Newsletter

Stay up to date with the latest from MAKERS delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up for new stories from trailblazing women, a big dose of inspiration, and exclusive MAKERS content.

Newsletter Confirmation

Thank you for joining! Please check your inbox for our special welcome letter
with exclusive updates from MAKERS.

MAKERS Moment

Family’s Pride

Family’s Pride

More From Maria

In this video

Pepe muses on how her achievement integrating Little League may have turned her traditional Italian family's expectations on their head.

Maria's Biography

Cause of Choice: National Women's History Museum
Early Career Ambitions: To be a Yankee
Sources of Inspiration: Billie Jean King, Mickey Mantel, and Babe Ruth
Oddball: Her parents bought her baseballs and basketballs as gifts growing up even though it broke social norms at the time.

It’s the three-game Little League pitching career “heard ‘round the world.” Maria Pepe was eleven years old when the neighborhood boys with whom she had been playing sandlot baseball brought her forward as a prospect for Hoboken Little League. By pitching in the spring of 1972, she became the first girl in more than two decades to even try to participate in one of America’s most beloved youth pastimes. Little League’s national powers-that-be moved quickly to remove her from competition. "The hardest part,” she would later recall, “was when they took my uniform away.” The National Organization for Women brought a 1973 suit on behalf of Pepe’s right to play and the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights sided with the young pitcher, whom Judge Sylvia Pressler called a "very, very courageous girl." The case moved up the courts and over the following year she and her family endured scrutiny and even threats and intimidation. Some encouragement came from the local team across the river: the New York Yankees named her “Yankee For A Day” as the controversy dragged on.
 
The New Jersey Superior Court eventually ruled, in 1974, that Little League must allow girls to play. The decision came too late to save Pepe’s own Little League career, but opened up the game and changed the lives of millions of girls. Pepe went on to earn a bachelor’s and business degree and to serve as Controller of the Hackensack University Medical Center. In 2004, she got a second chance to ascend the pitching mound when she threw the ceremonial first ball at that year’s Little League World Series.

Related Videos

Miranda July
Miranda July
Artist & Filmmaker

When Miranda July (née Miranda Jennifer Grossinger) dropped out of college to move to Portland in the 90s, it was clear she was already adept at conveying gravitas. Through ...

Elaine Chao
Elaine Chao
24th U.S. Secretary of Labor

Born in Taipei, Taiwan, Elaine Chao came to the United States as a child and has had an unwavering faith in the American dream ever since. From knowing no English to becoming the ...

Fu Ying
Fu Ying
Former Vice Foreign Minister of China

Fu Ying is the former Vice Foreign Minister of China, the first woman to serve in the role since 1979, and one of only two to serve in Chinese history. Born in the Inner Mongolia A...

Erin Brockovich
Erin Brockovich
Environmental Activist

Erin Brockovich is an environmental activist and former legal clerk who spearheaded the largest direct action lawsuit of its kind against Pacific Gas and Electric Company of Califo...