Mary Shane’s Rookie Season

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S1: How would you describe the White Sox franchise for people that aren’t familiar with it, like what’s the experience like of being a White Sox fan?

S2: Woebegone. It’s like, what now? What can fall on our head today?

S1: That’s Bob Strunk. He’s a retired public defender and he’s been rooting for the Chicago White Sox baseball team for more than 60 years, since 1959. From the point of view of a die hard fan, the most important thing to understand about the White Sox is that they are not the Chicago Cubs.

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S2: The working class city people were the Sox’ fans, whereas the Cubs fan is some creature that was dropped into the Chicago area. It’s all happy and giddy. And you had a team actually marketing, losing lovable losers. They feel part of some sort of cult like a Save the Whales bunch to make

S1: the cubs play on the north side of Chicago in old timey Wrigley Field with its hand operated scoreboard. And I’ve covered outfield walls. The White Sox play on the south side. Their old stadium, Comiskey Park, got demolished in nineteen ninety one, which was maybe for the best

S2: concrete, falling, moldy smell. They had some silly rock concert there once were. Part of the upper deck was in flames. The place was falling apart for sure.

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S1: One of the franchises, many low points came in 1976, the White Sox had the worst record in the American League and their badness was all encompassing. They couldn’t hit and their pitching was even worse when the Sox did make the national Newest it was for their innovative uniforms.

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S3: We have a fashion and sports first to report tonight. Whatever every well-dressed member of the Chicago White Sox wore today was shorts, dark blue shorts with, of course, White Sox.

S1: There was no good reason to expect that 1977 would go any better for the White Sox, but miraculously it did.

S2: They were winning games, they were coming from behind and people were buying tickets. I’ve never seen the fans more jacked up than they were in 1977.

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S1: At the end of July, the Sox were in first place and their toughest opponents were coming to town for a big weekend series. Bob’s drunk was in the left field

S2: bleachers here come to Kansas City Royals and their favored to win the division and the place was jammed Friday night. Forget about it. We were buying beer by the case out there. I don’t know how many Runs Kansas City scored in the first inning. Kansas City had a big lead in the White Sox, overcame it and won the game.

S1: The Sox’ came back to win on Saturday two on the last day of the series on Sunday, July 31st, more than 50000 fans packed into Comiskey Park for a doubleheader.

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S4: This is better day to day mousepox with their banners that they’ll be Polite in between ballgames and they would be happier doing it. After a White Sox victory in

S1: game one of that doubleheader, the Sox were on the verge of defeat down by two runs in the bottom of the tenth inning.

S4: Right hander ready to strike pitch. Here’s a sweet little guy over there. Oh, come right over the ball.

S2: High up. I swear it was magical. It was electric. It was just a feeling that you never really experienced before.

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S1: And the rally wasn’t over yet.

S4: Yes, that’s right. That’s right. Well, that’s probably the whole Caray.

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S1: That was Lord Browne on the radio call, but you may have noticed another voice in the background a few seconds later, that broadcaster got her moment.

S4: All right, I have it all.

S1: The voice you just heard belonged to the first woman to get a real job as a major league announcer. Her name was Mary Jane for feminist’s. 1977 was a thrilling time. The Equal Rights Amendment was close to getting ratified. The National Women’s Conference hosted rollicking debates on civil rights, gay rights and abortion, and individual women were getting all kinds of new opportunities. NASA recruited its first class of women astronauts. The Episcopal Church in the United States ordained its first official woman priest. And on the south side of Chicago at Comiskey Park, a woman became a sportscasting pioneer. Mary Shein was an underdog, and her rise to prominence shocked the baseball world in 1977. She was trying to carve out space for herself and for all women in one of America’s most sexist industries

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S2: in this country, any kind of change is born.

S5: I had the firm belief that they set women up to fail.

S6: Hey, you’re in the big leagues now, kid. You got to stand on your own.

S1: I’m Josh Levin, and this is one year, 1977, Mary Shayne’s rookie season. At nine years old, Mary Shane knew what she wanted to do when she grew up.

S5: My dream was to play second base when I was a kid. I was convinced by the time I grew up they would have a woman playing second base.

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S1: There was one rather large obstacle blocking her path to the majors. She didn’t actually play baseball as a girl in Milwaukee in the 1950s. She was never given the opportunity. But that didn’t stop Mary from falling in love with the sport. In 1957, her dad got them tickets to Game five of the World Series. The Milwaukee Braves versus the New York Yankees.

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S4: Fans are buzzing at the stadium now lined up and we hope to play that.

S1: Monday afternoon was one of the highlights of Mary’s young life. But less than a decade after the Braves won the title, the franchise left Milwaukee for Atlanta without a team to root for. Merritt fandom started to fade. She was in her early 20s by then and more conscious of what the world expected of young women. For Mary and her older sister, Pat, a lot of those expectations came from their mother. Here’s Pat’s daughter, Laura Schuett.

S5: She felt that both my mother and Mary had two choices. One would be to be a secretary and one would be to be a teacher.

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S1: When Mary graduated from college, she followed her mother’s blueprint, she got a job teaching high school history, Merritt her college boyfriend and gave birth to a son. For a while, everything was going according to plan. But then in 1974, Merritt sister got in a very bad car accident. At first it looked like Pat was going to recover, but within days she fell into a coma. And a few weeks after that, she slipped away. When Pat died, Merritt fell into a deep despair. The only thing that helped, even for a little while, was baseball. By then, Milwaukee had a new team. The Brewers weren’t any good, but she didn’t mind. She wrote about those days in a memoir that’s never been published.

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S5: Something happened to me at the ballpark. For the first time since Pat’s death, I felt a sense of peace. I went to another game secretly afraid that it wouldn’t work again, but it did when I tried to analyze what was happening, I couldn’t it didn’t make any sense. But then neither did anything else.

S1: With her love of baseball rekindled, Shane thought about all the childhood dream she’d cast aside growing up, she’d wanted to be a sports reporter, but it had never seemed like a practical option. And now, with no experience as a journalist and a small child at home, she didn’t know where to start. What she needed was a little nudge permission to take the first step. That opening came from a surprising place.

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S3: That’s how those events coming. Keep them coming, folks.

S1: An auction on a local PBS station.

S3: The last item on this table is twenty four model airplanes.

S1: One of the items up for bidding was an all access road trip with the Brewers. The announcer described it as a great opportunity for a boy and his father. Shane’s husband suggested the two of them put in a bid. They did twelve hundred dollars and they one chain had written a few articles for a suburban Milwaukee newspaper. But this was her chance to be a real reporter to follow the team, interview the players and put together a story. The trip didn’t go as she’d hoped. Despite all the access she’d been promised, she struggled to get anyone to talk at the hotel pool. She asked the Brewers announcer Merle Harmon for advice. He’ll never be one of the boys. Mary, you told her you’re too feminine. When she got back home, she typed up an article that included Harmons dismissive comment. The piece got rejected by an editor at the Milwaukee Journal. He said she’d never truly understand the life of a baseball player on the road. But Shane did manage to get a version of the piece published in Women’s Sports, a magazine launched by feminist icon Billie Jean King Shoenfeld. Jubilant and not long after she decided to go for it, she was going to quit her teaching job and become a freelance sportswriter. For a woman in the 1970s, the idea of a career in sports journalism was considered outlandish Helene Elliott learned firsthand

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S6: when I told my guidance counselor in high school that I wanted to be a sportswriter writer, she laughed at me and she said, Come on, pick something you can reasonably expect to do.

S1: Elliott didn’t listen to that guidance counselor in 1977. She got a job at the Chicago Sun-Times.

S6: I would pick up the phone and I’d say, Hello, Sun-Times Sports and there’d be a pause in the voice at the other end would say, Let me speak to somebody who knows something. We were treated differently in the press box. I mean, I remember covering a football game at the University of Illinois and at each writer’s seat was a pile of press notes, you know, statistics and and my seat had nothing.

S1: Mary Shane got her first job by walking into a Milwaukee radio station and asking to see the sports director. It was 1975. Her first assignment was a feature on the Marquette University cheerleaders. She got four dollars. Shane was happy to have the work, but she wasn’t quite living her dream, she wanted to cover baseball. Shane’s bosses at the radio station doubted she could do the job, the Milwaukee Brewers didn’t allow women in their locker room. That meant a woman reporter would have trouble getting quotes on deadline. But Shane convinced the station to give her a shot. She wrote about that tryout in her memoir

S5: on Opening Day 1976. I was on the field at County Stadium with my microphone. I’ve never taken any drugs, so I can’t be sure, but I don’t think anyone was ever higher than I was that day. I gloried in it for about two minutes and the pressure hit the quotes, the quotes. I had to get the quotes.

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S1: After the game, Shane raced back and forth, grabbing players as they exited the home and visitor’s locker rooms. She got a ton of interviews but missed out on the losing manager. The Yankees Billy Martin. Desperate not to fail, she drove to the team’s hotel and tracked down Martin at the bar. He was annoyed. Usually I don’t answer questions after I leave the ballpark, he told her. But he answered a few for her. Shayne’s bosses were impressed. She got the job. Now Mary Jane was doing what she wanted to do. She was at the ballpark every day with her microphone, asking questions.

S5: There were times when I resented the fact that I had to work twice as hard as the male reporters while they were home relaxing. After filing their stories, I was still racing around the deserted concourses of County Stadium, but I loved it. I couldn’t imagine a better job, though. I was often still at the radio station fighting the bulky machines at two a.m. and had to be up at seven with my two year old son. I was rarely tired. I couldn’t wait to get back to the ballpark.

S1: Shane’s determination had brought her a long way in a short amount of time, given how far she’d come. Getting a full time job in sports journalism felt like a dream fully realized. But her life was about to change in a totally unexpected way. It all started when she got noticed by the most famous announcer in all of baseball. Even when the White Sox were at their absolute worst, they still had one thing going for them. Everybody. Harry Carey would become a national icon in the 80s as an announcer for the Cubs, but Kerry was with the White Sox first and on the south side of Chicago, he was an enormous star. Bob Strunk again,

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S2: first of all. And Harry Carey is mine. He’s going to market himself now.

S3: This is Harry Carey. Wish you had a very pleasant good evening. Repeating the final score, Minnesota, 13 Polite Sox’ six.

S2: Secondly, he’s going to sell beer,

S4: strong family brewers for more than 200 years.

S2: And thirdly, he’s going to try to sell tickets, which he did.

S3: Well, it’ll be a double header and I’ll be a holiday. And youngsters of yore, accompanied by a paid adult, you’ll receive free Chicago White Sox batting helmet.

S1: Kerry called Sox’ games on television and radio, but he didn’t just connect with the fans at home at the ballpark. He’d wave his beer at the adoring crowd and dip a fishnet into the stands to collect messages to read on the air

S4: recently and tips on from Michigan for running their second wedding anniversary that has popped up.

S1: Carrie drew energy from being close to his adoring public. Sometimes he even broadcast games from the stands. She did just that. On June 8th, 1976, when the White Sox played the Brewers in Milwaukee’s County Stadium. Mary Shane was at the ballpark that day doing her job as a radio reporter. Before the first pitch, she walked over and introduced herself to Kerry. He smiled, then asked, What’s a girl like you doing in the press box? Before too long, he had another question. Would you like to come on the air with me? It’s not clear what exactly Kerry was thinking, whether this was a real audition or if you’d just saw a woman in the press box and asked her to join him on a lark. But regardless of his intentions, it was an extraordinary moment. Only a handful of women had ever gotten the chance to broadcast a big league sporting event. In the 1970s, there wasn’t much history for Mary Cheney to draw on or any template for her to follow, but she didn’t hesitate. She told Kerry she’d love to go on the air with him.

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S5: I was scared, of course, but I guess those months of approaching athletes had given me a confidence I hadn’t really known was there. And Harry made it so easy that we could have been talking at a corner bar. I was overwhelmed with his mastery of an extraordinarily difficult job. I was overwhelmed with him and I’d never had more fun in my life.

S1: The next day, Kerry told Shane some good news, the radio station in Chicago had liked what they had heard from her. He invited her to sit in a second time and then a few months later, Kerry asked changed to make a third appearance when that game was finished. He said there was a chance this could turn into something bigger, that the men who ran the White Sox were looking to add another broadcaster. And then he asked her, would you like to do this full time? No woman had ever gotten that kind of opportunity. And Mary Shane wasn’t about to turn it down. She told him I’d rather do this than anything on Earth. Mary Shane had built a fledgling career in sports journalism without getting much encouragement. She’d fought through slights and degradation that her male colleagues never had to face. But now everything look different. She was 31 years old and she’d reached the pinnacle. A former teacher from Milwaukee was going to announce baseball games on radio and television.

S3: Patrick Jane is three years old. Patrick’s daddy is a security broker. He works with stocks. And Patrick, Shane’s mommy, has a job to decide.

S5: So to we radio consortium.

S3: She works with the Sox’ in 1977.

S1: Mary Shane, the rookie announcer, was a very big story. She got profiled in newspapers and magazines across the country and featured by CBS and NBC. Some outlets treated her as a curiosity, a working mother and a man’s game. Others focused on how she looked. One piece, written by an ex major leaguer was headlined Beauty in the Booth. A decade earlier, a young woman named Betty Caywood had been looked at in a similar way on the game show, What’s my line? A group of celebrity panelists puzzled over what her profession might possibly be.

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S7: McKay would be a very obvious good looks. Have anything at all to do with your job? I don’t think so. Miss fans know him. Miss Caywood, would it be possible for a man to do what you do? Yes, as a matter of fact, do you know that there are men doing what you do? Yes. Are there more men than women doing what you do?

S3: May I have a quick one? There’s a girl been hired by the following the Kansas City baseball team. Are you a girl? Yes.

S1: Betty Caywood broadcast a handful of games in 1964. After that, she never worked as a Sportscaster again. Going into the 1977 season, that was the big question about Mary Jane, did the White Sox think of her as a legitimate broadcaster or did she get hired as a stunt, just like Betty Caywood? A lot had changed since 1964, Title nine gave millions of girls and women the chance to play sports in high school and college. A woman ran the Boston Marathon and rode a horse in the Kentucky Derby. Jane Chastain became the first woman commentator on an NFL game, and Billie Jean King triumphed in tennis battle of the sexes. Excitement engendered all over the country for equality

S8: for women like

S1: the owner of the White Sox. Phil Black was a civil rights champion in 1947 when Veeck on the Cleveland Indians. He’d signed the first black player in the American League just a few months after Jackie Robinson integrated the majors. But Veeck was also a true capitalist, and he had the soul of a carnival barker. His most famous stunt came in 1951 when he hired a little person as a pinch hitter.

S3: Oh, his strike zone was said to measure one and one half inches. Veeck told Goodell that a man in the stands with a high powered rifle would shoot him if he swung at a pitch.

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S1: Eddie Goodell didn’t swing. He walked in his only plate appearance that day. Veeck St. Louis Browns drew their biggest home crowd in years. In the 1970s, Veeck talked about the White Sox as a team for the common man, a perpetual loser that was way overdue for a bunch of big wins.

S3: Once in a while, the have nots rise up and make the mighty right in the puss. You really think I would have invested my last dollar if I thought that this was going to

S1: be a dog? The White Sox owner insisted that his new announcer wasn’t a gimmick. He said that Mary Shane got the job because she was intelligent and articulate and did her homework. But he also described her as very attractive and as a potential boon to the team’s marketing efforts. Veeck pointed out that more than a third of the fans at baseball games are women, he said. I think they certainly are entitled to some representation.

S9: He do anything to sell tickets and I love them for.

S1: That’s Charlie Warner. He was the general manager of MHRA AM, the radio station that broadcasts Chicago White Sox games,

S9: knowing Veeck as the greatest promoter in baseball history. I mean, he wanted to promote women. Yes, but he wanted to sell tickets.

S1: Mary Shein heard all the speculation about why she’d been hired, and she had her own questions about the team’s motivations. Shane’s niece, Laura Shohet, says her aunt did everything she could to be seen as a real announcer.

S5: They wanted her to pose holding a bat, wearing a baseball cap and a cutesy manner. And she was like, But that’s not what I’m doing in the Sportscaster I’m not the mascot. So no, I’m not going to do that. She thought I was hired for a job and I’m going to do my best. And if somebody thinks it’s a gimmick, I guess that’s up to them. But that’s not how she viewed it. For even a second,

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S1: she told one writer that she’d already composed the first line of her opening day broadcast. Hi, this is petite blonde Mary. Shame she wasn’t serious, as she put it. There’s too much at stake to fool around. She and talked about the pressure she felt to prove that she and other women could handle this job outside of those guest spots with Harry Carey, she didn’t have much experience as a game broadcaster. And so as the 1977 season approached, she tried to learn the rhythms of announcing by calling girls high school basketball games for Shane. The White Sox spring training camp in Sarasota, Florida, was their only real chance to learn on the job. She’d sit in the stands during exhibition games, doing play by play into a tape recorder, then listen back to understand the mistakes she made. But in 1977, she didn’t have the luxury of privacy. A big crew from CBS followed her around on her first day in Sarasota, flashing a light meter in her face and saying, Pretend we’re not here. Those cameras captured a snippet of Shane’s first broadcast, a practice game that became very public.

S5: We’ve got the bottom half of the third inning now. Chet Lemmon is facing magnitude hits a line drive to right field.

S4: And it’s going to go to the fence and you’ll be around first base helmet trips. They’re a bit you’re going to pick easily and he’s going to keep going. And the throw will not catch him as a slight increase.

S1: As she called that first game, Shane felt her throat constrict and her hands start to shake. She had no idea how she was doing. And Harry Carey didn’t give her any clues. When it was over. She felt overcome with fear. All she could do was get up, walk out of the booth and say, see you tomorrow. When Mary Jane went back north after spring training, she couldn’t have imagined she’d be calling games for a first place team, the way Bob Strunk remembers it, the expectations that Comiskey Park were extraordinarily low.

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S2: Seventy seven, I think they lost the first game in the pitching was atrocious and the defense was was laughable. I mean, you had Alan Bannister at shortstop. I catch it to Bowzer, read the sigh of relief until he went to throw it and he’d throw it into the stands.

S1: On the plus side, the White Sox did have a bunch of new players. And as the season got going, Strunk couldn’t believe what he was seeing.

S2: All of a sudden, they’ve got all this power, they’ve got Richie Zisk, they’ve got Oscar gamble, they’ve got Eric Sadaa home and they’re all

S4: hitting home runs.

S1: The Seventy-Seven Sox’ became known as the South Side headmen and the fans absolutely loved them.

S3: There’s a baseball madness in Chicago, you begin to understand, and Comiskey Park, where enthusiasm is so great that even the appearance of the Chicago White Sox demands a standing ovation.

S1: So that’s where Mary Jane found herself in 1977 and one of the most high profile gigs in sports and one of the most baseball mad towns in America.

S4: Everybody Merritt going into the bottom 30 amongst all the cheering and the White Sox that really won the nothing, the

S1: five foot three chain had to put yourself on a briefcase atop her chair to see over the edge of the broadcast booth. She sat within arm’s length of a big stack of paper notes and statistics on the home team in the visitors

S4: sitting 299 coming into the game, which is bad, but it doesn’t begin to compare with the way you were sitting last season.

S1: She had a lot to keep track of and a lot to do. She worked on both radio and TV during the same game, dashing from one booth to the other. She also alternated between play by play and color commentary. One inning she’d take the lead in describing the action.

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S4: One ball, two strikes, nobody on and one out. But deep down, here’s the one to pitch hit the wrong five. All try to feel railcard going back to get the running back and he gets an inning.

S1: Later she chime in to support Harry Carey as he took

S4: those guys back. I haven’t looked back so far. Oh, I remember him for a long time ago. He was with Milwaukee and you know, Seattle’s guy’s been around and it didn’t look good.

S1: On July 31st, with the White Sox in first place, the crowd was in high spirits and the broadcasters sounded

S4: blissful in the rays recovered. Hello again, everybody. Are Jerry Leiber and Jay, Retired General Hospital. What have you been married? Fun here. You look as though you’ve been, well, riving as usual, right? Sorry. Oh, yes.

S1: The truth was, Mary Shane was having a hard time. Harry Carey had asked Jane if she wanted to be a full time broadcaster, but when the official job offer came, it was a part time deal. The White Sox played 162 games in 1977, but Shane broadcast only 35 of them. She’d sometimes go weeks without appearing on the air.

S4: While I have a chance, I want to thank all. My fans have been writing letters recently asking why I’m not I’m sorry, but actually are sending a letter to the wrong person because I can’t do anything about it. So if you feel that way, send them to the people inside. But thank you in any case for you thought. I do appreciate it

S1: without calling games regularly. Shane found it impossible to get into any kind of groove.

S5: Harry Carey didn’t all of a sudden get born and he was Harry Carey.

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S1: That’s Susan Walderman. She’s an announcer for the New York Yankees.

S5: You learn how to do that. You learn how to pace yourself. You learn how to watch the game. Broadcasting is an art. It’s like learning to act. It’s like learning to sing. You have to practice. You cannot wander into the booth and sit there and all of a sudden open your mouth.

S1: When Shane did open her mouth, she got flack no matter what, she said. Her niece, Laura Schuett,

S5: she was criticized for her voice. And so she went to a voice coach and tried to actually lower or change her voice.

S1: Shane’s boss at the radio station, Charlie Warner, said that she took those voice lessons because she was worried about sounding shrill.

S9: You know, male baseball fans are I got more calls and letters, but the calls were, you know, from older guys that that woman Josh is terrible. So no baseball to me.

S2: I’m young. I didn’t care if she was a woman. She was just trying to call a baseball game.

S1: Bob Strunk thinks Chicago sports fans have bad taste and broadcasters. He says they only want to listen to Homer’s announcers who cheer on the home team to an embarrassing degree. And that was something Mary Shein refused to do.

S2: She wouldn’t go to extremes in telling little white lies to fans. The only reason we lost was because of the umpire. She didn’t do any of that stuff.

S1: Helene Elliott of the Chicago Sun-Times thought Shane was incredibly courageous. Elliott also knew from experience how hard it was to be a pioneer. But she didn’t think that every critique of Shane’s announcing work was motivated by sexism. In 1977, Elliott wrote, The chain was solid and capable, but no more than that. The headline of her Sun-Times column, Mary Shane wears the Oomph.

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S6: She really didn’t have time to grow into the job if she had had more time to develop her style and her personality and more experience in the chair, she might have become more interesting and exciting and absorbing. But at that point she really wasn’t.

S1: All this outside criticism was tough for Shane to deal with the treatment she got in the broadcast booth was even more difficult to handle. As the year went on, Shane came to believe that one of her colleagues was sabotaging her, not Harry Carey, but a lesser known member of the White Sox broadcast team, Lauren

S4: Brown, from the very same back in chemistry park as we go to the second inning, no score of the Ballgame,

S5: whether it be demeaning or cheap shots. Any chance he got to put her down? He would.

S1: Brown’s behavior was pretty obvious. One Chicago columnist wrote that he left Shane high and dry in the booth. Lauren Brown died in 2010. He started with the White Sox one year before Shane did. It’s possible that he saw her as an interloper, that he felt threatened by her. Mary Shane son Patrick was just four years old in 1977, but when he got older, his mother told him about her workplace nemesis.

S6: She would tell me stories about she would make a comment. And then Lauren Brown would say something like, well, what Mary meant to say. There was as if she was incapable of articulating her own thoughts

S1: as she struggled at work. Her life at home wasn’t much of a safe harbor. Her relationship with her husband had started to fall apart before the 1977 season. By the end of that year, they’d split up. Shane’s niece, Laura, was one of her closest confidants. During that difficult time.

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S5: You have to cross the T’s and dot the I’s and be perfect. And even when you’re perfect, that’s not good enough. When you put someone who is so much of a perfectionist and wants to do her best and basically feels like there’s no other way to be, it really was torture. She was asked to do the impossible and it was hard on her.

S1: The only Mary Shane broadcast we’ve been able to track down is the one from July 31st, 1977. That was the game when the White Sox stormed back to beat the Kansas City Royals in the bottom of the tenth inning. It was one of the most thrilling moments of the 77 season and of Mary Shayne’s announcing career for

S4: the Royals for the White Sox five Runs. I think that they when I lot let’s try to do the

S1: broadcast ended a few moments later. Lauren Brown was on the microphone talking over Mary Shands. Last words.

S4: Oh, we got to give you the cuddles and everything. We have a commercial so we could take a breath. Oh, all right. All right. And I Sox’, what, a five to four, I still don’t believe.

S1: The White Sox dream season didn’t last. They fell out of first place in August and finished 12 games out of the playoffs. Mary Shane’s time as a broadcaster would be short lived to White Sox owner Bill Veeck seemed to lose interest in change as the season went on before the year was done. That pulled her from the team’s television broadcasts. Shane’s radio time would get cut to after Charlie Warner left the station to take a job in New York.

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S9: Mary Shane was not here. Doing a play by play sports announcer is really, really hard and Merritt Shane simply didn’t have it.

S1: So do you regret throwing her into this situation?

S9: No, I don’t regret it. I do it again.

S1: A 1977 study by a Yale sociology professor showed that women in white collar jobs were viewed less as individuals than representatives of their gender, that women were always noticed on the job but rarely rewarded for their achievements, that male colleagues and customers forgot women’s credentials but remembered how they dressed. The men who ran the White Sox gave Mary Shane an opportunity, but they didn’t change baseball’s culture or recognize their own biases. They dropped an inexperienced woman broadcaster into a man’s world, then blamed her when she wasn’t an instant success. When Shane didn’t get offered a new contract after the 1977 season, Harry Carey told a reporter that he felt sorry that she wouldn’t be back. He explained that Shane was knowledgeable, but people objected to her voice. Kerry described that voice as annoying and whining. Mary Shane told the press that she did the best she could and that she had no regrets. Did she feel like she’d gotten a real shot?

S5: I don’t think so, Laura. She would never say that because she was not a whiner at all. I mean, she was not a victim. But I think in her heart for sure, she felt like she hadn’t gotten the shot.

S1: Patrick Shein remembers his mother’s two voices, her real one and the one she used on the air so she’d sound less shrill to male baseball fans.

S6: As a kid, I was like, I don’t like that voice. It sounds fake. You know, we made a game of it. I’d be like, talk like Mary now talk like that other lady. It wasn’t who she was.

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S1: When her time with the White Sox ended, Shane auditioned for an on air role with CBS in New York. But she didn’t get the job. She’d upended her life to pursue a crazy dream. And now it seemed like that dream was over. Shane got back on her old path teaching high school in suburban Milwaukee. She found some comfort in that life. It felt more normal and more secure. But Shane could never be truly happy playing it safe. She wanted to do what she loved, she wanted to get back into sports writing.

S6: I don’t know if it’s sadistic or what it is, but all she wanted to do is be in this place where no one wanted her. So, you know, I was like eight years old or whatever. She always pretended that I was part of the decision and she’d say, Patrick, is it cool with you if we move to Iowa and I cover Illinois, Iowa high school sports, you know, and I would say, of course, you know, with tears in my eyes, yes, mom, we can do you know, I

S5: thought it was really kind of dumb. I was like, Jesus Christ, you’re going to move to freakin the Quad Cities in Iowa and cover the what? The what?

S1: Shane took a job as a reporter at the Moline Dispatch. Her mother moved with her to help take care of Patrick as a single mom with a demanding job. She needed all the support she could get,

S6: that everything was just really minor league, you know, freeze freezing cold. Sometimes there was only room for her on top of the press box so she’d have to sit outside. I don’t think there were many women in that area that expressed any interest in sports. So she was kind of like flown in from the outside. This like an alien species they’d never seen.

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S1: After two and a half years in the Quad Cities, Mary Jane and her family relocated again. It was that move to cover the Boston Celtics for the Worcester Telegram that brought Shane back to the big leagues. Not long after she got assigned to the pro basketball beat, the Celtics won the nineteen eighty four NBA title. What are some of your memories around her? Actually engaged in the practice of doing her work?

S6: A lot of times I would tag along with her and then I would sit outside the press room while she finished her story, and then I’d be allowed to go in and get like one slice of pizza. I understood very early on that when she was working, that’s what she was doing. And I was to respect that time

S1: in the NBA in the mid 1980s, Mary Jane was once again a pioneer.

S6: There was only one other woman, usually besides me, and that was Mary Jane. Mary Jane was their first.

S1: That’s Jackie McMullin. Back then, she wrote about the Celtics for The Boston Globe.

S6: I don’t ever remember talking to her about how tough it is to be a woman in the business. I don’t think any of us talked about that because you didn’t have a choice. You are woman. You were in the business, do your job. And that’s how Mary approached it. And that’s very quickly how I learned to approach it.

S1: At first, the Celtics barred Shane from going inside their locker room, just as the Milwaukee Brewers had done in the 1970s. While her male colleagues had free reign, Shane had to ask the players to join her in a tiny closet loaded with duffel bags and basketballs. But Shane didn’t let that unfairness deter her. She just kept coming to work. And thanks to her, the Celtics eventually changed their locker room policy. Mary Shane was finally getting treated as an equal. Jacqui McMullen benefited from the access that Shane fought for. She also took lessons from how Shane did her work.

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S6: I mean, what I learned from Merritt was professionalism and doing your job without any hidden agenda and always showing up whether you wrote something good or bad or indifferent and just treating people with the respect that you hoped that they would treat you with.

S1: In 1985, Larry Bird busted his hand, reportedly in a bar fight, that injury to the Celtics biggest star probably tanked their title Chances. It was the biggest story of the season and Bird refused to talk about it until he opened up to Merritt. Shane Bird told her that he didn’t want to be the guy. Everyone expects to be perfect. He also talked about disappointing his mother and feeling isolated in Boston. He let Shane and her readers know who he really was. Covering the Celtics was everything Mary Shane had hoped sports journalism would be. She was a trusted colleague, not a gimmick. Her voice carried weight, and she didn’t need to worry about how it sounded.

S6: I think it was a field level for her. Sure, it said Mary Jane. But when they’re reading it, they don’t hear a woman reading it to him. And it allowed people that would probably have objected to that to just say, you know what, hey, she can write. You know, we’d be in usually pretty small spaces, all on deadline writing. And sometimes some of the guys were, let’s just say, more blustery than others. And I do remember once Merritt turning around saying if you’re

S4: not working, please be quiet and

S5: leave. And I was like, you go Merritt.

S4: I was too young to even attempt to say anything like that.

S1: Shane was devoted to her job and her family and pretty much nothing else.

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S6: She made a huge effort to take me to sporting events when she wasn’t covering them. And I felt honored that she would go to sporting events in her free time so that I might have a cool experience with her. And the reality is that she probably enjoyed it as much, if not more, than I did.

S1: One thing Mary Shane did not excel at was taking care of herself in order.

S6: It was Diet Coke, Merritt ultra light, and then whatever was the fastest way to inhale food that would keep her alive.

S5: I think she just push yourself and push yourself and just never would dress like she should.

S1: During her time at the Worcester Telegram, she started having problems with her heart. She’d faint sometimes and she lost a lot of weight.

S5: Laura again and I remember we went shopping. Nothing would fit her. So we had to go in the kids car area. And then she was like, I can. And then she just wanted to go home.

S1: On the morning of November 3rd, nineteen eighty seven, Shane was getting ready to interview the tennis star, Chris Evert. When she didn’t come downstairs, her mother went to check on her. She found Merritt dead in the bathtub. The cause of death was a brain aneurysm. Mary Shane was forty two years old.

S6: And everything that I knew, you know, just had immediately vanished because she was kind of my lodestone in life. And and when that goes away, you know, the level of uncertainty for a 40 year is pretty overwhelming.

S5: She she was somebody who inspired me and showed how strong someone could be with impossible expectations. And I feel like I could never measure up to her. But I sure I sure did try.

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S1: It’s been almost thirty four years since Mary Shane died and forty four years since her one season with the Chicago White Sox.

S6: It was an incredible opportunity for her to sink or swim and maybe she didn’t swim. But I think what’s important is that after that happened, she regrouped and came back to her love of sports and found success elsewhere. The fact that she went after what she wanted is is amazing. You know, I didn’t really go after necessarily what I wanted in my life. So it’s I think her accomplishments are more profound. But, I mean, she made me proud. She included me in things, you know, it’s just hard, right? You have this idyllic, childlike view of your mother, which is perfection. And it just it’s been hard to reconcile that with everyone else in the world that I’ve ever met.

S1: On July 20th, 2021, a team of five women broadcasters called the Baltimore Orioles game against the Tampa Bay Rays, the first all woman on air crew in major league

S5: history, Sean Anderson, comes outside and now works a three one count. And you see what the pitch sequence I mentioned. We’re really just going to see flyers and force numbers from him. And that’s been

S1: cut all these years since Mary Shane made her debut. Women announcers are still a rarity. Susan Waldman, who’s in her 17th season calling Yankees games, remains the only woman who’s in a major league broadcast booth full time.

S5: I’ve said many times that I think I’m not accepted in this business. I am tolerated and now I’ve been there so long that they can’t get rid of me. They wouldn’t blink an eye if every woman disappeared. And it’s not I don’t even know if it’s sexism. Maybe they’re just more comfortable with a male voice.

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S1: Mary Jane sent her memoir to a publisher and an agent in 1981. They both rejected it, saying they didn’t think it would sell. Her son, Patrick, sent me a copy recently, it’s incomplete. It ends on page 113 in the middle of a sentence, but Shane’s voice still comes through very clearly. I keep returning to the same short passage about the solace baseball gave her when her sister died. They booted balls, they threw wildly, they stumbled on the base paths she wrote of the Milwaukee Brewers,

S5: but it didn’t matter. I don’t even remember who they played. I just remember the feeling of being at the ballpark, the hot dogs and the green grass and the throw around the infield after a strikeout. And I remember that I kept hoping for extra innings, I didn’t want the game to end up on. Loving.

S1: Next time on one year, 1977, a family believes that a cancer drug called Latrelle is their best chance to save their son’s life, but the medical establishment calls Latrelle dangerous quackery.

S3: I never encountered anyone who would not treat their child as aggressively or as necessary if there was any remote chance of it. Never crossed my mind that such people existed on the face of the earth.

S1: One year is produced by me and Evan, charged with editorial direction by Levin Lou and Gabriel Roth, Madeline Ducharme is one year’s assistant producer. You can send us feedback and ideas and memories from 1977 at one year at Slate Dotcom. We’d love to hear from you. Our mix engineer is Merritt Jaka. The artwork for one year is by Jim Cooke. Dana Stevens was the voice of Mary Shane and special thanks to Nancy Faust, Lesley Visser, Jason Binetti, Amy Driskell, Chris Kamkar, Dave Merritt, Jeannie Cavnar, John Garran, Jeff Twist’s, Mark Liptak, Josh Mareb, Maria Veeck. Ivan Albertsen, Scott Diener. Jared Holt, June Thomas Son Park, Katie Raeford, Aisha Solutia. Amber Smith, Seth Brown. Rachel Strahm and Chouteau. Thanks for listening. We’ll be back with more from 1977 next week.