Ginny Baker – Fictional First Woman

screen-shot-2016-09-25-at-9-53-47-am       I would like to have been a fly on the wall when Rick Singer and Kevin Falls “pitched” their idea for a new television series about a woman baseball player who makes it to the major leagues. The series, aptly named Pitch, debuted last week on Fox.

Ginny Baker is the pitcher who is given a change to play in the major leagues. Her debut performance is abysmal, but she bounces back and, although she doesn’t finish her second game, pitches long enough to earn credit for a win. The story, of course, is about relationships: the relationship she has with a former teammate who is her restrained cheerleader, the complicated relationship she had with her father, and relationships with the men who see her as an intruder on their turf. I understand the relationship with her mother will be introduced later in the series.

Although the producers say that they didn’t have a particular race in mind for the part, they cast the black actress Kylie Bunbury, and now the writers are free to introduce thematic material around her color. In the first episode much is made of the fact that the number on her uniform is 43, one off from Jackie Robinson (who, by the way, has the only number in baseball retired by the entire league).

The possibility that some television executives thought this might make good television is certainly a sign of the times. That the Major Baseball League (MLB) is a partner in the venture, allowing the producers to use their stadiums and logos, is even more remarkable. On the show Ginny plays on the San Diego Padres.

The real San Diego Padres aired the show on their video board the day before the series ran nationally. Their advertising for the game encouraged fans to bring their “girls and families” to the park for this event. Perhaps this is all a marketing ploy to get more girls to major league baseball games, but I can’t forget one image from the show. Ginny Baker arrives at Petco Park and a mob awaits her. As she is rushed through the crowd she sees a small, blonde, white girl in her daddy’s arms holding a sign that says, “I’m next.”

FIRST WOMEN OF COLOR AT THE OLYMPICS

SIMONE MANUEL

Simone Manuel is the First African American Woman to win an individual gold medal in swimming. Her time in the 2016 Olympics of 52.70 seconds set both an American and Olympic record. An amazing feat for a woman who belongs to the meager 1.3% of African Americans who are members of USA Swimming. Manuel is majoring in science, technology and society.

There were other African-American Women who medaled at the Olympics before Simone Manuel and Simone Biles, the gymnast who will carry the U.S. flag at the closing ceremonies. Some of the more famous are:

ALICE COACHMAN–Alice Coachman was the first woman of color to be a member of the U.S. track and field team. She became the First African-American Woman to win an Olympic gold medal in 1948. Her medal in the high jump was the only gold medal for the U.S. Team that year.

WILMA RUDOLPH

 

–Wilma Rudolph was the First American Woman to win three track and field gold medals at the Olympics. A sickly child who wore a brace on her leg as a child, she medaled in the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome.

 

VONETTA FLOWERS–Vonetta Flowers was the first black athlete, male or female, to win a gold medal at the Winter Olympics. She started her athletic career as a sprinter and long jumper but switched to bobsledding in the 2002 Olympics. She and Jill Bakken won in the first year this event was included in the Olympics for women. (Men had been competing in the bobsled in the Olympics for 70 years by then).

 

DOMINIQUE DAWES–In 1996 Dominique Dawes was the First Black Person of any nationality or gender to win an Olympic gold medal in gymnastics. She was also the first African-American woman to win an individual Olympic medal in artistic gymnastics. During this year’s Olympics she introduced a trailer for an upcoming movie, “Hidden Figures,” which is about three African American women mathematicians who provided critical assistance to John Glenn’s first flight.

First Women in the Olympics: Part One – A Short History

 

If you read the Olympic websites, you would believe that the IOC (International Olympic Committee) is thoroughly committed to the equality of women in sports. However, this commitment is relatively new. It was not until 2012, just four years ago, that every country participating in the Olympics had women athletes. This was the same year that women competed, for the first time, in all sports.

MARGARET ABBOTT        When the Olympics were revived in 1890, women were prohibited from participation. That changed in 1900 when women competed in the Paris games. The First American Woman (and second woman internationally) to win a gold medal was Margaret Abbott, a golfer who was studying art in Paris at the time. Her mother, Mary Perkins Ives Abbott also competed in the event, making this the first—and last—time a mother and daughter competed in the Olympics.

Margaret Abbott and her mother were among the 22 women competing in Paris, out of the full contingent of 997 athletes. Women competed in five sports: croquet, tennis, golf, sailing, and equestrianism. In 1924 women reached 136 in numbers. However, by this time, there were 2,954 men participating, so their percentage increased only marginally. That same year, in the Olympic 100-meter backstroke, Sybil Bauer broke a swimming world record that had been held previously by a man.

BETTY ROBINSON       Four years later Elizabeth “Betty” Robinson Schwartz was awarded the first Olympic gold medal for a woman in track and field. In 1931, she was in a plane crash. Believing she was dead, she was taken to the morgue and found to be in a coma. Her recovery was slow as she struggled to walk normally and finally to run. Although she could not bend over into the starting position for a race, she competed on the American women’s relay team in the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. The Americans beat Hitler’s Germans and won the gold.

It was not until 1981, one hundred and one years after the Olympics were revived, that women served as board members on the IOC. Was it a coincidence that women were allowed to compete in the marathon at the Olympics shortly after, in 1984? Joan Benoit, who had set a Boston Marathon record that lasted for 28 years, won the gold.

Five years later, in 1986, Anita DeFrantz, a former U.S. rowing team captain, became the First African American Woman to serve on the IOC. Was it any coincidence that five years after, in 1991, the IOC decided that any new sport added to the Olympics must include both men’s and women’s events?

SARAH HENDRICKSON        Even this change, however had some limits. Although women could compete in every sport, they could not necessarily compete in every event. As late as 2006 the International Ski Federation petitioned the IOC to allow women to ski jump in the Olympics. It took two more winter Olympics, and eight years, before the IOC agreed. In 2014 Sarah Hendrickson was the First Woman ever to ski jump at the Olympics. In 2016 women will earn 44% of all medals awarded.

Pat Summitt – First Coach

Discipline helps you finish a job, and finishing is what separates

excellent work from average work.” [Pat Summitt]

 PAT SUMMITT       Pat Summitt was coach of the Tennessee Vols women’s basketball team from 1974-2012. When she died two weeks ago, her face appeared in the news, something that occurred often during her career, but not as frequently in the past few years as she battled Alzheimer’s.

When she began her career at the age of 22, women’s basketball was not formally recognized by the NCAA. Summitt had to organize bake sales to purchase uniforms, wash the uniforms herself, and then drive the van to games. When she retired, women’s basketball had a professional league, and her former players were prominent in it.

She was the first NCAA coach (not just the First Woman) to reach 1,000 wins. Her list of achievements is lengthy. Here are just a few highlights:

–Reached the Final Four when she was under 30

–Won the national title when she was under 35

–Won 8 national titles

–Had 31 consecutive appearances in the NCAA Tournament

–First coach (male or female) to reach 800 wins. Only four coaches have achieved the same.

—In total, had 1,098 wins, more than any other Division I coach (male or female)

–Never had a losing season.

–Inducted into the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame as a coach the first year coaches were honored

–Presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama

–Received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award in 2012, after she publicly announced she was battling Alzheimer’s

–Was the Only Woman on the list of the 50 Greatest Coaches of All Time, according to Sporting News in 2009

Her most impressive statistic, in my opinion, is that every player who finished out her eligibility under Pat Summitt graduated from college. Her players speak of the leadership she not only provided, but taught them. “We learned about what it takes to be a leader,” said WNBA star Tamika Catchings, “what it takes to be a great woman, what it takes to be a great lady. . .”

 

 

 

Some Football Updates

Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 5.40.21 PMCOACH POSITION: Earlier this month Kathryn Smith became the first female full-time coach in the NFL. After years of serving in various assistant capacities she will be a quality control assistance coach for the Buffalo Bills. She will analyze tapes and data, compile statistics, and provide reports for the Head Coach so that he will know what he will be facing in the next game. During the game she will continue tracking plays.

CHIEF EXECUTIVE POSITION: Amy Trask, who began her career as an intern with the Oakland Raiders is now their chief executive. Aside from some team owners, no other woman ranks higher than she does in the NFL.

ON THE DISAPPOINTING SIDE: Jen Welter, whose five-week internship with the Arizona Cardinals has ended, was not picked up as a fulltime coach. She spent 14 years playing professional football, including in a men’s league where she was the First Woman in a non-kicking position. She still hopes to be picked up, if not by the Cardinals then by another team.