Saturday Surprise — ‘Tubby’ Johnston

Hey folks!!! It’s Saturday, a weekend, and a holiday weekend at that!  And to top it all off, it is spring!  I have been notably unmotivated this year, so as of this writing, I still have no Easter decorations up, have no idea where the Easter baskets are hiding, and don’t know what we are doing for Easter.  We made no plans with anybody, I am lethargic when it comes to the thoughts of cooking a turkey (our usual Easter fare) and for all I care, we can fire up the ol’ Weber grill and throw some hamburgers or brats on it.  (No, I am not threatening to grill the neighbor kids … not yet, at least).  I did, at least, buy some food colouring and eggs.  It’s a start, yes?

Yesterday afternoon I found myself wandering aimlessly around the ‘net, kicking at cookies and gifs, making faces at trolls, and trying to find “a good place” to settle in for a bit.  As I rounded a corner, the story of a brief interlude in the life of a child, who has since become a woman even older than I, pulled me in for a closer look, and as she shared her story with me, I knew I had my focus for this post.

The year was 1950 and the child was 13-year-old Kay Johnston of upstate New York.  1950 – women were housewives, very few worked outside the home.  Sports was a man’s game.  And real men didn’t eat quiche.  But young Kay often played baseball in the backyard with her younger brother, and when he went off to practice with his team, Kay cried, for she loved the sport as much as he, and yet … and yet she was “just” a girl, and girls didn’t play Little League.

One spring afternoon, as she sat at the kitchen table letting her mother braid her hair, after seeing her brother walk out the door with bat over his shoulder, mitt dangling from his hand, she broke into tears.

“I started crying. And I said to my mother, ‘I’m just as good as him. I wish I could play.’ “

You gotta love Kay Johnston’s mother, for instead of giving her the “now, now, girls play with dolls and learn to cook for their menfolk” talk, Kay’s mum said, “Why don’t you just go and try out?”

“And I said, ‘OK, well, cut off my braids.’ And she did.”

Kay ran upstairs, grabbed a pair of her brother’s pants and a cap, and off she went to sign up.  She chose her name carefully:  Tubby Johnston, taken from the character Tubby in the then-popular Little Lulu comics.

Kay tried out for the King’s Dairy Team and, after a series of three tryouts, made the team!  Tubby Johnston was in, and Kay Johnston was living her dream.It wasn’t long, however, before Kay realized the odds were not in favour of her keeping her gender a secret for long, so she went to the coach and ‘came clean’.

“His reaction was, ‘You’re such a good player and we’re going to use you at first base.’ I played the entire season. It was an absolutely thrilling time.”

Even with the cat out of the bag, the kids on her own team treated her well and she was truly “just one of the guys”.

“It was the other players that would push me down or call me names, and the parents initially booed when I went out to play. They could see that I was a better player than some of their sons.”

Sadly, Tubby’s Little League career last for only one season.  Before the next, Little League officials wrote a new rule, a rule stating that no girls under any circumstances, will be allowed to play Little League ball.  I know the reasons and so do you … it was all about “male superiority”, “male dominance” and is the same mentality that has enabled so many men to harass women through the decades.  But for Kay, it was a win in another way …

“And it’s known as ‘The Tubby Rule,’ because I was the reason why they put that rule in.”

The ‘Tubby Rule’ would remain in effect for almost 25 years, until being overturned in 1974.

“You know, I have to tell you, when I went out pretending to be a boy, I had no idea I was setting some sort of a record. That was the furthest thing from my mind. I just wanted to play the game.”

Kay remembers telling her father, ” ‘You know, Dad, someday I’m going to play first base on the New York Yankees.’ And he just gave me a big hug and he said, ‘I know you will, Kit Kat.’ “

Well, Kay never got the chance to play first base, but … on Sept. 27, 2006, at the age of 70, Kay Johnston Massar walked out onto the field at Yankee Stadium and threw out the ceremonial first pitch.

And now you see why I stopped by when, in my internet wanderings, I heard Kay say, “psssst … over here”.

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Have a lovely weekend, friends!  Enjoy your holiday, spend time with friends, family, and above all, find something to smile about.  Love ‘n hugs.

26 thoughts on “Saturday Surprise — ‘Tubby’ Johnston

  1. In America, there’s a game called baseball,
    For kids its little league, for ladies its softball,
    Its not hard to play
    But in the UK
    It’s known as ‘Rounders,’ and that’s all!

    I loved ‘Rounders’ at school. We played in the summer and I was a good ‘Hitter.’ I was rubbish at running and throwing though! Girls and boys played, but once they reached teenage years, it was dropped in favour of cross country running, tennis, netball (girl version of basketball) and soccer to pursue sporting goals and competition with other schools.

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    • And here I thought ‘cricket’ was the big thing in the UK! Rounders, eh? Presumably either because the ball was round or because one runs ’round’ the bases? Like you, I was a good hitter, but couldn’t run or catch! Thanks for the limerick … I’ve been missing those!

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      • Yes, cricket is big in UK, but not so much in the schools (unless it is a private boys school). Obviously it is one of our National sports and popular in the summer, but not quite as popular as Rugby or Football (Soccer). ‘Rounders’ still just remains a game for young schoolkids. There is also a game for youngsters which is between two posts…called ‘stool ball,’ and I’m guessing that it is a forerunner of ‘cricket.’

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        • Stool ball, eh? Don’t you sometimes wonder who thought up all these ‘games’? Sadly, in professional sports the ‘game’ has mostly gone out of it and it is mostly a big, and not always honest, business. In my city, they raised the sales tax by a full 1% to pay for a new stadium for the professional football team. Never mind that more than half of us have never attended a game, nor likely ever will. Oh well … I do enjoy going to the grandkids little league games. Even those, though … the parents actually get mad enough to use foul language toward the kids! Sheesh.

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          • I looked up Baseball and Rounders. They are the same game…earliest written reference is in the mid eighteenth century. It was originally called ‘Baseball,’ but later changed to ‘Rounders’ in Britain. This is not unusual, that the US kept many

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            • The US kept many original English words, so when Brits complain that a word is different in America and that the British word is the correct version, they are incorrect. When the pilgrim fathers first arrived in America they took the original words and kept them. So the next time you find there is a dispute over whether it is ‘the trunk’ of a car, or ‘the boot’ of a car, or how you pronounce radiator, or herbs… The Americans nearly always have the purest original!

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                • Well, it’s common sense really. In days before cars, people packed their belongings into Trunks for travel purposes. These often sat at the back of coaches, so naturally, the first cars also put trunks at the rear of the motor carriage… Why on earth, the Brits changed the name to ‘Boot’ probably requires a search on my part… I have no idea. But the British language is corrupted by lots of European and Indian or Asian words, especially during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. For instance… Our word for a single story house… ‘Bungalow,’ is actually an Indian word, as is the word ‘veranda.’
                  No language is completely pure and likely never was at any time in history.

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                  • Wikipedia says:

                    “boot” comes from the word for a built-in compartment on a horse-drawn coach (originally used as a seat for the coachman and later for storage).

                    There is some speculation as to whether it was used to store the coachman’s boots?

                    At any rate… I think Trunk is likely the earlier name!

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                    • Ah … I should have read on before answering your last comment! Thanks! I suppose it makes sense. Recently, I looked into why the Brits and several other nations drive on the ‘other’ side of the road, and that, too, traces way back in history. It has to do with knights preferring to keep to the left in order to have their right arm nearer to an opponent. We had no knights over here. 😉

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                  • I’ve never been able to come up with any logical reason to call the trunk a ‘boot’, either. In my mind, a boot is something worn on the foot when it snows, or when one is hiking. But the study of language origins is indeed fascinating, and one of those things I wish I had more time for. Perhaps I will look into ‘boot’.

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            • The name – stoolball – brings to mind a picture of people sitting on stools, batting and throwing a ball around, only arising when there is a need to run. 😀 And since they are sitting on stools, of course they have a beer in their hand, too!

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                • But of course! I sometimes think most sporting events are first and foremost an excuse for ale/beer/wine! Here, they even pour a bottle of champagne all over the winning coach/team! Rather a waste, but there you have it.

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  2. Dear Jill,

    This is a fun story. We all know children who are athletically gifted and they are not always, boys. It is great to know that children, boys and girls get to enjoy the game of baseball.

    I like Suzanne played the sandlot version but I was never a gifted athlete. As a child, I just enjoyed playing.

    Hugs, Gronda

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was only gifted in one area … I could hit almost any pitch. Couldn’t run, for I had leg braces until I was a teenager, could only catch the ones that accidentally landed in my mitt, but I could bat. Like you, I just played because it was fun … and … well, you know … b-o-y-s. 😉 Hugs!!!

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  3. Actually, during WW11 there was a professional women’s baseball team. I saw the movie which I think was titled “A League of Their Own”. When I was young the girl next door who was a couple years older started a neighborhood sandlot team. We didn’t worry about teams or qualifying, we just played and it was fun. Her dad used to watch the Cleveland Indians on TV whenever there was a game so she no doubt, learned about baseball from that.

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    • I looked it up, and you are right … A League of Their Own. Sounds like a fun movie … I shall add it to the ever-growing list of TBWs! Like you, I played sandlot and backyard baseball … and football … as a child. Much more fun than sitting staring at a video game all day long!

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  4. As a man who coached a women’s tennis team for years I can tell you they were every bit as good as most of the men I had coached. I knew that going in, but it was affirmed day after day. And my game improved playing against them as well! I used to hear guys talking while they watched our team practice, boasting that they could beat abut of them. I knew that wasn’t true and challenged one of them one day and he just shut up! This was all made possible because of Title IX which made it possible for the women to have the same sports opportunities as the men. Was this a result of the “Tubby Rule”?? I don’t know. Could be. Have a Happy Easter with your Easter brats!!😊

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    • It’s sad … and not a little annoying … that some still think of women as the ‘inferior’ sex. Too bad the man you challenged didn’t take you up on it! A very Happy Easter to you and yours also, my friend! Try not to overdo it with the choco-bunnies! 🙂

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