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Every Day Is Ladies' Day
Kelly Whiteside
November 02, 1992
General manager Ellen Harrigan-Charles runs a farm team for the Blue Jays
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November 02, 1992

Every Day Is Ladies' Day

General manager Ellen Harrigan-Charles runs a farm team for the Blue Jays

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Besides the familial roles of mom and big sister, on any given day during the season Harrigan-Charles assumes the roles of therapist, confidante and cutup. The club's top pitcher wanders into the office to discuss his previous night's performance. Because of an earlier night's horrendous outing he has convinced himself that he has ruined all chances of making it to the bigs. Sometimes the word prospect is difficult to live up to. But Harrigan-Charles puts it in perspective. She reaches for the Toronto media guide and says to the pitcher, "Here, look at this. Look at Juan Guzman. Look at his minor league record: ——, right? And look what he's doing now." Point made.

When players are asked if it bothers them that their team is run by women, most of them shrug their shoulders and express the same sentiment: "Why should it?" Take Ned Darley, a 21-year-old pitcher from Manning, S.C. "Baseball is such a macho thing," says Darley. "There's nine men on the field, 20 men on the bench. Men coaches, men umpires. But when it comes to running a team, baseball knowledge is not only obtained by a man. Women can learn just as much."

But in baseball, as in life, not everyone is so enlightened. In her 11 years in the game Harrigan-Charles has encountered her share of Neanderthals, young and old. There was the time in Toronto when an office intern slapped her on the butt. She picked him up and threw him against the wall. Six-foot-tall, red-haired Irish women are known to possess amazing strength when provoked. Or the time in the St. Catharines clubhouse when a player sauntered up to her without a towel on, just to see her reaction. "I looked him in the eye, answered his question and pretended as if nothing happened," she says. Where she has encountered sexism and racism—her husband is black—she has confronted it in the same confident and determined manner.

The Niagara Falls Rapids are in town for a late August game, and the forecast is rain. Harrigan-Charles is worried about the loss of another gate—four home games have already been canceled because of weather. By 6 p.m. Finn is busy organizing the 30 high school kids who run the ticket office, concession stands and souvenir booths. Greeting fans at the gate is the resident keyboard artist and anthem singer, Jon, who prefers, like Cher, to be known by his first name only. While Jon croons Neil Diamond's Song, Sung Blue, the official scorer, Ann Rudge, heads to the Rapids' dugout to get the night's lineup. A female scorer? Unconventional, remember?

At 7 p.m. Jon sings both national anthems. Community Park has a capacity of 3,000, but tonight it seems the mosquitoes have outdrawn the announced crowd of 823 fans. One reason for the sparse attendance is the team's record: The Blue Jays have languished under .500 for most of the second half of the season.

In the seventh inning Harrigan-Charles and Finn sit down for the first time all night. They have been busy supervising the concessions; flipping burgers; offering an elderly fan a ride home after the game; settling a "domestic," which was a shouting match between a husband and wife; throwing miscreants who were sitting on the scoreboard in centerfield out of the park; sampling a new flavor of ice cream; and offering a fan a can of bug spray to repel the mosquitoes. The rain holds off, after all. The Blue Jays are ahead all evening until the Rapids stage a comeback in the eighth. Behind the pitching of Darley, who pitches seven innings and retires 17 batters in succession, the Jays win 4-3 in 12 innings.

The rain arrives the next day, washing out the away game at Niagara Falls. So Harrigan-Charles decides to take in a game at Toronto's SkyDome, a place immune to the whims of the Canadian summer. Brutal is the word for the evening, as in "Good golly, what a brutal game." In the fourth inning, with the Toronto Jays losing to the Milwaukee Brewers 13-1, Harrigan-Charles announces that it would be a good time to take her visitor on a promised tour of SkyDome.

On the field level she runs into soon-to-be-rocked pitcher David Wells and gets an update on his wife and infant son. In the executive offices she is greeted by shouts of "Hey, Big Red!" as she came to be known during her early years with the organization. The game is winding down when Harrigan-Charles returns to her seat. It is the bottom of the ninth, and the score is 22-2. During the course of the evening the Blue Jays have gone through six pitchers, Wells being the final casualty.

"Brutal," she says. Then she smiles. "Too bad they don't have Ned Darley."

Or Harrigan-Charles. At least, not yet.

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