baseball


JUNIOR SARA TOBIAS is an outfielder on the Middlebury College softball team. As shown here playing in the 2016 World Cup competition, she is also a baseball pitcher who has played on the USA National Women’s Baseball Team in international competitions. Photo courtesy of Sara Tobias
This three-part series on Women in Baseball was supposed to be just a two-parter: one on women in the front offices of Major League Baseball and another on women actually on the field playing baseball. In the baseball course I taught at Middlebury College (“Baseball, Literature, and American Culture”), we always had a two-week segment on women in the game in which we read some wonderful writing by women on baseball and were introduced to the history of females playing the sport. Retired now, I haven’t taught that course for a long time and have realized I am not up to date. Opportunities for...
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Middlebury College baseball debuted on Saturday with a doubleheader loss at Williams, 17-6 and 20-7. Williams improved to 5-0. The Panthers will look to bounce back this Saturday, when they host Wesleyan in a twin bill that starts at 1:30 p.m. Henry Gustavson took the loss on the mound for the Panthers in the opener. Sammy Smith doubled and tripled for the Panthers, while Lucas Fleming drove in three runs with a homer and a single, In the nightcap for the Panthers, Andrew Ashley slugged a three-run homer and drove in four runs, Fleming singled twice and drove in a run,...

TONI STONE PLAYED second base in 1953 for the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro American League, replacing Henry Aaron who left for the Milwaukee Braves. She is the subject of an excellent biography, “Curveball: The Remarkable Story of Toni Stone” by Martha Ackmann. Painting by Graig Kreindler from the archives of NegroLeaguesHistory.com
Second in a series Just a few weeks after Kim Ng was hired by the Miami Marlins to run their team as the general manager, the Red Sox hired Bianca Smith to be the first Black woman to coach in the major leagues and the second woman overall: Yes, those Red Sox, who for generations have had to live down the ignominy of being the last team to put a Black player on the field. Like Ng, Smith is eminently qualified for this position despite her youth (she’s 30). A graduate of Dartmouth, she played on both the softball team and the club baseball team there. She earned a dual M.A. degree in business...

EFFA MANLEY, PRESIDENT of the Newark Eagles in the Negro American League in the 1930s and ’40s, was part of a “men’s club” in the world of professional sports. Here she is seen seated between Negro league star Josh Gibson (right) and Gus Greenlee (left), powerful owner of the Pittsburgh Crawfords. Photo Credit NoirTech Research Inc.
The first in a series. This has been a good year for women in baseball. That’s a sentence that could not have been written before this year. This year is different and may mark a turning point in women’s participation in the Grand Old Game. The hiring of Kim Ng (pronounced Ang) as the general manager of the Miami Marlins is a big deal and really does shatter a glass ceiling: She is the first woman in the long history of the game to serve in the crucial role of GM. Most Major League Baseball teams today have a woman, or two, in senior positions, but on the business side, in marketing,...

PITCHER DAVE DRAVECKY pitched eight years in the Majors for the Padres and the Giants. His career came to an end at Stade Olympique in a game in Montreal in August 1989.
I have attended, in person, thousands of baseball games, many thousands, but one stands out in high relief: This game was the most dramatic I have witnessed in any sport ever. As I mentioned in this space a couple months ago, my wife Brett worked for the San Francisco Giants for three-and-a-half seasons, 1983-86, when she was in graduate school — that’s over 300 games. She ran the message board in Candlestick Park, the only woman in the press box. She came to teach at Middlebury in ’86, and our mutual interest in baseball was not incidental to our relationship. Her Giants came to Montreal...

CATCHER QUINCY TROUPPE, left, and pitcher Sam “Toothpick” Jones in 1952 were the first Black battery (pitcher and catcher) in Major League Baseball. Trouppe and Jones also played for the Cleveland Buckeyes of the Negro American League. Jones was the first Black pitcher to throw a no-hitter in the Major Leagues, pitching for the Chicago Cubs in 1955. Photo courtesy of the Cleveland Memory Project
“The Yankees cannot lose.” “But I fear the Indians of Cleveland.”                                 (“The Old Man and the Sea,” Ernest Hemingway, 1956)   The Indians are my second favorite baseball team — and have been since I was a baseball-obsessed kid. I grew up next door to my five cousins. My cousin Charlie, the boy nearest in age to me, and I played a game in his ample back yard we called simply “tennis ball.” We inherited the game from his older brothers. It was just one on one, pitcher and hitter, with a wall as a backstop. If you get an old worn out (no fuzz) tennis ball, you can curve...

VERDELL “LEFTY” MATHIS was a star pitcher for the Memphis Red Sox of the Negro Leagues from 1940-50, comparable to the very best pitchers in Major League Baseball. This painting by Graig Kreindler is from the archives of NegroLeaguesHistory.com.
The latest in a series of columns inspired by the centennial of baseball’s Negro Leagues. In any discussion of race and baseball, Red Sox don’t fare very well — that is, the Boston Red Sox. We all know by now that the Red Sox were the last Major League team to integrate, in 1959, a full 12 years after Jackie Robinson broke the 20th century color barrier. We also know, alas, that they had the first crack at Willie Mays, who was playing as a teenager for the Birmingham Black Barons when the Red Sox’ top farm team was the Birmingham Barons, and the two teams played their games in the same park,...

FRANK GRANT IS considered the best of the 19th-century Black ballplayers and was inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame in 2006. In 1887, while playing for Buffalo, he led the International League in batting with a .353 average. Grant played in Middlebury in 1893 and ’94 for the Cuban Giants against the college boys.
Editor’s note: This is the latest in a series inspired by the centennial this year of baseball’s Negro Leagues. Baseball, the American version of the British games of cricket and rounders, began in an organized fashion in the United States with actual contests in the 1840s. By the time of the Civil War, “base ball” (two words in those days) was a big deal in the U.S.  In the Civil War, both the Union and Confederate armies played the game in their ample downtime. It was a favorite pastime for Black soldiers too: 180,000 freed slaves fought for the North. After the war, these soldiers...

CHARLEY SYKES, MIDD ’57, goes to the hoop: “He plays with the ease of a pro and is the picture of poise and composure.” Photo courtesy of the family
Editor’s note: This is the latest in a series inspired by the centennial of baseball’s Negro Leagues. “Whether confronting the challenges of world population growth or the nutritional needs of children, building a hospital or overseeing disaster relief, you have been there to serve and to care for the present and future needs of some of the world’s most impoverished people. Your lifetime commitment to CARE and the needs of people in developing countries is a matter of great pride for your alma mater and serves as an inspiration for others who will follow you from this place.” These are the...

MOST RED SOX fans know that Elijah “Pumpsie” Green (above left) was the first African American player for the Boston Red Sox, the last team in Major League Baseball to integrate.
Latest in a series of reflections inspired by the 2020 centennial of Baseball’s Negro Leagues. Larry Doby was the second Black player in the major leagues, first appearing for the Cleveland Indians on July 5, 1947, just 10 weeks after Jackie Robinson’s debut for the Dodgers. Every year on April 15, Major League Baseball celebrates Jackie Robinson Day. There’s no Larry Doby Day.  Unlike Robinson, 28, who had a terrific year for Brooklyn, Larry Doby, just 23, struggled in his first season, playing in only 21 games and batting just .156. The next year, however, along with the ageless Satchel...

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