Who says girls can’t play baseball?
With the World Series just a couple of weeks away, the country turns its attention to America’s favorite pastime, baseball. Men’s baseball that is. Women do not play baseball, they play softball, but a political science professor at the University of Nevada, Reno has set out to show the plight of the baseball-playing women to the world. Nevada’s Jennifer Ring, winner of the Yoseloff-Society for American Baseball Research Grant, has written “Stolen Bases: Why American Girls Don't Play Baseball” and is in the process of writing a follow-up book, tentatively titled “America’s Baseball Underground: Documenting the State of the American Woman’s Game.”
“I have had a lifelong passion for baseball,” Ring said. “I think I must have been born with a ‘baseball gene’ that I passed on to my younger daughter, who plays baseball on the U.S. National Women’s Team, and the U.C. Berkeley Men’s Club Baseball Team. She is a very talented athlete but like many other American girls, has struggled to find baseball teams to play on after Little League.”
Ring’s first book, “Stolen Bases” (2009, University of Illinois Press) delves into the history of baseball and where women fit into the sport. Her second book will be more of a documentary, where she will interview women to get their stories and their struggles within baseball. Her $1,000 grant, one of 10 awarded by the Society this year, will allow her to travel for research for her book, which may also be made into a documentary film.
“I presented research for my new book project, ‘America’s Baseball Underground’ in March at a conference of baseball writers and researchers, who suggested that I apply for the Yoseloff-SABR grant,” Ring explained. “I was particularly gratified to be awarded the grant, because most baseball research is about the men who play. It was a particular honor to receive the grant for a project on women and baseball.”
Below the radar and invisible to the American public, American women have earned places on the little-known U.S. National Women’s Baseball Team and won medals in international tournaments against teams from Japan, Australia, Canada, Cuba, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Korea and India. USA Baseball supports the women’s national team, which only plays every two years. Apart from that, there is virtually no institutional support for women’s or girl’s baseball in the United States. It’s very difficult for girls and women to find a team to play on to develop their skills for the international competition.
Ring is the former director of women's studies at the University of Nevada. She teaches courses in identity, race, class, ethnicity, gender and diversity.
“After writing political theory papers and being promoted to full professor at Nevada, I decided I earned the right to write what I wanted to write about,” Ring said. “I’ve long been interested in American popular culture, particularly with regard to American sports, and I am a specialist in race and gender in American political history.”
The Society for American Baseball Research is an international, member-driven organization whose mission is to foster the study of baseball, assist in maintaining the history of the game, facilitate the dissemination of baseball research, and stimulate interest in baseball. More information is available on SABR’s Web site, sabr.org.