Today, 46 years ago, a decision by a hearing examiner for the New Jersey Civil Rights Division, will allow girls to play in Little League Baseball from now on.
In 1972, Little League Baseball had ruled that a 12-year old girl, named Maria Pepe, was not
allowed to play in Little League Baseball, a boys realm. Pepe had played three games for the Hoboken, NJ, little league team when Little League Baseball learned about this. Little League officials threatened to revoke the local league’s charter if she continued to play.
As a result, the National Organization for Women filed a lawsuit on behalf of the girl and all others in New Jersey. The hearing examiner for the New Jersey Civil Rights Division, Sylvia Pressler ruled in favor of them and the ruling was upheld by the New Jersey Appellate Court.
Little League Baseball could do not much more than allowing girls to play in Little League Baseball. And so it came to pass that the first girls started to play in Little League Baseball in 1974.
Pressler wrote in her ruling: “The institution of Little League is as American as the hot dog and apple pie. There is no reason why that part of Americana should be withheld from girls.”
In April 2016, Pepe was honored by the city of Hoboken as the local batting cages were named after her. “We are proud to name the Maria Pepe Batting Cages in honor of a trailblazer whose passion and bravery opened up Little League to millions of girls,” said Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer. “Baseball was born in Hoboken, and Maria made sure that everyone, both boys and girls, could play.”
The ruling by Sylvia Pressler also led to Little League Baseball to start a softball division, especially for girls.