2023 SABR/IWBC Women in Baseball Conference schedule

SABR/IWBC Women in Baseball Conference logo

Here is the schedule of events, along with presenter bios and abstracts, for the fifth annual SABR/IWBC Women in Baseball Conference, which was held virtually on Zoom on September 29-October 1, 2023. The conference is open to all baseball fans.

Note: All times listed are in Eastern Daylight Time (EDT).

Friday, September 29 | Saturday, September 30 | Sunday, October 1

Friday, September 29

6:30-8:00 p.m.: Welcome Remarks and Virtual Happy Hour

Saturday, September 30

10:00-10:30 a.m.: Donna L. Halper, “Making Their Voices Heard: Women Baseball Writers, 1900-1945.”

When most people think of women baseball writers, they tend to think they’re a modern phenomenon that occurred thanks to the Women’s Movement of the 1960s. But there have been women writing about baseball for much longer than that. In this presentation, Halper will discuss some of these pioneering women, several of whom wrote for the Black Press; how they were perceived by their male colleagues; how they were perceived by the players; and above all, what they had to say about the games that they covered.

Donna L. Halper is an Associate Professor of Communication and Media Studies at Lesley University in Massachusetts. She joined SABR in 2011, and her research focuses on women and minorities in baseball, the Negro Leagues, and “firsts” in baseball history. A former radio deejay, credited with having discovered the rock band Rush, Dr. Halper reinvented herself and got her PhD at age 64. In addition to her research into baseball, she is also a media historian with expertise in the history of broadcasting. She has contributed to SABR’s Games Project and BioProject, as well as writing several articles for the Baseball Research Journal.

10:30-11:00 a.m.: Shira Harris and Anna Hisnanick, “Friend of Dorothy: Women in Baseball as a Motif for Creating Queer Spaces: Beauty, and Joy in the AAGPBL and A League of Their Own (2022)”

The show A League of Their Own (2022) is a reimagining of Penny Marshall’s 1992 film of the same name. In this presentation we will explore the theme of joy and how many of the characters are shown through the lens of making/creating beautiful things. We will focus on women’s baseball as the impetus for forming a queer space both in the 1940s and 50s and again now. We’ll then weave in Social Identity Theory to highlight the significant impact the show has had on the fan base, and some of the beautiful things the fans create. Both the AAGPBL and A League of Their Own (2022) provided a space and context for the gathering of queer women. We will focus on the ways each used individual contributions and creativity to build this community.

Shira Harris (she/her) is a New York City-based art and film teacher at a School for the Deaf. She holds undergraduate degrees in Theater and Gender/Women’s Studies from Barnard College and a master’s degree in Deaf Education from Teachers College-Columbia University. Shira is interested in the impact of media and art on identity and community-building.

Anna Hisnanick (she/they) is an experiential educator and outdoor program administrator at University of Maryland. Their background is in sociology and higher education administration, and their work in collegiate recreation has always put them sports-adjacent. Anna’s professional interests include furthering DEIJ conversations and initiatives in recreation. She’s a big fan of Maybelle Blair and A League of Their Own (both the movie and the show).

11:00 a.m.-12:15 p.m.: Through the Lens of Baseball Panel
Speakers: Donna Muscarella, Tracy Greer, Margaret Lawrence and Jessica Kleinschmidt. Moderator: Leslie Heaphy.

Tracy Greer is a deputy senior content editor for the Chicago Tribune. Greer has more than two decades of experience in news and sports journalism. She was previously an MLB senior editor at The Athletic and was the managing editor at the NPR affiliate station in Phoenix. A native of New Mexico, Greer earned degrees in journalism from New Mexico State and Northwestern. She is a member of AWSM and SABR. You can follow her on Twitter @pulhitzerprize.

Jessica Kleinschmidt is a multimedia journalist with the Oakland A’s, where she hosts a live pregame and postgame A’s Cast radio show and podcast, conducts interviews, and produces special reports. She previously spent three seasons as a web content producer and reporter for NBC Sports Bay Area and worked as an associate editorial producer with MLB.com’s Cut4.

Margaret Lawrence is a Chicago-based artist whose work captures the nostalgia of America’s favorite pastime in highly detailed paintings and drawings. Her love of baseball and the icons of the sport capture the best of this venerated game. She grew up blocks away from the friendly confines of Wrigley Field and had no choice but to fall in love with the Cubs. She attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and spent nearly two decades involved in the local theater community.

Donna Muscarella is a SABR member, fourth-generation baseball enthusiast, and visual artist whose work includes photography and mixed media projects. Her artwork has been featured in Turnstyle: The SABR Journal of Baseball Arts and the SABR Baseball Cards Blog. In 2021, she released a custom trading card set with her original photos of historic Hinchliffe Stadium in New Jersey, one of the few surviving Negro Leagues ballparks in America.

Moderator: Leslie Heaphy was elected to the SABR Board of Directors in 2010 and now serves as the organization’s Vice President. She has been a member of SABR since 1989 and chair of the Women in Baseball Committee since 1995. She is on the board for the International Women’s Baseball Center. She is an associate professor of history at Kent State University at Stark and publishes in the areas of the Negro Leagues and women’s baseball. In 2008, she became the founding editor of the journal Black Ball, published by McFarland. She was the 2014 winner of the Bob Davids Award, SABR’s highest honor.

12:15-1:30 p.m.: Lunch Break

1:30-2:00 p.m.: Sue Macy, “I was a Fly on the Wall at the First AAGPBL Reunion”

In 1982, Sue Macy was a freelance writer looking for a project that would marry her love of research with her passion for sports and women’s history. She had learned about the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League the year before and had sent out a questionnaire to the 120 former players located by a committee planning a reunion. She received responses from 105 of them (87.5%) and their answers told her that there was indeed a story to be told. So she decided to attend their first national reunion in Chicago that July.

It was a four-day event that changed Sue’s life. All around her, there were middle-aged women greeting each other with slaps on the back and big guffaws. There was cigarette smoke everywhere—and lots of beer. A hotel worker said he never saw women drink so much beer. Sue was worried about butting into their private conversations, but they welcomed her with open arms. She was invited to join them at breakfast, to look at their scrapbooks, to interview them. In this session she will recapture some of the memorable moments and share some observations from this milestone event.

Sue Macy is the author of 18 books for kids and young adults focusing mainly on sports history and women’s history. Her first book, A Whole New Ball Game: The Story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, was only the second one published about the league. Since writing it, Macy has attended at least 30 of the players’ annual reunions and spent six years as the secretary of the AAGPBL Players Association. Macy also headed the public relations committee for the league’s 75th reunion and served as a consultant for seasons one and two (upcoming) of Prime Video’s A League of Their Own TV series. Thanks to the interest in the league generated by that series, A Whole New Ball Game was re-released after 30 years in 2023. Sue is a magna cum laude graduate of Princeton University, where she majored in American history with a concentration on women’s history. Today she lives in Englewood, New Jersey.

2:00-2:30 p.m.: Ryan Woodward, “All-American Generations: Rookies Hit the Road in Skirts”

After the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League folded in 1954, Manager Bill Allington assembled a touring team that barnstormed across the U.S. playing men’s teams from 1955-58. In the last two seasons, a handful of women earned roster spots who had never played in the AAGPBL. Drawing largely on interviews and media coverage, this presentation explores how these players were recruited, their athletic backgrounds, and how they were characterized by journalists of the time. In what has already been documented of U.S. women’s baseball history, they occupy a significant space that’s rarely discussed. Their professional baseball careers peaked in the interim between the decline of the AAGPBL and high-profile women competing in the Negro Leagues and the rise of Title IX and lawsuits challenging the exclusion of girls from Little League baseball. This presentation will shed light on the names, faces, and experiences of an understudied and crucial chapter of women’s baseball history.

Ryan Woodward created the inaugural Women in Baseball Week in 2017. He continues to develop projects commemorating women in baseball, including the induction of former AAGPBL player Anna May Hutchison into the Kentucky Sports Hall of Fame, Class of 2020. Ryan is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research and the International Women’s Baseball Center and served on the IWBC Board of Directors for six years.

2:30-2:45 p.m.: Break

2:45-4:00 p.m.: Umpires Panel
Speakers: Greta Langhenry and Sophiyah Liu. Moderator: Perry Barber.

4:00-4:30 p.m.: International Baseball Presentation: Women’s World Cup

4:30-5:00 p.m.: Adam Berenbak, “A Brief Overview of Women’s Professional Baseball in Japan, 1949-1969”

In April 1950, at around the same time the inaugural season of the newly organized two-league system in Nippon Professional Baseball was kicking off, Masako Oshima tossed the first pitch of another brand-new baseball league in Tokyo. Two of the four teams founded over the course of the previous year, the Red Sox and the Bluebirds, with Oshima on the mound, faced off in an initial one-day tournament that set the stage for a year of short and long tournaments that together would constitute the first full season of women’s professional baseball in Japan.

Though many details of the subsequent seasons of pro and semi-pro women’s baseball remain inaccessible to non-Japanese reading researchers, this presentation will provide a brief outline of the seasons, teams, and stars that will be both informative to the casual fan and instructive to researchers. The presentation utilizes primary and secondary sources, including Japanese publications, to outline the preliminary stages of organized women’s baseball after World War II, including Ginza dance hall dancers and company teams, through the stages of professional and industrial leagues, and into the transition to softball and international barnstorming. Though not a complete history, this brief overview will provide a concise introduction to the unfamiliar as well as valuable context for those already familiar with this period of Japanese baseball history.

Adam Berenbak is an Archivist with the National Archives Center for Legislative Archives in Washington, DC. He has been a member of SABR for over a decade and his research focuses on the history of baseball in Japan, on which he has published articles in the SABR Baseball Research Journal and Our Game, curated an exhibition with the Japanese Embassy’s Cultural Center in DC, and contributed to a number of articles and books. He has also published several essays on other topics related to baseball history in the Baseball Research Journal, Prologue, and Zisk, and he curated an exhibition on tobacco cards in conjunction with the Museum of Durham History and the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. His work was featured in newly released SABR books on Jackie Robinson and US Tours of Japan.

5:00-6:30 p.m.: Break

6:30-6:45 p.m.: SABR/IWBC Introductions

6:45-7:45 p.m.: Keynote Address: Melissa Ludtke, “A Woman’s Struggle to Get Inside”

In her journalism career, Melissa Ludtke reported and wrote for Sports Illustrated and Time, then edited Nieman Reports at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. She wrote two books, On Our Own: Unmarried Motherhood in America and Touching Home in China: In Search of Missing Girlhoods. She was recognized with the Yankee Quill Award and Mary Garber Pioneer Award, and she was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University and a Prudential Fellow at Columbia University.

Ludtke was a baseball reporter for Sports Illustrated when she was assigned to cover the 1977 World Series. During the first game and due to her gender, Major League Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn banned her from both teams’ clubhouses where the interviews with players took place. In December 1977, Time Inc., the owner of Sports Illustrated, filed a complaint, Ludtke v. Kuhn, in the Southern District Court in Manhattan, and the case was heard by Judge Constance Baker Motley, the only woman judge sitting on that district court. In September 1978, with the same teams in the World Series, Ludtke had equal access to the clubhouses due to Judge Motley’s ruling. Rutgers University Press will publish her third book, Locker Room Talk: A Woman’s Struggle to Get Inside, in 2024. For the first time, Ludtke tells her personal account of this well-known equal rights legal case.

7:45-8:00 p.m.: Pylon Unveil

8:00-8:15 p.m.: Dorothy Seymour Mills Lifetime Achievement Award announcement
Finalists: Maybelle Blair, Julie Croteau, Lizzie Murphy, Maud Nelson, Ashley Stephenson, Toni Stone.

Sunday, October 1

11:00-11:30 a.m.: Barrett Snyder, “Rachel Balkovec’s Baseball Journey”

This presentation is a comprehensive profile of Rachel Balkovec, focusing on her journey in professional baseball as a groundbreaking figure. It explores her early life, influences, struggles, and achievements, emphasizing her role as a pioneer for women in baseball and her broader influence as a coach and representative of humanity. Balkovec’s journey from college athlete to strength coach and later her groundbreaking roles in affiliated professional baseball, including becoming the first female hitting coach and manager is detailed as well. Also highlighted is her determination, resilience, and commitment to making a positive impact, not only in baseball but also in the lives of individuals and communities. The presentation will celebrate her story as an embodiment of resilience, determination, and a commitment to breaking barriers through dedication and unwavering self-belief.

11:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m.: Lauren Stewart, “Creation of Props for a Baseball Movie”

When a baseball fan watches a movie, they are not often thinking of what kind of ball their favorite fictional player is throwing or the type of glove they are using. But every prop in a movie is painstakingly researched and shopped for by someone with a specific vision in mind. Whether it’s a film recreating a specific game or a sitcom trying to give a character some backstory, props are part of the world building key to creating timeless silver screen moments. Hours of research, building, restoration, and work can go into mere seconds on screen. This presentation covers the way a prop master gets a baseball story from script to screen.

Lauren “Tavi” Stewart is a prop master, prop restorationist, and baseball historian at History for Hire in Los Angeles. She has restored hundreds of baseball gloves, masks, and other protective gear along with thousands of other historical props for movies and tv alike. The baseball collection includes props used in movies like 42, 61*, The Sandlot, A League of Their Own, and Moneyball. Lauren has also made props for Marvel and projects like Perry Mason, The Fablemans, and Oppenheimer. On the weekends, she works for the Dodgers as a tour guide.

12:00-12:30 p.m.: Adam Korengold, “Visualizing the AAGPBL Through the Lens of Data”

While the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) has received significant attention in popular culture through Penny Marshall’s 1992 A League Of Their Own and the 2022 Amazon miniseries inspired by the film, there has not yet been an overarching overview of player performance across its twelve seasons of play. The lack of a digital database has been an obstacle to enabling baseball researchers to analyze and visualize these data to make them more understandable and resonant. This presentation will show how the author painstakingly translated the statistics in W.C. Madden’s The Women of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League into a digital data file and created data visualizations to show the league’s greater emphasis on offense in its later years, and notable achievements including Joanne Weaver’s .429 season average in 1954, Connie Wisniewski’s 33 wins in 1946, and Helen Fox’s 163 career wins in context. The emphasis will be on both insights (including an explanation of the data and the insights they reveal) and process (how the data were digitized, cleaned, and made ready for analysis). The presentation will draw on this analysis on Tableau Public: The AAGPBL Visualized.

Adam Korengold is an Analytics Lead at the National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. He is also an adjunct faculty member at the Maryland Institute College of Art, teaching on the practice of data visualization in the graduate program. He has been a SABR member since 2020 and his presentations to date have focused on data visualization and the relationship between baseball card design and trends in art and design.

12:30-1:30 p.m.: Lunch

1:30-2:30 p.m.: Telling Their Story Panel
Speakers: Shae Sloan and Missy Coombes, Colorado Silver Bullets; Marlene Vogelsang, IWBC. Moderator: Kat Williams.

2:30-3:00 p.m.: Erin Cooper, “Get Off the Field: Persisting in the Face of Opposition”

This session will outline emerging barriers to girls’ youth baseball programs; including value differences between girls and coed programs, how girls programs challenge a landscape of youth player poaching, and perception on exclusivity. Philly Girls Baseball coach Erin Cooper will share strategies for overcoming local opposition through examples. When local organizations opposed girls baseball programming and women coaches, PGB found creative solutions to maintain safe and welcoming environments for girls and women in baseball. The session will include a blend of storytelling and tactical examples of 3 initiatives:

  1. Philly Girls Baseball is shifting our coaching model to be completely hands free /no coach initiated physical contact. Even high fives are player initiated. We will share the coaching tools and imagery strategies we use in place of physical contact to guide and teach players.
  2. Making our resources such as warmups, practice plans and winter workouts publicly available and open to coed players.
  3. Our own progression of modified Jamboree Game rules for multi-age player groups. We’ve been tweaking this over the last few years and think we have a great set of rules for a full player pitch, umpired game with 12-15 players.

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