I’m Bryant Gumbel
of HBO’sReal Sports,with the story of how and why
baseball is still an all-boys’ game,
in an era when girls and women are being afforded more athletic
options than ever before. Let’s go, Fon!
C’mon, kid, you got this! Come on, Fonzie! JON FRANKEL:It’s perhaps
the rarest of all sightsin American sport,virtually never seen
at any athletic field,or any school, at any level,
in any place in America.-A girls’ baseball team.
-FAN: Thatta girl! FRANKEL:Look closely.
This is what one looks like.(CHEERING) We are badass. We are badass,
I’m telling you that, we are really good.
It just takes people to open their eyes
and to say that we can play. FRANKEL:
15-year-old Maddie Savenis the team shortstop.She and her teammates,
school-aged girlsfrom all over the East Coast,
travel from town to town,state to state,
playing the only competitionthey can find… boys.COACH: Way to go, girls! What do you think
is going through their minds? I think some of them are like,
“We got this. C’mon. It’s just girls, c’mon now.” And then I think some of them
are like, “Wait, wait a minute. What if they’re good–
like, what if they’re good?” Can you compete
with the boys’ teams? Absolutely we can.
Absolutely. All day long. FRANKEL:
Josh DeVinney is the coach
of the all girls’ team.If we get a third-place plaque
at a tournament, nine times out of ten,
it’s in the trash can -before we get to our car.
-Thrown away? Thrown away. If we don’t get
to the championship game, we– it’s almost like
it was a failure. What is it you’re trying
to prove? We can play the game.
We’re not there for like– for a joke,
we’re there to play, seriously. FRANKEL:The girls say they’d
be happy to play in a leaguewith other girls.
Problem is,there hasn’t been
a league like that,a baseball league for girls
or women,anywhere in America,
in a very long time.RADIO HOST:
These feminine phenomsplay in the All-American Girls’
Baseball League.FRANKEL:It was the 1940’s,
when America’s men went offto fight the Second World War.And its women were asked
to keepthe national pastime going
while they were gone.Years later, the league
inspired a Hollywood movie,A League of Their Own.A heartwarming comedy
to most,but for some,
a source of inspiration.How familiar with the movie
are you? I know the words. (LAUGHS) How many times
have you watched it? Probably more than like,
50 times. JIMMY DUGAN: Are you crying? -Are you crying?!
-(SOBS) There’s no crying!
There’s no crying in baseball. Why don’t you leave her alone– FRANKEL:There’s no crying
in baseball.It’s the movie’s
most famous line.But while it was played
for laughs,the subtext was clear.Baseball is a man’s game.And indeed, not long after
the war ended,so did organized baseball
for women.“There’s no crying in baseball.” There’s also no girls
in baseball. Yeah. -Does that piss you off?
-It does. FRANKEL:At a time when
most gender linesare being stripped awayacross U.S. society,
particularly in sports,with schools offering
girls’ teams in everythingfrom rugby to hockey,
to wrestling,not one school, not one,
at any level,has a single baseball team
for girls.It’s something few have given
much thought to. Why aren’t there baseball teams
for girls? Even fewer know the answer. It’s largely the result
of a fateful decision made nearly 50 years ago, a decision that has survived
decades of social progress, to keep the game of baseball
a sport just for boys.It all began in 1972,when an 11-year-old girl
from Hoboken, New Jersey,decided she wanted
to play Little League baseball.Her name… was Maria Pepe.INTERVIEWER: Why do you like
sports so well? Most girls don’t. I don’t know,
it keeps you active. You know, sitting around
and sewing, or something like that,
it gets boring after a while. I was good.
My friends would tell you. I still know them today.
They still call me “Pepe.” -So how many games did you play?
-I played three games. -Just three?
-Three. FRANKEL:That was three games
too many for an opposing coach,who cited Little League’s
“boys only” ruleand demanded that Maria
be kicked off the team.Pepe still remembers her coach
breaking the news.MARIA PEPE:He said, “We’ll have
to give your uniformto another kid
because I’ll have to get another kid to replace you.
But you could keep your cap. And I want you to know
you can come up and keep score.” I did that for one game,
and that was it. -I couldn’t do it again.
-Why? ‘Cause I wanted to be out
on the field. Uh, you know– I had
somebody else running around. (VOICE QUIVERS)
He had my uniform. I just couldn’t watch it. And… there’s something about uh, being taken out of a game– like, you really love, uh…
it’s hard to explain. We are now nearly
50 years removed from this. -Yes.
-And it still hurts this much. Well, you know, it does.
And, what hurts is that… The only reason they could
tell you is– Was because you were a girl–
a girl. It hurts.
It still– It still hurts. FRANKEL:Pepe’s story caught
the attentionof the National Organization
for Women,which filed suit on her behalf.Little League Baseball
fought back.Claiming that its “boys only”
rule was thereto protect girls
from the dangers of the game.Little League’s president,
Creighton J. Hale,who also happened
to be a doctor,testified that “dental injuries
could harm a girl’s looks,”and “compromise her
future prospects.”And that getting hit by a ball
in the chest,“could damage female
breast tissue,”and “lead to breast cancer.”The debate spilled into
communities around the state.Where town hall meetings
grew emotional,about the need to protect
the “fairer” sex.I don’t want
my ten-year-old girl sliding into second base,
and having your 12-year-old boy tagging her on the breast.
I don’t want my 10-year-old girl rounding third base,
or second base, and having your 12-year-old boy
tagging her on the rump. If a person is playing
shortstop, -and a ball takes a bad hop…
-BETTY HOADLEY: Yes. Hits that person in the nose,
and it can happen– -HOADLEY: Yes.
-I’ve seen it happen. Break your nose,
knock your teeth out. -HOADLEY: Yes.
-Who would you rather have it happen to?
Your daughter or your son? HOADLEY: Either one, because
they’re equal human beings. They are people. I was not afraid
of getting hit with the ball. I didn’t feel my bones
were weaker than the boy next to me.
And so– It was all, like,
a bunch of hogwash to me. FRANKEL:Little League went
to extraordinary lengthsto maintain the status quo,
fighting the case for two years.Some Little League chapters
in New Jerseyeven shut down altogether,rather than face the prospect
of including girls.For two years, Maria Pepe
says she prayed every night,and each night,
asked the same question.I used to say, “Lord,
why am I physically as good as this boy next to me, but I’m not able
to do what he’s doing?” FRANKEL:
In the end, the courts decidedthat girls had the right
to play.And Little League accepted
defeat, or so it seemed.Little League baseball
said today that it will, quote, “Defer to the changing
social climate and permit girls to play
on boys’ teams.” FRANKEL:But that same year,Little League also decided
to do something else.Do you remember what else
they did? They started softball. FRANKEL:
Yes, for the first time ever,
the lords of Little Leaguebegan to organize
softball leagues,critics say,
so they could funnel girlsinto that sport and away
from baseball.So while the girls
were allowed to play baseball, they were encouraged
to play softball. That was their answer
to the problem? Absolutely. They played slow pitch
and they gave them visors and shorts. And that was now the game
that girls played. FRANKEL:
By the time Justine Siegal
was growing up in the 1980s,it was widely understood.Girls like her were supposed
to play softball.But Siegal, like Maria Pepe
before her,wanted to play baseball
with the boys.She did and began a life
in the game,eventually forming
the first ever all girls’ teamto play in a national boys’
tournament.And later, becoming a coach
of a men’s minor league team.The more I was told to quit
playing baseball, the more I was gonna stay. Why do I have to quit
what I love just because of my gender? There are gonna be people
who watch this and they’re gonna say,
“Who cares? They’ve got softball and they’ve got tons
of other sports to choose from. Why do girls need to play
baseball?” Why do boys need to play
baseball? ‘Cause it’s the greatest game
on earth. Softball is an exciting game, but it’s not baseball. ANNOUNCER:The Cubs
win the World Series!FRANKEL:
To many girls and women,this is the real thing,a sport steeped in history,
rich in folklore,beloved by generations
of Americans.(CHEERING)Softball, they say,
is a weak knockoff,a sport played
with too big a balland too small a field,a field that even
at the college level,is the same size as the one usedby nine-year-old
Little League boys.How many times did you hear
from different people along the way, “Maddie, why
aren’t you playing softball?” -All the time.
-What do you say? I’m like,
“I don’t like softball.” It’s like watching paint dry. FRANKEL:Yet, even girls
like Maddie and her teammates,girls who excel in baseball,
are expectedand often pressured,
to change sports.Show of hands, how many of you
have been told you should switch to softball? -More than once?
-ALL: Yeah. -More than twice?
-Yeah. And what’s your response?
What do you say? If I can still compete
and still play, then why can’t I still play? It’s like telling someone
whose life is basketball, “Oh, you can’t play basketball
anymore.” Like… It’s hard. You can’t tell
somebody to stop doing something they love. FRANKEL:So the girls play
to prove that they belongand to bury the notion thatthey can’t handle the demands
of the game.Do you think
that most baseball fans would come to a field,
a regulation field, and be surprised
that a girl can make -some of the exact same plays?
-Yeah. That the girl can make the throw
from third to first. I think they’d be shocked. COACH: Come on, guys, let’s
swing that stick. Let’s go. FRANKEL:We watched the girls
play a tournament in Florida,where they went undefeated
and made it to the finals…COACH: Go, go, go, go, go, go! FRANKEL:…before ending up
in second place.Not bad…for a bunch of girls.Did you see a moment today where they, all of a sudden,
their eyes opened up and they said,
“Oh, these aren’t just girls. These are girls who can play
baseball”? -Yeah, I did, actually.
-When was that? Maddie’s spectacular catch
in shortstop. COACH: Catch that. Yeah. (CHEERING) Thatta way, Maddie. Usually, when you see girls
on a baseball field, there’s always that sense
of doubt that they’re gonna do well. And I think– I think
we all showed ’em up. FRANKEL:There is a place
where girls playing baseballand doing it well
isn’t noteworthy. It’s normal.But that place is far from here.(CHANTING IN JAPANESE)The nation of Japan, famously
imported baseballfrom the United States
many years ago,but did not import the game’s
boys-only bias.High schools across the country
have teams like this one,coached by Megumi Kita.How often do they practice? Six days per week. -Six days a week?
-Yes. How many hours a day? A weekday, about four hours. Then weekends, uh…
sometimes eight hours. -Eight hours a day
on the weekends?
-Yes. Weekend. FRANKEL:Across Japan,some 30,000 girls play the game,with all of the determination
of the boys.We visited a baseball facility
in the city of Osaka,where we saw hundreds of girls
playing baseball,middle school girls,
high school girls,and college women,working on their skills
from morning to nightover and over and over again,with no margin for error.One mistake,
and the whole team had to run.(DRUM BANGS) (ANNOUNCER SPEAKS IN JAPANESE)And the very best
will get an opportunityto play the game for a living.Yes, Japanese women
have a league of their own,a professional baseball league
for women.(UMPIRE CALLS RUNNER SAFE
IN JAPANESE) (COMMENTATOR SPEAKS JAPANESE) FRANKEL:The games are on TV.(COMMENTATOR SPEAKS JAPANESE) FRANKEL:The players are paid
based on performance.And the best even have
endorsements.(ANNOUNCER SPEAKS JAPANESE)The league was started
by Japanese businessmanKenichi Kakutani,who decided Japanese girls
should have the same opportunityto become pro ball players
as Japanese boys.Did people think
that you were out of your mind? To create a women’s
professional baseball league? -(SPEAKS JAPANESE)
I think they probably did.You spent
about 30 million dollars to field a women’s professional
baseball league? TRANSLATOR:Yeah,
maybe even more actually.So why continue to do this? Why is it so important
if you’re losing money? TRANSLATOR:If I stop now,the girls that have this dream
of playing pro baseball,that dream will be gone.I feel like I have
to keep going.It’s about our love
for the game… FRANKEL:Back home,
Justine Siegal,the lifelong baseball player
and coach,is hoping that one day,
America will catch upand is trying to do her part.Do you think you’d like
to be a coach one day? No. I just wanna play baseball. You just want to play.
I get it. FRANKEL:She started a group
called Baseball For Alland organizes tournaments
like this,planting seeds
at the grassroots level,by telling the nation’s girls
that there’s no reasonthey can’t be part
of the national pastime.-(APPLAUSE)
-At one recent tournament,she was joined
by a guest of honor.-Hi.
-Thank you very much
for all that you’ve done. Oh no, thank you.
I appreciate that. -It’s very heartwarming.
-FRANKEL:Maria Pepe,at a certain historic ball field
in Hoboken, New Jersey,the scene of an old battle
that’s still being fought today.Hope it brings you luck. This is the field
that Maria played on. This is the field where
she was denied and told she can’t play
baseball anymore. But this is now the field
where you are playing. What’s insane is that
Maria Pepe was told she couldn’t play baseball. I’m 44. I was told
I couldn’t play baseball. And here in 2019, girls
are still being told they can’t play baseball.
And I think it’s enough. It’s time to make that change. Thanks for watching.
Remember, you can catch the rest of the latest edition
ofReal Sportsall month long on HBO. ♪ (“REAL SPORTS” THEME PLAYS) ♪