This Day in Baseball History: January 26th, 1990

On January 26th, 1990:

The Boston Red Sox name Elaine Weddington assistant general manager.

Not only is this story incredible because Elaine Weddington is a woman, she was the first black female to reach such a position in baseball. One thing I have always noticed missing from baseball is women. None of the general managers are women (though Kim Ng gave it a run this past off-season). None of the umpires are women. You don’t even see many women broadcasters or analysts. I realize that baseball is a game played by men, but I find it odd that more women have not been able to break through into the upper levels of these jobs. Even if a woman cannot compete physically with men on the diamond (not that no woman could, but overall, I think it would be difficult for a woman to get into baseball, especially with the emphasis being on power), she could surely be as good of an analyst, general manager, or umpire. The major obstacle then becomes respect, and it may be extremely difficult for a woman to get any respect from men. Maybe, the lack of respect has even pushed well-qualified women away from the game.

Back to the story at hand, Weddington became the first black female to become the assistant general manager of a professional sports team. If you immediately think Jackie Robinson, there’s more of a connection than you might think. She went to St. John’s University where she received a scholarship from the Jackie Robinson Foundation and is now a board member for the same foundation. Though named for a baseball player, Weddington is one of the few who have gone into baseball. At the end of Robinson’s career, he mentioned the color barrier had been broken for players, but there was still a barrier for managers and general managers. For coaches, the situation has improved, but that isn’t the case for general managers.

Working for a law degree, she interned for the Mets during college where she met Lou Gorman, who was the general manager of the Red Sox who hired Weddington and worked with the Mets during Weddington’s time there. Weddington would go on to receive a law degree, but instead of working as a lawyer, she turned her attention to baseball contracts. However, the move wasn’t easy. Rachel Robinson, Jackie Robinson’s widow, states:

“No question there’s still not equal opportunity in that area. It’s imperative that some of our students go into baseball so other African-American youngsters see that as a possibility. What Elaine is doing helps the cause so much. We always knew she was special, that she was very determined, that she would always extend herself beyond.”

Weddington’s husband confirms:

“I admire her will because it hasn’t been easy for her. I’m sure there are people in her business who had no interest in dealing with a woman, particularly a black woman. But if they didn’t have respect for her credentials, she’s earned that respect now.”

Weddington still works for the Red Sox.

I have a soft spot for women in baseball, so if anyone knows of someone who has worked in baseball, send me an email or leave a comment.

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2 Responses to “This Day in Baseball History: January 26th, 1990”

  1. Perry Barber Says:

    Mark, thanks for shining your light on this re”mark”able woman. The on-field success of the Boston Red Sox during her eighteen-year tenure with the team is all the testament to her talent and hard work one needs to recognize her capabilities. Her enduring presence in what is still such a mystifyingly male-dominated arena as the baseball front office ironically signals both a hard-won respect for women in the professional baseball industry as well as a stagnation of the progress made during that time.

    Recruitment is key. If front offices made a concerted effort to recruit young women as interns, presenting a career in baseball as an appealing option to both girls and boys, the paucity of women in the front office would begin to shift and the gender inequities would improve. Merely making a show of welcoming women’s participation is not enough; baseball cannot claim to truly embrace the idea of women as equals without taking active steps to encourage them to join the party. Simply saying “Look, we don’t discriminate – we have a couple of women assistant GMs!” cannot camouflage baseball’s ingrained indifference to real equality, which was won as slowly by and for blacks and hispanics as it eventually will be by and for women. In baseball, change comes sluggishly and incrementally, and Elaine Weddington’s long and admirable career is a beacon of hope that what she represents will one day become the norm in baseball rather than the exception.

  2. tHeMARksMiTh Says:

    It will be interesting to see if Ng or Weddington or others get a shot at a job soon.

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