Ring: Can MLB legally exclude a woman?

From Sheryl Ring at FanGraphs on March 7, 2018:

Today is Stacy Piagno‘s birthday. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Piagno has made some history over the last couple years, becoming (along with outfielder Kelsie Whitmore) not only the first woman to appear on a professional roster in over half a century, but also the first to win a game as a pitcher in roughly that same period of time.

Nor were Piagno’s appearances the product of a mere promotional stunt. After debuting in 2016 for the Sonoma Stompers of the independent Pacific Association, she returned to the team last year, posting a 4.20 ERA, including seven innings of one-run ball against an all-male lineup in a July 15 victory. (The Stompers, you may recall, were the subject of the excellent book The Only Rule is It Has to Work by Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller.) The Stompers have sent several players to more advanced leagues, including to affiliated ball. Succeeding in that context isn’t a negligible feat.

Piagno and Whitmore (who’s not even 20 yet) are hardly the only women to distinguish themselves on the field against men. The Negro Leagues, which hosted some of the greatest players of all time (Cool Papa Bell, Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige) and which, by some estimates, featured a talent level roughly equivalent to that found in the NPB, also had a number of female players right alongside the men. Toni Stone hit .243, played a competent second base, and is most known for recording her team’s only hit in a game against Satchel Paige. Mamie Johnson posted a 33-8 record and a .276 batting average. (I recognize that pitcher record and batting average aren’t ideal stats, but advanced metrics aren’t really available for a lot of Negro League players.) So there is at least some precedent for women playing capably at a relatively high level.

And there’s more recent history, too. Ila Borders threw over 100 innings across four independent-league seasons between 1997 and 2000. Knuckleballer Chelsea Baker, who dominated her high school (boys’) baseball league, threw batting practice to the Tampa Bay Rays in 2014. And fellow knuckleballer Eri Yoshida held her own across both Japan and North America. There is also a National Women’s Baseball Team and the Japan Women’s Baseball League, and a Women’s baseball world cup.

The issue of women in baseball has already been addressed by writers far better than I. I’m not here to re-cover that ground. I’ve cited women’s history in the game, though, simply to establish both that women have exhibited both (a) a desire and (b) sufficient skill to play it professionally. (More on that latter point below.) What I’d like to do here is address the possibility that women have been excluded from the game — both as players and umpires — for reasons other than merit. And while I’m not the first to write about this, I’d like to take the opportunity of Piagno’s birthday to propose a legal theory by which women could potentially play affiliated baseball.

Read the full article here: https://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/can-major-league-baseball-legally-exclude-a-woman/

Originally published: March 8, 2018. Last Updated: March 8, 2018.