Making My Pitch: A Woman's Baseball Odyssey

Making My Pitch: A Woman's Baseball Odyssey

Making My Pitch: A Woman's Baseball Odyssey

Making My Pitch: A Woman's Baseball Odyssey


Making My Pitch tells the story of Ila Jane Borders, who despite formidable obstacles became a Little League prodigy, MVP of her otherwise all-male middle school and high school teams, the first woman awarded a baseball scholarship, and the first to pitch and win a complete men's collegiate game. After Mike Veeck signed Borders in May 1997 to pitch for his St. Paul Saints of the independent Northern League, she accomplished what no woman had done since the Negro Leagues era: play men's professional baseball. Borders played four professional seasons and in 1998 became the first woman in the modern era to win a professional ball game.

Borders had to find ways to fit in with her teammates, reassure their wives and girlfriends, work with the media, and fend off groupies. But these weren't the toughest challenges. She had a troubled family life, a difficult adolescence as she struggled with her sexual orientation, and an emotionally fraught college experience as a closeted gay athlete at a Christian university.

Making My Pitch shows what it's like to be the only woman on the team bus, in the clubhouse, and on the field. Raw, open, and funny at times, her story encompasses the loneliness of a groundbreaking pioneer who experienced grave personal loss. Borders ultimately relates how she achieved self-acceptance and created a life as a firefighter and paramedic and as a coach and goodwill ambassador for the game of baseball.


Mike Veeck

Autumn 1999. Riding through Washington, dc, in the back of a cab in the middle of the night, I felt my eyes beginning to close. All of a sudden the Corcoran Gallery of Art came into view. Photographer Annie Leibovitz had a show there. On the facade of the building was a twenty-foot image of Ila Borders at the top of her windup.

“Stop! Stop the cab,” I yelled at the hack. “That’s Ila. Stop right here.”

The cabbie was frightened. “You owe me thirty-five bucks,” he said.

“Keep the meter running,” I said. “Just stop. I have to get out.”

I had been looking for a ballplayer like Ila Borders for much of my life.

I joined my father, Bill Veeck Jr., who then owned the Chicago White Sox, as the club’s director of promotions in 1976. I remember our hosting a softball game and picnic for the front office staff. During the game, a woman who worked in the accounting department launched a triple off the left-field wall. Dad and I immediately looked at one another with the same thought: Somewhere out there, in Keokuk, Iowa, perhaps, was a woman with the talent to play professional baseball.

If only we could find her.

Twenty years later I did.

In the spring of 1997 I was running the St. Paul Saints of the independent Northern League, when our pitching coach, Barry Moss, called. Barry also scouted for us in Southern California. He wanted me to know that he had found a young woman who was, he said, “the real thing . . .

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