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Lizzie Arlington is regarded by many historians as the first female to play organized baseball in the 19th century. Ed Barrow, a future member of the Hall of Fame, claimed he brought her into professional baseball when he served as president for the Atlantic League. Details of her brief stint in professional ball remained virtually unknown until Al Kermisch, a baseball enthusiast and researcher, ferreted them out.
Arlington came from the Pennsylvania Coal Region, where she played baseball with her father and brothers. By then, a promoter named William J. Connor, after watching her play, engaged Arlington for $100.00 a week in the hope of making money on her as a gate attraction. She debuted in 1898 while pitching for the reserve team of the Philadelphia Nationals. Thereafter, she pitched and played at infield against several professional clubs. She also did well playing for the New York Athletic Club.
On July 5, 1898, Arlington appeared briefly with the Reading Coal Heavers of the Atlantic League in a regulation Minor league game against the Allentown Peanuts. It is reported that more than a thousand fans, including 200 women, attended mostly, according to the Reading Eagle newspaper, to see what she looked like and what she wore. They were not disappointed. Lizzie entered the grounds in a "stylish carriage drawn by two white horses" and, responding to applause by lifting her cap, revealed her hair done in the latest fashion. She wore black stockings and a gray uniform with knee-length skirt.
During the pre-game practice, Arlington played second base like a professional, "even down to expectorating on her hands and wiping them on her uniform", according to the report. Reading was leading 5–0 in the ninth inning, which prompted team's manager to use her in to pitch. Though she allowed two hits and walked a batter to load the bases, Arlington succeeded in retiring the next three batters to preserve the victory, as the crowd enthusiastically shouted "Good for Lizzie!"
The verdict of the Eagle's sports writer was that Arlington might do all right among amateurs but lacked control and the strength to get much speed in the ball. However, he added, "for a woman, she is a success." A writer for the Hartford Courant, anticipating her coming to play for the locals against the Newark team, commented, "It is said that she plays ball like a man and talks ball like a man and if it was not for her bloomers she would be taken for a man on the diamond, having none of the peculiarities of women ball players." But authorities cancelled the appearance of Arlington in Hartford, reportedly because the home team management wanted to take no chances on losing the game, and thereafter her name disappeared from the sports pages.
Apart from Lizzie Arlington and a handful of other female players, women's baseball in the 19th century caricatured the game. But she was part of a segment, however minor, of the women's movement in baseball who took the game seriously.