FEBRUARY 2017 BOOK REVIEW by Sheila Lamonzs
The Untold History of Softball and the Women Who Made the Game
AUTHOR: ERICA WESTLY
Toni Stone, Connie Morgan and Mamie “Peanut” Johnson are names that are probably not familiar to the average sports enthusiast yet they were prominent in their fight to enter the Negro Baseball League, breaking barriers to play ball with the ‘good ole boys’ in the 1940’s. They were persistent in their attempt to prove their legitimacy, going against some of the best in the business including Satchel Paige. Their efforts are credited as being the stimulus which prompted the TV show Pitch. They were not allowed the opportunity to play with an American league for girls, but if they had they would have stood tall next to great softball players such as Bertha Tickey and Joan Joyce. Fastpitch is the story of how Tickey, and scores of others, sought to find their place in history and in so doing acquiring fame, if not fortune. Personal sacrifices, disruption of family, social deprivation did not deter these women from their goal.
It has often been inferred that a woman’s place is in the home. In this instance, perhaps, it would be closer to the truth to say that it was on a grassy diamond. Softball has been in existence for 129 years (and counting) and women have dominated the sport for a major portion of that time. It was invented in 1887 in a boat club in Chicago, becoming somewhat of a phenomenon as it grew in prominence in the 1940’s and 1950’s. The participants during this rise were mainly women who played for local companies which often supplied employment for these players, as well. As a result, they were named accordingly: The Lionettes (The Lions Club); The Peppers (Dr. Pepper); The Nobby Knits (sponsored by a high-end clothing store). At a time when female atheletes had little to aspire to due to gross restrictions, softball afforded them the opportunity to blossom and strut their stuff. Bertha, through whose eyes you are presented with this piece of history, set strikeout records, demonstrating an expertise that was sought by Hollywood to assist in teaching Lana Turner in preparation for her role in Cass Timberlane. This chronicle is a celebration of the unique role this sport has played in the fabric of our culture.
Softball was, at one time, an Olympic entry, but was eliminated from the roster in 2012. Efforts continue to have it reinstated, without success. Nevertheless, the participants in this sport maintain that it provided a glimpse of nirvana, always to be heralded as a prestigious notch on their ladder of achievement. The pinnacle of success would have been realized if a team comprised of Bertha, Joan, Toni, Connie, Mamie had materialized. They would have definitely been a force to be reckoned with, united and dominant in a ‘league of their own’!!!