Making My Pitch tells the story of Ila Jane Borders, who despite formidable obstacles became a Little League prodigy, MVP of her otherwise all-male middle school and high school teams, the first woman awarded a baseball scholarship, and the first to pitch and win a complete men’s collegiate game. After Mike Veeck signed Borders in May 1997 to pitch for his St. Paul Saints of the independent Northern League, she accomplished what no woman had done since the Negro Leagues era: play men’s professional baseball. Borders played four professional seasons and in 1998 became the first woman in the modern era to win a professional ball game.
Borders had to find ways to fit in with her teammates, reassure their wives and girlfriends, work with the media, and fend off groupies. But these weren’t the toughest challenges. She had a troubled family life, a difficult adolescence as she struggled with her sexual orientation, and an emotionally fraught college experience as a closeted gay athlete at a Christian university.
Making My Pitch shows what it’s like to be the only woman on the team bus, in the clubhouse, and on the field. Raw, open, and funny at times, her story encompasses the loneliness of a groundbreaking pioneer who experienced grave personal loss. Borders ultimately relates how she achieved self-acceptance and created a life as a firefighter and paramedic and as a coach and goodwill ambassador for the game of baseball.
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Violence, Sexist verbal abuse, Sexual harassment
Booklist starred (March 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 14))
Beginning in middle school, Ila Borders played on all-male teams and was the first woman to receive a baseball scholarship to college, where she continued shattering gender barriers as a left-handed pitcher. In 1988, she became the first female pitcher to win a professional men’s baseball game. Her résumé included playing for the St. Paul Saints, Duluth-Superior Dukes, Madison Black Wolf, and Zion Pioneerzz. Besides being a fascinating sports story, this is also a moving biography of a closeted gay athlete pursuing her dreams while struggling with her own identity. Her faith as a Christian helped her navigate the insurmountable challenges. Borders endures taunts from the stands (“Go home, you don’t belong here”) that switched to requests for autographed baseballs when her prowess became obvious. Cowritten with noted baseball writer Ardell (Breaking into Baseball, 2005), this is a welcome contribution to women’s sports biographies. Baseball fans will enjoy the behind-the-scenes details of life in the minors and numerous game highlights; gay athletes will connect to her struggles. A worthy companion to Jennifer Ring’s A Game of Their Own (2015) and an important addition to baseball-history and LGBTQ collections.
Library Journal (April 1, 2017)
The story of Ila Jane Borders (b. 1975), the first woman to win a men’s college baseball game and a pioneer for women in professional baseball, has faded into history. Twenty years ago, she signed a minor league contract with an independent men’s baseball team, proving herself in the clubhouse as well as on the pitcher’s mound. While we are still waiting for the first woman to appear on a major league roster, Borders made meaningful progress, maintaining her poise and sense of humor, despite teammates and fans who wanted to test her resolve, even enduring stalkers and death threats. A difficult childhood and struggles with her sexual orientation gave her the inner fortitude to endure the isolation of being far from home in an often hostile environment, and her personal history, as chronicled here with the help of Ardell (Breaking into Baseball), is related with painful honesty. Borders’s conversational style and intriguing life story make this title a winner for both public and academic libraries. VERDICT An inspiring and important account, told with grace and self-awareness that will appeal to baseball and sports fans along with readers interested in LGBTQ memoirs.-Janet Davis, Darien P.L., CT
About the Author
Ila Jane Borders is the first woman to win a men’s professional baseball game. She has been honored twice at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and was inducted in 2003 into the Baseball Reliquary’s Shrine of the Eternals.
Her website is www.ilajaneborders.com.
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