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May 16, 2012
Ballplayers and the Women who Love Them
Two not entirely unrelated articles...
If you ever wondered how one might go about marrying a professional ballplayer, you need no longer worry. The good people at Baseball Digest have you covered. Or, at least, they had you covered back in September 1964 when the magazine took a survey of the 83% of major leaguers who were married to find out the answer to that question. With such a large percentage of married players, that left "17 per cent - or exactly 84 - eligible for Leap Year pursuit." The list of 84 eligible players (including hair color, eye color, and ethnicity) was helpfully included in the article.
Now Amy Adams knows who exactly she can ask to marry her! But how would she (or you) actually go about meeting and getting to know these prime marriage targets? As with many Baseball Digest articles of the time, the article was short on exposition but very long on examples. Here are the various hints that author Herbert Simons provided his love-weary readers:
Reading the Baseball Digest article, nothing seems more glamorous than marrying a professional ballplayer. They're "prime marriage material," after all. But are there any drawbacks?
...they are away from home half or all of eight months each year, though wives and children usually participate in the spring training sojourns in Florida, California and Arizona, and the wife may make an occasional trip with the team during the season. Unless they are established stars their positions often have day-to-day uncertainty and the anxieties of slumps can cause material concern. They are continually exposed to the adulation of other feminine fans - which can cause even greater concern.
Well, that doesn't sound all that bad.
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In 1977, Los Angeles Times reporter Elizabeth Wheeler published a long, two-part series in the late-September editions of the newspapers. The series was called: "The Groupies: In Every City, They're Available for Any Athlete Who Wants Them."
For this story, a reporter talked to about two dozen athletes. Half that number spoke at some length. Most insisted their names not be used as a condition for doing the interview. No Dodgers or Angels were willing to talk at length. Several team public relations representatives, clubhouse employees, batboys, coaches and other team employees were also interviewed. Several sportswriters from The Times and other papers discussed the topic. Four women gave long interviews; others spoke briefly.
One ballplayer was able to succinctly describe the contents of Wheeler's series:
"Sure the wives think they know what happens on the road," said one player. "But they're wrong. Because what happens on the road, you wouldn't believe it. Only the ballplayers know, because it happens to us."
Wheeler detailed many of the going-ons we might suspect happen between professional athletes and the women who love them. Some players gave frank quotes about their relationships with groupies, while four different women discussed their motivations for dating these men. Wheeler tried to soften the blow of the series by claiming, at the start, that "some real friendships and even some marriages do come out of these liaisons," but she never follows the point up. By the end of the piece, that statement is hard to believe.
From the ballplayer perspective, Wheeler makes it clear that the "Baseball Annies" are more commodity than anything else.
"You know it's there," one player said about the available women. "If a guy wants to take advantage of it, it's very easy."
Or if that isn't clear enough:
"Ten years ago, somebody who got laid at the hotel might tell the story on the bus to the park. Now it's so commonplace there's no story to tell."
For their part, the women in Wheeler's series are portrayed—if not needy, then in search of something more. Three college-aged women who "each had a sexual relationship with players who have since been cut from the team" tell their stories. None of them started off looking for athletes. Instead, they just happened to meet a few in their normal nightlife and grew to like it.
"I don't use knowing the Rams to improve my social status. But, if two years from now the Rams are in the Super Bowl and Pat Haden is the quarterback, I'll tell whomever I'm with: 'Hey, I said hello to Pat Haden once.'" [said Lisa].
According to Wheeler, these feelings are normal among groupies.
Why are women attracted to jocks? What do they receive in return?
An experienced groupie even goes so far as to say "athletes are superior lovers" (before going into detail about why). When Wheeler gives her interview transcripts to a USC professor of psychology, he pulls no punches. "The women are wearing a 'kick me' sign. The message is: 'Here I am, pretty little me. Won't it be fun to hurt me? You can get all that hostility you have against women out on me.'" It's a harsh assessment of the lifestyle from both sides, but it's hard to doubt anything included in the article.
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Things have changed a lot in the 35-to-50 years since these articles were written, but have things changed enough for either of them to feel dated? I suppose the percentage of big leaguers who are married is a bit less than 83% these days...