Maria Pepe, Little League's First Girl
Maria Pepe on her role in opening up Little League to girls and its legacy, four decades later.
Little League's First Girl
Maria Pepe on her role in opening up Little League to girls and the legacy, four decades later.
MARIA PEPE: When I was a young girl and people would say, what do you want to be when you grow up? I used to answer I want to be a Yankee.
I think the day that I was given the permission to have the tryouts for the Hoboken Young Democrats, that was probably the most exciting moment, because I knew I was going to make the team. And I was just so looking forward to having a uniform. I was starting pitcher.
Not everyone realized that I was a girl. My hair was short. So you just saw a couple of small curls hanging out of my baseball cap. It took a little while into that first game before some of the other coaches were saying, hey, wait a minute, Jimmy's got a girl on the team. The rule book says that girls aren't allowed to play.
My coach Jimmy Farina tried to argue with the coaches and say look, Maria's just as good as the boys. Little League issued a letter to the town, if you don't remove Maria, we're going to take the charter away from Hoboken.
My coach said to me, Maria you can come to the games and keep score. Well I have to be honest, I did that for one game. And I could not just sit there and take score, because I wanted to be out there.
The National Organization for Women had read about the story and was fuming at the fact that they let me off the team. And so that's when they filed the suit against Little League with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights claiming that I was being discriminated against because I was a girl.
Thank god for Judge Silvia Pressler because she had the wisdom. What she read in her decision was that the institution of Little League is as American as the hot dog and apple pie. And there's not any reason why that part of Americana should be withheld from girls.
It was the 30th anniversary of the ruling and Little League headquarters asked if I would come to throw the first pitch at the opening day of the Little League World Series. I remember them asking would you mind going down, Dr. Creighton Hale would like to meet you. Well, you know, I took a deep breath. He approached me. And he shook my hand. And he looked at me, and he said, you know, I just want you to know my granddaughter plays.
That's my gift is that I get to see so many girls actually enjoying it and participating and not being discriminated for it, but actually being encouraged to grow in the sport.