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HITS HOT OFF THE PRESSES
Nicholas Dawidoff
May 23, 1988
Baseball journals prove the pen is as mighty as the bat
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May 23, 1988

Hits Hot Off The Presses

Baseball journals prove the pen is as mighty as the bat

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In 1984 the magazine got an Editor in Exile when LaZebnik moved to New York City to pursue his acting career. In spite of MRB's growth, Lehman says, "our mission is still pretty much the same. We publish construction workers, professional poets, cab drivers, college professors, a retired diplomat and anyone else who writes well and fervently about baseball."

Last year, figuring that "there was quite enough written about men in baseball," Darlene Mehrer of Glenview, Ill., quit her job in publishing to create a newsletter devoted to women in the sport. BaseWoman, a monthly, is a serious attempt to rectify what Mehrer perceives as one of America's great injustices: the undeclared but obvious banishment of women from baseball, and their consequent relegation to softball. Mehrer recently founded a women's baseball league in Chicago, and when she writes, she also plays hardball. "Why a newsletter about women in baseball?" she asked in the June 1987 issue. "Scratch a softball player and you'll find someone who'd rather be playing baseball. BaseWoman wants to know who decreed men play baseball, girls play softball."

Women have long had a peripheral role in the game. In one issue Mehrer tells the story of the All-America Girl's Professional Baseball League, founded by Chicago Cubs owner Phil Wrigley during World War II. The league, which lasted until 1954, had teams such as the Kalamazoo Lassies and the Racine Belles; held an annual spring training, during which players attended workouts and charm school; and included feisty competitors like Tex Lessing of the Grand Rapids Chicks, who was once tossed from a game for knocking out an umpire. Mehrer has also reported on Edith Houghton, who worked for the Philadelphia Phillies in the 1940s and was the only member of her sex ever to be a paid professional scout. In Mehrer's most pleasing piece to date, she recounted the week she spent as the only woman at the Cubs' fantasy camp. What BaseWoman lacks in graceful prose it makes up for with its irreverent, sometimes strident spirit. Though the newsletter has only 49 subscribers, Mehrer has a cause worth writing for.

The St. Louis Browns died on September 27, 1953, but Bill Borst never got over their passing. After years of mourning the franchise, Borst turned his life from gray to brown on October 2, 1984, when he met with 27 other Browns fanatics at the Mid-County YMCA in Brentwood, Mo., and founded the St. Louis Browns Fan Club. At that meeting one man stood up and recited the complete lineup of the 1922 Browns. Also in attendance was Ed Mickelson, who drove in the Browns' only run in that final 1953 game, a 2-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox. The result of the meeting was the formation of one the most enthusiastic baseball organizations never to wear spikes.

"We wanted to resurrect the historical memory of the St. Louis Browns," says Borst, who is an adjunct professor at Webster University in St. Louis. Under his leadership, the club has enjoyed riotous annual banquets, created a Browns Hall of Fame and even taken an off-season Brownie Cruise to Nowhere, a three-hour trip on the Mississippi. It has also created some witty publications. The club newsletter, Pop Flies—inspired by the Brooklyn Dodgers' Line Drives—is a bouncy quarterly rag, which keeps members up to date on club functions, Browns necrology and nominations for the Browns Hall of Fame.

In addition to Pop Flies, Borst has published The Brown Stocking, a two-volume set with a series of articles celebrating the memory of the team. In The Brown Stocking, readers might find an account of the day Nelson Potter pitched 7? perfect innings before the game was delayed by rain. When play resumed, Potter's first batter got a hit. Also discussed in joyful detail is the afternoon at Fenway Park that Ellis Kinder had a smelt dumped on him by a passing seagull. Approximately 120 of the 230 living former Browns are club members. In one volume, pitcher Ned Garver recalled his games in St. Louis: "The crowd didn't dare boo you. The players had them outnumbered."

Borst devotes his leisure time to the Browns with the same conviction that has led legions to lend their pens to baseball. "I began to worry that so many fans out there, including my children, weren't alive when the Browns left St. Louis and became the Baltimore Orioles," Borst says. "I thought people should know about them."

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