Saturday, May 21, 2005

Eleven Year Old Girl Pitches Perfect Little League Game: Men Worry About Male Ego

Katie Brownell threw a perfect game Saturday in Oakfield, N.Y.

The biggest difference between Katie Brownell and other girls may well be that she is not subjected to the customary gender segregation in children’s sports. It doesn’t take a Simone de Beauvoir to understand that the primary reason girls and boys are segregated - even for one-legged races at the tender age of five - is the fear of harming the oh-so-tender male ego. That may seem harsh to some male readers, but it’s not nearly as harsh as telling 5 year-old girls that they aren’t good enough to play with the boys.

When my daughters entered school they were tall and leggy; they could have outrun any boy in the school. So ‘naturally’ they were only permitted to race against the girls. Five years old, and already they were on the “B” team.

The very big problem with the longstanding tradition of protecting the self-image of little boys is the utter disregard for the self-image of little girls. The only reason ‘playing with the boys’ is a high status activity is because of the untold centuries of affirmative action on behalf of the boys. All of that affirmative action has definitely harmed the girls.

But I don’t hear anyone talking about reparations.

Shy Smile. Mean Fastball

"As the only girl in her upstate Little League, 11-year-old Katie Brownell had already made her mark. An all-star since she was 9, Katie plays hardball better than almost any boy her age in Oakfield, Alabama, Elba and Pembroke, her home turf of farm towns between Rochester and Buffalo.

But nobody expected what happened on Saturday. Katie pitched a perfect game.

Her pitching on Saturday mowed down the opposing Yankees in an 11-0 shutout before a stunned crowd of about 100 parents and friends in the bleachers of the Oakfield Town Park.

"I can't imagine being a boy that has to face her at the plate," said Eric Klotzbach, an engineer and the president of Katie's seven-team league in Genesee County. "It has got be a shot to the ego."

Her perfect game was even more perfect than the common definition of the term, which refers to a pitching performance in which every batter is turned back, either by striking out or hitting a ball that results in an out.

Katie made it simpler: She struck out everybody, yielding no more than two balls to any batter.

"I can't remember this ever happening," said Mr. Sage, who was on duty with his Rochester fire company and missed Saturday's game, but said he received several phone calls from excited relatives as soon as Katie struck out the final batter in the six-inning game.

He said players on other teams in the league might find it unnerving to be overpowered by a girl on the pitcher's mound, but that Katie's teammates "think it is great that she's on our side."

In the season's first game, she allowed only one hit and struck out 14 batters in five innings.

She is also a major threat at the plate, with a batting average of .714 after three games.

Ms. Bischoff said her daughter had been an avid baseball player since she was about 6, and learned the game from two older brothers. But she said Katie's first year as the only girl in the Little League was trying, and her teammates sometimes told her she should play softball with the other girls."