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Getting Her Innings

September 10, 2000

In her surprisingly sophomoric puff piece regarding the fictional possibility of the first woman in professional baseball ("A Lot of Coaching, a Little Ribbing," Sept. 3), Devra Maza failed to mention the very real Jackie Mitchell, who, as a 17-year-old, successively struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig during an exhibition game between the Chattanooga Lookouts and the New York Yankees in 1931.

While some, including Ruth (but not Gehrig), suggested that the event was staged by then-baseball Commissioner Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis, many think that Mitchell really had the right stuff. Curiously, and within days of the event, Landis voided her professional contract, claiming that baseball was "too strenuous" for a woman. For the next six years, she toiled in obscurity, barnstorming in novelty exhibition leagues. She would later find a kindred spirit by befriending Satchel Paige in the Negro Leagues.

Mitchell was long dismissed as a footnote in professional baseball until 1985 when, at 71, she was honored during the pregame festivities of an Atlanta Braves game. It was, as she admitted before she died, a glorious moment of recognition. So unless Maza can offer something significantly more than the standard "gee, what" fish-out-of-water story, or tennis' Williams sisters suddenly decide to switch sports and serve up 91 mph fastballs, Mitchell was surely in a league of her own.

MICHAEL ROUSH

Woodland Hills

*

A new baseball movie is fine by me and I wish Maza the best with her tale about the first woman in the major leagues. But it's been done before: "Blue Skies Again" in 1983 with Mimi Rogers, Harry Hamlin and Andy Garcia.

MARTIN ZAEHRINGER

Ventura

*

The article gave me faith in people--ballplayers, executives, screenwriters, coaches. What a great bunch of people described in her article. America must be OK after all.

An even better movie idea would be about a lady screenwriter trying to get tips on baseball for the movie she has in mind--interviewing players and coaches, learning how to pitch and play the infield, walking through the dressing rooms, getting stopped by cops, etc. I think that Maza should play the part.

CHARLES JENNER

Los Alamitos

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