When the first game of the 2016 World Series begins on Tuesday night, every player on the field will be, as has always been the case with Major League Baseball, a man. But female ballplayers aren’t just the stuff of fiction or even wartime necessity.
Case in point: the New York Female Giants, who came together in 1913.
A New York Times article from that year explained that the Female Giants comprised 32 players who competed against one another on two teams, the Reds and Blues. Historian Michael Carlebach notes in his book Bain’s New York that it seems likely that the Giants were created by John McGraw, manager of the MLB’s Giants, then a New York team. The young women of the team, mostly high school students, were a curiosity and perhaps seen by many as a mere stunt—but the athletes played for real.
It was an important time for women in sports; for example, the 1912 Olympics saw women competing in more strenuous activities (swimming, notably) than they had before. Team captain Ida Schnall—who was also a competitive diver who had hoped to compete at those Olympic Games—expressed her thoughts on the subject in a letter to the Times:
Schnall later moved to California to be in the movies, and organized another women’s baseball club there.