When The Sport You Love Doesn’t Love You Back

John Gibbons' comment continues a troubling trend in baseball. (via Keith Allison)

John Gibbons’ comment continues a troubling trend in baseball. (via Keith Allison)

The first self-motivated daily routine I remember adopting was picking up the sports page at the breakfast table each morning and poring over box scores. I decoded columns titled “AB,” “H” and “R.” I studied the standings and watched teams rise and fall on strength of “Ws and Ls.” I questioned why pitchers with big numbers in the ERA column kept showing up in a box score every fifth day. I was 5 years old.

My childhood love affair with baseball isn’t particularly unique. I relished opportunities to buy baseball cards at the local card shop. I spent countless hours playing catch each summer with friends and with my dad. I struggled to stay awake each night as I fell asleep listening to Harry Kalas’ voice on my bedside radio. I was virtually indistinguishable from any other kid who loved baseball with one notable exception: I was a girl.

My reality as a girl who loved baseball is that throughout my life baseball has constantly reinforced its message that although I’m always welcome as a fan, baseball is not actually for me. Baseball’s subtle but steady rejection of me began when I became old enough to play in a recreation league and, like so many other girls throughout the country, I was urged to play softball instead of baseball.

As a kid, you don’t question the reality with which you’re presented and if that meant softball was as close as I could ever get to playing the sport I loved, so be it. I played from elementary school through high school without a single regret. I loved having a physical outlet for my love of the game, even though it wasn’t exactly the game. But with the perspective brought on by time and adulthood, I’m struck by the absurdity of it all. I wanted baseball but baseball didn’t want me back. The message was crystal clear: Baseball is not for you, it’s for boys.

When I was a high school senior, a freshman tried out for softball and made the varsity team. A freshman making varsity was noteworthy as is, but she didn’t just make the team, she became our starting shortstop. She was extraordinarily talented and I recall being jealous of her. But here’s the thing: I wasn’t jealous because she was a great softball player. I was jealous because of the path she had taken to get there. That season she became our starting shortstop was her first season ever playing softball. How did she manage it? She had refused the arbitrary restriction on girls and baseball for as long as possible and found a way to play baseball all the way through middle school. When high school rolled around, however, she was finally forced to trade in her baseball mitt for a softball one because baseball refused to accept her any longer.

This is not a perceived slight or an overblown reaction to a benign comment. This is a real and prevalent isolation from the game that girls and, by extension, women experience. With this background, rhetoric such as that used by Blue Jays manager John Gibbons in the first week of the season only serves to further drive a wedge between female fans and the game they love. In response to his team being penalized for an illegal slide, Gibbons opined “maybe we’ll come out and wear dresses tomorrow. Maybe that’s what everybody’s looking for.” This is not just one comment, but part of a seemingly never-ending pattern of behavior in baseball in which femininity is presented as inferior.

Despite being forced into being an outsider looking in at baseball, my love of the game has never diminished. Growing up in a golden era for baseball movies, I devoured every baseball themed flick I could. A League of Their Own remains one of my all-time favorite films to this day and other childhood favorites included Rookie of the Year, Little Big League, and, especially, The Sandlot. I owned The Sandlot on VHS and watched it enough times that I still have it memorized. The romance of the relationship between baseball and the kids who play it was magical for me. And yet, one of the biggest punchlines in the film is a reminder of how baseball is a world in which I can’t fully belong.

The scene is a tribute to the great baseball tradition of trash talking and occurs when an arrogant group of kids from a well-funded team shows up at the sandlot and challenges our beloved protagonists to a game. Our hero in the scene is Hamilton “Ham” Porter who engages an obnoxious jerk in a vicious war of insults.

In case you can’t keep up, here’s the dialogue:

Ham: Watch it, jerk!
Jerk: Shut up, idiot!
H: Moron!
J: Scab eater!
H: Butt sniffer!
J: Puss licker!
H: Fart smeller!
J: You eat dog crap for breakfast, geek!
H: You mix your Wheaties with your momma’s toe jam!
J: You bob for apples in the toilet… and you like it!
H: You play ball like a GIRL!

*record scratch*

And just like that, the fight is over. Ham has laid down the most vicious of vicious insults. The jerk stutters in utter disbelief that anyone dare compare his abilities to that of a lowly girl.

It’s just a joke. I know. The Sandlot was set in the 1960s when a joke at the expense of femininity was among the tamer types of jokes. But as Gibbons’ thoughtless remarks recently reminded us, references to femininity as an unwelcome characteristic in baseball aren’t just dated jokes in period movies, they remain part of baseball’s modern vernacular (and American cultural vernacular as a whole, for that matter).

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A year ago, Phillies broadcaster and legendary Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt referred to a poor throw as “girlish.” When Jessica Mendoza debuted as an analyst in the booth for a nationally televised game on ESPN, critics tripped over themselves to explain why she didn’t belong. Gibbons’ comments weren’t a careless misstep, they were merely the latest in a long line of divisive language within the game.

After receiving heat for his comment, Gibbons said “the world needs to lighten up a little bit.” This is a common refrain. After all, these are just jokes or allusions to jokes about how…. Uh. Well, here’s the thing, what exactly is the punchline? What is the joke? That femininity is weak and inferior?

Name the strongest people you know. Everyone’s lists will vary but extremely common responses include “my wife,”, “my mom,” “my grandmother.” We all know or have known strong women, so there can’t be any denying that women are strong. If that’s not the joke, then, it has to be that women are inferior athletes, right?

I’ve watched a lot of sports in my life and enjoyed heroic moments from walk-off home runs to Hail Mary catches to buzzer beaters, but if asked to name the toughest or gutsiest performance I’ve ever seen, there is no question what moment would come to my mind first. During the Summer Olympics in 1996, the U.S. women’s gymnastics team was one event away from securing a gold medal in the team event. After a few mistakes by her teammates, Kerri Strug stepped to the vault as the final competitor. If she succeeded, the team would win gold but if she failed, the Russian team would become the Olympic champions. After injuring her ankle on her first attempt, Strug limped back into position to make her second and final vault. The rest is history:

Landing a world-class gymnastic maneuver on one foot at the most important moment in a career remains to this day among the most jaw-dropping athletic accomplishments I’ve ever witnessed. And it was pulled off by an 18-year-old girl 20 years ago.

In the present day, one of the top contenders for the arbitrary title of most dominant athlete in the world is tennis player Serena Williams. She is absolutely electric to watch on the court and is a 21-time individual grand slam champion – a superstar if ever there was one.

Any discussion of the greatest teams in American sports would be incomplete without mention of the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team. Earlier this month, UConn outscored their opponents in the NCAA tournament 544 to 305 en route to securing their fourth consecutive national title and tenth since 2000. Their current 75 game win streak is due to a display of athletic dominance that is utterly awe-inspiring.

We could spend all day listing the jaw-dropping athletic accomplishments of women. So that can’t be the joke either.

Which leads us to this inconvenient truth: femininity as a punchline in sports is simply not funny. Why do we continue to write off baseless and insulting rhetoric as “just a joke” when it’s blatantly clear that there’s not, in fact, any actual joke being made? It is language derived from a culture in which masculinity is unjustifiably held up as an athletic ideal above femininity and it needs to stop.

“If these jokes aren’t funny, why don’t you just ignore them?”

I’ve spent my entire life overlooking the fact that sexism is woven into the fabric of baseball. No one intentionally excluded me by pushing me to play softball instead of baseball or by making jokes at the expense of my gender. It wasn’t personal. But it is a flaw in the sport’s culture that exists and has impacted the relationship between baseball and its female fans.

As a self-defense mechanism, I’ve always quickly pushed aside sexist comments and I’ll continue to do so, but before moving forward it is critical to call out these comments when they’re made. If Gibbons’ “dresses” comment was just one isolated incident, it wouldn’t deserve a second thought, but that’s not the situation we face. We are not talking about one off-color remark or even a handful of off-color remarks. We are talking about a sport-wide culture which permits casual sexism and reinforces over and over and over again to its female fans that their involvement in the sport is not as valid as that of their male counterparts.

There is no “right” or “superior” form of baseball fandom. My story is no more or less valid than any other fan’s because mine happens to be a story of a life-long love of the sport. There are life-long fans, casual fans, and late adopters of a sport. There are fans of different genders, races, sexual orientations and socioeconomic backgrounds. A beautiful consequence of the fact that baseball is such a brilliant sport is that it appeals to a wide variety of different people at different times in their lives. All fandom is valid and the baseball world is more than big enough to welcome and embrace all different types of fans.

Major League Baseball partners with and promotes youth baseball initiatives to help foster the love of the game in people who discover it at a young age. Teams welcome fans hailing from different communities to events such as Irish Heritage Night or African-American Heritage Night or Pride Night. There are outreach and education programs to help pull in adults just discovering the game and there are programs designed to connect female fans with the sport. These are fantastic examples of the ways in which baseball is taking commendable action toward building an inclusive environment, but it’s not enough.

Where the institution of baseball has made tremendous strides in reaching out to all different types of baseball lovers, the faces of baseball – namely players, managers, and broadcasters — have not yet demonstrated a willingness to commit to similar measures of inclusion. John Gibbons’ comments are only the most recent in a constant and steady barrage of thoughtless rhetoric which has permeated baseball for its entire existence. Whether the intent was to diminish the value of women within the sport of baseball is irrelevant. His comments did not occur in a vacuum, but in the greater context of a baseball culture that has steadily and consistently reinforced the fact that the sport is not for women. We need to stop writing off the marginalization of a large group of fans as “just a joke” and strive toward continuing to build a culture that exhibits decency and inclusive practices toward all of its fans.


Corinne Landrey writes for FanGraphs and MLB.com’s Cut4 site.
Follow her on Twitter @crashlandrey.

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Carl
Guest
Carl

Corinne,

Very good article, and agree with almost everything. The exception is that Jessica Mendoza is just a terrible announcer, but that has nothing to do with her gender. Any male announcer who went out of his way to say how “he knows” what it’s like because “he played college softball” would be just as pathetic and just as ridiculed. Surely another, better announcer of either gender could be found somewhere in America.

CB
Guest
CB

Agreed. Plenty of male announcers/pundits are laughing stocks throughout baseball. It’s a shame that Mendoza has proven herself equally as inept as most of the boys, but that shouldn’t mean because of gender she should be exempt from criticism. Can’t have it both ways.

Patrick
Guest
Patrick

Pal, Jessica Mendoza is an excellent announcer and clearly your only issue with her is that her qualifications AS A WOMAN don’t meet your male standards. Take a step back and think about your comments and maybe you’ll recognize that you’re part of the problem.

Marquis
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Marquis
Hi “Pal”, I fail to see exactly why they need to “push” a women onto the set of a Major League baseball game. I am not sexist in any form, however I do not see why she must be added to the cast of announcers when she personally hasn’t played any baseball itself. I find this equivalent to if a male were to announce a women’s sport when he hasn’t been a part of it, coached it, or played it. I feel that her insights are from the outside looking in, her playing softball all of her life, and that… Read more »
Churchofbaseball
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Churchofbaseball

I don’t think I’ve ever watched a female sporting event that didn’t have atleast one male announcer involved that had never played that woman’s sport. I played college ball and I’m guessing Jessica mendoza could’ve outplayed most the guys I played with including me. Maybe she didn’t play baseball, but maybe she should’ve been allowed to instead of being pushed towards softball just as the author described her experience.

Bill Gorman
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Bill Gorman

I didn’t know playing or coaching baseball was a requirement to comment on it. Buster Olney, Tim Kurkjian, et al really need to get their resumes looked at.

Antonio Bananas
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Antonio Bananas
I would rather listen to 2-3 guys from fangraphs than the former player hacks. Curt Schilling doesn’t believe in evolution. That alone disqualifies him from intelligent conversation. Then you have Joe Morgan and Kruk and Hawk Harrelson and a whole host of others who “know” more than others because they were in the business. That’s the biggest joke there is. And no, the schilling thing wasn’t snarky or sarcasm. 100% how I feel. If you deny things like evolution, I question your intelligence and it puts an asterisk next to anything you say. Because if you’re so ignorant that you… Read more »
Well-Beered Englishman
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Well-Beered Englishman

Mendoza is far better than almost every other national network commentator.

Rob Wiseman
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Rob Wiseman

Puking is far better than having diarrhea, but I would still prefer neither.

Hayden
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Hayden

I find Mendoza to be a terrific announcer. I’m not calling you sexist or anything for not liking her. I just really disagree. I remember listening to her on ESPN last year, and I was really impressed with the way she broke down the game.

Corrine, this was a great article. Thanks for writing it.

Romus
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Romus

Very insightful article and one that should make every man think and be conscious of what they hold as value.

Bad Bill
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Bad Bill
Okay, Ms. Landrey, here’s a challenge for you: YOU try to construct a metaphor for Gibbons to use on the spur of the moment that: (1) Expresses disgust at what he perceives as an outrageously excessive attempt to take contact out of baseball in a play where contact is a “normal” (in his view) part of the game; (2) Is both pithy enough and forceful enough that he’ll actually get quoted for the metaphor, rather than having it disappear into the large file of ignored rants that never get published and therefore never change anything; (3) Avoids whatever it is… Read more »
Patrick
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Patrick

How about he just explains why he’s upset rather than relying on sexist stereotypes to make a really simple point. It’s really easy to do, contrary to your diatribe above, just requires intelligence.

MarylandBill
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MarylandBill

While I don’t support the particular comment, because it really is sexist, people familiar with the way media works knows that a pithy one liner is far more likely to get noticed than a detailed explanation. Its called the sound bite. That being said, I like some of the one liners that Grant and Tom suggested.

Haminator
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Haminator

Yes this exactly. Conversation without putting anybody else down has become a rarity. All his insult did was show his ignorance, and perhaps prove that he’s not too bright as a leader and/or speaker.

Feminist Truth
Guest
Feminist Truth
It’s life, people need to take a step back. If women want all of the ‘stereotypical language’ that men have about them to go away, then women must look in the mirror themselves and make all of the stereotypical language about men go away. Problem is they don’t. It’s the great secret that feminists won’t tell you. They want total control. They don’t want equality. They want portrayals of girls and women as inferior or even just ‘flawed’ on commercials to go away, yet they continue to laugh at portrayals of males as ‘stupid’, ‘lazy’, or inferior on those same… Read more »
Feminist Truth
Guest
Feminist Truth
A quick point. For men out there, if you run into a feminist that you plan to marry, and she refuses your last name, please, for the sake of equality, offer for her to marry you without an engagement ring. See what she says. If she is ok with it, she may actually be reasonable. If she is not, then she’s an idiot, and she doesn’t care about your feelings or equality. The engagement ring is just as sexist as a woman taking a man’s last name. It is simply a symbol, and nothing more. However, it’s a symbol that… Read more »
Rob Wiseman
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Rob Wiseman

How dare you post such an insightful and interesting comment!!!

We must all deny it’s truth and ostracize you for your thought crimes against feminism. We must call you childish names and treat you as inferior because you dissented from the new social norms.

Rellis
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Rellis

What????

Cutter
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Cutter

Gibbons comments could be construed as “If you’re wearing a dress, you’re planning on looking nice and doing something sophisticated, rather than getting down to the dirty business that baseball sometimes is.”

Do I believe that’s what he meant? No, but it’s a possibility.

Heather
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Heather

Then why not say “next time they’ll expect us to be out there in top hats and tails”?

Grant
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Grant

“Maybe we’ll just come out of here in monocles and white gloves.”

“Maybe we’ll just juggle faberge eggs instead of play baseball.”

“Maybe we’ll put a roll of bubble wrap around us so no one gets hurt.”

That was two seconds. You think of creative analogies like a man.

Heather
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Heather

ha — should have read farther!

Marquis
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Marquis

When you have been saying one analogy almost your whole life, and you’re talking to a room full of people you already don’t like, and just lost the game on a new (somewhat bullshit) rule, which was the first time this year the rule was enforced, would you not be pretty pissed off and not be thinking of every word you say…cut the man some slack.

matt w
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matt w
The problem is that when Gibbons was pissed off the thing that came out of his mouth was sexist. If someone says something racist in the heat of his anger, we wouldn’t say “Cut him some slack, he was mad,” we’d say “Gosh it’s kind of disturbing that when he’s mad he comes out with something racist.” Just like Mel Gibson doesn’t get a pass for saying anti-Semitic stuff just because he was drunk and angry, because most people don’t think of anti-Semitic stuff even when they’re drunk and angry. And it’s not like people are calling for Gibbons to… Read more »
Tom
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Tom
Uh, how about: “Maybe we should just all come out tomorrow and hug one another instead of competing.” OR “The way things are going, pretty soon it’s gonna be excessive contact to tag the runner.” OR “Maybe we should get rid of the infield dirt too, so we don’t soil our uniforms.” There’s three off the top of my head, and, lo and behold, none of them has to be a put-down in order to get the point across! Now I guess your definition of pith is subjective, and maybe you personally only find things funny if they explicitly associate… Read more »
KCDaveInLA
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KCDaveInLA

As a hugger and dirt-aversive, I am deeply offended. If you don’t apologize, I’m going to Twitter the heck out of you. #2016

Philip Tapley
Guest
[pardon me up front if I misinterpreted your sarcasm as something that it was not] That’s a false equivalence; comparing discrimination of 50% of humans, and the use of rhetoric blatantly characterizing them as lesser, is not the same as ridiculing someone for not wanting to have a dirty uniform (“dirt-aversive”), nor as insinuating that people are afraid of competition of any aggressive sort (“as a hugger”). Stop trying to minimize sexism. If you have a beef with the clear argument laid out in the article, characterizing comments like Gibbons’ as such, than make an actual statement. Cutesy sarcasm and… Read more »
Matt Martin
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Matt Martin

How about, “We keep this up and pretty soon there will be crying in baseball!”

matt w
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matt w

How about: “I’m going to have to start coaching my baserunners not to grab fielder’s ankles”?

Frank the Tank
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Frank the Tank

“whatever it is you’re on about here”

I don’t think I could come up with a more condescending and snarky reply than that if I were so inclined. I think you’re just proving Ms. Landry’s point.

Mark L
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Mark L

“Tomorrow, we come out in giant inflatable outfits”

“Tomorrow, we play with foam balls and bats”

There are literally thousands of non-sexist analogies he could have used, and the fact you don’t think there are says a lot about you and little about the debate.

Anti-Retard
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Anti-Retard

Sure it is. Read books and develop your vocabulary. Don’t double-down on knuckledraggin “MURRR.. Me Don’t Words Good Speak To MURRRR” , THAT’S for sure!

Yellow-bellied; Cowardly. Two VERY commonly-used expressions in ball games, as venerable as the sport itself.

The type of moron that can’t find the right bad words to spout shouldn’t be able to manage so much as pouring water into a cup

Dina
Guest
Dina

How about Gibbons saying, “maybe we’ll come out and wear BUBBLE WRAP tomorrow. Maybe that’s what everybody’s looking for.” It’s really not so difficult.

epicurean
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epicurean

Gender insensitivity, and the gender barrier in general, are huge problems in baseball that the MLB needs to address. Although baseball’s general social awareness has evolved markedly in the last three decades, it remains in the paleolithic age regarding gender.

While the MLB has much work to do in addressing and overcoming the gender barrier, a good first act would be making clear that comments like Gibbons’s are unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

Thanks for a great article. I appreciated finding it via Crashburn Alley.

Rob Wiseman
Guest
Rob Wiseman
Much has been said, both in the article, and in the comments about the gender barrier within the game of baseball. I’m curious about that gender barrier, considering there are many women who serve at many different capacities within the game. -Kim Ng has climbed the ranks of Major League Baseball’s executive ladder. -MLB Network has several women broadcasters who do a marvelous job. -The Seattle Mariners hired Amanda Hopkins as a scout, and I’m sure she won’t be the only female scout in a few years. -I don’t think we’re too far away from a female GM or assistant… Read more »
Cutter
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Cutter

Corinne – Do you believe that if given an opportunity to do so, there are any women capable of playing baseball at a major league level?

Maureen
Guest

If women were given the chance and a league to play baseball in as they grow up (not softball), then yes, eventually there will be some pretty talented women. But women do not have that chance, as Corinne stated. The only major sport that doesn’t have a female equivalent. Get with the times, baseball. America’s favourite pastime….if you’re a guy.

John C.
Guest
John C.
I’ve always wondered if Title IX set women in baseball back. With the need to drive up the numbers of women competing in college sports there was a real incentive for families to adopt the sport’s push of young girls into softball rather than baseball. Suddenly there was a potential scholarship on the line for the family. There are physical differences between men and women that will mean that it will always be more difficult for women to play at that elite level. More difficult, but not impossible. I mean, anyone who watched Tim Wakefield for all those years cannot… Read more »
matt w
Guest
matt w

This seems to push the problem back a level. If the explanation for why young girls get pushed into softball is that Title IX gave them an incentive to go for college softball scholarships, doesn’t that raise the question of why colleges have women’s softball teams instead of women’s baseball teams? Title IX doesn’t keep young girls out of basketball, because when they get to the college level they can get basketball scholarships for the womens’ teams.

Cutter
Guest
Cutter

The only major sport that doesn’t have a female equivalent? What about football?

MarylandBill
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MarylandBill

Well, I would say that softball is the female equivalent… Lets be honest, there are rules differences in most team sports between the men’s and women’s version (Soccer I think is an exception). In many cases, I would argue that those differences are unnecessary and condescending to women. The main difference here is that we actually call it a different sport in the case of baseball/softball (well that and the fact that there are men’s softball teams).

Casey
Guest

It’s not just rule differences–the dimensions of the field are different, the ball is different, pitchers throw underhand. It really is its own sport imo, compared to sports like tennis and golf; the only difference between men’s and women’s tennis is the length of the match.

Frank The Tank
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Frank The Tank

Women’s tennis actually uses a different ball. It’s livelier than the men’s ball.

Gibbons
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Gibbons

Are there any professional sports where women compete at the same level as men?

Richie
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Richie

No. But you realize this ruins the whole discussion, Gibbons? You are SO! insensitive!

a eskpert
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a eskpert

Curling. Figure skating. Gymnastics conceivably. Events where simple strength is important, but not the essential characteristic of the sport.

JC
Guest
JC

Equestrian is the only Olympic sport where men and women compete head to head.

Rainbow
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Rainbow

“The only major sport that doesn’t have a female equivalent”? So, American football is not a major sport?

bucdaddy
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bucdaddy
An innocent question: What does MLB have to do with high school teams not fielding girls’ baseball teams? I’m guessing that with the popularity of football and basketball and more and more players being persuaded to stick with one sport, many high schools have trouble fielding baseball teams at all. Last I looked, towns in my state were dropping Legion teams, not adding them. Baseball has larger problems at its roots that just happen to include the issue of girls. Personally, if I were coaching a team and found a girl who could play better than all but eight oi… Read more »
Carl
Guest
Carl

Cutter,

I think we’re not too far away from the first female baseball professional. The Mets tried out women back in 1995 during the strike/lockout. Less than 2 months ago the NCAA’s only woman college pitcher (Sarah Hudek) won her first game. Eighteen months ago Mo’ne Davis became the first girl to win a game in the Little League World series. Sometime soon.

PS. And Jess Mendoza is still a bad announcer.

Fred Vincy
Guest

Thank you, Corinne. I am going through many of the same feelings being experience by my eight-year-old daughter, who was a passionate baseball fan a few years ago but has gradually lost interest as she has felt excluded. It is heart-breaking.

Perry Barber
Guest
Fred Vincy, there are many teams, leagues, and girls baseball organizations willing to help your daughter reclaim her rightful place on the baseball diamond if she wants it. Baseball For All, headed by Justine Siegal, the first woman to coach a men’s pro baseball team and a tireless advocate for girls who want to play baseball, would be a great place for you to start. There is no reason on earth why your daughter shouldn’t be playing baseball if that’s what she wants to do, and helping her navigate the rocky road of prejudice and ignorance that leads girls away… Read more »
Sandy
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Sandy

It’s innapropriate to assign anyone a gender. As such, this article is offensive.

Marc Schneider
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Marc Schneider

Yes, Sandy, that’s such an intelligent comment.

Jimminy Cricket
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Jimminy Cricket

It’s inappropriate to be offended at anything. As such your comment is offensive (as is mine).

Marc Schneider
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Marc Schneider
When my daughter was seven, she played on a mixed-gender baseball team and did fine. After that, of course, she was shuttled into softball. Now, it didn’t particularly bother her; she wasn’t that much of a baseball fan anyway and she played softball through high school. But it always occurred to me that girls were being shunted into a much less interesting game. I never understood why girls couldn’t play baseball instead of softball. One reason, I suspect, is that there is an institutional interest in keeping girls playing softball. What would the ASA do if girls weren’t forced to… Read more »
Nate
Guest
Nate

I don’t like Vin Scully one bit. I want analysis of the game, not tangential stories. He has a wealth of information and story telling, I understand that, but it’s not what I want to hear. It doesn’t make him bad, he’s just got a different style

bucdaddy
Guest
bucdaddy

“But it always occurred to me that girls were being shunted into a much less interesting game”

I’m good friends with a woman who played softball through college. I doubt she’d accept that description of her sport.

matt w
Guest
matt w

“I think it’s unfair to accuse someone who doesn’t like her as an announcer of being sexist especially when they go out of their way to indicate it isn’t because of her gender. Unless you can read their mind, I suggest that person should accept what they say at face value.”

Well, the guy Corinne was specifically referring to (in the linked piece) called her “Tits McGhee.” Not much mindreading necessary there.

Rick
Guest

Great article and all valid points, with the exception of Jessica Mendoza. I think she was horrible the first time out , but has since improved, much like many first time male counterparts in the booth.

MarylandBill
Guest
MarylandBill
One of the most beautiful thing about baseball (IMHO) is that it is a sport that invites the fan to imagine themselves in the game. It creates the illusion that the players on the field are just a smidge better than the average Joe. While we all know that in reality a professional, even in the lowest level of the minors plays at a level far above our own… we can still imagine that they are not that much better. This should be true of women as well. All the evidence I see suggests that the best women players can… Read more »
Richie
Guest
Richie

You’re choosing to not see a whole lot of evidence, but I guess that’s evident to us all. High school baseball teams hit the weights like all get out because upper body strength sure helps like the dickens in baseball.

If I had a daughter gifted enough to think about competing with boy baseball players come age 15, I myself would be at least tempted to steer her toward softball given the scholarship possibilities there. Scholarship likelihoods, if she’s actually that gifted.

MarylandBill
Guest
MarylandBill
What evidence am I missing that would contradict my statement? According to this article (http://thinkprogress.org/sports/2015/05/28/3663371/national-baseball-tournament-aims-show-girls-play/) over 1000 High School aged women played on HS boys teams last year. Now, lets think about that for a moment. Sure it is a tiny fraction of the number of boys, but when one considers how many girls have been told since they started playing ball that they should play softball and not even try for baseball one has to wonder how many girls would be in the H.S. game without parents and coaches telling them to play softball instead? I am not suggesting… Read more »
Richie
Guest
Richie
So over 1000 girls DO! play baseball, yet we’re complaining about how they’re (quite properly, mind you) steered toward softball instead? Bill, you’re just being stupid. Gibbons nailed it up above, there’s no sport where women compete at a man’s level. Golf is probably the best example. Women have been golfing for decades and decades, and they still don’t golf at a man’s level, despite how massively eye-hand-coordination technique the sport operates as. The best women have massively focused on their craft just as the best boys do during their teen years, yet they just don’t hit the ball as… Read more »
Frank
Guest
Frank
Nowhere in the article does the author make the claim that women should compete with men at the highest level. You made that assumption. All the author said is that if girls and women want to play baseball, they should have that opportunity. That could mean boys and girls participating in the same league until they reach a certain age, then girls getting their own league. There are a number of ways it could be accomplished. Jumping to conclusions and waving around the “men are better at sports” flag only highlights that fact that you decided to rally against women… Read more »
MarylandBill
Guest
MarylandBill

The reason I am complaining, and the author is complaining is that many of those 1,000 girls had to fight to even try out for those teams. Many other girls might have been perfectly capable of competing with the boys but were steered away from it.

Further, its not like they are steered towards the girls team.. they are steered to a different game all together. Its not simply claiming that girls are not capable of competing at the same level as the boys, its claiming they are unable to play baseball period.

Cutter
Guest
Cutter

Does anyone know the reason why women play softball instead of baseball? (This isn’t rhetorical, I really don’t know why they chose a different game)

MK
Guest

Because they don’t get to play baseball. I never had the option.

Richie
Guest
Richie

Gibbons’ comment being discussed shows some progress. I suspect he’s been privately told, “listen, don’t say it that way anymore”. Not much longer and anyone who says it that way will do so knowing they’re asking for unnecessary hassle.

Answer is in the Article.
Guest
Answer is in the Article.

If you read the damn thing before commenting, you’d have the answer to your question! SMH!

Gmonk
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Gmonk

So only women can wear dresses? Is that not also sexist? Gibbons doesn’t mention women at all.

Richie
Guest
Richie

nyuknyuknyuk; I think.

Jerk Knee
Guest
Jerk Knee

Links to sources or anything credible that proves that John Gibbons is consumed by concern over cross-dressers rights or GTFO.

Tomtom
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Tomtom
Gibbons never said “girls” though… By associating dresses with girls, you yourself are perpetuating gender stereotypes, while trying to tell us to stop. One top of that, a decently modest human being, wearing a dress, HAS to act differently – sit a certain way, walk/run a certain way, etc. to prevent a wardrobe malfunction. That is a fact. In Gibbons’ comment, he never alludes to women, only to dresses. He easily could have been referring that part of wearing a dress, the part that limits mobility and increases gentleness and tentativeness. Because he didn’t directly reference women or girls, there… Read more »
agam22
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agam22

And when Marge Schott said Hitler had some good ideas she could have been referring to his views on art

MarylandBill
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MarylandBill

I would categorize this as willful ignorance. The wearing of dresses is so strongly associated with women in our culture that men who do wear dresses are seen as being pretty far outside the norm. This cultural background is strong enough to suggest that wearing dresses means acting like a woman… and in context was more or less the equivalent of saying “play like a girl”.

Bip
Guest
Bip

In case anyone else is silly enough to buy this argument, the problem is that alluding to dresses is a reference to a preexisting set of gender stereotypes. He doesn’t need to explicitly say anything about women because it’s enough for him to reference an idea we all know.

You may as well argue that “throwing like a girl” is not an insult because it is not explicitly stated that girls throw poorly, but we all know that’s what it means. It’s referencing an idea we all know about, and which we would like to get rid of.

Dc
Guest
Dc
Serious question. Why does pointing out a difference in gender make up mean sexism? Men and women are different, they are very different, they are different physically and they are different mentally. Why is it so bad to point that out? Different doesn’t mean unequal, different means different. The real problem with sexism and racism is ignorance and not acknowledging difference that make people unique, not unequal. I have no issue with what John gibbons said and find it absolutely hilarious that reporter and bloggers jump on him while they only write about male sports. Why does it have to… Read more »
MarylandBill
Guest
MarylandBill
I don’t think anyone is denying that women and men are different and that men have physical advantages that probably would exclude women from the absolute highest levels of the game. That being said, what I think is sexist is not allowing women the chance to compete in the first place. Just curious, how do you know women aren’t as ‘tough’ as men in some regards? There is plenty of evidence to suggest that women might actually have higher pain thresholds than men do. In any case, baseball (of the big 5… yes I am including soccer) has the least… Read more »
Adrienne
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Adrienne
I think the “tough” comment must be sociological – the idea that because women can be more outwardly emotional (read: cry) they’ re not as tough as men. Putting that debate aside (are you weak if you express emotions? I doubt it), I too suspect women on the whole are as tough or tougher than men viz a viz physical pain (note – I am not saying stronger). It galls me to no end to hear men (and women) refer to someone they perceive as weak as a “pussy”. Pussies – pardon the crude vernacular – are hella strong. They… Read more »
Brendan
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Brendan

GROW A PAIR!

Jacob
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Jacob

As a man who read the entire article every comment I have one thing to say: Male privilege is alive and well. Keep on fighting you brave testo-warriors.

/s

Unthought_Known
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Unthought_Known
I’m torn on this. I understand why the comment is in the news, and why people are talking about it, but I don’t think the examples in the article are valid though. When people talk about strength between men and women, when it comes to sports, they’re talking about physical strength. The article mentions how people say the strongest person they know is their mother, grandmother, etc. They’re talking about emotional strength, maybe pain tolerance (especially when it comes to giving birth), being able to raise 5 kids on their own, etc. They don’t mean that their mother is physically… Read more »
Emeril
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Emeril
“If that team played in the Men’s tournament and won, then it would be a completely valid point. But does anybody really believe that UConn’s Women’s team would come close to winning the title in the Men’s tournament?” Not only would they not win, they would be absolutely decimated by any team in the Men’s bracket. The physical differences between adult male athletes and adult female athletes is massive. Women’s Olympic Track & Field records are regularly bested in the boy’s high school state championships in many states. For an example, the Canadian Women’s National Hockey Team regularly competes in… Read more »
Rob Wiseman
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Rob Wiseman

The equivocation of the word “strength” was quite the fallacy in this article.

John Autin
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John Autin
I was just about to make the same comment on the Gibbons quote as Cutter’s first … then I saw Heather’s reply. Touché — I get it now. I’m a strong supporter of girls and women playing baseball in any format they desire, and without having to conform to game’s generally stereotypical-male norms. But I do wonder what Ms. Landrey means by “femininity” in the context of this article. The word appears six times, but never gives me any indication of what behavior or characteristics the author means to invoke. Is it a mere synonym for female-ness, or something more… Read more »
LD
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LD

How perfect it is that the “dresses” comment was made by John Gibbons. John Gibbons, who manages the only MLB team that plays its home games in Canada. Canada, where the officially-recognized national sports are hockey and lacrosse. Hockey and lacrosse, the two most well-known sports whose rules significantly limit physical contact (compared to that which is permissible and common in the men’s games) when played by women. Women, who wear the vast majority of dresses.

Thus John Gibbons, in showing his disdain for a new rule designed to limit physical contact, became the best unintentional satirist of our time.

intwalk
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intwalk

Wish I would have just stopped reading at the end of Corinne’s piece. Well-written, thought-provoking and insightful. The comments? Not so much.

Rellis
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Rellis

Me too. I am always amazed at how people think in this world. Any time gender and sexism is mentioned, it always devolves into exactly what the author says. Get over it. It’s a joke. We take racism seriously. Why don’t we take sexism seriously?

ben
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ben

A thoughtful and thought-provoking article, IMO.

Curious as to what the author felt about the “chicks dig the long ball” commercials back in the day.

Hal
Guest
Hal

Bah. “Social justice” nonsense.

/ignore

Jerk Knee
Guest
Jerk Knee

Yeah, especially when the opposite thinking is anti-social injustice… You know, the kind of thinking only an outright sociopath would endorse?

I mean, do you people EVER think before typing, or is it a knee-jerk reaction every time? Do you realize how blatantly mad-supervillain you come across? An utter joke. Overgrown, deadbeat man-children with the emotional maturity of a two-year old.

Frank
Guest
Frank

Yeah, if nobody in history cared about social justice, we’d all be so much better off. Not only would my wife spend all her time in the kitchen, I could buy her a slave to help with the cleanup.

Frank
Guest
Frank

/sarcasm

Frank Jackson
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Frank Jackson

There’s no crying in baseball…but obviously whining is still permissible.

Wade
Guest
Wade

You do know where that quote came from, right?

Never mind the fact that I’ve seen Jeter, Ripken, Mariano, Kershaw, Griffey, and several other stars crying…

Jetsy Extrano
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Jetsy Extrano
Well written article. Thanks. Let’s go and unpack how the dress comment was a joke, because in a way it was: a guy says this to his male buddies, they chuckle, so it’s a kind of a joke? And ethnic jokes are a kind of a joke. The thing is, ethnic jokes usually work by a combination of “actual comedic content” (like a surprise reinterpretation) and “in group feels good sharing negative attitude towards out group”. Maybe Gibbons overlooked that he forgot to include any comedic content, because it was still sort of funny to him. So it was a… Read more »
Matt
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Matt

Awesome and completely otm article. Thanks.

Gina
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Gina
I have no doubt that the absolute best female athletes, if focused on baseball, could be role players in the high levels at the very least. What strikes me about the examples given in terms of female athleticism (and dominance) is that seems to suggest an extremely small upper tier. i.e. Serena Williams dominates because she is the best athlete that women’s tennis has to offer… by a lot! UConn dominates because they find the five women who are really good, and that’s just about all of them. The unintended consequence of making baseball a gender-neutral sport is that it… Read more »
Toilet Orangutans
Guest
Toilet Orangutans

I don’t get it.

obnoxious sox fan
Guest
obnoxious sox fan

Thanks for the article and link to the Kerri Strug video. I’m impressed by her actions because she had little future in gymnastics after that (you have to be young to play), but I was less impressed by her coach’s lack of concern for her well-being. “We need you to hurt yourself for the team.” Thanks mister.
Fortunately, she was able to recover and remain athletic, but he didn’t know that would happen.
Anyhow, other than that, your point seems to be that Gibbons is an idiot. I can tell that from his bullpen management. It’s not news.

Eddie
Guest
Eddie
Corrine, your column suffers from two flawed premises. The first is conflating 1) the idea that men are superior athletes with 2) the idea that men are somehow innately more valuable as persons. e.g. “This is not just one comment, but part of a seemingly never-ending pattern of behavior in baseball in which femininity is presented as inferior” and “What is the joke? That femininity is weak and inferior?” Nobody (unless you are) is claiming that being inferior at athletics equates to being innately inferior *as a person.* The idea is nonsensical and offensive. Part of the wonderful, rich diversity… Read more »
Wade
Guest
Wade

The issue, as I see it, is that the comments about wearing dresses was not merely acknowledging that there tend to be physical differences. The comment was meant to be derisive; thus, this is derision indirectly aimed at women.

Eddie
Guest
Eddie

Of course it’s derisive. That doesn’t mean it’s incorrect. The reason “plays like a girl” is derisive is because girls, as a group, do in fact play differently and worse (and specific to that situation, less aggressively and violently).

Its common for women to make fun of men w/r/t clothes and interior decoration … and as a group, men are indeed worse at those things (with color blindness in men being the biological root). Do you think anyone’s going to write an impassioned essay about that? It would be silly.

Michael
Guest
Michael

Eddie,

Because you say that it “doesn’t mean it’s incorrect,” when referring to Gibbons’ comment, are you defending his words? Maybe I’m misinterpreting that? It seems like you’re trying to justify his comment even though you claimed just before that it indeed was derisive. If Gibbons’ intentions were to express how women GENERALLY play “worse” (I don’t have the option to italicize “generally”) then I would agree with your view. His intentions are undoubtedly sexist in nature.

Eddie
Guest
Eddie
Are you under the impression that anything “derisive” is inevitably bad? The word simply means “mockingly critical.” Some things merit mocking criticism. If Gibbons had said that his team played like a bunch of 50 year old men, that would also be a derisive description of them. It’s not derisive of 50 year old men, because (Satchel Paige notwithstanding) it is a simple fact of biology that 50 year old men do not play baseball well. In the same way, suggesting that the way the umps were calling the game – disallowing aggressive play – was essentially feminizing it is… Read more »
matt w
Guest
matt w

Gibbons was talking about having the players “wear dresses” after the umpire penalized his player for grabbing the opponent’s ankle. Women get grabbed without their consent much more than men. So the argument from sex differences doesn’t make sense even at the most literal level.

Michael
Guest
Michael

I suppose I just feel you’re taking an elaborate route at justifying this man’s harsh words.

Eddie
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Eddie

I suppose I have an argument, and you have feelings.

bucdaddy
Guest
bucdaddy

“even in competitions that emphasize precision and skill and where raw muscle has very little value– billiards, shooting sports, high-level poker – men do better.”

Just for the record, the reigning NCAA rifle champion is a freshman woman at West Virginia University named Ginny Thrasher.

Bucdaddy
Morgantown, W.Va.

Tommyp
Guest

Ah yes, politics, gender issues and social warriors on a baseball website. Just what the world needs. Please stop

Ned
Guest
Ned

Absolutely correct Tommy. This whining drivel of an article has no place on a baseball site – go to jezebel (still in business?) or puffington host to complain. And it’s completely laughable the immediate positive reviews that mendoza got from the liberal press and their phony sycophants – she’s made the night game unwatchable every Sunday – same initals as Joe Morgan – coincidence ?

matt w
Guest
matt w

Barstool sports is thataway.

Frank The Tank
Guest
Frank The Tank

Let me guess – you were both deeply offended that Mad Max had a female protagonist.

drmawson
Guest
drmawson

Thoughtful article. I appreciate that you understand “The Sandlot” was an accurate representation of the culture in 1962, and I appreciate that John Gibbons’ comment was not appropriate today.

Rob Wiseman
Guest
Rob Wiseman

John Gibbons made a joke. This article is a joke. What a coincidence.

That Gibbons’ statements led to a lengthy (and false) diatribe about baseball’s culture of misogyny is laughable at best. Corinne Landry is to intelligent and too good of a writer for this non-sense. How a joke led to this pile of words, who knows?

He made a joke. Jokes are often made in response to something we are upset or sad about. And while I didn’t find Gibbons’ joke all that funny (more or less because he’s wrong about the rule), I find it incredibly funnier than this joke.

Michael Bacon
Guest
Michael Bacon

The will to win is not confined only to the male.

Julie Moss – 1982 Ironman https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v3GjOedMd1M

TRIATHLON – Winner Who Didn’t Finish First http://www.nytimes.com/2003/10/18/sports/triathlon-winner-who-didn-t-finish-first.html

Leo
Guest
Leo

I find it amazing that this article has gotten over 100 responses. Sounds like the article must have hit a nerve with everyone of us. Let’s just treat everyone equal.

Jim Eisenreich
Guest
Jim Eisenreich

It hit a nerve because it is incredibly flawed, poorly written, and it panders to the whiny, social justice warriors who are offended every time a Republican sneezes.

Stephen Thomas
Guest

Do we really need another whiney crap article like this?

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