GREETINGS FROM YANKEE STADIUM!
Sept. 27, 2006. This is my dream come true. Not everyone is asked to throw out a first pitch in the House That Ruth Built. Presidents, Yogi Berra, stars of all kinds ... and now I'm on the field. I stood in front of the mound, took a step toward the plate and whirled the ball, lefty style. It was a bouncer, but Jorge Posada scooped it up and gave me a hug. I was overwhelmed.
But early on, barely a month after the I've Got a Secret taping, there was also this moment.
GREETINGS FROM WILLIAMSPORT!
Aug. 23, 2001. I'm being honored by Little League in my first big appearance. I'm all set to throw out the first pitch for the semifinal game between Oceanside and the Bronx. The star pitcher for the Bronx is Danny Almonte. Gosh, he's big. He's in all the headlines. People think he might be 14 instead of 12. Not the best time for me to come clean.
The Almonte scandal made Massar hyperaware of her lie. The lanky lefthanded pitcher led the Rolando Paulino All-Stars to the semifinals of the 2001 Little League World Series, but shortly after the tournament ended an SI investigation revealed that Almonte was indeed 14, which nullified all his team's wins. While Massar was in Williamsport, Pa., conducting interviews with The New York Times and ESPN that year, she received a call from her brother, Tom. As Massar recounts, "He told me, 'Kay, you gotta step back and get out of the limelight. Look what they're doing with Danny Almonte. What do you think they're going to do with you?' Well, I didn't step back, as you can see."
Instead, Massar went all-in for 10 years. Being the First became her identity. "My son Mark thinks it's consumed me," she says. "I didn't want to invalidate everything, have it all taken away." In every media account, including an SI feature on the 30th anniversary of Title IX in July 2002, Massar was listed as being either 11 or 12 during her 1950 season. The truth: She was 14.
"No one ever asked," says the still youthful-looking Massar—who will turn 75 next week—as she sips coffee at the kitchen table of her Yuba City home. "Well, that's not true, either." In July 2001 a reporter for Yuba City's Appeal-Democrat asked Massar for her age. "I said, 'A lady never tells,' and handed him my military I.D.," she says. The card had the wrong birth year on it: 1938, not '36. "I'd lied about my age when I was around 27 and we were stationed in Puerto Rico," says Massar. "I've always lied about my age. At first I deceived the media out of vanity. Then, after the Danny Almonte thing, I deceived them out of fear."
If her secret were discovered, would she still be the First? Or the First*? What had been an innocent act of pluck as a child in 1950—age didn't enter her mind when she tried out for Kings Dairy—became a ruse as an adult. She never mentioned that she had been 14 in 1950 when she wrote Little League in 1974 or spoke with Van Auken in 1999 to challenge the media depiction of Pepe as the first female Little Leaguer. When reached at her home in Hoboken, N.J., Pepe declined to comment about Massar's age revelation, but she asked, How was Massar's true age discovered?
The memoir publishing industry has been under siege since James Frey sat across from an angry Oprah Winfrey on Jan. 26, 2006. "I feel really duped," Winfrey scolded Frey after parts of his overcoming-addiction memoir A Million Little Pieces, promoted by Oprah's Book Club, turned out to be fiction. But a false narrative never entered the mind of literary agent John Mason in September 2010 when Massar's Little League adventure was brought to his attention by Lynn Hughes, a documentary filmmaker and a longtime friend of Massar's family. Mason had two daughters and one thought: Wow, what a story, what a book. Massar had already been working for a year with noted children's book author Heather Lang. For an adult book Mason found Robert Cowser, an English professor at St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y., and author of the critically acclaimed Dream Season, a chronicle of his semipro football experience.