RE-READ THE ARTICLE THAT STARTED A WAVE OF PUBLICITY: LITTLE LEAGUE’S HISTORIC CURVE BALL THROWN BY LOCAL WOMAN
UPDATE: As Kayla Roncin, the sole girl on the Toms River Little League, works hard to help her team head to the World Series, read again about the local woman who blazed the Little League trail 40 years ago.
In April, TheBPlot and The Coaster published a profile of Janine Cinseruli, Asbury Park resident and the first girl to play Little League with the boys. Like many other stories over the past seven years after TheBPlot’s profile of the history-making ball player published, the Star-Ledger, ESPN.com, New Yorker and Asbury Park Press clamored for a chance to talk with Cinseruli. But the 12,000 followers of TheBPlot already had the ‘scoop’…
April 17, 2014: As Little League season begins, there is one woman to thank for ensuring girls everywhere get their turn at bat.
In 1974, a ten year-old Janine Cinseruli told her mother that because of her gender she was not allowed to play in her Peabody, Massachusetts Little League. What ensued was months of legal curve-balls with the help of the ACLU and a landmark decision by the State Supreme Court that affirmed a girl’s right to play baseball on the same team as the boys.
Two months later, Cinseruli made game-changing history by becoming the first girl ever welcomed into any Little League program.
“It was a very difficult summer for everyone because baseball was put on hold until the court made its ruling,” said Cinseruli. “We got hate mail and my brothers got picked on but they stood by me.”
The decision forty years ago came soon after a federal law was enacted that stated no one could be excluded from a government-assisted educational activity or program and immediately struck Little Leagues across the country. The National Board of Little League Baseball, Inc. cited “changing social climate” and welcomed girl players alongside boys everywhere to avoid costly state-by-state lawsuits.
“At the time, I wasn’t interested in changing the world,” said Cinseruli. “I knew I was as good or better than the boys on the team and I just wanted to play with my friends. It took me looking back at the summer of 1974 as an adult to really understand what happened and what it meant.”
Sunday, Cinseruli returned to Peabody where she was celebrated as a trailblazer, role model for little girls… and an excellent pitcher with a strong right hook.
“The Peabody Little League feels it is very important to honor Janine and the other women who took an unpopular stand but prevailed,” said league president Peter Lendell. “They are true role models for every girl and boy in our program.”
Cinseruli walked in the town’s Opening Day Little League parade, threw out the first pitch and was presented with a Certificate of Appreciation from the City of Peabody. She was reunited with some of her coaches and teammates and also had the opportunity to speak with current fresh-faced players.
“I told them that they can do anything – they can change what is unjust,” said Cinseruli. “Stand up for what is right and what you believe in and everyone will win in the end. You can fight the proverbial city hall.”
After Little League and high school, Cinseruli went on to play 10 years of semi-professional softball. Today, she is co-owner of the uber-successful Sea Grass Restaurant in Ocean Grove (try her famous clam chowder).
“There are 60 girls playing this year (in Peabody),” said Cinseruli. “Those 10 year-olds didn’t really understand what happened 40 years ago. But their moms and dads did and hopefully they will too some day.”
2014 also marks the 75th Anniversary of the founding of the Little League.