Celebrating Women in Baseball While Forgetting Anita Martini
While on the Houston Aeros beat a couple of weeks ago, I had the chance to travel to Binghamton, New York, for the Calder Cup Finals. There's not much to Binghamton, but about an hour and a half away, nestled amongst a beautiful small town known as Cooperstown, surrounded by trees and seemingly miles from anyplace of importance, is the Baseball Hall of Fame.
The Hall's Women in Baseball Exhibit ignores a very important woman.
The Hall is basically everything you would think it would be. There's the museum, which goes into the history of the game and shows the development of the uniforms, equipment and the game. There's bits and pieces on the history of each team currently in the majors -- Jeff Bagwell's uniform hangs in the locker dedicated to the Astros and there's a bit on the Dome and its scoreboard (with some of the scoreboard lights) in the part on stadiums. There's currently an exhibit on the history of the Latin experience in the game as well as an exhibit comparing baseball and cricket.
Of course there's the actual Hall of Fame, with the plaques of all of the players. It's still disappointing that Nolan Ryan's wearing a Rangers cap and not from the Astros, and because of the ignorance and prejudice of a large minority of the voters, Bagwell will not be joining the Hall this year, which means that the Astros are still one of the few teams in the majors to not have a player representing them.
One of the exhibits dealt with the history of women in baseball, and this was one of my favorite areas, primarily because the umpire mask of a friend of mine, Ria Cortesio, is part of the exhibit -- Ria was the last woman to umpire a game between major league teams when she worked a spring training contest between the Cubs and Diamondbacks in 2007 while she was classified as a Double-A umpire.
The exhibit tells one all about the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League -- the subject of the '90s movie A League of Their Own. And there's stuff about various women who have played important roles in the history of baseball including, for some reason, Pam Gardner of the Houston Astros and Suzyn Waldman, who does color commentary for New York Yankees baseball games.
But for some reason they left out a woman who played one of the biggest roles ever in the history of women in the game. That would be Galveston native Anita Martini, a Houston broadcaster, who was the first woman admitted into a baseball locker room when Walter Alston, the manager of the Dodgers, allowed her into the Dodgers' locker room when they played the Astros in the Dome. When she started, she had to do her interviews from the stands, and though she was a credentialed member of the media, she was not even permitted access to the Astrodome press box.
Anita Martini fought hard for the right to interview guys now in the Hall of Fame.
"Today's female sports journalists owe a huge debt of gratitude to Anita Martini and others of her generation for making it possible for them to seek a career covering sports today," Houston Cougar broadcaster Tom Franklin says. "Anita was a true professional, who would not take 'no' for an answer. While she covered all the sporting events in Houston, baseball was her true love, and she fought long and hard to be able to do her job on a level playing field with her male colleagues."
But somehow, an exhibit celebrating women in baseball leaves out the woman who fought a long, difficult battle to allow women the same access received by male members of the media, yet celebrates a broadcaster best known for crying on air when talking about Joe Torre and for her screams of ecstasy when it became known Roger Clemens was returning to the Yankees.
If ever there's a woman who should have been included in an exhibit on women in baseball, it's Anita Martini. She knew her stuff, she did her job, and her work made it possible not only for women in the media to obtain equal access, she also worked hard to make it known that though women couldn't play baseball in the majors, she was just as knowledgeable about the sport as any male broadcaster, coach or player. And because of ignorance, stubbornness or bias, she had to work harder than her male counterparts.
"Despite being rebuffed many times, soon the male athletes found out that Anita was doggedly determined to do her job just like the men, and eventually she would just wear them down," Franklin said. "Once the players did talk with Anita, they found out that she really knew her stuff and would often ask better questions than some of her male counterparts."
ESPN's Hannah Storm was one of the women in Houston who was lucky to follow in Martini's footsteps: "I don't think people should ever forget her," Storm said in an interview with Hair Balls several years ago. "She was just a trailblazer. She was the first one in....A lot of the players respected her, and she was very knowledgeable. So I always really looked up to her."
Anita Martini should not be forgotten. She was an excellent broadcaster who fought long and hard to prove herself an equal to the men who were part of the baseball media, and it was her efforts that made it possible for the likes of Hannah Storm to rise far in sports media and for the likes of Suzyn Waldman to embarrass baseball fans worldwide. It's just a shame that baseball itself seems to have forgotten her.