Women & Baseball: The Game’s “Most Ardent Admirers”
Women have been passionate baseball fans since the early days of the game and baseball, as an institution, has taken notice. In 1888 John Montgomery Ward of the New York Giants wrote “It is a fact that the sport has no more ardent admirers than are to be found among its lady attendants throughout the country.” In his book, Base-ball: How to Become a Player, Ward devotes an entire chapter to explaining the theory of the game to ladies because, “unfortunately, some men are not able to intelligibly explain the theory of base-ball, while others are so engrossed with the game that they do not care to be disturbed.” He explains the great joy to be had from taking a woman to her first game, hearing her questions, witnessing her grasp the concepts of the game, and her extreme partisanship and enthusiasm for her team.
Even in the 19th Century, however, women weren’t dependant on men to escort them to the ballpark. In 1870 the Chicago Tribune reported that independent female fans were “so far manifested in their interest in the White Stockings” that they traveled to the ballpark alone, purchased tickets and found their seats “as if they were perfectly accustomed to this sort of thing.” Once these ladies arrived at the ballpark and the game began some expected them to sit properly and demurely in their seats but that was not the case! The New York Times report that in 1911, Philadelphia Athletics fans would “jump on their chairs, wave arms wildly and shout for their favorites” and that women were “on their toes to-day just as quickly as the men when the occasion gave the slightest provocation.”
<———-Timeline of Women in Baseball History———->
Baseball leadership took notice of their zealous female fan base and encouraged their attendance, creating special entrances for women and offering free or reduced admission on Ladies’ Days. Not all club presidents agreed that having women in the stands was a good idea, however. According to the New York Times, Charlie Byrne, President of the Brooklyn Bridegrooms(later, the Dodgers) , was considering abolishing Ladies’ Day in 1893 because his team “seldom wins when the when the players’ wives, sisters, sweethearts and admirers are present.” Maybe it was coincidence that the Bridegrooms lost on Ladies’ Days, maybe the players’ confidence was shook by the taunts of “it’s ladies day, you’re too pretty to play baseball” that rang out from the stands, or maybe Byrne was right and the players were distracted by the women in the stands. A recent survey of 100 Major League Baseball players showed that at least half of them spend more than 5 minutes per game staring at women in the crowd and 17% spend 30 minutes or more checking out the ladies!
Owners apparently decided that any effect women had on the game play was outweighed by the effect they had on the bottom line and continued to market baseball to women. The Yankee organization even considered the needs of their female patrons when building Yankee Stadium in 1921, as reported in the New York Times. They wanted to make the stadium comfortable for women because “the tribe of female fans is expected to increase speedily as soon as the new park is thrown open.” Today, many clubs offer special promotions aimed to attract women including pregame fashion shows, wine tasting and pampering, and Baseball 101. Like many things in baseball, some details have changed but much has remained the same.
Baseball has embraced its female fans just as we women have embraced baseball.
Myka Diller is a new contributing writer to Books on Baseball. She will be mainly writing on matters related to women and baseball.
Myka Diller’s job as a training coordinator for an association allows her to travel within her home state of Pennsylvania and throughout the country. Whenever a trip takes her near a ballpark, she’s sure to attend a game. Her definition of “near” is relative when the Atlanta Braves are the team in question as she’s been known to travel quite far to do the tomahawk chop!
Myka is married with two beautiful daughters. She is a huge fan of baseball history, especially the Deadball Era and earlier which she writes about on her blog Baseball Has Marked the Time.