By Bill Thompson
This past week Kelsie Whitmore made a pinch-running appearance for the Atlantic League’s (ALPB) Staten Island FerryHawks. Why this matters is because Whitmore is a woman who was signed by the FerryHawks to be a member of their pitching staff (the pinch-running is something you get from an athlete who is highly versatile.) Whitmore’s appearance prompted this tweet from the FerryHawks,
On the surface, it is a rather innocuous tweet. Celebrating Whitmore making her first appearance for the team and becoming a professional baseball player after a career of amateur baseball accomplishments isn’t anything to get riled up about. Why then, am I riled up about the tweet in question?
Dig a little deeper and you realize that no, her appearance in that game is not when Whitmore became a professional baseball player. She had previously appeared in 17 games across two seasons with the Sonoma Stompers of the now likely defunct Pacific Association (PACA).
PACA was a low-level unaffiliated minor league, the sort that uses public parks and high school fields for their games. Still, it was professional, Whitmore was paid for her efforts, and her results for that team go on her record as a professional baseball player.
To be clear, I don’t believe the tweet sent out by the FerryHawks social media person was meant to be anything more than a publicity grab for something that seemed to be worth exactly that. I don’t believe that the FerryHawks social media person hit the tweet button and was actively saying, “Screw those Stompers games, no one cares.”
But what makes me frustrated with the situation is it shows a continued level of ignorance by men’s leagues, general baseball historians, and most people associated with baseball when it comes to the history and accomplishments of women in baseball at a professional level.
I’m not going to detail all these accomplishments, but they are many and there are various avenues to easily know most of that history. From all-women professional leagues like the All-American Girl’s Professional Baseball League to Japan Women’s Baseball League or women playing professionally in men’s leagues like Mamie Johnson or Ila Borders, these documented events of women’s professional baseball are not hard to ferret out.
In the year 2022, there are books that have been published, websites like Baseball Reference that exist, and the ability to use the internet to conduct searches about women playing baseball professionally that will bear fruit rather easily.
Ignorance or laziness are the only two reasons why men’s leagues and the majority of those covering them or researching them continue to not bother to know the actual history of women in professional baseball.
This tweet about Whitmore’s professional debut isn't an isolated incident either.
Just a month ago another ALPB team, the Kentucky Wild Health Genomes drafted Alexis Hopkins, a woman, to be their bullpen catcher. There are a lot of issues with the way the league, teams, and media shared the news of the Genomes picking her.
Chief among those was the notion put forth in many a headline from all three of the aforementioned parties that she was the first woman ever drafted for a professional men’s league for an on the field role. It took all of one minute of a Google search to pull up the name Carey Schueler, who was drafted as a pitcher in 1993 by the Chicago White Sox.
It may seem like these incidents are small, and they appear that way on the surface. But, when tied to the much larger issue of the continued ignorance displayed by most of the known world towards women’s professional baseball, they became part of that much larger issue.
We owe the history of women’s professional baseball more attention than we have ever provided. At the bare minimum, we owe the women presently playing the game the willingness to do actual research into their accomplishments so that we’re not leaving out all that the women before them have done or what they themselves may have already done.
Kelsie Whitmore deserved better than that tweet and the history of women’s professional baseball deserves more than to continue to be ignored. Moving forward hopefully we can do that, but based on the fact that the FerryHawks ignored any responses to that tweet notifying them of their wrongness, I’m not holding out much hope.