CCSS

R.1, R.2, W.2, W.4, W.7


The Secret History ofLittle League’s First Girl 

Today you can sign up for almost any sport you want. But it wasn’t so easy for Tubby Johnston.

Courtesy of Kathryn Johnston Massar/World of Little League Museum (Tubby Johnston); Nor Gal/Shutterstock.com (Glove)

    In the spring of 1950, a new kid named Tubby Johnston showed up for Little League tryouts in Corning, New York. No one recognized him. But he was good—really good. It was no surprise when Tubby made the team.

    About a week later, the new kid shocked everyone. Tubby revealed that his real name was Kathryn. For the first time ever, a girl was playing Little League Baseball.

    It was 1950. A kid named Tubby Johnston tried out for Little League in Corning, New York. No one recognized him. But he was good. He made the team.

    A week later, Tubby shared some news: His real name was Kathryn. For the first time, a girl was playing Little League Baseball.

    In the spring of 1950, a new kid named Tubby Johnston showed up for Little League tryouts in Corning, New York. No one recognized him, but he was good—really good. It was no surprise when Tubby made the team.

    A week later, Tubby shocked everyone when he revealed that his real name was Kathryn. For the first time ever, a girl was playing Little League Baseball.

It’s Not Fair

    When Kathryn Johnston was growing up, it wasn’t easy for a girl to play sports. At school, girls could join the tennis, swimming, or track team. Usually, those were the only choices. At the 1948 Summer Olympics, there were 136 events. Women competed in 19 of them.

    But Kathryn loved sports. She played baseball with her father whenever she could. Pretty soon, she could hit better than her brother, Tommy. But it was Tommy who got to play Little League. Kathryn told her mother it wasn’t fair. Her mother’s response: “Why don’t you try out?”

    Together, they cut off Kathryn’s long braids. Kathryn borrowed a pair of Tommy’s pants. She tucked the rest of her hair under one of his hats. By the end of the day, she was playing first base for the King’s Dairy team.

    When Kathryn Johnston was young, sports were mainly for boys. At school, girls could join the tennis, swim, or track team. That was about it. The 1948 Summer Olympics had 136 events. Only 19 were for women.

    Kathryn loved sports. She played baseball with her dad. She got better and better. Pretty soon, she could hit better than her brother, Tommy. But Tommy got to play Little League, and Kathryn did not. She told her mom it wasn’t fair. Her mom’s response: “Why don’t you try out?”

    Together, they cut off Kathryn’s long braids. Kathryn put on a pair of Tommy’s pants. She tucked the rest of her hair under one of his hats. Before long, she was playing on a team.

    When Kathryn Johnston was growing up, there weren’t many opportunities for girls to play sports. At school, girls could join the tennis, swimming, or track team. Usually, those were the only choices. At the 1948 Summer Olympics, women competed in only 19 of the 136 events.

    But Kathryn loved sports. She played baseball with her father whenever she could. Pretty soon, she could hit better than her brother, Tommy—but it was Tommy who got to play Little League. When Kathryn told her mother it wasn’t fair, her mother responded, “Why don’t you try out?”

    Together, they cut off Kathryn’s long braids. Kathryn borrowed a pair of Tommy’s pants and tucked the rest of her hair under one of his hats. By the end of the day, she was playing first base for the King’s Dairy team.

Secret’s Out

    Before long, Kathryn realized she couldn’t keep her secret forever. So she told the coach. “If you’re good enough to make the team,” he said, “you’re good enough to stay on the team.”

    Kathryn’s teammates welcomed her right away. But players from other teams tried to push her around. Parents told her she didn’t belong on the field. “They could see that I was a better player than some of their sons,” Kathryn says.

    But Kathryn was the last girl to play for a long time. After that season, Little League officially banned girls from playing. The decision became known as the “Tubby Rule.” 

    In the next 20 years, the world changed. Women fought for equal rights. A law called Title IX was passed in 1972. It required public schools to offer more sports for girls. And in 1974, Little League finally got rid of the Tubby Rule. 

    Since then, hundreds of thousands of girls have played Little League Baseball. Millions more have participated in high school sports. Kathryn—who is 81 now—has advice for them all. “You need to dream big,” she says. “Because that’s what I did.”

    Kathryn knew she couldn’t keep her secret forever. So she told the coach. “If you’re good enough to make the team,” he said, “you’re good enough to stay on the team.”

    Kathryn’s teammates were kind. But some boys on other teams tried to push her around. Parents told her she didn’t belong on the field. “They could see that I was a better player than some of their sons,” Kathryn says.

    Kathryn was the last girl to play for a long time. After that season, Little League officially banned girls from playing. The ban became known as the “Tubby Rule.”

    Over time, things changed. Women fought for equal rights. A law was passed in 1972. It was called Title IX. It said that public schools had to offer more sports for girls. And in 1974, Little League got rid of the Tubby Rule.

    Since then, hundreds of thousands of girls have played Little League Baseball. More have played high school sports. Kathryn is now 81. She has advice for girls. “You need to dream big,” she says. “Because that’s what I did.” 

    Kathryn quickly realized she couldn’t keep her secret forever, so she told the coach. “If you’re good enough to make the team,” he answered, “you’re good enough to stay on the team.”

    Kathryn’s teammates welcomed her immediately—but players from other teams tried to push her around, and parents told her she didn’t belong on the field. “They could see that I was a better player than some of their sons,” Kathryn says.

    But Kathryn was the last girl to play for a long time. After that season, Little League officially banned girls from playing. The decision became known as the “Tubby Rule.”

    Over the next 20 years, the world changed. Women fought for equal rights. In 1972, a law called Title IX was passed requiring public schools to offer more sports for girls. And in 1974, Little League finally got rid of the Tubby Rule.

    Since then, hundreds of thousands of girls have played Little League Baseball. Millions more have participated in high school sports. Kathryn—who is 81 now—has advice for them all. “You need to dream big,” she says. “Because that’s what I did.”

ACTIVITY: 
Why did Kathryn pretend to be a boy?

Write a paragraph to answer this question. Get started by using facts from the article to finish the sentences below. 

Write a paragraph to answer this question. Get started by using facts from the article to finish the sentences below. 

Write a paragraph to answer this question. Get started by using facts from the article to finish the sentences below. 

Topic Sentence: In 1950, Kathryn Johnston dressed as a boy because: ___                  

The main idea of your paragraph: What did Kathryn want to do that no girl had done before?

Topic Sentence: In 1950, Kathryn Johnston dressed as a boy because: ___                  

The main idea of your paragraph: What did Kathryn want to do that no girl had done before?

Topic Sentence: In 1950, Kathryn Johnston dressed as a boy because: ___                  

The main idea of your paragraph: What did Kathryn want to do that no girl had done before?

Detail 1: At that time, girls who wanted to play sports ___                          
What kinds of chances did girls have to play sports? 

Detail 1: At that time, girls who wanted to play sports ___                          
What kinds of chances did girls have to play sports? 

Detail 1: At that time, girls who wanted to play sports ___                          
What kinds of chances did girls have to play sports? 

Detail 2: Kathryn was great at playing baseball, but ___
Who could and could not play Little League back then?

Detail 2: Kathryn was great at playing baseball, but ___
Who could and could not play Little League back then?

Detail 2: Kathryn was great at playing baseball, but ___
Who could and could not play Little League back then?

Detail 3: To try out for a Little League team, Kathryn had to___
How did Kathryn get people to think she was a boy? 

Detail 3: To try out for a Little League team, Kathryn had to___
How did Kathryn get people to think she was a boy? 

Detail 3: To try out for a Little League team, Kathryn had to___
How did Kathryn get people to think she was a boy? 

Conclusion: Kathryn showed that girls can play baseball as well as boys can by___
How did Kathryn’s tryout go?

Conclusion: Kathryn showed that girls can play baseball as well as boys can by___
How did Kathryn’s tryout go?

Conclusion: Kathryn showed that girls can play baseball as well as boys can by___
How did Kathryn’s tryout go?

Back to top
videos (1)
Skills Sheets (2)
Skills Sheets (2)
Quizzes (1)
Leveled Articles (2)
Leveled Articles (2)
Quizzes (1)