Girls today are encouraged to participate in almost any sport. It wasn’t that long ago when that was far from true. At the turn of the 20th century, girls were discouraged from having careers outside the home. So you know their playing professional sports was frowned upon. Remarkably, in the early 1900’s two girls in Philadelphia made their mark in professional sports, changing baseball…and the world: Edith Houghton and Effa Manley.
The Kid from Diamond Street: The Extraordinary Story of Baseball Legend Edith Houghton
By Audrey Vernick, Illustrated by Steven Salerno
Edith Houghton was born in Philadelphia in 1912, and she always said she must’ve been “born with a baseball in my hand.” Which may have been true.
Edith was playing baseball at the age of 3, and by the time she was 6 she was magic on the field. At age 10, Edith heard about the Philadelphia Bobbies, an all-female baseball team, she tried out, and was so good she made the team.
The Bobbies were named for the bobbed haircuts the team sported. Edith was by far the youngest and smallest member of the team, and soon got the nickname The Kid. Because the Bobbies were one of the only female teams, they played against men’s teams all over the country.
The Bobbies were such a sensation, they were invited to tour Japan and play against the men’s teams there. It was quite an adventure. Vernick highlights the girls’ personalities during their travels, weaving playful scenes through the narrative of their spirited fun, enriched by Salerno’s lush illustrations.
In so many ways, the Bobbies were goodwill ambassadors for the United States and the equality of women. Later in life, Edith continued to break new ground for women in sports by becoming the first woman scout for a professional baseball team.
In May, 2006, Edith’s love for baseball was immortalized in the Diamond Dreams Exhibit in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
An engaging story that reminds readers that baseball isn’t just numbers and statistics, men and boys. Baseball is also ten-year-old girls, marching across a city to try out for a team intended for players twice their age. –Horn Book
She Loved Baseball: The Effa Manley Story
By Audrey Vernick, Illustrated by Don Tate
Effa Manely loved baseball. She played sandlot ball with her bothers as a young girl in Philadelphia in the early 1900’s. Sadly, this sparked racial prejudice because her bothers had darker skin like their father, and she had the light skin of her mother.
Effa loved watching baseball as much as playing it. So it was perfect that she met her husband at Yankee Stadium. Together they organized labor protests in Harlem and founded the Negro League team, the Newark Eagles.
Even after becoming a team owner, Manley sat in the stands “where the seats vibrated from foot-stomping excitement.” When the score was close, she’d get so excited that she’d have to peak between her white-gloved fingers, as delightfully portrayed in Don Tate’s rich illustration.
From her groundbreaking role as business manager and co-owner of the Newark Eagles, Effa Manley always fought for what was right.
She fought for fair salaries when some of her Eagles players moved to newly integrated major-league teams. In later years, she lobbied for her players’ recognition in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Then in 2006, Manley became the first woman to ever be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Manley was a trail blazer, fighting racial injustice throughout her life, and clearing a path for women’s equality a male-dominated field.