Baseball History: Lizzie Arlington Becomes First Female Player

The idea of a female professional baseball player is not a new concept. On this day in 1898, Lizzie Arlington became the first woman in baseball history to appear in organized ball.

Over the past few years, there has been an increased discussion about when we will see a female appear in the majors. Several women have appeared in independent league games, while French shortstop Melissa Mayeux became the first female to appear on the international free agent list. Claire Eccels made baseball history by becoming the first female to appear in the collegiate West Coast League earlier this year. Eventually, a female player could get a chance in affiliated baseball.

However, the idea of a female baseball player is nothing new. In fact, the idea dates back tot he 19th century when, on this day in 1898, Lizzie Arlington became the first female to appear in minor league baseball.

Arlington came to prominence as a part of the Philadelphia Nationals reserve team. Discovered out of the Pennsylvania coal region, she played baseball with her father and brothers against other competition. She would end up playing second and pitching for the Nationals, where she proved to be just as good as her male counterparts.

History was made on this day in 1898 when she suited up for the Reading Coal Heavers, now known as the Reading Phillies, of the Atlantic League. With Reading holding a 5-0 lead over the Alentown Peanuts, Arlington entered the game in the ninth inning.

Her appearance had quite the rocky beginning. Arlington allowed two hits and a walk to load the bases before retiring a batter. However, she settled in after that, retiring the next three batters and emerging without allowing a run. Newspaper reports said that Arlington did not have the command needed to perform well at that level, but nonetheless, her outing was a success.

Arlington was expected to appear against the Hartford team, but was not allowed to. Local authorities forced Reading to cancel her appearance, as Hartford was concerned about losing to a female. Afterwards, Arlington disappeared, fading away into obscurity.

With that one appearance, Lizzie Arlington made baseball history as the first female to appear in organized baseball. It would be another 110 years before another female appeared in an official minor league game again.