AN ARTICLE FROM THE BASEBALL MAGAZINE:DEC.
A DREAM DEFERRED: COLORADO SILVER BULLETS
GRAND CENTRAL, EARLY MORNING and the shadows from the enormous windows near the ceiling have started to cover the station. Flickering off ticket booths, slashing past the fabled terminal clock, and working its way into and out of the commuters going to work, it cascaded down to a group of young women dressed in baseball uniforms. They were imprinted against a corner, huddled together in little clusters, sitting on bags, trunks and stuffed valises, and holding on to bats and gloves.
Some were taking long, lazy swings, arcing their bats at imaginary balls, a few were talking animatedly to each other.
Getting closer, I noticed Colorado Silver Bullets written on their jerseys and warmup jackets. I went over, started to talk to two of the girls and told them I thought what they were doing was terrific. Suddenly I was surrounded and all the girls started talking at once, What was amazing to me was that no one else bothered to spend time with them. Here we had a group of women who were competing against men in baseball (courageous stuff indeed) and no one in the station bothered to spend time with them.
The years have gone by, and so have the Bullets. During the recent Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremonies I spent some time with Phil Niekro and discussed the Bullets and women being allowed to play the game on the highest level. Later I had an extended interview with him and the emphasis was on the Bullets.
OMI: Is it true that Bob Hope convinced Coors to sponsor an all girls baseball team, gave a million dollars towards it, and suggested you for the manager?
PN: Im not sure how it was set up. Coors did put in over a million dollars and yes-Hope asked if I would be interested in doing it.
OMI: How many girls made the team and what was the overall age?
PN: The first year, I believe we carried 23 players, age average was around 22.
OMI: Did the girls have a tough time (remarks, etc) playing against men?
PN: Very, very, little.
OMI: What changes did the girls have to go through going from softball to baseball?
PN: Baseball is much different than softball. We had to change their mental outlook from softball to baseball and we conditioned quite differently than they had been for softball.
OMI: What sort of teams were you playing against?
PN: All mens teams, started against older players at first, the better we got we started playing against the younger players.
OMI: How many games did you play in a season?
PN: 40 to 50.
OMI: Besides the games were there a lot of promotions that the team was involved in?
PN: Very, very many. Our players had to do them and I myself was overloaded with them.
OMI: What was your biggest thrill coaching them?
PN : Actually teaching them about the game, our first win and our last game in 97 in Albany Ga. It gave us our first winning season.
OMI: First year 6-44, last year 23-22. What made the change?
PN: Practice, practice, practice.
OMI: Over the years Coors has had problems with Gay Rights groups, and has funded Anti Labor, Anti Environment and various Right-Wing organizations. Did you encounter any of that from them while you were managing the team?
OMI: Coors put in eight million dollars in funding the team. Why did they decide to get involved with the venture in the first place?
PN: You will have to ask them that question.
OMI: Before you became involved with the Bullets, did you feel women could play against men and hold their own?
PN: I didnt know. Coaching, managing them would tell me.
OMI: Have any feelings about women playing in the Majors.
PN: I do feel there can be a woman in the big leagues if given a chance.
OMI: A final, overall word about women being allowed to play baseball on all levels.
PN: I think they can play. They just need the chance and the opportunity.
THE COLORADO SILVER BULLETS ..A DREAM DEFERRED ..A MOMENT WHEN THE
IDEALS OF OUR COUNTRY, FAIR PLAY, MORAL DIGNITY, RECOGNITION OF ABILITY,
ALMOST CAME TO FRUITION.
TO TALK ABOUT BASEBALL BEING INTEGRATED IS A FARCE. DOES BASEBALL REALLY
BELIEVE THAT ONLY MEN CAN HIT AND FIELD AND PITCH. THAT WOMEN CANT HIT
FOR POWER AND AVERAGE OR THROW FATBALLS AND CURVES. OR THAT WOM-
EN CANT FIELD THEIR POSITION WITHOUT MAKING ERRORS? AS IF ALL MEN CAN
DO ALL THESE THINGS.
THE STRENGTH OF OUR DEMOCRATIC IDEALS CRIES OUT FOR EQUAL OPPORTUN-
ITIES FOR EVERYONE. TO PERSISTENTLY DENY THAT TO ANY GROUP IN ANY ENDEA-
VER IS A DETRIMENT TO WHAT BASEBALL & OUR COUNTRY SHOULD STAND FOR.
ITS SUPPOSED TO BE A NATIONAL PASTIME .A NATIONAL GAME. IM AFRAID ITS
NOT NOT YET.
THE DREAM HAS BEEN DEFERRED.