Little League’s Tubby Rule: “Girls Are Not Eligible …”

Back in May 2014, I talked to Kay “Tubby” Johnston, who became, in 1950, the first girl to play Little League baseball

“I simply wanted to play the game that I loved,” she told me. 

courtesy of “Tubby” Johnston

She played just that one summer. She was good, but when the season ended, she became the namesake of Little League’s national “Tubby Rule” which read in full:

“Girls Are Not Eligible Under Any Conditions.”

Girls were prohibited from playing Little League ball for the next 24 years until the courts overturned the ban.

My story and interview with Tubby Johnston can be found here.

On Friday, Johnston appeared on National Public Radio’s Story Corps, talking about her days as a Little Leaguer.  You can listen here.

And, in March, Tubby’s story was turned into a children’s book Anybody’s Game, which you can find at your neighborhood bookstore or online.

Tubby Johnston’s story is a good one and Johnston, who is in her 80s, continues to be active in her community, reaching out to and inspiring young girls to do what they love. Just like she did.

Johnston’s story continues to be one of the most read posts on my site. That makes me happy.

(The Orioles terrible, horrible, no good, very bad weekend does not make me happy. I don’t want to talk about it.) 

13 thoughts on “Little League’s Tubby Rule: “Girls Are Not Eligible …”

  1. Yay, Tubby. Had a girl on my Little League team once (I was the coach, not a player). Pretty good at holding down short and could pitch a little.

  2. I was a lousy baseball player, but, when the guys needed an umpire for a pickup game gender didn’t matter. Go Tubby.

  3. I can’t imagine a world without female athletes. Even watching old movies–a hobby of mine–I see how gender roles were so rigid back in cave times, that is to say, the world I was born into. Had it stayed that way, I’d have buried an ax in somebody’s head by now, or have done the Plath oven thing.

    Sorry about your Orioles. My Tigers, playing in the frozen wastes of Comerica Polar Park, have begun by going 0-3 against the mighty Pirates. But they fought hard and got screwed by a couple of calls. We have a new player named Niko Goodrum. Is that a name or what? (As a King fan, I always hear the boy from The Shining going “redrum! redrum!”) The Pirates have a pitcher named Smoker. Life is good.

    • To be 0-3 and still be able to say your team “fought hard” is a gift. Trust me. The Orioles are 1-3 and there has been no hard fighting at all. They have yet to score a run off of a starting pitcher this season. They may give the 1899 Cleveland Spiders, who went 20-134 a run for their money.

  4. It was such an honor to write the picture book about Kathryn “Tubby” Johnston. I just spent two amazing days with her in California, sharing ANYBODY’S GAME and talking with kids about her story. She told them: “Dream BIG, and don’t let anything stop you from following your passion.” She’s a true inspiration!!
    If readers want to learn more about Tubby, I’ve added some photos and other material to my website:

  5. Sad how time and time again baseball has squandered the chance to be at the forefront of inclusion. However, it’s resistance to chance has inspired many to challenge the status quo and become truly inspirational figures.

    • Well, I don’t think I agree entirely that baseball hasn’t been at the forefront of inclusion — I think Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in 1947 was, while late, also what is often considered one of the first public steps that kicked off the civil rights movement of the 1950s/60s. The embracing of foreign players — particularly Latin players — also was an early reflection of the rise of the Hispanic voice in America. True, the Little League ban was stupid and discriminatory, but I think it was a pretty fair representation of its time. I often say that baseball is an incredibly accurate reflection of our society. And, while it’s taken decades, women are, slowly but surely, ascending to the highest levels of baseball — from the front office, to umpiring, to some women who are playing in the minors. A long way to go, but better late, than never.

  6. When I was coaching Little League, I always liked having girls on my team. At the younger ages they are much more focused and respectful. My daughter Lily was always one of my best players. I was sad when she got to the age when she had to move to softball.

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