“Making My Pitch: A Woman’s Baseball Odyssey” by Ila Jane Borders with Jean Hastings Ardell
Baseball, memoir, professional, women, gay/lesbian
April 1, 2017
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)
Baseball, like many other sports and occupations, is called “a man’s world.” However, one woman was determined to make a career in baseball. Ila Borders had the drive to do so within her from her Little League playing days. Her story, both inside and outside the sport, is captured in this inspiring memoir, co-written with Jean Hastings Ardell.
While Borders was not the first woman to play in men’s professional baseball, she accomplished many firsts: the first woman to be the winning pitcher in an integrated men’s professional game in the modern era when she got her first win for the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks in 1998, the first woman to receive a baseball college scholarship, and the first woman to start and win a collegiate men’s baseball game.
Even with all of these accomplishments, and despite her constant drive to succeed in baseball until her retirement in 2000, Borders tells her story of constant worry. She is conflicted about her sexual orientation, as she is attracted to women but was fearful of coming out because of her status on men’s baseball teams. Whether it was because of anxiety about the reaction from her teammate’s wives or girlfriends, her fear that she would be a distraction to the team (especially true when she played for professional teams) or her difficulties with dating in general, her story about her struggles with this part of her personal life make for engaging reading. Between her courage on the baseball field, her courage when she finally came out, and the success that came to her after baseball with her career as a paramedic and firefighter, her story is truly inspiring.
Her descriptions of the game are those that only someone who has played and understands the intricacies of the sport can communicate. Whether she was talking about the way she changed the speed of her pitches to keep batters off-guard or the shenanigans that would take place in the bullpen during the games, readers who love baseball will love being taken inside the game and the players.
While the baseball scenes are well-written, this is a memoir that is even better during the sections describing the author’s life outside the sport. While some may believe sports figures do not make good role models, Ila Borders is one that does. Her story should be read by anyone interested in baseball or just a feel-good story in which it is proven that one can overcome many obstacles to live a happy and productive life.
I wish to thank University of Nebraska Press for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
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