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Bill Plaschke writes like a hack

March 8, 2011

Here’s the good news: Last week, Marti Sementelli and Ghazaleh Sailors made history, and the national news, by becoming the first female pitchers to square off against each other in a high-school baseball game.

Here’s the bad news: The LA Times entrusted this story to Bill Plaschke. You may know Bill as the guy who almost singlehandedly kept the team at Fire Joe Morgan busy for years—but since FJM’s gone sadly dark, allow me to pinch-hit.

Now, Bill’s a guy who’s never met a cliche he didn’t swoon over, never missed an opportunity to coat sentimentality with condescension, never lost his faith in the power of the unnecessary carriage return to confer profundity on an incredibly banal thought.

Like this.

But introduce a couple of extra X-chromosomes into the picture, and he goes wild. Let’s see how long it takes him to drop the most thumpingly obvious cliche possible into this arti—….

The probable starting pitchers were two improbable dreams.

On the mound for the Lake Balboa Birmingham High boys’ baseball team was a 5-foot-2 righty with a wicked changeup, a cut fastball, and a whole heap of black hair stuffed under her cap.

Her name was Marti Sementelli, and she does not throw like a girl.

Oh. Okay, then. Three sentences.

Maybe we shouldn’t be so hard on Bill for this one, because a quick Google search reveals that apparently, while I wasn’t paying attention, the Republican-controlled Congress passed a law forbidding any journalist to write an article about either of these players without using the phrase “throw like a girl” at least once. (That ESPN guy—the one who wrote the mostly non-infuriating article linked at the top of the post—is on somebody’s watch list now.) We’ll even glide right past the obligatory ponytails-and-pink-batting-gloves references. But what’s this?

For what is believed to be the first time in history, two high school boys’ baseball teams played a game in which both starting pitchers were girls.

It was not an exhibition. It was not a joke. It was a serious seven-inning battle between two boys’ teams led by girls who had fought to stand at their center.

Are we clear on this? These are boys’ teams. Baseball is a boys’ sport. The girls are special guests in a boys’ world. Boys! (In case you’re still confused, Bill helpfully tells us that “They took the mound looking like small boys, purposely showing no hair under their caps, as Sementelli’s hair was pinned up and Sailors’ hair was cut.” I’m envisioning a blockbuster sequel called Yentl Takes the Mound. Barbra, can you hear me?) Understand, please, that I’m the last one to deny or devalue the barriers these amazing kids have had to smash in order to face off against each other; I’d simply suggest that the real story here is that they’ve integrated their teams, not that they’re exceptional outsiders on a one-time pass. How many girls does it take before it’s not a boys’ team anymore?

Brace yourself for this one:

In a world where softball is supposed to keep women quiet and happy, it indeed has been difficult for those who have insisted on making our national pastime truly national for everybody.

Sweet baby Jesus in the bulrushes, Bill, have you ever watched Olympic fast-pitch softball? Have you ever heard of Dot Richardson? Have you ever even met a lesbian? Believe it or not, you can advocate for inclusiveness in baseball (not that you ever have before, ahem) without dissing and dismissing the many, many women—and men—who play softball. Why bother, though, when it’s so much easier to write a one-sentence paragraph that reinforces (even as it clucks and shakes its head at) the 1950s worldview you find so reassuring?

We’re almost done:

Like Sementelli at Birmingham, Sailors has finally found a home at San Marcos, where she is a valued member of the team even if she has to dress in a storage shed with a kid guarding the door. Together, Saturday, on a Birmingham field awash in the warmth of acceptance, the two pitchers reveled in a new and wondrous space.

Awww. I love new and wondrous spaces! Although nothing says “gender inclusiveness” like a good storage shed, amirite, ladies?

Congratulations, Marti and Ghazaleh. You know what you throw like? You throw like whoa.


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