I knew I’d never get to play second base for the New York Mets—when I was a kid, girls weren’t even allowed to join Little League—but it was fun to watch the games and dream. Sometimes I’d even pretend to be an umpire. I’d watch those “You Make the Call” segments on TV, where they’d break down a complicated play and show why the ump called it the way he did. But I didn’t think they’d let girls be umpires, either.
Many years later, I learned that in 1972, a few months before my eleventh birthday, Bernice Gera put on a mask and chest protector and became the first woman in modern history to umpire a professional game. She’d sued the New York Professional Baseball League for sex discrimination, fought for five long, hard years in court, and finally won her case. She quit after working just one game of a double-header, citing the incivility of the other umpires and the baseball culture in general.
Many, many years later, her story still intrigues me. Why would a woman fight so hard to get a chance to call a game and then never set foot on the field again? What was it like for the women who came after her? Women like Christine Wren, Pam Postema, Theresa Cox-Fairlady, Ria Cortesio, Shanna Kook, and currently, Jen Pawol, Emma Charlesworth-Seiler, and the indefatigable Perry Barber, one of the hardest working woman in amateur-level (but very professional) umpiring. And still, except for a handful of spring training and exhibition games, Pam Postema was the only one who’d made it to Triple A, just one rung below the majors.
It’s hard sometimes to believe that even as recently as 1982, there had only been three brave souls in professional baseball who had gone where no woman had gone before.
I wanted to know more. I wanted to know what it might have been like for them to work in the game. Beyond the headlines. Beyond the “official stories.” And when I want to know more, I start writing. That’s when Margie popped into my head, and she had a story to tell. I’m excited that I’ll be publishing The Call later this summer, and you’ll get a chance to meet her, and her twin brother, and the rest of her world.
I’ll be posting an excerpt soon and more about the players.
lol – I wouldn’t know baseball from croquet, but I love the story of women fighting for a cause. For surely that is what Bernice Gera was doing, fighting for a principle. I can only imagine the depth of c.r.a.p. she must have endured to win her case. But win she did, and leaving after having won probably said more than staying would have done. Because it was as if she was telling the association that /they/ were not worth her time. Rejection of the system, but only after having beaten the system. She’s a woman I would love to have met and spoken with. 🙂
I wish I could have met her, too. By the time I learned more about her, she’d died.
Maybe your characters will channel some of her courage. 🙂
Margie is young but she’s fierce. I loved writing her.