Ladies Day

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This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and this is The Score.

Let's call this Ladies Day here on The Score. First, in Iowa, where wrestling is to the state as football is to Texas, a high school girl last week became the first in the 86-year history of the State tournament to win a match. The downside to Cassy Herkelman's victory is that it came on a default by a boy, the fifth-ranked wrestler in the state in the 112-pound division. Joel Northrop, home-schooled, his father a minister, cited the tenets of his faith, not believing boys should engage girls in the violent manner necessary in this sport, as the reason for his defaulting the match. His father, the pastor, had this comment: "We believe in the elevation and respect of women."

Well, the modern-day take on this is "Come on, Joel. The rules of your sport declare, as in every state but three across the country, that girls can compete against boys in wrestling. When Cassy Herkelman steps onto the mat, she's not a girl. She's an athlete. Matter of fact, she's a superior athlete, to have made it this far, to the state tournament. Your respecting her would take grappling with her in the circle, pinning her if you can, but at least acknowledging that Cassy has earned the right to face you."

Joel Northrop, by his default, has been allowed to continue the world view with which he is being raised, rather than acting within the parameters of the sport and the society within which he lives. By the way, Joel's mother was not at the tournament to watch her son compete because she was at home, ready to give birth to her eighth child.

In a different sports story this week, a 13-year-old girl sat in the Cleveland Indians dugout and witnessed a first. Her mother, Justine Siegel, became the first woman to ever pitch Major League Baseball batting practice. Siegel hurled four-seam fastballs just under 80 miles an hour, to both Indians and Oakland A's players, each one complimenting her after his turn with the bat. The ultimate praise perhaps came from A's outfielder Coco Crisp who gave Siegel the brotherhood nod of teasing her with friendly trash talk, such as "Go on, Ponytails, give it to me."

A few special women have infiltrated the Major Leagues in various positions throughout the decades, going back to 1931 when a 17-year-old signed pitcher for the minor league Chattanooga Lookouts got the chance to take the mound against the fabled New York Yankees. Back to back, feisty Jackie Mitchell struck out first Babe Ruth and then Lou Gehrig, fair and square. So fair that Ruth threw his bat in disgust. Immediately after that game, baseball's commissioner banned women from playing the game professionally. So congratulations are in order, not only to Justine Siegel, but to today's Major League men for showing her such respect.

And final applause today to Dara Torres, who at the age of 43, outrageously old for a sprint swimmer, has just qualified for next year's Olympic Trials. Even having had both shoulders operated on, plus major knee surgery this past year, Torres showcased her very special talents once again in the sprint 50-meter freestyle. She has 12 Olympic medals and no doubt the world will cheer heartily for Torres in her unprecedented SIXTH Olympic Games, London, 2012. Personally, there is no athlete on the planet in whom I am more in awe than Dara Torres.

This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and that's The Score.



Diana Nyad