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Forgetting Ila Borders

5/7/2010

Just now, a surprising note came over the transom:

    Spokane native Tiffany Brooks made sporting history Wednesday by becoming the first woman to make the roster of a professional baseball team in more than 50 years.

    Brooks tried out for the Big Bend Cowboys from Alpine, Texas and found out on Wednesday she'd made the team. She's set to make her professional debut Thursday night, playing either first base or pitching. Or both. She reportedly throws an 82-mile-an-hour fastball.

I'm trying to track down a box score, but all I know right now is that the Cowboys lost to the Las Cruces Cowboys last night, 6-4 (as you might guess, Continental Baseball League executives don't have a great deal of time to spend updating websites). Also, I'm not completely sure if the Continental Baseball League is actually "professional." According to the Coastal Kingfish website, "Players will not be paid, but players will not have to pay to play, players will have to find their own lodging in El Paso."

But let's assume Ms. Brooks did play last night. Is she really the first woman to play professional baseball in more than 50 years?

This is an odd claim, given how easy it us to look up such things.

Just 10 years ago, Ila Borders concluded her four-year professional career with five appearances as a reliever with the Western League's Zion Pioneerzz. Previously, she'd pitched in 49 games in the Northern League, starting 12 of them. Her career record as a pro: two wins, four losses, a 6.75 ERA, and not nearly enough strikeouts.

I've got an entry for Borders here:

    Ila Borders (Northern League)

    Report: "She says her best pitch is the screwball, which she uses against righthanded batters, along with the curve ball and the fastball (both cut and sinking). Lefthanded hitters can expect to see her slider, changeup, and the fastball (both cut and straight)."

    Source: The National Pastime: Number 20 (SABR, 2000, article by Jean Hastings Ardell)

In 2003, Borders was inducted into the Baseball Reliquary:

    Ila Borders walked to the podium to a standing ovation from the audience. She described her life as being “a fairy tale” and offered thanks to her parents, both of whom were in attendance. Her father, Phil, who had played professionally himself, worked closely with her on the “mechanics” of the game since she was a child. Her mother, Marianne, drove her to games and practices, and it was from her that she inherited her “heart” and drive to succeed.

    Borders also acknowledged the presence of Mr. and Mrs. Jim Wadley, former owners of the Duluth-Superior Dukes of the Northern League, for whom she enjoyed her longest stint in professional baseball. She thanked the Wadleys for allowing her to become a starting pitcher for the first time at the pro level, and then proudly flashed her 1997 Northern League championship ring, which she earned as a member of the Dukes.

Borders pitched eight innings for the Dukes in 1997, went winless (and lossless) with a 7.56 ERA. But she's got her ring, and I believe that she was paid. We'll see if Tiffany Brooks can match that.

(Double-tip of the cap to BTF's Newsstand)