Thursday, March 20, 2014

Thursday in History: The Lady in Blue

Cover of Umpire in a Skirt
by Marilyn Kratz
(buy your own copy from
the South Dakota State
Historical Society Press
Amanda Clement’s family was good at sports. As an adult she would break all sorts of records that everyone would forget to write down, but when she was a teenager, she went to support her brother, who was playing in a semi-pro baseball league in Iowa. That’s where her umpiring career began.
On this day in history in 1888, the first woman ever paid to umpire a baseball game was born.
For twenty three years, she traveled all over the great plains during the summer, keeping baseball games peaceful, and earning $15 to $25 per game. She used the money to get a college education, first at Yankton College in South Dakota, and then at the University of Nebraska, where she got a degree in physical education.
Amanda didn’t have the same kind of trouble as other umpires did. Players and fans were polite to her, and her unique situation made her popular with team sponsors and journalists. Nobody wanted to yell at a lady, even if she was the umpire.

Now, if women were umpiring, none of this would happen. Do you suppose any ball player would step up to a good looking girl and say to her: “You color-blind, pickle-brained, cross eyed idiot…” Of course, he wouldn’t. Ball players aren’t a bad lot. In fact, my experience is that they have more than the usual allowance of chivalry. And I don’t believe there’s anybody in the country that would speak rudely to a woman umpire, even if he thought his drive was “safe by a mile” instead of a foul.
―Amanda Clement, in an interview with The Pittsburgh Press in September of 1906
Amanda Clement had several different occupations after graduating from college, including social work, teaching physical education, running several different YWCAs, coaching various sports, and serving in several different civil roles in Hudson, South Dakota. She continued umpiring games until she was in her forties.
Amanda always marveled that they were so polite. They never said, ‘Kill the umpire.’ They said, ‘Beg your pardon, Miss Umpire, but wasn’t that one a bit high?’”

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