The Legend of League Park

Legend of League Park CoverFor those of you who don’t know, I have achieved a dream and published a novel. The Legend of League Park is a story about two young women who dreamed of pursuing careers in professional baseball, one as a sportswriter and the other as a professional pitcher. This novel addresses some of the struggles both internally and externally it takes to get them there.

It is also a coming of age story. For Gioia, college means leaving behind the dreams she had always been taught to shoot for and for Audrey, dealing with the last days of her father’s terminal illness, college means it’s time to forge your own path.

(There’s also touch of paranormal ghostly assistance as a thinly veiled history lesson, but I write a bit on the Gothic side, that’s how I do.)

This book has been a long time coming in a variety of ways. It has existed in several different incarnations with wildly varying plots, but then something happened which inspired the final version.

I’ll tell you a story: When I was eleven, I loved baseball. I went with my parents to Cleveland games. I watched them at home when we couldn’t go. I played basketball and softball (I wasn’t good, but I had heart.) and listened with rapt attention as my school discussed the possibility of starting a girls’ soccer team at our middle school. I idolized the women of the WNBA . I had Jackie Mitchell’s name written in my dreams. Then I was twelve and things changed. I’m not entirely sure what happened, but peer pressure had a lot to do with it. I got picked on a lot throughout my elementary years and it progressed to full fledged bullying during middle school. I quit playing all sports. My confidence in everything about myself (not just my athletic abilities, but -everything-) diminished. It took far too long to get beyond that.

Flash forward almost 15 years and I have a four year old Goddaughter who loves baseball as much as I did at her age, if not more. Not to mention the fact that this girl has quite the arm on her. I told her one day “With an arm like that, you could be a pitcher when you grow up.”

She replied, point blank, “Girls don’t play baseball.”

I was floored, but then I remembered. You can’t be what you can’t see. It’s hard to imagine being something that you’ve never seen before, even for an imaginative and (okay, I’m biased, but) brilliant child. I’m not an athlete anymore; likely, I never would have been, but that attitude that forces interest away is wrong. So, I wrote about Gioia who broke through as best she could.

The same goes for sports media. A secondary plot in the book is Audrey’s quest to become a sportswriter. As I researched the history of women in sports media, I was floored by the amount of overt sexism and sexual violence perpetrated against women in that particular career path, merely because they took an interest in a traditionally male dominated area. Little was written on their accomplishments (except countless articles listing “Sexiest Female Sportscasters”) and many pioneering women in sports media didn’t even have Wikipedia entries. That which was written chronicled events of mistreatment that disturbed me to core. I would have to give significant trigger warnings if I went into any more detail.

The Legend of Park is my first published novel. It is a dream come true for the girl who wanted to write books even before she had the proper fine motor skills required to hold a pen (and besides, who am I kidding? People write with computers now.), but there is also something in here, I hope, for the young woman tired of hearing that sports are only for boys, or who just doesn’t know what’s going to happen to those dreams she holds dear in the face of the big bad world.

So, pick up a copy and in the mean time, check out this fabulous organization: Baseball For All

The Legend of League Park is available in print or a variety of ebook formats.

Women in Baseball History: Amanda Clement

In Legend of League Park Gioia’s father once dreamed of becoming a major league umpire. Today we will feature the first woman paid to umpire a baseball game: Amanda Clement.

Image courtesy of the South Dakota Sports Hall of Fame
Image courtesy of the South Dakota Sports Hall of Fame

One story states that Amanda’s brother, Hank, was a baseball player. On that fateful day in 1904, she traveled to  Iowa to watch him play, but there was one small problem: the scheduled umpire did not show up for the game. Hank, however, had an idea. He suggested to his teammates that his sister could officiate since she was a decent ball player herself.

Other sources say that Amanda’s family lived in the same town as the game and she was approached by the manager.

Either way, this much is true: The rest of the semi-pro team was quite impressed. She was hired immediately and continued to officiate regularly. In a theme repeated among female baseball icons of the early 1900s, she was able to use her earnings to put herself through the University of Nebraska.

[Women in Baseball History is a weekly feature in honor of my book The Legend of League Park, which will be released in April.]

Women in Baseball History: Sophie Kurys

Every time she got on base, you might as well call it a double. If she would have been a man, she could have played second base for any major league team. – Racine resident Mike Corona, bat boy for the Belles

“It wasn’t so much her speed. Sophie read the pitchers and took advantage of their different deliveries, and she took advantage of every mistake they made.” – Madeline English, 1996.

Known as the Flint Flash and Tina Cobb, this Flint Michigan native played second base during the years of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.  Kurys was a member of the Racine Belles and played with them for eight years, during which time she became famous for her base stealing abilities, averaging 150 steals per season. In 1946 she had her career high season with 201 steals, a record that still stands in baseball today. Her overall record of 1,114 stolen bases was not beaten until Rickey Henderson in 1994.
Sophie Kurys slides into base
Image courtesy of Racine Belles Facebook Page

*for more information there is a fascinating article on Sophie at Society for American Baseball Research

[Women in Baseball History is a weekly feature in honor of my book The Legend of League Park, which will be released in April.]

Women in Baseball History: Lizzie Arlington

[Apologies for the delay this week. I have been hard at work, laying out the pages for the book!]

Lizzie Arlington Program

Widely considered to be the first woman to play organized baseball, Elizabeth Stroud (The real name of Lizzie Arlington), began playing for the Reading Coal Heavers, a minor league affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies in 1898. The game was reported in the Reading Eagle, and this compromises much of what is known about her baseball career:

“The spectators beheld a plump young woman with an attractive face and rosy cheeks. She wore a gray uniform with skirt coming up to the knees, black stockings and a jaunty cap.”

and of course the sportwriter added:

“for a woman, she is a success.”

Lizzie, discovered by legend Ed Barrow, would ultimately serve as a closer, preserving a 5-0 lead to clinch the win for Reading.

Illustration of Lizzie Arlington

[Women in Baseball History is a weekly feature in honor of my book The Legend of League Park, which will be released in April.]

Women in Baseball History: Take Me Out to the Ball Game

Today’s woman in baseball history is a little bit different, mainly because she is fictional. She might not be well known, but Katie Casey* [and in later versions Nelly Kelly]’s infamous plea to her beau for a date that she would enjoy has become the anthem of baseball the world over.

This song was written in 1908 by Tin Pan Alley composers Jack Norworth and Albert Von Tilzer and it proved to be huge hit on the Vaudeville circuit, with audiences excitedly singing along to the chorus’s plea.

It has since become one of the most well known American songs, sung at almost every baseball game; a song about one young woman’s great love for the sport of baseball.

*A story written later by Sports Illustrated writer Frank Deford posits that Katie Casey is the daughter of The Mighty Casey from Casey At The Bat.

[Women in Baseball History is a weekly feature in honor of my book The Legend of League Park, which will be released in April.]

Women in Baseball History: Alta Weiss

“I found that you can’t play ball in skirts, I tried. I wore a skirt over my bloomer– and nearly broke my neck. Finally I was forced to discard it, and now I always wear bloomers.”

I would be remiss if I didn’t begin this series with one of the two major inspirations behind my novel Legend of League Park. [The other will follow later]

Alta Weiss Pitching
Image courtesy of Ball State University Library

Alta Weiss is one of the great claims to fame of the area in which I grew up. She was born in Berlin, Ohio and moved to Ragersville, Ohio in childhood. The fact that I didn’t learn much about her until I began research on this project is something I find unfortunate.

In 1907 at just 16 years of age, she was discovered by the Vermillion Independents, a semipro team in the Cleveland area and agreed to pitch for the then all-male team. Competitors, teammates, and spectators alike were in awe of the woman they and the press had dubbed the “Girl Wonder” and news of her spread quickly throughout Northeast Ohio.  When she made her League Park debut in the fall of 1907 against the Vacha All-Stars (also a Cleveland area team), the Independents won 7-6. Soon special trains were being run into the city whenever Alta was slated to play.

Alta’s baseball stardom, though never on a pro-team, helped paved the way for her to be a pioneer in other fields as well. The money that she made from playing baseball was used to finance her education at Starling College of Medicine, which would later become Ohio State University Medical College. She was the only women to graduate in the class of 1914 and proceeded to take over her father’s medical practice.

Though she played her last officially uniformed game in 1922, she truly stands out as a pioneer woman of baseball history.

Alta Weiss
Image courtesy of Cleveland State University

“Miss Alta Weiss can easily lay claim to being the only one who can handle the ball from the pitcher’s box in such style that some of the best semi-pros are made to fan the atmosphere. –The Loran Times Herald, 1907

[Women in Baseball History is a weekly feature in honor of my book The Legend of League Park, which will be released in April.]

The Legend of League Park: An announcement

Some of you may know this, but in April I will be officially launching my first published work: The Legend of League Park.

This is truly a dream come true. Not only has being a published author been my dream since I was a very young girl, but the themes in this novel are very close to my heart.

The work itself has gone through many incarnations since it’s initial inception. What was originally meant to be a book about a young baseball historian discovering the Cleveland Naps (a plot I may still use in the future) has morphed into a coming of age story about two young women  dedicated to achieving their dreams, despite the “boys’ club” mentality of the fields in which they wish to excel.

In honor of this (and, of course, to build some anticipation), I’ve decided that I will be blogging each week about an interesting woman from baseball history. I’m really excited to bring you this blog series. It will begin on Monday.