MARIA PEPE

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As a young girl in Hoboken, New Jersey, Maria Pepe loved to play sports. In the spring of 1971, Maria - age 11 - followed her friends to the Little League sign-ups where she hesitated outside the door, knowing there was an inherent “no girls” policy. She was spotted by coach, Jimmy Farina, who noticed her glove and ball cap and asked if she might be interested in trying out. 

Maria Pepe pitched three games for the Young Democrats that summer until the Little League organization threatened to revoke Hoboken’s charter for allowing a girl to play and Maria was asked to leave the team. Her story caught the attention of the National Organization for Women and a court case was initiated in her name. After two years, the New Jersey Superior Court rules in favor of Maria, requiring the Little League to allow girls to try out. The Little League organization began a program specifically for girls in 1974. But by then, Maria was too old to play.

But in 2005, Katie Brownell - age 12, and the only girl in the Oklahoma-Alabama Little League - pitched a perfect game and was asked to donate the jersey she wore that day to the Baseball Hall of fame. Maria Pepe was invited to join the celebration. "I feel like this is a healing for me. It's come, like, full circle," Pepe said. "After the ruling came out, I was too old to play, but my dad said, 'You have to think about all the girls that will follow.' I don't think I really understood.” 

1n 1974, 30,000 girls signed up to play Little League. In 2005, that number hit around 400,000. Today, about one in seven Little Leaguers is a girl and athletes like Mo’Ne Davis are making international headlines for playing in the Little League World Series.

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