can’t quite leave behind every episode.
We take a moment from that very same week in history and tell you the story of how it shaped our world.
I’m were more Philip pinch-hitting this week for Simone palana on November 7th 1973. 49 years ago this week, the New Jersey Division of civil rights issued, its decision between Little League baseball and a two teenage girls.
Name real peppy the years long battle became a landmark gender-discrimination case.
It filled courtrooms divided parents and solidified one of America’s most treasured tradition grown-ass adults enforcing the gender binary in children’s baseball. settle in with your peanuts and Cracker Jacks because after the break or it’s one, two, three, Before we get into it a disclaimer this is an episode about gender to tell.
This story will be describing gender in the terms used at the time essentially the boy/girl, binary, okay?
So the transformation of baseball from Alleyway game to certified Boys Club begins in the 19th century at a time when men were getting off the farms and into the factories, there was a concern that all of the loss of the physical labor that We’re no longer doing it.
The same rate out in the Farms that they would become weak and dandies that’s Laura.
She co-authored playing with the boys, a book, unpacking gender segregation in sports.
She says that back in the industrial revolution, some organized Sports helped, keep men tough and socialize them during what was a time of massive change.
When you’re uncertain about what the future is sports with rules and organizations and structures and teams were away of people kind of coming together to build community.
Laura says, by the early 20th century baseball, becomes synonymous, with that tried-and-true, myth of American masculinity and a big part of that had to do with the creation of little league in 1938.
Carl Stoltz was an oil company kind of clerk in Williamsport.
Which is in a home of little league starts.
Got the idea for little league during the game of catch with his nephews.
He miniaturized the Major League, diamond, laying out newspapers to measure the distance between bases.
He even hand-carved the first Little League home plate himself and it grew phenomenally by 1951.
They were 776 programs a year later and their 1500 programs.
It absolutely just Exploded pretty soon for boys, ages, 9 through 12 playing little league was a rite of passage baseball is the only sport that has a charter passed by Congress.
You see in 1964 Little League Baseball was honored with a charter from the US government.
It was an official acknowledgement of exactly what Little League Baseball was.
Supposedly contributing to the nation.
It’s in the charter.
And if you look at some of the early life, Which around the creation of little league, it was for boys to help them develop their manhood.
Manhood, we will use not about getting fresh air exercise, or even getting stronger or faster.
The charter says it straight up, it’s about turning boys into men.
Fast forward to 1972.
It’s April in Hoboken New Jersey, which means the opening of Little League season parents, sidestep their way into tiny aluminum bleachers, they clutch coffee cups and raincoats.
Just in case the home team, the young Democrats take the field in their gray, flannel uniforms looking all sorts of pre-adolescent and awkward.
The starting pitcher warms up punching the MIT, the catcher crouches down waiting for the First pitch, a hush Falls over the diamond.
The picture was a girl, her name was Maria Pepe Maria was the only girl on The Young Democrats and not only that she was the only girl who had ever been on the team.
She played baseball with the neighborhood boys and went with him to tryouts Maria easily made the team.
I was not afraid of getting hit with the ball.
I was good.
My friends would tell you that’s from an interview Maria did with HBO in 2019.
Note here that Maria Pepe spoke with us but declined to be interviewed.
Boys, I’m Maria’s team treat her just like any other player.
They called her Pepe.
She called them nicknames like juicy and rabbit and the thing was real, could really play.
Here’s a picture first, but also a great Fielder and she could put the bat ball in her first two games.
She managed to hit over 300 people play baseball, that’s pretty damn good.
Here’s the starting pitcher for the first game.
Now, her team mates and the coach, and everyone was very supportive of her, but opposing teams did not like it.
Those little narcs took things straight to the top.
They complain to the National Little League office.
That the young Democrats were breaking the rules of little league.
Only boys could play baseball.
So the bigwigs at corporate talk bureaucracy, like men in power, do finally Little League.
Sent a letter to the team.
They wanted to call terrific playing.
She only ended up playing, I believe three games.
Lily, even told Murray’s coach that if he didn’t take her off the team.
They’d kick all of hoboken’s teams out of the organization that meant no one boy or girl would be allowed to play.
Ria’s coach felt like he had.
No choice reluctantly one spring evening, he went over to Maria’s house, he knocked on the door.
When the door opened, he delivered his message, he’d need Maria’s uniform back.
Almost 50 years after the fact it was still hard from Rita talk about.
He said we’ll have to give your uniform to another kid because I’ll have to get another kid to replace you.
Her coach tried to soften the blow.
You could keep your cap and I want you to know, you can come up and keep score.
I did that for one game and that was it.
I couldn’t do it again, you know, I had somebody else running around, he had my uniform.
I just couldn’t watch it.
The whole ordeal made it into the local press where it caught the eye of a local Professor named Judith Weiss.
There’s a classic picture of her holding a bat, you know, getting ready to swing.
That was the picture in the paper.
Judith is a professor emeritus of biology at Rutgers University and back in the mid-70s.
She started a local chapter of now.
I know W National Organization for Women.
There was a lot of Headway being made at the time with the Equal Rights Amendment getting momentum and Title 9 being drafted, and passed.
And so that article with Maria, Pepe, it gave Judith an idea.
I was probably at home and I was reading it and the wheels were turning.
And I’m thinking we can do something about this.
I was somewhat by now acquainted with the New Jersey civil rights law, which included sex among one of the Discrimination categories reading.
This Judith knew exactly what to do now.
The little league is not play on land that they owned.
They play in public park land, so that was the connection.
Realizing that Parks were a public accommodation.
For many, it would have been an inconsequential detail.
But Judith with all of that now experience under her belt, she saw something in the stories.
Others didn’t parks are known as a public accommodation, a facility open for public use and under New Jersey state law.
They may not discriminate on the basis of sex.
About a few blocks away, was the State Office Building, where the division of civil rights, had an office, the New Jersey Division of civil rights is a state agency that’s responsible for upholding New Jersey’s laws on civil rights.
I went in and talked with them and say we were thinking that this was violating the public accommodation section and they agreed with me.
Which meant that the state will conduct its own investigation and hold a hearing on the matter on August 10th 1973.
The Witnesses were assembled testimony was prepared in an official was set to hear the case.
But the big literally Showdown featuring screaming parents in one, huge metaphorical curveball was still to come.
The last swing for sexism after the break.
Welcome back Sluggers before the break-in 1970s New Jersey.
Maria Pepe was a gutsy, tweenager, throwing fastballs for the Hoboken.
Young Democrats, that is until Little League brass gave her the boot.
The National Organization for Women, stepped up to the plate for Maria, they filed a complaint to the New Jersey Division of civil rights.
Starting a turbulent, two years, struggle The initial hearing took place in August of 1973.
In a windowless room, it was high Summer, and the air conditioning was out, Judith Weiss, Rutgers University Professor.
Again, there are witnesses on both sides and so forth.
So it looks like a trial.
The hearing officer was a woman named Sylvia Pressler, who, by the way chain, smoke cigarettes through the whole six day.
Affair soon Sylvia, kicked things off and experts for both.
Took the stand both sides focused, especially on the alleged biological differences between boys and girls and whether or not those differences made baseball unsafe for girls.
My memories are mostly of the absurd things that the little league people said, but Ali’s expert, witness was Creighton hell.
He was the executive director of the organization but also had an extensive background in physiology.
Hail testified that girls reaction times were slower than boys and the girls bones were weaker.
Well, this was not science, I feel was science.
It was very bad size, needless to say, the bone thing is, yeah, it’s horseshit, Laura Bona.
We’re talking about, you know, right around puberty and there is research suggesting that up until puberty that there are really not big physical differences.
Six Witnesses were, especially concerned about girls.
Barbie doll physiques, quote, the possibility of cosmetic injury is much more quote, socially damaging for a girl than it is for a boy.
You know what assumptions, go along with a statement, like that he even went on to suggest that being struck by a baseball.
Could cause girls to get ready for it.
Develop breast cancer in Ponce now’s Witnesses fired back.
They had an orthopedic surgeon who said, you know, the disparity in bone strength between boys and girls at that age is negligible.
He said, if anything girls, bones were more resistant to fracture than boys, Bones on November 7th, 1973 just over two months after both sides made their case Sylvia, Pressler the hearing officer announced her decision and I love that.
She said, little league is as American as hot And apple pie, and she said that girls should have every right to participate on an equal footing with boys.
Now, the New Jersey civil rights office assigned a ruling prohibiting sex discrimination by the little league in New Jersey.
The ruling stems from a complaint for the National Organization of Women in behalf of Maria Pepe of Hoboken.
That’s when things really start heating up across New Jersey, Little League.
Parents were pissed.
Those angry parents did what they do best?
To make an absolute seen 800 little league boys and their coaches mothers and fathers jammed into the Statehouse and Trenton.
And they had a petition with 50,000 signatures asking for the postponement of silly up wrestlers order in the spring of 1974, with the new Little League season approaching angry.
Demonstrators over in the state capitol building in Trenton, their message was clear.
Little League was for Always and he needed to stay that way.
I don’t want my 10 year old girl sliding into second base and having your 12 year old boy, tagging along the breast.
If a person is playing shortstop and the ball, takes a bad heart.
It’s that person knows, right?
To know is not the teeth out.
Who would you rather have it happen to your daughter or your son?
It’s disheartening to say.
But all that parental uproar went Next Level, all over New Jersey, adults debate.
While the children listen, And wonder if there’s going to be any little league at all is summer, while this was going on.
Instead of just letting girls play Little League, Most of the 2,000 teens in New Jersey stopped playing altogether.
The grown-ups wanted girls out.
Meanwhile, the actual kids playing baseball Anybody playing with me?
I don’t care.
As long as I can play.
Goalie some girls can play just as good as boys and better.
Finally in late February of 1974, after an appeal by Little League New Jersey, came to a resolution upholding, the original ruling in Maria Pepe’s case.
And at long last girls, across New Jersey, could play little league as a result.
A few months later, the National Little League organization announced.
It would allow girls on all of its teams.
Little League Baseball said today, that it will quote, defer to the changing social climate Met girls to play on boys teams for girls who want to play baseball.
This was a huge deal but tragically Maria.
It was too late by the time, the case finally ended, she was 13 years old, too old for little league, and that very same year, literally created their softball league.
It doesn’t seem like much of a stretch to see this as an effort to keep baseball.
The American Pastime.
Only for boys.
We spoke with a rep from Little League, who agreed.
This was probably the case, and even the Little League Baseball is now open to kids of all genders.
It’s still overwhelmingly boys who play baseball, and Maria Pepe even though she never got to join a little league team again.
Her contributions to baseball have been widely recognized, her young Democrats hat.
The one, her coach let her keep now sits in the Baseball Hall of Fame, in Cooperstown, New York, It was kind of emotional.
I was really nervous.
This is sunny Brian.
She’s a nine-year-old.
Trans girl from Houston, she loves sports but at 2021 Texas law.
HB 25 means she isn’t allowed to play on the girls teams.
I like baseball tennis, gymnastics and soccer.
What is in my heart is I think I should be able to play sports because I am a girl too. 49 years after Maria Pepe’s case, seemingly set the stage for Less gender segregation.
We’re sort of still here only this time.
It’s the Texas government using pseudoscience and bigotry to reinforce these bullshit binaries discriminating.
Especially now against trans and gender non-conforming kids like Sonny Bryant Bryant and her mother Becca have testified in front of legislators in Austin multiple times.
They say they Shared their story because they feel like people will better understand their position.
If they get to know them.
I think kids just want the chance to join their teammates, their friends in the chance to play sports, to celebrate, the greatest victories and hold each other up in the most heartbreaking losses.
It begs the question.
Why wouldn’t we want all of this?
For all of our kids?
Now, pass it is Spotify.
Original produced by gimlet and zsp media.
This episode was hosted by me for my Phillip and produced by Laura Newcomb.
Next week, we’re heading west to explore the founding of Oklahoma.
And the stories that statehood raced, I was like, wait a minute.
This isn’t what I was taught.
This is not in the movies.
John, Wayne and talk about this when he’s talking about Indian tribes, I tried enslaved people.
The rest of our team is producer, Olivia, Briley and Associate producer.
Nick tell Rose the supervising producer is Eric Morrison editing by Kelly Prime.
Our executive editor is Andrea be Scott fact-checking by Ian, Michael sound design and mixing by Sam, bear original music by sex gets, have Willie Green, Jay blasts, and Bobby Lord.
Our theme song is totally Anna by Coco, Co with music supervision by Liz, Fulton, technical Direction by Zach Schmidt show art by lease Harbin.
And Talia Rahman, the executive producer at SP media is Zach Stewart Ponte the executive producer from gimlet is Matt Shields.
If you want to help support trans kids in Texas, head over to TX trans kids.org for more resources, and if you’re interested in supporting girls in baseball, check out.
Baseball for all.com, special.
Thanks to Nina Johnson pit and little league.
Dr. Gary Allen, Fine, Justine seagull, dr.
Art homuth next-gen men and to, Leopold green Abbie ruzicka Dan Behar Jen, hon, Emily Weidman, Liz styles, Ariel Joseph and Joshua Bianchi follow not past it.
Now to listen to for free exclusively on Spotify, click the Bell next to the follow button to get notifications for new episodes and while you’re there hey why don’t you straight As 5 Stars?
I’m not on the Twitter, but Simone has you can follow her on Twitter at Simone planning, thanks for hanging.
See you next week.
How does Simone do this every week?