Stolen Bases: Why American Girls Don't Play Baseball

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Far from being strictly a men's sport, baseball has long been enjoyed and played by Americans of all genders, races, and classes since it became popular in the 1830s. The game itself was invented by English girls and boys, and when it immigrated to the United States, numerous prominent women's colleges formed intramural teams and fielded intensely spirited and powerful players.

Jennifer Ring questions the forces that have kept girls who want to play baseball away from the game. With the professionalization of the sport in the early twentieth century, Albert Goodwill Spalding--sporting goods magnate, baseball player, and promoter--declared baseball off limits for women and envisioned global baseball as a colonialist example to teach non-white men to become civilized and rational. And by the late twentieth century, baseball had become serious business at all levels, with female players perceived as obstacles to rising male players' stakes of success.

Stolen Bases also looks at American softball, which was originally invented by men who wanted to keep playing baseball indoors during cold winter months but has become the consolation sport for most female players. Throughout her analysis, Ring searches for ways to rescue baseball from its arrogance and exclusionary entitlement and to restore the great American sport's more optimistic nickname: the people's game.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

These two books invaluably shed light on the legal, cultural, and gender-based obstacles to the equality of the sexes on the diamond. Cohen addresses these issues from a scholarly perspective and situates the travails of female athletes within a precise sociocultural context with significant attention paid to legal developments, but not without making plain the day-to-day struggles of female players over the last 125 years. Ring adopts a more personal perspective, although she is as much a scholar as Cohen. The views and hopes of a parent shine through. The organization of the material is no less impressive than for Cohen, but greater attention is paid to related sports such as cricket and softball. Both books contribute greatly to our understanding of gender bias and the beliefs underpinning sexist assumptions. Both point to positive advances in society at large and on the ball field in particular. Public libraries should consider both, while Cohen is essential for academic libraries.

—Margaret Heilbrun, Gilles Renaud
From the Publisher


"Sharp, thoroughly researched examination of gender discrimination in [baseball].--Los Angeles Times

"The story Ring tells is outrageous.  Her title is accurate:  baseball has been stolen from girls."--Women's Review of Books

"Throwing 'like a girl' is an age-old taunt, and Jennifer Ring has had enough of it."--Washington Post

“An important work. . . . Ring traces over a 100 years of issues arising from individuals, cultural biases, legal arguments, and the like to develop a full picture.”--Cave

“An extraordinary account of the rejection of female players from baseball. . . . [Ring] searches for ways to reclaim baseball’s nickname, 'the people’s game,' and encourage females who want to play a game they are passionate about.  Highly recommended.”--Choice

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780252032820
  • Publisher: University of Illinois Press
  • Publication date: 3/13/2009
  • Edition description: 1st Edition
  • Pages: 216
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 2.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Jennifer Ring is a professor of political science and former director of women's studies at the University of Nevada, Reno. Her previous publications include The Political Consequences of Thinking: Gender and Judaism in the Work of Hannah Arendt, as well as works in political theory and gender and identity politics.
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  • Posted March 20, 2009

    Don't Let the Title Deceive You

    It is a shame that the title will preclude many baseball fans from reading the book. Contained within the pages are numerous historical references to the game originally called base-ball when played in England in the 1740's. As a student of the game, as well as a player for 45 years, I was humbled by my lack of knowledge of baseball history that I thought I knew. A thoughtful and well thought out chronicle of baseball, invented by milkmaids in 18th century England to pass the time between milkings, through the re-invention of the game in 1839 America, and up until the writing of the book. While it does include the history of sporting goods magnate Albert Spalding's insistence that girls & women not play the game, as well as organized baseball's continuing ban on women players, and other injustices in between, it is all presented in a factual and straight forward manner. With the International Olympic Organizing Committee's requirements that baseball follow the same rules as all other sports, namely played by women in 40 countries on three continents, in order to return as an Olympic sport, combined with the International Amateur Baseball Federation's March 2009 pledge to the IOOC that baseball's proposal to return to the Olympics will include women's baseball, this book debuts at the most opportune time. Perhaps America's pastime will once again be enjoyed by the game's inventors - girls and women.

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