sports column


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...
I took my dog for a short walk this afternoon. As I circled back through the woods into my yard from the opposite side, a small patch of vibrant yellow drew my attention. The first two dandelions of the spring had popped up and were on full display. Directly above them, the intermingled branches of a pair of red maple trees created their own display of color with their rust-red blossom buds, making up in sheer numbers of blossoms for what they lacked in brightness. The colors of that part of our yard were particularly attention-grabbing because most everything else is brown. Mud season is...

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...
Over the past few months, I’ve had the delight of getting to know a long-lost cousin. The reacquaintance has taken place by Zoom. It’s been virtual not only because of the pandemic, but also because my cousin lives in the Vancouver area, which happens to be on the other side of the continent and in a different country. An in-person meeting would have been unlikely even without the pandemic. Instead, we chat via a larger family video conference for an hour or so every weekend, with my father, three of my aunts, and (depending on the week) two or three of my cousins. One of them is always my...

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,...
I’d seen signs of it for years. One Christmas morning early this millennium when our kids were young, we arrived at the family cabin in Maine for our annual gathering with relatives to find that the lake had not yet frozen over. That being the first time in my life with open water so late in the year, we decided to make it memorable by diving into that open water. And not being real polar bears, we then got out as quickly as we could, ran into the cottage, and warmed up by the fire with hot cocoa. The next morning, a thin layer of ice coated the surface of the lake. New England weather has...

THE RINK IN the center of the Middlebury College campus was set up in 1980 as an antidote to a winter of bad skiing conditions. Photo courtesy of Middlebury College Archives
Driving down Route 125, College Street, as I do most days, I noticed a temporary structure had gone up in the middle of the Middlebury College campus. It’s a “winterized tent” where “students can hang out” in this pandemic-compromised winter, with an adjacent skating rink. As President Laurie Patton explained in the Independent on Feb. 18: “We are embracing cold weather and everything wonderful about Vermont.” Do the students making use of this space for social and recreational purposes understand they are on historic, if not hallowed, college ground? The scene transports me back to the...

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...
My good friend David O’Hara introduced me to the term “fish porn.” At the time, we were collaborating on our 2014 book “Downstream: Reflections on Brook Trout, Fly Fishing, and the Waters of Appalachia” (Cascade Books). Contrary to what some might imagine, “fish porn” does not refer to scantily clad (or completely unclothed) persons in provocative positions pretending to be anglers (although apparently that also helps some social media sites draw viewers). Rather, it refers to a type of photography intended to titillate audiences and stimulate in the viewer (in this case an avid angler) a...

NANCY GADEN, THEN, as an 18-year-old freshman, shoots a foul shot in a Middlebury College women’s basketball game in 1980. Gaden averaged nearly 30 points a game that season and set a single-game scoring record with a 52-point game. Photo/Middlebury College Archives
This is the story of Nancy Gaden, basketball player extraordinaire. Before we tell of Nancy’s accomplishments, let’s set the context: if you look at the record book in women’s basketball at Middlebury College, one woman dominates: Sladja Kovijanic, ’93. Sladja is without question the best women’s basketball player ever at Middlebury in the nearly half century Middlebury women have played the game seriously. She was spectacular, one of the very few best players in all of DIII NCAA hoops at the time. In 1993, she led the country in scoring with an average of 30.9. Let’s pause for a minute...

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