A Little League Of Her Own: The First Girl In Little League Baseball At 13, Kay Johnston pretended to be a boy and played first base for a Little League team in upstate New York. That was in the 1950s. Now 81, Kay Johnston Massar says, "I just wanted to play the game."
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A Little League Of Her Own: The First Girl In Little League Baseball

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A Little League Of Her Own: The First Girl In Little League Baseball

A Little League Of Her Own: The First Girl In Little League Baseball

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

All right. It is time for StoryCorps on this Friday. And today, a story about a little girl who went by the name of Tubby. In the spring of 1950, Kay Johnston was 13, living in upstate New York. She wanted nothing more than to play Little League Baseball. But in those days, that was absolutely out of the question. Kay recently sat down with her husband, Cy, at StoryCorps.

KAY JOHNSTON MASSAR: One day, my mother was braiding my hair. We were sitting at the kitchen table. And my brother walked out the door with his baseball bat. He was going to practice, and I started crying. And I said to my mother, I'm just as good as him. I wish I could play. So she said, why don't you just go and try out? And I said, OK, well, cut off my braids. And she did. So I ran into my brother's room, got a pair of his slacks, put on a baseball cap and signed up as Tubby Johnston.

CY MASSAR: When you found out you made the team, were you surprised that they called you?

K. MASSAR: No, I wasn't surprised at all. I knew I was good, and I had fooled them so far. But I was scared, of course, that they might find out and tell me I couldn't play. So after several practices, I talked to the coach. His reaction was you're such a good player, and we're going to use you at first base. I played the entire season. It was a absolutely thrilling time.

C. MASSAR: The kids on your team you played with - how did they treat you?

K. MASSAR: When they found out I was a girl, the team treated me fine. It was the other players that would push me down or call me names. And the parents initially booed when I went out to play. They could see that I was a better player than some of their sons. After the season was over with, my dad went to a meeting with some Little League officials. And when he came home, I said, how did the meeting go, Dad? And he said, well, no girls under any circumstances will be playing Little League Baseball. And it's known as the Tubby Rule because I was the reason why they put that rule in. But I said to him, you know, Dad, someday, I'm going to play first base on the New York Yankees. And he just gave me a big hug. And he said, I know you will Kit Kat.

C. MASSAR: What gave you the courage to do what you did?

K. MASSAR: You know, I have to tell you - when I went out pretending to be a boy, I had no idea that I was setting some sort of a record. That was the furthest thing from my mind. I just wanted to play the game. I played Little League just that one year, but I'll probably love baseball till the day I die.

(SOUNDBITE OF EXPLOSIONS IN THE SKY & DAVID WINGO SONG, "SEND OFF")

GREENE: Kay Johnston Massar speaking to her husband, Cy, at StoryCorps in San Francisco. The Tubby Rule, which banned girls from Little League, was abolished in 1974. And we can tell you - at the age of 70, Kay fulfilled that childhood dream. She threw out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium. Her conversation will be archived at the Library of Congress and featured on the StoryCorps podcast.

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