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November 30, 2015

Comments

I'd say you're underselling the role pure strength plays in baseball, as well as most other sports where one might think women could excel just as well as men. E.g., soccer and tennis are two that come to mind.

Or golf, FTM, if we grant it "sport" status for purposes of this discussion.

the difference in male/female sprint speed would work against women, at the pro level.

there are plenty of amateur mixed soccer leagues, though.

Speed is something else I think wj is underselling w/r/t baseball. Not that Bartolo Colon or CC Sabathia are going to win any races these days.

Speed is a plus, of course. So is strength. But there are lots of guys in the majors who are neither exceptionally fast nor exceptionally strong. They are quick** to react, and they can see a pitch clearly -- and that's what it mostly takes to play the game at that level.

** "quick" and "fast" being two seperate qualities. It's the difference between how rapidly you start, vs how rapidly you move after you get started.

That's an excellent point on Colon. And there are quite a few 1st basemen who run even slower than I do -- which is a feat in itself. (They are, however, much quicker than I am. But then, pretty much everybody has faster reflexes than I do.)

Having come to any kind of athletics late in life, my sense is that most of what I knew about the relative capabilities of different groups turned out to be BS. That makes me...deeply suspicious let's say about similar claims in other athletic fields. I'm not saying everyone is wrong, but I'd be much more interested in comments from, say, a woman who played high level softball.

Also, I wonder how much of the distinction there is just for stupid historical reasons. Aerial silks and aerial rope are two closely related acrobatic disciplines, but silks are traditionally coded female and rope is traditionally coded male. I've asked a few professional silks/rope artists why that is and the answer they invariably give is "stupid historical reasons that have no basis in human biology whatsoever". If you look at circus schools that don't push discipline based on gender, gender ratios tend to converge for both disciplines.

Not just height in basketball -- the NBA is a full-contact sport with a premium on upper body strength. Grab, hold, push, take an elbow to the chest... these are all routine in today's pro game. I seem to recall one of the elite women playing with one of the NBA teams one summer, and after a couple of weeks saying, "I could never play in the NBA, I simply couldn't absorb the beating the players dish out to each other."

Professional baseball players are, in fact, exceptionally strong. Swinging a bat hard enough to take a baseball traveling 90+ MPH in on direction and make it go a significant distance in the other direction requires the ability to general explosive power at a level that most human beings do not posses.

You don't have to be super strong to be a good hitter in baseball (although it helps), but if you don't have a minimum amount, you won't have any success at all.

People get the wrong idea about baseball because there are some players playing at the highest level, like Bartolo Colon, who have success despite not looking like athletes. But make no mistake, all of these men are tremendous athletes.

I feel confident in saying that no woman will ever play in an MLB game, except as a stunt and I find it unlikely that any woman would ever reach even the AA level based on her skill with the game.

As far as I know, there are no women in any mens professional baseball league anywhere in the world and no women in division I NCAA baseball.

I feel that it might be possible for truly exceptional women to have some success in the low low minors or in less competitive amateur ball. But why would they? A woman with that much talent would dominate in Women's softball.

Didn't we have this conversation in the spring?

http://nypost.com/2014/08/23/will-a-woman-ever-play-major-league-baseball/

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/06/24/why-can-t-american-women-play-baseball.html

Cricket is slightly more evolved than baseball in this respect.. for example:
http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/story/929779.html

(It's also a far better game.)

I'm not saying everyone is wrong, but I'd be much more interested in comments from, say, a woman who played high level softball.

If we weren't talking about professional sports, your suspicions might be valid.

One way to look at it is by comparing the bell curves (or however the distributions might look, but probably that) for a hypothetical composite of athletic ability of men and women. (I'm not saying those necessarily exist by having been scientifically determined. I'm just conceptualizing in this way to illustrate my point.) To what degree would they overlap if placed on the same graph?

Even if they overlapped significantly, professional athletes would be at the far end of the skinny tail of the top fraction of a percentile, possibly outside of what would be an even remotely statistically significant overlap between men and women. I'm just pulling this out of my butt here, again, for conceptual purposes in the absence of actual data, but a level of ability that would place a man in the top hundredth of a percent of men (a one in 10,000 male athlete) might place a woman in the top ten-thousandth of a percent for women (a one in 1,000,000 female athlete).

I'm not even sure what percentile would apply for men in professional sports, but the higher you would go, the greater the ratio for male/female percentile would be. But before you even got that far, you'd hit the Chuchundra Zone:

A woman with that much talent would dominate in Women's softball.

I mean, I'm sure Ronda Rousey could kick my man ass, but that's why I'm not a professional MMA fighter, right?

Mentally italicize that first sentence.

I'm not saying everyone is wrong

That would be unlikely since I'm disagreeing with everyone else.

The (albeit thus far limited) evidence from cricket is that the best women are indeed quite able to play in the men's game.
There are, of course, some physical limitations - the fastest women bowlers are around 20% slower than the fastest men, and the batters don't have the physical strength to develop the bat speed required to hit easy sixes - but the game is not entirely dominated by sheer strength/speed.
(Notably, the greatest batsman in history - and statistically possibly the greatest sportsperson in terms of far out-achieving anyone else in his sport - Don Bradman, was only 5'7")

I'm just pulling this out of my butt here, again, for conceptual purposes in the absence of actual data, but a level of ability that would place a man in the top hundredth of a percent of men (a one in 10,000 male athlete) might place a woman in the top ten-thousandth of a percent for women (a one in 1,000,000 female athlete).

for sprinting, this is pretty easy to see.

the fastest 100m time ever for a woman (10.49s) would not qualify for the 2016 men's 100m Olympic trials (10.16s needed).

or, look at the 2015 US Track & Field Championships results: the slowest men's 100m time beats the fastest woman's 100m time, and the slowest junior men's time beats the fastest senior female time.

IIRC, any of the sprinters on my high school men's track team could've beat the fastest woman's time there. (though all the women's times are faster than i ever was @ 100m!)

and to be fair, most sports don't require one to be a world class sprinter, so we can slide leftwards on that bell curve. and most sports require other skills and talents that are harder to measure than top sprinting speed.

From wj's link:

in 1948, they settled on five days as the standard length of a match

FIVE DAYS?!?

That's not a game, it's a campaign.

That's not a game, it's a campaign.

No, it's just a test match.
A five match series might reasonably be described as a campaign.

Think of it as Das Rheingold, as opposed to the Ring cycle.

And some still hanker for the timeless tests; although in the modern day game, matches are often finished in under four days.

Cleek, that is the point that I was sort of trying to make. Some sports require physical characteristics where the bell curve for women is significantly different from that for men. In those sports, women are probably not going to make it into the extremely tiny fraction of the population who perform in professional sports.

However, are reflex speed and eyesight sex-linked? Not that I have ever noticed. So in a sport which mainly requires those, it seems like women ought to be able to compete.

Yes, there are benefits in baseball to being exceptional fleet of foot, or to having very high upper body strength. But even in today's professional teams, there are guys who have neither. (And that's before you start getting into pitchers!) Yes, you have to be very athletic -- but to a degree beyond that achieved by some women athletes?

Of course, there is an essential difference between baseball and cricket which accounts for the possibility of those with weaker physiques to prosper in the latter game - the ability of the batter to score runs by deflecting the ball behind the wicket, rather than hammering it back in the direction from which it came.
The ridiculous concept of making three quarters of the compass 'foul territory' just doesn't make sense to me (and nor does relegating the batter to a corner of the field...

The difference between the two games is epitomised in the career of the great Ranjitsinhji:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ranjitsinhji
Possibly prompted by the suggestion of a professional cricketer who was bowling at him in the nets at Cambridge, he and Hayward began to practise with Ranjitsinhji's right leg tied to the ground. This affected his future batting technique and contributed to his creation of the leg glance, a shot with which he afterwards became associated...

Yes, there are benefits in baseball to being exceptional fleet of foot, or to having very high upper body strength. But even in today's professional teams, there are guys who have neither.

What's "very high" for a man versus a woman, particularly where upper-body strength is concerned, are two very different things. Any man playing pro baseball would be extremely strong as a woman. The overwhelming majority of women would have to spend so much time developing and maintaining that level of strength that it would constrain their ability to develop the skills required to play baseball at a professional level.

The rarity of a woman with both easily attainable man-like upper body strength and the other athletic abilities required to play at that level would be hard to estimate. But, again, you would be well into the Chuchundra Zone before you got that far.

Maybe the issue here is that people are underestimating the significance of playing at a professional level, as opposed to being really good at something relative to the general population.

However, are reflex speed and eyesight sex-linked? Not that I have ever noticed. So in a sport which mainly requires those, it seems like women ought to be able to compete.

I think the top Ping Pong and Pool/billiards players in the world are men. Could be just a sample size thing though.

It's also worth recalling that all this isn't occurring in a vacuum, and social attitudes matter. And social attitudes dictate that there is absolutely too much sexual dimorphism between men and women for even exceptional women to compete with men, so there's no point in humoring those who think they could. And that does matter, because beyond motivation it seriously affects opportunities. The fluffy articles I linked above do touch on this - the 14yo 70mph pitcher isn't persuing baseball because basketball offers more and better opportunities. Etc.

And that does matter, because beyond motivation it seriously affects opportunities. The fluffy articles I linked above do touch on this - the 14yo 70mph pitcher isn't persuing baseball because basketball offers more and better opportunities. Etc.

I'm sure that is part of what defines the lower limits of the Chuchundra Zone.

The overwhelming majority of women would have to spend so much time developing and maintaining that level of strength that it would constrain their ability to develop the skills required to play baseball at a professional level...

Which merely confirms my prejudice against baseball as a sport.

Whereas cricket can accommodate both brutish power alongside grace and guile.

Nigel, baseball can accommodate grace and guile as well. (Although you might have trouble guessing it from some of the comments here.)

For example, there are teams which have several players who can hit home runs. (A six, if you will.) But there are other teams which routinely score most of their runs by a succession of 1 and 2 base hits, combined with smart base running (Kansas City and Oakland come to mind). You can get a bigger reputation as an individual by hitting lots of home runs. But teams can do quite well with relatively few, as Kansas City did this year -- winning the World Series, in fact.

Granted, those with minimal knowledge of the game tend to focus on home runs. (But then, they don't seem able to appreciate a pitchers' duel either.) Doesn't mean that there aren't other approaches; ones which have less dependence on upper body strength.

Which merely confirms my prejudice against baseball as a sport.

You must really hate power lifting.

More seriously, is a sport inherently flawed for requiring some amount of physical strength to compete at the highest level? Or are you simply discussing your personal preferences in mentioning your prejudice?

(I don't know a thing about cricket, but it doesn't bother me a bit to be told that it doesn't necessarily require manly strength.)

Or are you simply discussing your personal preferences in mentioning your prejudice?

No, my prejudice is in favour of sports which accommodate power, but where it is neither absolutely necessary, nor sufficient.

(It's notable that, in cricket, the world's current number one batsman has the physique of a teenager.)

And yes, I'm aware I'm caricaturing baseball a little...

A brief interview with Sarah Taylor:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p039sbgb

The Finnish baseball pesäpallo is a professional sport that has some resemblance to baseball. The strength of the player is of less importance than in baseball, because the ball needs to bounce in-park. If it flies behind the backfield line before bouncing for the first time, it is a foul. The second main difference is that the hitter stands about a meter from the pitcher and the pitch is thrown upwards at least a meter above the pitchers head so it falls on a small plate right in front of the pitcher. Even a mediocre amateur batter almost always hits, but in professional games, the outfield team is usually able to catch the ball, because getting it out of the field past skilled outfielders without a foul is exceedingly difficult.

These aspects make the game quite tactical. The game is played on professional level both in men's and women's leagues, and in fact, many people prefer women's games. They are more elegant, because the tactics count for more than in men's games.

Yet, even in such a watered-off version of baseball, physical strength and running speed count a lot. When top male and female teams have played friendly matches, male teams always win.

the hitter stands about a meter from the pitcher

wow.

do pitchers often get hit by the batter?

One other factoid which may be of some slight relevance. In the mid-20th century there were at least 3 women who played baseball professionally -- in the Negro Leagues.

As we saw in the late 1950s, lots of Negro League players were capable of playing major league baseball . . . once they were allowed to. And that includes some ("Satchel" Paige comes to mind, but he's far from the only one) who were perfectly capable of playing major league ball even when far past their prime.

Which at least suggests that they gap between what women can do and what men can do at the highest levels of the sport may not be all that huge.

Let me toss in also this comment from his manager (Walter Alston) about Jim Gilliam: "He didn't hit with power, he had no arm, and he couldn't run. But he did the little things to win ballgames." Sound like some of descriptions of women's handicaps here?

Nigel is half right--baseball is pretty boring. Cricket, OTOH, is torture. But then, I don't get warm beer, two ice cubes in gin and tonic, driving on the wrong side of the road and eating a spotted dick.

Ugh, it's a sport if BP and I say it's a sport, and we say that it is. Probably the finest of all the sports, and one of the very few in which you can play with or by yourself.

...you can play with or by yourself.

Was that a typo by omission, or was it an admission?

cleek,

sorry for exaggeration. Two meters might be more correct. One meter is a typical distance for amateurs. The batter doesn't hit the pitcher, nonetheless, because the pitcher steps back after pitching.

The pitcher stands in the home base as shown in this photo. The pitcher is the man wearing a red-black-white shirt. The white circle right in front of him is the pitching plate. The pitch needs to drop on it (in case the batter considers it foul and doesn't swing).

Was that a typo by omission, or was it an admission?

One or the other if not both.

However, are reflex speed and eyesight sex-linked? Not that I have ever noticed. So in a sport which mainly requires those, it seems like women ought to be able to compete...

Certainly true of eyesight.
Reaction times are a little more complicated, as at the highest levels, batters are not so much re-acting as pre-acting, since there is so little time between the ball leaving the hand and arriving at the bat.
Without experience playing against male bowlers - who are indisputably much quicker - women don't get the chance to develop the requisite technique.

I was thinking more of reaction time as it relates to fielding. Especially for infielders, getting a quick start in the direction of the ball's path is important.

But, as you say, practice against top competition is very important to develop the requisite skills. Of course, that is true of almost any endeavour, not just sports. Nobody reaches championship levels in something as unathletic as chess with out a chance to play against top players.

Without experience playing against male bowlers - who are indisputably much quicker - women don't get the chance to develop the requisite technique.

On the other hand:

Why MLB hitters can't hit Jennie Finch and science behind reaction time

Finch rocked and fired. Pujols missed badly. He turned and walked away, toward his tittering teammates. Then he stopped, bewildered. He turned back to Finch, doffed his cap and continued on his way.

"I never want to experience that again," he later said.

Yep, that's what I was talking about: requisite technique.

Until men and women play in the same games regularly, the chances of a woman stepping into the men's game at the top level and succeeding are massively diminished, as they simply haven't experienced bowling at 90 plus mph.
(Which is what Taylor alludes to in her interview.)

...was thinking more of reaction time as it relates to fielding

Taylor was keeping wicket for the Aussie men's team; clearly she has those skills.

HSH, that's a really fabulous article. Of course, I'm prejudiced by the fact that it tends to support my position -- that the reason that we don't see women in major league baseball is simply that they do not get the same opportunities (e.g. high school baseball) to build up their experience.

I mean, if Albert Pujols can't hit a woman's underhand (only) 66 MPH fast ball, just because he doesn't have experience with her pitching motion to tell him where the ball will go....

I have friends who are active ultra-marathon runners. 50, 75, 100, and 100+ mile events.

To clarify, I DO NOT RUN in these events, I know people who do.

Women are apparently extremely good competitors in those events.

Different sports call for different skills.

The only other comment I have to make here is that, when I was a kid, baseball players were really not big guys. They were fit, certainly (at least mostly), but not unusually strong or large.

McKTx,
eating a spotted dick...
That belongs in the previous thread with the articles discussion. The correct usage (unless you were intending a quite different meaning...) would be 'eating spotted dick'.

Oh, and btw, some find the music of JS Bach torture.
That doesn't mean he isn't the greatest composer to have lived.

Edit...

damn html.

"I mean, if Albert Pujols can't hit a woman's underhand (only) 66 MPH fast ball, just because he doesn't have experience with her pitching motion to tell him where the ball will go...."

That's at 43 feet distant, not far different from the 19th century pitcher's distance. A 66 MPH pitch at 43 feet reaches home plate in the same time as a 93 MPH pitch from 60'6".

Nigel, we agree on Bach. The rest was me poking a bit of fun. The wifey and I are big fans of the UK and visit as often as we can.

HSH's article was awesome. I'd completely forgotten women's fast pitch softball. *That* is a game worth watching.

As for the original post, if a woman had all the parts to be competitive in the NFL or NBA, she'd be there. Money is the bottom line in professional sports and if a player helps win, how they tinkle is beside the point.

I'd add to the general male/female contrast that a much larger group of men start out in life in competitive sports, so there is a larger cohort winnowing itself out as players rise through high school and college to the professional ranks. So, men not only have the objective physical advantages, more of them participate, producing an even more distinct advantage at the end of the curve.

Hey, McKTx,
Just poking back with the spotted dick.
:-)

You Brits are so damn subtle.

So, Nigel, you commented upthread about the various US patois. Do you think the regional dialects in the UK are more or less varied than the difference between mainstream US vs UK?

I ask because I once met with five subjects of the Queen (witnesses to a case I was defending), one each from Scotland, London, Newcastle upon Tyne, Jersey and one other linguistically distinct place I can't recall. Everyone had difficulty understanding everyone else except me and the Londoner. That is, everyone understood me and the Londoner--and we understood each other--but no one of us could readily understand any of the four remaining. We'd catch part of a sentence but have real problems following the train of thought.

My takeaway was that regional dialects in the UK are even more pronounced than those in the US. What do you think?

The US benefits linguistically from physical mobility. That is, our people move around much more than folks in the UK seem to. As a result, the differences in pronunciation tend to get smoothed out -- because we all hear those around us speaking with slightly different accents.

We tweak our own accents (even more slightly) as a result. But all those slight tweaks add up to a much more homogenized set of accents. It may be noteworthy that the differences between regional accents which were quite noticible when we were kids are
now largely gone.

Once, a linguist could say "I can locate where anyone is from with great precision, just by hearing himm speak. In the case of New York City, sometimes to withing a dozen blocks." (He did make an exception for the West Coast, which even then was pretty much the same everywhere: "If you give someone from the West Coast a long Indian word, and they can pronounce it, they are from Washington or Oregon. If not, they are from California.")

My sense is that in the UK it is far less common for someone to pack up the family and move somewhere else. Even though the absolute distances are small in comparison. (Is that right, Nogel?) Which cuts down on the mixing opportunities. Everyone can understand BBC (basically London) English, but that is the end of it.


What was this thread about again....

I was rather surprised when I visited the Netherlands that all the locals I conversed with there spoke English with a distictly southern California accent rather than British.

I blamed Hollywood.

Damn, Nigel, I'm mixing threads.

Yeah, sorry about the (tongue in cheek) 'patois' dig:
class distinctions are embedded in the term...
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patois

I don't think one can really generalise about UK/US regional speech differences like that. I've found myself equally confounded by regional American or British accents on occasion if sufficiently thick, but not usually for very long, and not very often.
Regional differences here are also more blurred (certainly compared to when I was young), but equally I don't think they carry the quite the stigma they once did, so the motivation for 'losing' your accent is possibly less than once it was.

All this is just personal impressions, though. A professional linguist might have quite different ideas.

I read a novel on the subject which has stuck with me awhile: http://www.amazon.com/review/R1EHGM1PCU38A1/ref=cm_cr_dp_title?ie=UTF8&ASIN=0452272947&channel=detail-glance&nodeID=283155&store=books

And a graphic novel that covers similar ground: http://www.amazon.com/review/R1VVJWPO5QZMTE/ref=cm_cr_dp_cmt?ie=UTF8&ASIN=1934964794&channel=detail-glance&nodeID=283155&store=books#wasThisHelpful

Ugh mentioned ping-pong and pool upthread. Let me add: chess.

Physical prowess is explicitly not an advantage in chess, and yet men have always outperformed women at every level of competition. (That may not be true at lower, amateur levels in places like Russia.) Chess may not be a "sport", but it is most emphatically a game. That's why they're called chess players.

And that might explain the gender difference, and maybe not only in chess: men may be inherently more frivolous than women.

--TP

My meeting was in 1986, so the temporal element sounds logical.

I've found myself equally confounded by regional American or British accents on occasion if sufficiently thick, but not usually for very long, and not very often.

The year I taught English in France, my colleagues were fairly adamant that it was typically far easier for them to understand ESL anglophones in random 3rd-world countries than random Americans simply because the former might have an accent, but it was an accent on top of standard British English. Likewise, while my students didn't have much trouble understanding me (my American accent is not thick, and is more than a little fluid), of my colleagues the one they had the most trouble with was the solitary male who was also the only one of the nine who spoke English with an American accent (the rest had a hodge-podge of British accents ranging from very posh to very, very plebe).

Tony,

Let me add bridge to your comment about chess. There are hardly any women among the top ranks of tournament bridge players. This is discussed occasionally in bridge circles, but no consensus has been reached, especially since there are a number of non-skill-related factors that may play a role.

Note that this is true despite the fact that there are probably roughly equal numbers of male and female players.

Why couldn't a woman be a successful knuckleball pitcher?

For those unfamiliar with that, the knuckleball is a kind of pitch that is released softly, from the fingertips - not the knuckles. It requires no great arm strength because it travels slowly, like a lob. The trick is to avoid imparting spin when throwing the ball, so it moves very erratically and is hard to hit, or catch.

Because there is minimal arm strain involved knuckleballers sometimes pitch successfully well into their forties. Phil Niekro had a strong season for the Yankees at 45, and was effective for two years thereafter.

It's a hard pitch to learn, but it is not physically demanding.

And that might explain the gender difference, and maybe not only in chess: men may be inherently more frivolous than women.

Chess is also a psychological game in which one player may try and dominate the other.

This may be a game that men are, in the near-here-and-now, and in general, more suited to by virtue of millenia of practice. Just a suggestion; not intended to be a declaration of TRVTH.

Interesting conversation.

I'm sure Ronda Rousey could kick my man ass, but that's why I'm not a professional MMA fighter, right?

Not posing as a warrior or anything, but even at my peak fightworthiness, I wouldn't want to get on her bad side.

Her recent defeat notwithstanding. And likewise to a whole lot of other women, including women you have never heard of. I have sparred with a woman who could take me without working up much of a sweat, on the mat or on the street, and she has maybe only a few amateur bouts behind her. 5th dan taekwondo.

You have to be someone fairly scary to say, and back up, that there isn't a woman who can take you. Men have an edge, but it's only an edge if skill, conditioning, etc are relatively equal.

I ask because I once met with five subjects of the Queen (witnesses to a case I was defending), one each from Scotland, London, Newcastle upon Tyne, Jersey and one other linguistically distinct place I can't recall. Everyone had difficulty understanding everyone else except me and the Londoner.

I have a good buddy from Falkirk, Scotland. I have no idea what the hell he is talking about, ever. He has to repeat himself about five times for me to understand him, and even at that he has to use a handful of different words for the same thing, so that I can kind of triangulate in on what he's trying to say.

I have another good friend from Limerick, Ireland. I can pretty much understand him. I recently had a chat with a guy from Cork, Ireland. Both this guy and my buddy speak with recognizably Irish accents, but I don't know if they would be able to understand each other.

Cork is about 50 miles from Limerick, as the crow flies.

Apropos of the accent thing, and because we needs a movie reference:

Brad Pitt's incomprehensible accent.

Tony P re chess, I have to say that as a woman, once I got good enough to beat most men I knew at chess (including several well-ranked players), I couldn't get people to play with me. None of the men wanted to be beaten by a girl. So I stopped playing chess. I tried Go for a while, but the same thing happened. So I don't play any more.

Back before women's (ice) hockey leagues, I knew several very good female players (late teens) who weren't allowed to play because, again, none of the guys wanted to be beaten by girl. They all ended up pursuing other sports.

that's one nice thing about on-line games: you don't necessarily know who your opponent is.

Bluefoot, good points.

None of the men wanted to be beaten by a girl.

I can certainly see why that might be a (major) issue in individual sports. But with team sports, especially when the teams are in leagues, the other team doesn't really have much choice in the matter. I suppose that there might be an issue with guys not wanting to be beaten out for a place on the team during tryouts -- but that would seem to be the coach's decision, not theirs.

I should perhaps note that I was involved for some years (OK, 26 years) in a martial arts type sport where everybody competed together. No seperate mens and womens divisions, no weight classes, no age classes -- you were either in or you were out. And, FYI, it involved wearing 50-60 pounds of armor. The people involved were not, in general, particularly athletic otherwise; actually the biggest single group was computer programmers.

In my experience, while women were less likely to take it up, those who did were equally likely to excel. Fewer women hit the top level, but only because there were fewer women period; percentage-wise things were close to equal.

They did put on more muscle as a result, but not a massive amount. One lady I trained said that she watched her weight pretty closely and, during the first year she was fighting, it didn't change. But when she went to buy new clothes, she suddenly was two dress sizes smaller. Muscle is denser than fat." -- her words.

I suppose that experience is part of why I get skeptical of the arguments about women's lack of physical capability for sports....

P.S. Does anyone know if Dr Science is on vacation or something? I would have expected her to weigh in before now....

I suppose that experience is part of why I get skeptical of the arguments about women's lack of physical capability for sports....

Yeah, exactly. Those female hockey players I knew couldn't get the experience to play at the elite level. Thankfully, a lot has changed since then. At least a couple of them have young daughters who are learning hockey.

We might see things open up more in other physically demanding areas way before sports. Like the military. It will be interesting to see how things change as more women participate.

Like the military.

Excellent point. Before last year, everybody was sure that no woman could complete the Army's Ranger School. But a couple just did. Certainly most women couldn't do it. But then, barely half of the men who try manage it. (2 of 19 women went "straight through" this year, compared to 40 of 364 men. That's roughly 10% each.)

And, naturally, one of our Congressional dinosaurs has claimed already that the Army fudged the standards so that those two women could graduate. Which the Army denies -- vehemently. (Sorry, even here politics manages to stick its nose in.)

I suppose that there might be an issue with guys not wanting to be beaten out for a place on the team during tryouts -- but that would seem to be the coach's decision, not theirs.

It's not just losing a place, there's also the "threat" of being outshone by a woman. It may be the coach's decision to play someone or not, but it's the team's decisions as to how to receive such an "interloper", and isolation and hostility can be very persuasive.

bluefoot, I apologize for men, all of us, every one of them.

Think of the limp you-know-what violence that's going to result when Hillary Clinton kicks Donald Trump's ample behind in the general election.

It'll be worse, from his same supporters, if he wins, but we'll burn that bridge down after we cross it.

Couple of things about baseball that I might not have covered ad nauseum in previous threads.

There's a woman who plays shortstop in another team in my over-55 men's (not exclusively, obviously) baseball league. I'm the fastest guy in the league. Play center field. Can run anything down. Just saying. I pinch run for a lot of the other guys on my team when I'm not on base.

Their knees are shot.

Last summer, I hit a hard shot deep in the hole between short and third and she dove and back-handed that thing and threw a strike to first base and got me by an eyelash.

The only bad feeling I had about it is that she's not on my team. She's a fair hitter too.

She'd have to play third or short, however, because we have the best amateur shortstop in the Denver area, bar none, including much younger guys who the two of us played against for years before moving on to the permanent wave.

Regarding major league ballplayers not being able to hit fast-pitch softball. They could, given time and practice.

Couple of theories. Most professional ballplayers, despite the coaching, have idiosyncratic batting stances unto their individual selves. If you notice, nearly every woman in fast-pitch softball, all great athletes, has what looks to me like identical stances and swings tailored for those pitches.

It's a different sport in many ways.

I actually find fast-pitch softball a little boring, despite being a fan of pitching duels in baseball. The former is a much more pitcher-dominant sport than baseball.

Second, in baseball, the ball is coming from the pitcher, except for the occasional side-armer or submariner over the top and in a downward plane. Yes, there are pitchers whose fastballs will tail up at the last moment, and those are deadly, especially when you have two strikes on you.

In fast-pitch softball the ball is starting low and rising, though yes it can dip. That's a whole different animal to make contact with.

I couldn't do it. Too late to start now.

I play slow-pitch softball too.

Years ago, when I played on men's competitive traveling teams, we qualified for a world tourney and played in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, in a baseball stadium.

Got our butts kicked by a Mexican team, all little guys by comparison, but who could hit in front of the outfielders and over their heads when we moved in. Wicked power.

But the best professional female slow-pitch softball player I ever saw was there on an exhibition team, meaning you volunteered to play them and have your heads handed to you for the pleasure.

Ozzie Canseco, brother of Jose, managed the team and the lady I speak of was his girlfriend, and their third baseman. She wore lipstick and had long, bright red painted long fingernails and a long ponytail tied with a red ribbon.

The best players at the tourney played them and she snagged every hot shot down the third base line, laying full out for some of them and displayed a gun to first base.

Did head-first slides on the base paths.

She looked no worse for the wear when the game was over, except for the sweat, because it was hot.

She could back up the outfield too, and this was a baseball stadium.

Not as far as Ozzie Canseco could back them up however. He hit a softball over the 390 foot center field fence and cleared the trees behind it and for all I know plopped into the ocean two miles away and probably knocked a big fish senseless.

It wasn't a "fly ball". It was line drive all the way.

wj, it wasn't just Congresscritters claiming that the female Rangers were graded on a curve. It was an article of faith among large, vocal swaths of combat arms Soldiers and veterans who all knew a buddy's buddy who was a Ranger Instructor, and had the inside scoop about how "the girls" were carrying packs half the weight of the men, getting graded personally by a general, going in from the field every few nights, getting pre-course coaching, being guaranteed to pass or the RI failing them would be relieved for cause, etc. etc. etc. As the cadre at the Ranger School observed, for a lot of people there was nothing short of walking the lanes with the trainees that could have convinced them otherwise, and for more than a few even that wouldn't do it. I think more than a little of this attitude, beside the normal BS that gets rolled out every time the discussion of women in combat arms surfaces is that Ranger School is a mark of distinction, and graduates don't want their badge of honor "cheapened" by being so watered down that even a "girl" could pass it (since ofc that's the only way one ever could) - or if a Soldier didn't make the cut to be accepted or pass it, they hated the idea that some weak-@ss woman succeeded where they failed. Lots and lots of testosterone and macho BS, and sadly all quite relevant to the topic at hand as well...

Regarding "playing by and with yourself" (we're still talking sports here, aren't we?), when I was a kid, I spent the better part of summers hitting a baseball straight up into the air with a fungo bat and then quickly picking up my glove, running like heck and catching the thing.

Trees, downspouts, and fences proved to be immovable objects.

Regarding hitting a baseball, or softball. Hand-eye and wrists. Henry Aaron was 5'11" and weighed no more than 180 at his heaviest during his 20+ year career.

Ichiro Suzuki, a little guy by today's standards, is thought of as a singles hitter and indeed he is. But in batting practice he can change his swing and hit ball after ball into the upper deck, or could not too many years ago.

I'm 5'10" and weigh 165. I can still hit a baseball (wood bat league) out on occasion, given my pitch. I can still hit a softball out too, but because metal bat technology is so advanced these days (Lockheed Martin and Northrup-Grumman must manufacture them) they have deadened the balls to such an extent so the pitchers aren't killed, that I rarely bother trying, unless the wind is blowing out.

I'm too cheap to buy the super-charged bats.

Besides, I'm a lead-off hitter and getting on base for the thirty-year-old power hitters with the titanium bats is my job.

I have bat speed, which is key too.

One of the reasons I suspect that women will eventually make it in the majors is this. Lots of boys play in Little League with girls. So if a girl makes her high school team, several of her teammates will be boys she has been playing alongside for years. It should tend to make the problem of social ostracization much less.

From there to the minors will be a bigger step. But scouts are paid to find the best baseball players.

And even with a lot of pushback from other players, a woman who is determined to make it just needs to keep in mind two words: Jackie Robinson. Whatever hassle she gets will be a walk in the park compared to the hell that man went through. "If he could cope, then I can cope" is a powerful thought.

I admit that I get bored watching major league baseball games on occasion.

But never while playing.

The thing about baseball, except for the sacrifice bunt, is there is never a play on, unlike in football or basketball.

Anything can happen and usually does.

Pitcher releases ball, batter hits it or not. After that, all bets are off.

Also, wj mentioned above the importance of an infielder's first step in getting to the ball. Very true. My shortstop buddy I mentioned has an uncanny first step, even though I can beat him in a footrace by a wide margin.

In the outfield, speed is of course important, but route to the ball is just as vital.

I forgot to mention that I'm nearly blind in one eye too from a childhood accident. Playing baseball wouldn't you know. My entire baseball/softball life has been adjusting for that as hitter and in the outfield with depth perception deficits.

I don't even notice it any longer, except maybe the first day of spring practice.

I will also admit that at my age now in the outfield and running full speed for the ball, my eyeballs jiggle up and down.

Didn't expect that, but there it is.

Count, do you suppose there is a sports bra for eyeballs? (I better go get some rest. My mind seems to be doing strange things....)

Blogging, like baseball as characterized by Casey Stengel, has a pace that allows its participants to develop peculiarities of the mind.

I'm trying to think how the sports bra for my eyeballs invention is going to go over in the dugout.

Would I wear my glasses over the sports bra, or what?

The Eyeball Jiggles

Good band name?

Echoing byomtov's point, I've often thought that if a woman ever played MLB, she'd be a knuckleballer, probably a reliever. Or, more doubtful about this, a second base-person. I don't expect to see a woman to play a "power" position like first base or the corner outfield spots, or to have the arm strength to play center field, third, or short -- or catcher. Second base doesn't require a great arm, but the take-outs on the pivot plays will be brutal. Even a knuckleballing starter needs to be able to throw a few slightly below MLB average fastballs. (When Phil Niekro won his 300th game, he didn't throw a single knuckler until his last batter, probably just to prove a point.) So my guess is the first women major leaguer will be a knuckleballing reliever.

Given how recent it is that women have begun to have equal access in sports - for example http://www.thefa.com/news/my-football/players/2015/may/more-to-benefit-from-mixed-football
- it's going to be some time before this debate is going to be anywhere near settled.

And iirc women are still banned from Olympic ski jumping with arguments right from the 19th century (i.e. their fertility would suffer because their utera would react negatively to the strain).

Harmut, that's absurd. Women are allowed to compete in ski jumping in the Olympics, and have been pretty much forever. I mean, geez, since what... 2014?

And of course, there's this kind of crap...
http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2004/jan/16/football.gender

That was a decade ago, you say ? ...
http://www.theguardian.com/football/2015/jun/16/make-up-shorts-improving-womens-game-brazil

Second base doesn't require a great arm, but the take-outs on the pivot plays will be brutal.

True. Though maybe someone with ballet training would be well-equipped to dodge them. There's a certain dance quality to the double play. Could be interesting, may be far-fetched.

Going back to that SI article I linked to upthread, it seems to me that what they've hit upon with the "chunking theory" would apply to human cognition (hell, maybe even animal cognition) in general. What they've seen in sports and chess may simply be specific, specialized and highly advanced instances of what happens at the earliest stages of cognitive development - the sort of thing that, say, makes vision useful generally.

I imagine there is some genetically hardwired recognition involved with infants interpreting sensory inputs, but it seems to me that basic visual processing, for instance, is a matter of cataloging patterns that occur repeatedly and applying them to be able to focus on what's critical to understanding what you're seeing without having to look at every detail in your field of vision and consciously process it.

So a five-year-old would be like a novice volleyball player and a 25-year-old would be like an expert volleyball player, but instead of interpreting what's happening on a volleyball court, they would be doing day-to-day things like navigating through a crowd of people or looking for the entrance to a building or finding the start button on a piece of machinery - whatever not-so-specialized human activity you can come up with.

Some of this is discussed in a 1999 Malcolm Gladwell article in the New Yorker.

He discusses the notion of "physical genius," the sort of thing that lets great basketball or hockey players make remarkable anticipatory plays.

it seems to me that what they've hit upon with the "chunking theory" would apply to human cognition . . . in general.

I wonder if that's why kids seem to start out reading with the "word unit" approach. Unless, that is, someone deliberately starts them with phonics.

wj,

That is possible in English. The children's books consist of short words, usually with no more than two syllables. In addition, many of those words have only a fleeting connection between phonemes and graphemes. In effect, English is a language written with graphemes consisting of syllables and words. Those graphemes are further broken down into single letters in a way that has little internal logic. If you approach written English words as word-signs, you have the correct understanding of the nature of the language.

In my country, Finnish has an almost exact one-to-one correspondence between phonemes and graphemes. I have never heard about children learning to read via word-chunk approach.

The Pentagon announced Thursday that it will, for the first time, allow women to assume all combat roles in the U.S. military. "There will be no exceptions," Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said at a news conference announcing the change, which negates a 1994 rule restricting women from artillery, armor, infantry, and other combat roles (at least officially; female soldiers often wound up in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan).
[...]

Women Can Assume All Combat Roles in U.S. Military, Despite Marine Objections: Gender equality arrives on the battlefield.

well done, America.

In significant part, the decision to "allow women in all combat roles" is merely a recognition of reality. Women have been ending up in combat situations, and coping with them, for years. All this really means is that they will get more and better training for combat.

And one wonders when the first woman combatant will win a Congressional Medal of Honor.** No doubt it will be as controversial as the first openly gay serviceman to win it.

** I deliberately phrased that as "woman combatant" in recognition of Mary Edwards Walker, a doctor who received the Army Medal of Honor in the Civil War. (And whose Medal the Army retracted 50 years later.) A century and a half later, she remains the only woman to win the Medal of Honor.

wj,

At the current speed, the first female Medal of Honor recipient is decades ahead. I would not use the verb "win", as most ways to earn the Medal are suicidal, like falling on a grenade to protect others.

The number of Medals of Homor in Iraq War was, if I remember correctly, about a dozen. That means about one every year for 100,000 troops committed to a medium-scale "small war". If the proportion of female servicemen in roles where they might end up doing something warranting a Medal of Honor is around 5 %, it means that you need some 20 years of Iraq-level conflict to get a female Medal of Homor recipient, and she will get it posthumously.

The proportion I used is pretty low, and I apologize for it. It is not meant to belittle women in the military. However, it is quite likely that a disproportionate number of female servicemen end up in support roles, so infantry and other combat troops will not have 10% woman quotient. (I base my point on my experience from Finnish Defence Forces. Even there, women who were doing their conscription voluntarily usually applied for service assignments that were more "feminine", like logistics and maintenance, cooking, company clerk, signals, canine handler or medic. Very few women of my cohort served as combat soldiers, though there were some. The best sergeant I've ever had is a woman.)

It's only fitting that women be accorded the formal status of military combatants, since they've served as informal combatants throughout history, but most recently in constant armed attacks on Planned Parenthood facilities, domestic violence and rape, and being blown to Hell in drone attacks, to touch on a few sore points.

Men have been trying to dispense violence equally on women for eons, so why shouldn't women join the club and give some of it back.

Certainly ISIS and terrorist organizations around the world have proven women can be deadly, savage warriors and cannon fodder.

The Pakistani woman in San Bernadino certainly didn't betray any deficiency in bringing the awesome tools of war to her enemies, whatever the pointless reason.

I was struck by the image in the "Misreading Ivanhoe" thread, which I was aware of before, of civilians, many among them women, during the Civil War making themselves a picnic outing on the heights along the battlefields outside Washington D.C. early in the War as the Confederacy laid siege, while below on the battlefield the men made bloody charred meat of each other in the bogus name of honor and chivalry.

In the world we live in now, chivalry, always a hit and miss proposition, but surely now long dead, those men in the Civil War would turn their weapons on the picnicking women as a way of making their killing statements by acts of "terror".

The remarkable fact of World War I, a brutal meat grinder for much of Europe's stock of young men, was how the battle was confined to designated battlefields as delicate poets got a taste of pointless savagery.

Civilians, for the most part, were not deliberately targeted, as horribly deadly as the battlefields were.

The more remarkable fact is that twenty years later in World War II, technology (aerial bombing) and mostly German, but also Soviet, and late in the war British and American decisions to target civilian populations, some for extinction, one way or another increased the ratio of civilian-to-male warrior casualties by some exponential amount compared to World War I.

In the Pacific theater, you had the Rape of Nanking, among other atrocities.

Now, all of us are the targets.

Welcome to the f*cking human race, ladies ...... and children.

I guess I find equality in this instance a dubious proposition. I'd rather more men refuse to engage on warfare than the other way round, with women eager to join them.

I'd rather all of us stay home peacefully and play baseball together as equals.

Or, maybe the world will make the full round trip and we'll return to the largely mythical world of Ivanhoe, except that it will be only women in full armor on horseback jousting and slashing each other with broadswords for the kill.

Then we men can lounge on the sidelines dropping grapes into each others' mouths as we score the carnage.


Lurker, good point. I should have said "be awarded" rather than "win."

And then there's the story of Jackie Mitchell. She struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, and the baseball commissioner promptly voided her contract. So of course the claim since then is that they struck out on purpose, although neither of them ever said that. (This story makes the rounds regularly on Tumblr, which is why I know about it.)

Also, in the article linked above by Malcolm Gladwell, he is really just riffing on the paper "The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance" by Anders Ericsson et al. and the work by De Groot and Chase and Simon on chess players. These studies are mentioned in the article previously linked about Jennie Finch. Gladwell doesn't bother to cite the actual papers or authors, of course.

The world awaits the introduction of sensha-do!
http://gup.wikia.com/wiki/Sensha-dou

What is needed is encouraging more women to participate in sports. Adult women just don't have the strength and speed necessary to compete in most sports including baseball, so saying they should compete with men could only be discouraging for the vast majority.

Women can pitch only about 70% as fast as men, whether it's a hardball or softball. This is mostly a matter of strength. But reflexes and vision of the batter are the same. Thus in baseball or cricket if the pitcher/bowler-batter distance is about the same this would seem to give a greater advantage to the hitter in all-women's ball than in men's ball. Of course in women's softball the diamond is actually smaller so the balance is similar (though it actually swings to pitching somewhat).

The difference in size, strength and speed is much less before adolescence. In fact girls often start their growth spurt earlier, so some may actually have a (brief) advantage in little league. Although Mo'ne Davis was not especially large.

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