Lombardo: Where Are All The Women In USA Softball's Hall Of Fame?
On Saturday, USA Softball inducted the 2019 class into its National Hall of Fame, as seven men and one woman—softball great and current MLB analyst Jessica Mendoza—were honored for their contributions to the sport. Nearly 500 people gathered in Sparks, Nev. to celebrate the achievements of the eight esteemed individuals, who were honored for umpiring, meritorious service, work as commissioner and achievements while playing at both the slowpitch and fastpitch levels within softball.
But what couldn't be ignored over the weekend by many on social media was the glaring disparity between the men and woman inducted into the Hall of Fame this year. Upon further research, however, such a disparity is not new for USA Softball. In fact, it’s common.
According to USA Softball’s website, a total of 423 people have been inducted into the USA Softball Hall of Fame since the first listed class in 1957. Of those 423, 332 are men, while just 91 are women. That means that more than 78% of the all-time inductees into the Hall of Fame of the National Governing Body of Softball in the United States are men, and just over 21% are women.
Upon further analysis of the Hall of Fame members listed on USA Softball's website, it was discovered that there were just three years out of 63 (1969, 2006 and 2013) when there were more women than men inductees. What’s more, only three non-white women are currently in the USA Softball Hall of Fame, among a sea of mostly white men.
On Sunday, USA Softball announced its 2020 Hall of Fame class, which includes seven men and just two women—legendary softball Olympians Lovieanne Jung and Natasha Watley—who both happen to be women of color. The imbalance within next year's class was striking, yet again, as it seems almost improbable that during a time when the women's game at the collegiate level is considered a revenue sport, and, at the international level, it is in the Olympic program for the 2020 Games, that female inductees would be far outnumbered by their male counterparts.
This, perhaps, points to a bigger problem in women’s sports at large: a lack of representation, and celebration, of women at the highest levels of sport. Whether it be in the coaching ranks or in other decision-making positions, like those within the National Governing Body of U.S. Softball, women are still underrepresented, and often, undervalued.
And all of this is not to say that the men who have been inducted into USA Softball's Hall of Fame throughout its history have not been deserving of the honors they have received. Plenty of men have enhanced the game of softball in the U.S., at both the fastpitch and slowpitch ranks. The point is, however, that just as many, and if not more, women have left their marks on the sport in such a way that deems them deserving of Hall of Fame honors.
More important, however, is the subliminal message that the USA Softball Hall of Fame disparity sends to women and girls within the sport today. It dictates that softball is a game for and by men, and that is just not the case in 2019.
So many women have paved the way for softball players throughout its history and have helped it to become the revenue-producing, record-setting, undeniably-great product that it is today across all levels of the sport. Now, it's time for USA Softball to acknowledge that with its Hall of Fame selections.