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  • Meredith Whiteley

Girls Playing Baseball in 1914?

Updated: Feb 28

One day a few years back my dad said, “You know, Mama played baseball when she was a girl.”


I’m sure I looked at him like he was crazy. Nothing new with that. “You are saying Grandma Ollie played softball around 1914? She never said anything to me.”


“Not softball, baseball. She coached a little softball in the ‘30s, but she played baseball.”


My dad had a way of telling little stories. He got the problem from his dad, Grandpa Joe. I used to think that man lived in fantasy land most of the time. He always wanted his grandchildren to listen to his tales of growing up on the Mississippi River near Hannibal, Missouri. We were on to him. We’d read Huckleberry Finn. We knew to run as soon as Grandpa stretched out his legs and crossed his arms after Sunday dinner. He was cagey. He’d catch at least one child to be his captive audience.


I remembered some of those Mississippi River stories when I went back to Hannibal with my dad. Grandpa had been dead for years, but I could see him as a young boy rafting to the islands in the middle of the river, catching catfish, and listening to stories his father told of working on the river during the Civil War. Maybe some of Grandpa’s stories were true after all. He always said Mark Twain stole his stories, not the other way around.


The idea that Grandma Ollie played baseball as a girl wouldn’t leave me. She was always a strong woman with broad shoulders and muscled legs. And she did love watching baseball. She sat in front of that television, rooting loudly for her favorites, the St. Louis Cardinals. She added the Dodgers once they moved west. But women and baseball around 1914? That might be stretching it.


I decided to see what I could find.


The hunt took longer than I could ever imagine. It should be no surprise that women played almost anonymously, their games seldom reported in the press, school newspapers, or yearbooks. Girls were even forbidden to play on the pretext it would harm their ability to have children.


I have written Grandma’s story in a novel for girls I hope to publish soon. I call it Ollie’s Game. I will tell the story of the hunt for Grandma’s baseball playing here in future blogs.

Let me know what you think.

Meredith

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