Two weeks removed from moderating “Title IX Across the Professions” – a lecture in which a panel of Springfield graduates detailed their experiences as women in male-dominated fields – Springfield College Assistant Professor of Communications Aimee Crawford was at the forefront of her own presentation.
Instead of focusing on male-dominated workforces, however, Crawford concentrated on a male-dominated sport: baseball. In the presentation on April 6, 2023, titled, “The Grass Ceiling: How Women and Girls Have Been Shutout of Baseball,” Crawford examined how the rich history of girls and women in baseball has been largely overlooked by the media and popular culture. The presentation took place at The Forum on the second floor of the Harold C. Smith Learning Commons.
As a member of sports media herself, having more than 20 years of experience as a writer and editor in print, digital and cross-platform roles for Sports Illustrated, The Sporting News, MLB.com, People and ESPN, Crawford reminisced how she found the love of the game.
It all began with her grandfather, Thomas Moore. Moore, a former baseball player himself, was the first one who showed Crawford the sport. And quickly, Crawford became infatuated with it.
“It’s kind of a love letter to baseball, my relationship with it,” Crawford said about her presentation.
She had played baseball growing up, but at just 12-years-old, she decided that if she couldn’t be the first woman to play Major League Baseball, then she would be the first to write about the woman who does.
During her time as a baseball reporter at Sports Illustrated, Crawford was presented with an opportunity to finally shine some light on women playing the sport.
She was tasked with attending a screening of “A League of Their Own,” a movie released in 1992 that tells a fictionalized account of the real-life All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, to fact check a review written by Steve Wulf.
After watching the film, Crawford was amazed that there was an entire league dedicated to women playing the sport she loved. It also intrigued her to look farther into the history of women in baseball. When she did, she found that the history of women and girls in the sport goes back just as far as it does with men.
Crawford transitioned into highlighting some of the most important and influential females that have come in contact with the sport.
Beginning by highlighting the Vassar Resolutes, the first ever organized team of women baseball players who formed in 1866, Crawford chronologically told the story of many “firsts” for women in baseball.
The list of names included Lizzie Arlington – one of the first women to play with male teammates; Helene Britton – the first woman to own a professional team; Toni Stone, Mamie Johnson and Connie Morgan – three Black women who joined the Negro Leagues; and most recently, Brown University’s Olivia Pichardo – the first woman to play Division-I college baseball.
Crawford also spoke upon the female baseball teams and leagues that have come to be overtime, such as the aforementioned All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, along with the Colorado Silver Bullets.
One of the centerpieces of Crawford’s presentation was on Springfield College alumnus Justine Siegal and the organization she founded, Baseball for All. The organization is a safe place for girls and women in baseball, giving them the opportunity to play in all-women baseball tournaments.
Crawford ended the presentation by showing a sample of the documentary she is working on about Baseball for All.
As the presentation came to a conclusion, Crawford could do nothing but smile as the overcrowded room erupted into a deafening applause. First-year student Nick Pantages was one of the many people pleased with the presentation.
“I’ve always thought for years that anyone can play against anyone if you’re good enough,” Pantages said. “If you’re one of the best players, you should be playing in the best leagues, and I think that the presentation really reinforced that.”
Women playing baseball is something that Pantages has had some experience with when he played growing up. He remembers clearly facing one of the best players in his town, who happened to be a girl.
“I didn’t strike out a lot in my playing career, but she struck me out twice in one game,” Pantages said. “That was always something that my friends kind of got on me a little bit, but hey, they struck out against her too.”
As for the future of females in baseball, Crawford acknowledges that although strides are being made, there is still work to be done.
“The fact that there are multiple women playing college baseball, women coaching at every level of baseball and girls playing baseball more than ever, we’ve made a ton of progress,” Crawford said. “However, you only have to look at the comment section on any of the stories about these women to realize we still have some work to do. There’s still a lot of misogyny out there about the idea of women playing what they still consider a men’s sport.”
Photo Courtesy Springfield College