Posts Tagged ‘Lizzie Arlington’
Women in Baseball, the 19th Century
Women have shown an interest in baseball from the very beginning. Some even came for the sport rather than male companionship. In turn, baseball sought women as fans for more than financial reasons. Baseball in the late 19th century was a rowdy game played by even rowdier men. Women spectators, hopefully, would keep the men in line and help clean up the sport’s image. Also, Ladies’ Days were initiated to draw a larger male crowd.
Female barnstorming teams existed as far back as the 1860s. College programs paralleled the professional ventures. This is not to say that they were accepted by mainstream America. Then, as today, such women were scorned by many. They were often derided in the press as no more than prostitutes.
Early exhibition matches would pit such teams as the “Blondes” versus the “Brunettes.” In Philadelphia in 1883 a team called the Young Ladies Baseball Club was formed. They would travel throughout the East Coast billed as an entertainment spectacle offering sideshow amusements in the same fashion as black teams of a later era.
Traveling female clubs called “Bloomer Girls” were formed throughout the country. Though these teams did not play each other, they pitted their skills against various male opponents. Most Bloomer Girl teams consisted of both male and female members. In fact, Smokey Joe Wood and Rogers Hornsby started out as Bloomer Girls. The Bloomer Girl concept was very popular, prompting unrelated teams by the same name to pop up throughout the country. The concept drew fan attention well into the 20th century.
On July 5, 1898 future Hall of Famer, New York Yankee dynasty builder and part-time showman Ed Barrow allowed Lizzie Arlington (a.k.a. Lizzie Stroud) to pitch one inning for Reading in the Atlantic League. As league president, Barrow reveled in the thought of promoting the first woman to appear in organized baseball. Arlington allowed no runs on two hits as the minor league’s first female. She was a student of Boston pitcher Jack Stivetts, also known as the best hitting pitcher of the 19th century.
Women began joining the front office of National League teams in the late 1800s. Florence Knebelkamp, sister of Louisville owner William Knebelkamp, served for years as the club’s traveling secretary. Unusual for the times, she assumed the full duties of the position, not merely hand selected chores.
On February 17, 1900 Mary Hamilton Van Derbeck gained control of the Detroit American League franchise and Bennett Park from the courts in lieu of unpaid alimony. However, her ex-husband George Van Derbeck quickly filed the required bond, regained control of the Tigers and sold the franchise prior to the American League gaining major league status, depriving her of a place in history.
Click here for Women in Baseball, the Early 20th Century
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