Friday, September 12, 2008

A Tip of the Hat to Her and an Apology!

She was a fine ball player and the best all-around athlete I have ever seen!
by Charlie Leck

As a kid in the 1950s, I was a good baseball player – maybe even a little better than good. I hit over 600 in my last year of Little League, always over 400 in Babe Ruth League and 421 in a tough conference in my last year of high school; however, this blog is not about me, but about her. She was better than I and would have been a wonderful teammate, but we all resisted because she was, after all, a girl.

When it was mentioned that she might join our little league team, there was a mass insurrection. All kinds of players, including me, threatened to quit. What little shits we were!

Had our manager had any guts he would have said, “Take a walk!” However, this was in 1952 and no kids or men had any interest in feminine rights. She was kept out and not allowed to play because she was a girl and our team went on to a nearly unbeaten year. Near the end of the season, we lost one game to a team we had beaten by over 30 runs in our first game of the year. Then in the playdowns, to go to the Little League World Series, we lost to a big city team and got sent home. Had she been on our team, it is possible we would have gone all the way.

She was the best ball player I’ve ever seen – better than Toby Barkman and better than Ronnie Post. Better even than Johnny Sullivan. She could run faster than I. She could dig a ball out of the dirt, and handle it neatly, better than Toby could. Her swing was sweeter than Ronny’s and her bat was faster than Johnny’s. Nothing intimidated her – not a ball up around her chin or a barrel-chested runner coming head-on at her.

I was about 30 when I began to think about the unfairness of what we did to her – what I did to her. I had the highest batting average on that little league team and I led it in homeruns too. I didn’t want to give up that status to a girl. My god, how could I have been such a stupid little kid?

Now I know it would have been fun. She loved playing more than any of us. She had the widest, prettiest smile I’d ever seen. She laughed constantly. She could clap and holler just like a guy. In short, she would have been a great teammate.

Apologizing now is kind of silly; yet, that’s what I need to do. Mary Metzger, I’m sorry. I’m sorry we didn’t stick a bat in your hands and let you lead us to glory. Nothing will make up for what we did. I understand that, but I still offer this weak and far too late apology for what we did.

You were the best athlete I ever saw. You got robbed!

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