The sports world lost a beloved figure and a true trailblazer last week when Edith Houghton died at age 100.
A little perspective on how unique and remarkable this wonderful lady was: By age 10 she was already chasing her baseball dreams as the starting shortstop for the Philadelphia Bobbies, an all-girls professional team. This was in 1922, well before the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League that was highlighted in the film "A League Of Their Own" was formed during World War II.
Two years later, Houghton was simply known as a 12-Year-Old Wonder whose skills dazzled as the Bobbies traveled around playing any competition they could find, including a few men’s college baseball teams. In 1925, they even ended up touring in Japan, which paid the team $800 for each game they played.
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Along with her adult teammates, the baseball prodigy was already making money and, more importantly, history. Houghton’s uniform from that Japan tour is displayed in Cooperstown.
But as Tim Wiles of Cooperstown Chatter writes, the journey on the diamond was only the beginning for this baseball pioneer:
Upon her return to the States, Edith joined first the New York Bloomer Girls and later the Hollywood Girls, two leading women’s baseball teams of the pre-AAGPBL era. The teams toured the country playing against local men’s teams.
During World War II, Edith served in the Navy and reportedly played for the WAVES women’s baseball team, a fascinating chapter in the history of women in baseball about which little is known today.
By age 35, Houghton had already seen and accomplished more than most of us could dream of in a lifetime, but she wanted to do more and she wanted to do it in the game she loved. With that determination driving her, Houghton's first priority after returning home from the war was to contact Philadelphia Phillies owner Bob Carpenter to ask about work as a scout.
As Wiles writes, all Carpenter had to do was look through the impressive scrapbook Houghton had compiled through her travels to realize she was a qualified and dedicated candidate. Shortly thereafter, Houghton became the first woman hired to a scouting position in major league baseball. She would hold that position from 1946-1952, leaving only to serve in the military during the Korean War.
As it turns out, the scouting stint was the last time Houghton would be involved in baseball in an official capacity. In total, she would sign fifteen players to contracts, and though none of her signees would earn the call to the big leagues, her impact on the organization had already been felt and her legacy as a pioneer and one of the game’s most important figures was already solidified.
If you'd like to learn more about Edith Houghton's incredible life and her contributions to baseball, I strongly urge you to read the Tim Wiles piece I mentioned earlier and Susan Anne Burton's article titled "The Coolest Girl In Baseball History" over at Buzzfeed. Doug Fernandez of the Sarasota Herald Tribune also wrote a nice piece celebrating Houghton's 100th birthday last February.
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