“You play ball like a girl!”

The integration of sports is a messy business. While there are indisputably supporters of allowing sports to have heterogeneous competitors, varying in age, gender, and physical ability, there are also those who feel the need to rationalize the concept. As we learned from rock climbers, rules can in fact change, however, it is quite difficult to get everyone on board with the same idea that leagues can allow for teams that feature different genders, and it turns into a very heated topic of debate. As we learned in the article about Caster Semenya, people reacted aggressively when rumors surfaced regarding her gender. Semenya’s case is one situation where people were unaccepting about the concept of heterogeneous competition; however, there have been successful gender integration in sports before, such as in the case of Ila Borders.

Although Ila’s sports career may not be the most memorable in terms of her statistical achievement in sports, Ila is far more memorable for her contribution to the world of professional sports as a whole. Ila Borders was the first female professional pitcher in a men’s professional baseball league, and boy oh boy did she have a hard time getting there. She started a young age, and from the beginning she suffered through discrimination as a female baseball player. However she eventually rose past the initial discrimination, some of which came from her very own teammates, and had a decent career as a lefty pitcher on the Duluth-Superior Dukes. While it may not have been the MLB, Borders was able to contribute greatly to the success of the team for her duration of her time there, before transferring teams. The inspiring thing, however, is that she was able to grab the support of the Dukes’ fans as well. She was not just a pitcher, she was a pitcher that people liked, one that people wanted to cheer on, one that was at the same level of other men.

However, Ila Borders is a rare case of integration in sports, and not one that is memorable enough to inspire a revolution that would eliminate gender borders. Such as we have learned in the case of Caster Semenya, gender and sports are things that require polarization. Having integrated sports teams would be a wonderful thing that I truly hope to see one day, but it is unlikely that America will see a bunch of Ila Borders that will collectively break down the homogeneous male representation in modern sports.

2 thoughts on ““You play ball like a girl!”

  1. I hadn’t heard of Ila Borders before – thanks for bringing it to my attention! I think this case is particular interesting because it shows how we’re continuing to knock down gender barriers and will continue to do so in the future. I found that she played from 1997 to 2000 which makes me want to look into how far we’ve come since even then with solving gender disparity in popular sports.


  2. This seems like a good time to bring up Jackie Mitchell, the eighteen year old girl who struck out Babe Ruth AND Lou Gehrig in the Chattanooga Lookouts vs. New York Yankees game. I’m just going to reiterate an 18 Year Old Girl Struck Out Babe Ruth And Lou Gehrig. Only days after this game, however, her contract was voided as women were declared unfit to play baseball because the sport was “too strenuous.”
    I’ve always believed that major sport leagues shouldn’t be segregated by gender, rather that individual ability win out. If a player wants to play a sport, they already know the risks their taking of injury or even death. I don’t think it’s right for an organization to preemptively make that decision for anyone based on their gender, if they want to play they have a right to compete. Here we had a spectacularly talented young athlete competing directly with some of the best players in Baseball history, and then they barred her from competition because of her gender? Q Q harder babe ruth


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