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Sport: One of the Boys

2 minute read

This ten-year-old baseball captain had the same problem that plagued many of his elders: he needed a good lefthand pitcher, a hot infielder and a power hitter. In Denver, or anywhere else, such a trio is hard to find. But suddenly the captain’s furrowed brow unfurrowed, and he snapped his fingers. His neighbor, “Al” Hessel, aged 9, could pitch, field and bat with the best of his teammates. Al was the triple threat he was looking for. There was only one drawback: Al was a girl.

There was nothing in the league rules against girls playing, but tradition was against it, and little boys are terrible traditionalists. In her first appearance, they teased her with: “Hey, Al, watch your pigtails.” The growls changed to grins and cheers when Al pitched (all three innings) and won the game, 11-0. Said Alice afterwards, with conscious but nonchalant pride: “I made all the outs but four, and all were strike-outs but one. One kid hit a grounder, and I fielded it and threw to first. I guess I do all right at fielding, too.”

Now Alice is accepted as one of the boys, even by the opposition: “They don’t razz me much any more. When I started fogging my fast ball in there, they quit.” And she is doing all right at bat: she has whacked three home runs in nine games, and her current batting average is .700. Last week, Alice emulated her idol, Bob Feller, by pitching a no-hitter. Southpaw Alice, whose opinion of her teammates’ ability is not high (“Our shortstop can’t catch the ball, and our catcher’s terrible, too . . . The boys should practice more”), did it the hard way. She struck out every batter.

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