Book Birthdays celebrate one year of a book’s life in tweets, reviews, and more. This month we’re saying Happy First Book Birthday to Making My Pitch: A Woman’s Baseball Odyssey (Nebraska, 2017) by Ila Jane Borders with Jean Hastings Ardell. 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. Ardell is the author of Breaking into Baseball: Women and the National Pastime.
About the book:
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.
“A welcome contribution to women’s sports biographies.”—Booklist Starred Review
“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, Library Journal
Media and interviews:
- Farther off the Wall with Tom Hoffarth
- Podcast with Bergino Baseball Clubhouse
- “Over the Rainbow Book” by the ALA’s GLBTQ Round Table
On the blog:
A word from the authors:
The word “odyssey” in the subtitle sums up the twenty-three years it took from our first interview to the publication of Ila Borders’ memoir. Together we delved deep into the truths and the impact of her experiences on and off the baseball field. And then, in April of 2017, the book was cast out into the world. After one of our first talks at Whittier College, another of the baseball authors in the University of Nebraska Press line-up said that he thought writing the book had been beneficial for Ila, that she seemed more settled in herself, more confident. Which was exactly what Jean, as co-author, had hoped for after Ila had taken the risk of baring her soul in print. The book has transformed her life in other ways: Major League Baseball has hired Ila to scout college prospects and she is coaching for USA Baseball’s national team. What has been equally gratifying is the response from readers. After Ila spoke at Cesar Chavez High School, in Santa Ana, California, the students flocked to her. One boy told her that reading the book helped save his life – he had been suicidal because of his sexual orientation but after reading that Ila had made it through, he believed that he could, too. So the gratitude we feel to the staff of UNP for believing in Ila’s story is profound. We’ll never forget the look of hope on that high school student’s face. In the hands of such readers, the book continues the odyssey.