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