The makers and promoters of the patronizing "Baseball Boyfriends" app have an appreciation of women and baseball that apparently froze in the 1950s. Donna Reed is dead—long live the female stathead.
Baseball has always had an ambivalent relationship with its female audience, often assuming they had to be catered to or patronized to stoke their interest in the game. For those marketing the game, it often seems as if the idealized image of the distaff fan is not the modern woman, whose adherence to received, stereotypical notions of gender roles erodes by the day, but Ruth Ann Steinhagen, the schizophrenic who, obsessed with Phillies first baseman Eddie Waitkus, lured him into a trap and tried to murder him in 1949. Women, in their view, see ballplayers as sex objects as much or more than they do as athletes involved in a competition that can hold their interest for its own sake. This seems to be the reasoning behind Baseball Boyfriends, a “fantasy” game aimed at women and girls in which participants “pick a new hottie or hang onto you hunk.” [sic]
Steinhagen, 19, had been fixated on Waitkus since seeing him play for the Cubs in 1947, making a shrine of his pictures and clippings and conducting an imaginary relationship with him. She had no interest in the game, she said, until she began to focus on Waitkus. “I just became nuttier and nuttier about the guy,” she later testified, “[I decided] if I can’t have him nobody can. And then I decided I would kill him.” On June 14, 1949, the Phillies were in Chicago. Steinhagen took a room in the Phillies’ hotel and had a note delivered to the first sacker: “Mr. Waitkus, It is extremely important that I see you as soon as possible. We're not acquainted, but I have something of importance to speak to you about.” After calling and being put off for half an hour, Waitkus appeared at Steinhagen’s room. According to her own testimony:
At the time I had a knife in my skirt pocket and was going to use that on him. When I opened the door he came rushing past me. I expected him to stand there and wait until I asked him to come in and during that time I was going to stab him with the knife. I was kind of mad that he came right in and sat down and didn’t give me a chance to stab him. He looked at me surprised and said, “What do you want to see me about?” I said, “Wait a minute. I have a surprise for you.”
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Back in 2003, just after Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi had cut over 20 million from Toronto's payroll and was still managing to moneyball his way to an 86 win season, some members of the Toronto press foolishly accused him of racism. The accusations, which concerned the racial make-up of the team, were so crudely conceived and without basis in reality that they are not worth going into here, but, ironically, Riccardi was so concerned with finding undervalued players at the time that he'd have surely gone after a certain race if those players were devalued simply because of their skin color. In other words, he'd have loved nothing better than to pick up all the best Negro League players in 1940.
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