PUBLISHER - Jan. 1997

Whose game?

by Judy Hodgson
Editor and publisher

When staff writer Jim Hight told me he wanted to call this month's cover story, "Not your mother's game," I had serious objections.

In fact, no-holds-barred athletic competition was very much my mother's game. That's a picture of her -- published by the Los Angeles Examiner in 1941 -- sliding into second after an attempted steal. (She was safe.)

I wasn't around then, of course, but for a few years she was a professional softball player. In those days softballs were slightly larger than real baseballs and every bit as hard. As for her catcher's mitt, it was leather on leather with little of that sissy padding.

She and her teammates -- sponsored by one of the Hollywood film studios -- played against other women all over the western states and, in the years leading up to World War II, against goodwill teams in Japan, China and the Philippines. They were paid room, board and a small stipend. Very small.

At the beginning of the war, several of her teammates were recruited for the short-lived professional women's baseball league, dramatized by the movie, "League of Their Own." My mom, working in an aircraft parts factory and newly married, declined to try out, although she continued to play ball for fun well into the 1970s.

My mother was an exception, just like Elta Cartwright and others mentioned in this month's cover story. In fact, such athletic team competition has been denied or discouraged for most girls until very recently.

Every woman who reads this report will have a story of her own. When I was in school, we had P.E. (half-court basketball played in the dresses we wore to class) and an after-school softball team through eighth grade. Once we hit high school (1960), athletic competition for girls was pretty nonexistent. I took up cheerleading.

Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, passed in 1972, was supposed to fix things. But as you will learn in this report, change has been slow.

As we go to press, U.S.A. Today is reporting on a New Jersey high school coach suing under Title IX. Even though she is one of the top softball coaches in the nation, Nancy Williams was not rehired after she complained about the lack of parity for her female athletes. All she wanted for them, she claimed, was "the opportunity to play night games, more and better-paid coaches, new uniforms and warmups, cheerleader and band support."

In other words, just what the boys had.


Elsewhere in this month's edition, we are reprinting a remarkably candid interview with environmental activist Judi Bari by Press Democrat staff writer Mike Geniella. Because of the length of the article and the space taken up by the special bridal advertising section, many of our regular features will not appear this month. Your favorite columnists will return in February.

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