Dale Gear – Baseball’s Best Kept Secret
If you are a fan of baseball, then you will want to read on. Baseball isn’t just about salaries, championships, endorsements, and fan fees. It is also a sport that is deeply rooted in a substantial part of world history. Yes, I said world history. Many historical events occurred many decades ago within the game of baseball, helping to shape the landscape of civil rights in the United States of America.
In 1901, women in the United States were still on the long and difficult road to achieving their civil rights under the law. In 1903 the National League of Women’s Unions was created to advocate for better wages and working conditions for women. In the midst of all this struggle and progress there was a secret story that was taking place in the baseball game that no one knew about, a secret so deeply kept that it actually lay dormant for 100 years until finally the silence was broken by a lady named Winifred. Gear Swanson. You may be wondering who Winifred Gear Swanson is and that would be a good question. So here is the good answer, she is Dale Gear’s 96 year old great granddaughter; The only woman to ever play professional baseball in the major leagues! Your eyes are not deceiving you right now; I wrote that she was the first and only woman to play in the major leagues.
Dale Dudley Gear played for the Washington Senators in 1901 as an outfielder and pitcher in his first year in the American League and it was also Dale Gear’s first and only season. The manager of the team at the time was Mr. Jimmy Manning; He had convinced Dale Gear to promise him that he would not reveal his true identity to anyone, so this remained an open family secret in the Gear house for decades. Imagine the implications that could have emerged from the news that a woman was playing alongside the men of that day. As I mentioned earlier, women had only just begun to achieve minimal levels of equality within society, a woman playing baseball of all things would have been completely unheard of, and as she is in today’s society, she still is.
In fact, the Baseball Encyclopedia lists Dale Gear as an active player for the Washington Senators in 1901 as an outfielder and pitcher who hit .232 as an outfielder and had a 4-11 record and a 4.03-era as a pitcher. Although the Encyclopedia lists Gear, her gender is not mentioned, only a middle name that hints that she is a male. Winifred Gear Swanson states that it is true that Dudley was her middle name, but it was the “family” name, so it was not uncommon for women in her family to wear it.
Ms. Swanson has plenty of evidence to substantiate his claim that his great-grandmother was, in fact, Dale Gear, the baseball player. She was able to present a birth certificate stating her name and, in the section marked with gender, the girl is indicated. You also have some very important and valuable memories. A photo signed by the Senators’ team showing the inscription “Our Dale, the best ballplayer in the country”, and if that is not enough, Ms. Swanson also produced an autographed baseball with Dale Gear’s signature. . This ball and other memorabilia were to be auctioned in order to raise money to build a Women’s Baseball Museum in Lone Elm, the town where Dale lived, and we can all guess who will be the first member of the team. Ms. Swanson felt it was time to share this tremendous story with the rest of the world, and I thank him for that. It is an important piece of history and also a source of inspiration. Women can achieve a lot in today’s society, whether in sports or any other endeavor, and we are fortunate to have these treasured stories and bits of history to remind us that the impossible is more possible than we can imagine. with perseverance and passion.
Barry Halper, a well-known sports memorabilia collector, managed to get himself a used Dale Gear uniform, which had a giant W on the front and didn’t actually have a number on it. When asked why he bought this instead of the HOF uniforms he is known to collect, his reason was simple, it belonged to a woman. How did he know? She found a bra worn inside the uniform, the only bra ever worn in a professional Major League game, that’s a bra that wouldn’t burn in the name of progress. Looking back at the Dale Gear photos, I have to honestly say that she was the prettiest pitcher / planter I have ever seen. As a sports fan and collector of sports memorabilia and cards, I can appreciate this story on many levels. As a woman this story has an even broader image, one that should inspire and ignite all women to set their goals and not that there are no limits, nothing can be achieved if you try, even if you are just a girl.