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May 9, 2013

Sharon Poole gave girls a Little League incentive

(Continued)

The series was recognized in the category of Best Feature Articles in the interest of youth, which gave The Haverhill Gazette some notice that year.

More importantly, it put intolerance to rest and opened some very big doors in our national pastime. James Waldron, the mayor at that time, filed legislation to eliminate discrimination on city property.

Waldron filed the measure with the City Council as an outgrowth (and outcry) of a Little League decision to ban this young girl from playing.

His ordinance provided that any discrimination against an individual because of race, religion, sex or nationality would prevent an organization from the use of any municipal field.

Either play Sharon Poole or remove yourself from our ball parks. It was a firm and resolute edict that ruffled a few feathers and drew national attention, much like that discrimination suit against the Haverhill Country Club some years ago.

After starring in two games, the freckled-faced redhead who was called “Sweetie Bird” was kicked off the team by a vote of the managers and coaches of other teams in the league.

The mayor may have been influenced a little by his wife and four daughters who, undoubtedly, went to bat for this young heroine who was billed an “illegal player” in the league.

After all was said and done, she got reinstated — the first girl ever, I was told, in the United States.

Aside from making Life Magazine, she appeared on the Dick Cavett Show. Newsweek followed The Boston Globe. The New York Times ran a half-page story with the headline, “The Town Doesn’t Support Her.”

Here’s what a Boston Globe editorial said about the flap:

“One expects occasional scandals in adult baseball. Shoeless Joe Jackson yesterday. Denny McLain today. No doubt, someone else tomorrow. It is the way of sports flesh in the wicked grown-up world.

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