March 27, 2009

Yoshida Makes Debut In Japan

Remember Eri Yoshida? In November, the then-16-year-old knuckleball pitcher was drafted by (and later signed with) the Kobe 9 Cruise, one of four teams in Japan's newly formed Kansai Independent League.

Today, at 17, she became Japan's first female professional pitcher. In front of a Opening Day crowd of 11,592 at the Osaka Dome, Yoshida faced two batters in the ninth inning. She walked the first batter on four pitches and gave up a stolen base, but struck out the next hitter swinging.

Kobe 9 Cruise beat the Osaka Gold Villicanes 5-0.

According to wire service reports, no woman had ever played against men in Japan until today.

***

Yoshida threw out the first pitch at an Orix-Yokohama game two weeks ago:

18 comments:

James said...

She is so awesome. I hope she can find some measure of success, although knuckleballers have their work cut out for them; and I'd imagine women even more so.

My girlfriend tells me there is still a "no women" policy on the books of MLB, but she can't find her source.

redsock said...

Maybe she'll be ready to take Wake's place in a few years!

Benjamin said...

How's a sidearm knuckleball supposed to work, anyway? Doesn't the sidearm action impart some spin on it?

redsock said...

No idea. The film I found of her pitching on YouTube in November didn't show much knuckling.

Zenslinger said...

Awwwwwwe-some.

When Japan is taking the lead in terms of these kind of social issues, the rest of us need to wake up a bit.

Benjamin said...

Ambres being Papi.

nixon33 said...

She's my fucking hero!

mugro said...

Redsock, what is the recent history (if any) regarding women in the MLB?

I know that there were women leagues during WWII, but has there been any other women playing for the MLB before or since?

redsock said...

No women have ever played in MLB.

LHP Ila Borders was the last woman to really give pro ball a shot. Looking at wikipedia, she was the first female pitcher to start a men's NCAA or NAIA college baseball game and she became the first woman pitcher in integrated men's professional baseball when in 1997 she signed with the St. Paul Saints of the independent Northern League. She bounced around and retired in 2000.

Jackie Mitchell pitched for the Chattanooga Lookouts (AA) in the 30s. In an exhibition game, she struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in succession (some people think they K'd on purpose). A few days later, Commissioner Landis voided her contract and declared women unfit to play baseball as the game was "too strenuous".

Toni Stone was the first of three women to play in the Negro Leagues. (At age 15 (1946), she was playing on a men's semi-pro team!)

L-girl said...

Wow. Wow-ow.

James, I don't think it's on the books. I think it's one of those lovely unwritten codes. After all, there was never an official whites-only rule either. It was "tradition".

Toni Stone was the first of three women to play in the Negro Leagues. (At age 15 (1946), she was playing on a men's semi-pro team!)

Toni Stone is a great hero of mine. I wanted to write a children's book about her. Still do.

James said...

http://www.seaternal.com/baseball/history.htm

I don't know where they get their sources, but that link says that in 1952 women were banned from the minors, and that the ban remains in effect today.

L-girl said...

James, I know there was a ban, but I've read in that was "by decree" - a commissioner said so, but it was never codified in actual rules.

I don't have a link, it's just what I remember reading in several places, as I have a strong interest in this.

L-girl said...

women were banned from the minors

Wait - minors? But Borders pitched for more than one minor league team. And at the time, there was talk about her getting a try-out from a MLB team. I never heard that even if she was good enough, she couldn't try out.

Ila Borders

James said...

I believe that Borders only played on independent league teams, which aren't subject to rules by the majors.

That said, I'm willing to take your word on this.

@ Benjamin

Why would a sidearm delivery impart any more spin than an over-the-top delivery? It seems like it would just impart a different kind of spin which you'd have to counteract the same as a more traditional knuckleball.

L-girl said...

Independent League, Western League, etc. are not considered minor leagues? I thought any US professional baseball that is not MLB is minor league.

But thanks for taking my word. :) I can't guarantee it, but I'm reasonably certain I came across this when I was semi-obsessed with this topic and hoping to write about it. (SI for Kids strung me along for nothing... story of my life.)

redsock said...

I saw that 1952 note, but I'm skeptical of it.

Independent League, Western League, etc. are not considered minor leagues? I thought any US professional baseball that is not MLB is minor league.

No. Minor league teams like Pawtucket or Staten Island have MLB parent teams, but there are leagues, like the Northern League (the St. Paul Saints being the best known team in that league, probably), that operate outside of MLB and are not affiliated with any MLB teams.

9casey said...

Do they graduate high school at 15 in Japan?

andy said...

Jackie Robinson could be a woman's name too.