Monday, November 17, 2008

Hot Stove Report: Japanese League Edition

According to news reports, Japan could soon have its first female professional baseball player. The Kobe 9 Cruise, a franchise in a new independent league, has drafted 16-year-old Eri Yoshida, a knuckleball pitcher.

I don't know what the rate of success is for draftees in Japan, but I'm sure the washout rate is quite high, as it is in the United States. Still, given that it's a new league, maybe she will get a chance to play, and maybe she'll be the one that finally breaks the gender barrier.

Particularly (pathologically, even) obsessive/compulsive readers of this blog might recall that I mentioned in a post some time ago that, in 1986, shortly before his death, former White Sox owner Bill Veeck wrote in the epilogue to second edition of his autobiographical book, The Hustler's Handbook, that he foresaw the eventual shattering of said barrier:

There is ... one source of talent that has never been tapped: the female of the species. In 1980, I had a promotion worked out, secretly, with Coca-Cola to conduct a national hunt for the best of the female players, with the winners to be placed in the minor leagues and brought along like anybody else. It was not a stunt.

Although the female of the species lacks the upper-body strength to stand much of a chance in the competition for the power positions, young women are more than competitive when it comes to dexterity and agility. If everything had gone according to plan, we would have had a female playing second base in Chicago within three years and, unless I was off the mark, a pitcher with style and control within five.

Unfortunately, Veeck never got to carry through on the experiment, and subsequent owners have lacked his vision. Major League Baseball hasn't even been able to put women umpires on the field -- and that's a profession desperately in need of an increase in its talent pool.

But the drafting of Eri Yoshida represents a step forward, so maybe someday, maybe soon ...

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