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Sports

May 12, 2013

Sharon Poole: Haverhill's Little League pioneer

In 1971, Sharon Poole was first girl to crack Little League gender barrier

At a time when girls were prevented from playing Little League baseball, Sharon Poole certainly opened a few doors.

In Haverhill and across the country.

Because of her persistence, she broke down barriers.

It was late June of 1971 and I was enamored by this 5-3, 110-pound, 12-year-old girl from Haverhill whose story wound up making Life Magazine and just about every TV network across the land. She put Haverhill on the map and sent reporters and cameramen scampering to our ball fields.

She starred for two games for the Indians, the second despite a large hostile crowd and the eye-opening media hoopla.

In the first game, she batted cleanup against the Twins with an RBI single, a walk, a run, a strikeout and errorless play in center field.

After Game 2, there was a special meeting of managers. She was barred from the league and her manager was fired.

She was in Life Magazine, Newsweek and even on the Dick Cavett Show. 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 wrote 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.

“Now comes the shattering news that a girl player temporarily infiltrated a Little League team in Haverhill. Because she is so young, Sharon could not perceive how heinous it was for a girl to be playing in Little League.”

A Haverhill Gazette poll showed sympathy for her situation. In fact, the only place the freckled-faced redhead who was called “Sweetie Bird” got any real opposition was in the league for which she played so briefly. And that came mainly from adults.

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