In my family, baseball is religion. Small prayers are said at Yankee games; our cathedral was the old Yankee Stadium; our annual pilgrimage is to Cooperstown, New York for the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s Induction Weekend (this past year was the twelfth for me and my dad). Baseball will always be something I love passionately.
However, I am keenly aware that I am frequently one of the few women of color in white male-dominated baseball spaces. I still get stares and comments every time I am in Cooperstown, even though an increasing amount of attendees are people of color. Whether it’s hearing a few older white men loudly discussing how Negro Leagues players shouldn’t be allowed into the Hall of Fame, or standing up to a group of drunk white guys who were heckling a female Astros fan with some super sexist remarks, microaggressions have been a consistent and unfortunate part of my fandom.
From Effa Manley (currently the only woman inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame) to Rachel Robinson to Mo’ne Davis, women and women of color have been an enduring part of baseball history. Black fans of all genders have been supporting professional baseball since the early 20th century (those numbers have dipped in recent years due to institutionalized racism, but that’s a whole ‘nother article). But in a game that fetishizes a whitewashed reading of “tradition,” baseball marginalizes Black women in favor of (white) men again and again.
Enter Pitch. This drama centers fictional pitcher Ginny Butler, who becomes the first woman (and first Black woman!) to play in any of the four major sports (baseball, football, basketball, hockey) at the Major League level. Ginny is called up to the bigs amidst swarms of adoring female fans, flashbulbs, sexism, and insecurities. She wears number 43, one number up from Jackie Robinson’s 42.
Black women in baseball is nothing new; just television shows about them are.
Not only do I get to see Black women included as Pam Oliver-type sideline reporters, but also as the center of a compelling narrative. And Ginny is a complex character devoid of many of the stereotypes Black female TV characters are burdened with. Although after one episode, I do see some flaws (both as a baseball fan and as a feminist–let’s be real, the writers couldn’t have given Ginny at least a crappy third pitch if she was going to be a consistent starter?), I believe now is a time for celebration. The beauty (and ugliness) of media is that it informs our imagination of what is and what is not possible. I find this show deeply empowering, and I hope it helps redefine the baseball, and larger sports community, as more inclusive of racial and gender differences. This show makes me feel like my prayers have been answered: it makes me feel like I belong. That’s a homerun for me any day.
View the trailer for Pitch below, and catch it on FOX at Thursdays 9/8 Central: