I recently reviewed Zev Chafets’ book Cooperstown Confidential, and I found it contained plenty of things worth discussing in regards to baseball's Hall of Fame.
For example, I agree that Marvin Miller is being snubbed from the Hall of Fame—ditto on Buck O’Neil. Plenty of people write about them every year for election who know much more about them and why they’re deserving.
However, there is an entire group of players that has been excluded from the Hall, and I’m not entirely clear on why that should be the case.
Why are there no women in Cooperstown?
Granted, that’s not 100 percent true. Effa Manley was elected in the mass Negro League election from 2006. But that was as an owner. Why are there no female players in the Hall of Fame? Chafets brings up women in baseball when he discusses a Hall exhibit but points out that none have officially been inducted.
At first, you might point out that there are no women in Major League Baseball, which is true. There aren’t players from Japan's NPB either. Cooperstown is pretty much just for MLB players then, right?
That isn’t totally true though. There weren’t any African American players in the Major Leagues from 1890 to 1946 either, but the Hall has since chosen to recognize the Negro Leagues and their players.
And to prevent anyone from taking a “slippery slope” stance, the Hall’s official name is the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum; inducting women wouldn’t mean that you’d be forced to recognize players from other international leagues.
The Hall wouldn’t be without choices. The most obvious choice would be the players from the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League back in the 1940s and ‘50s. I really know nothing about the league, so I’m not sure who they should elect. However, there are stats for the league and even a provisional Women’s Hall of Fame that already has five members from it.
Those seem like good places to start investigating.
They wouldn’t necessarily have to stop there. If they’re willing to recognize women’s softball (which, for all intents and purposes, seems to have supplanted women’s baseball), there’s the National Pro Fastpitch league. The drawback with that is that no one (myself, an hour ago, included) knows about it.
There’s also the women’s national team. The U.S. team dominated the Olympics, much more than even the men’s baseball team. Even though softball (and baseball) are no longer Olympic events, there’s still international competition, with the U.S. team still the dominant force.
Players like Jennie Finch and Cat Osterman stood above the rest of the competition like the best baseball players have, to the point where people recognized their names during the Olympics (which, given regular-season softball’s lack of publicity, is a pretty big feat).
Basically, I guess my argument boils down to this: Softball is now, in spirit, women’s baseball. Even failing that, there actually was women’s baseball in the past.
If the National Baseball Hall of Fame exists to recognize the biggest players in the sport, and they’ve already recognized non-MLB players, why not recognize the top women in the sport too?
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