Diamond Dream:The First Girl In Little League Baseball

04 Apr 2018

There’s no crying in baseball. But for Kay Johnston, there’s crying when you can’t play.

In the spring of 1950, in upstate New York, 13-year-old Kay Johnston wanted nothing more than to play Little League baseball. But in those days, that was out of the question. Girls weren’t encouraged to swing bats and throw balls.

Kay Johnston Massar, 81, and her husband, CyMassar, 84, speak about the time Key, quite literally, changed the rules of the game.

How did it happen that you began to play baseball?

Kay Massar: One day, my mother was braiding my hair. We were sitting at the kitchen table, and my brother walked out the door with his baseball bat. He was going to practice.

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

What was your mother’s reply?

Kay Massar: She said, “Why don’t you just go and try out?”

A brave answer, isn’t it?

Kay Massar: Yes, really.And I said, ‘OK, well, cut off my braids.’ And she did. I ran to my brother’s room, got a pair of his slacks, put on a baseball cap and signed up as Tubby Johnston.

Why Tubby Johnston?

Kay Massar: Well, this alias was from a character in one of my favorite childhood comics, Little Lulu. I made the team.

Cy Massar:Were you surprised that they called you?

Kay Massar: No, I wasn’t surprised at all. I knew I was good, and I had fooled them so far. Still, I was scared that my cover would be blown, and I’d get pulled off the team.So after several practices, I went to the coach — and came clean.

How did he accept you?

Kay Massar: He said, ‘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.”

How did the kids on your own team treat you?

Kay Massar: O quite well.Even after they found out their fellow King’s Dairy player was a girl.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.

After the season ended, my father went to a meeting with some Little League officials. He came home that day with disappointing news. He said, their answer was,’Well, no girls, under any circumstances, will be playing Little League baseball.’

What did you tell your father when you heard him say the disappointing news?

Kay Massar: I told him, ‘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 said, ‘I know you will, Kit Kat.’

CyMassar: What gave you the courage to do what you did?

Kay Massar: 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. I played Little League just that one year, but I will probably love baseball until the day I die.

The Tubby Rule, which officially banned girls from Little League, was abolished in 1974 — almost 25 years after you played as a boy?

Kay Massar: Yes, the times changed and I could play openly at last.

On Sept. 27, 2006, at the age of 70, Massar very nearly made good on the prediction she shared with her father more than half a century earlier. She walked out onto the field at Yankee Stadium — the House That Ruth Built — and threw out the ceremonial first pitch. The ball bounced. But she had a blast.

She’s also thrown a first pitch for the Oakland A’s.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., honors Massar in a permanent exhibit, “Diamond Dreams,” celebrating the history of women in the sport.

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