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Film Summary & Historical Context
Baseball has been a powerful actor in shaping both America’s history and cultural beliefs. In the early twentieth century, when waves of European immigration sparked violent unrest in American cities that were ripe with strong nativist sentiments, professional baseball served as a unifying force. In many urban centers along the Eastern seaboard, throngs of people who shared neither a common heritage nor a common language put aside their conflict and fears as they flocked to local stadiums to root for their home team. Major League Baseball has also served as a forum to discuss issues of race well before more traditional legal and political spheres were ready to address America’s systemic racial inequalities.
In 1947, when Jackie Robinson put on a Dodgers uniform, it became evident that segregation on or off the field was no longer going to be tolerated - although it would turn out to be a painfully slow process - as American ideals had indeed shifted. Because American baseball’s development was so closely intertwined with American society’s growth, the ideals associated with the game as well as a desire to be a part of the sport have become deeply embedded in America’s culture.
Playing catch on an early Spring day. Emerging from a tunnel in the stadium stands to see a professionally groomed field for the first time. Day dreaming of one day playing in the big leagues. These are all considered commonplace cultural events - even rites of passage - for many American boys. However, as 6-4-3 travels from neighborhood sandlots to sleepy minor league baseball towns to Major League stadiums, audiences will see that the cultural mystique and pride associated with playing ball - baseball - does not discriminate based on gender.
From barnstorming in the 1860s to Justine Siegal’s recent stint as a batting practice pitcher for the Cleveland Indians, 6-4-3 will create a visual narrative of the long history women have had with high level amateur and professional baseball. While exploring images of women playing college-level baseball at the turn of the 19th century, African-American women playing professional baseball in the Negro Leagues, and Ila Borders pitching in a modern professional men’s baseball game, audiences will see that the love for the national pastime as well as baseball skill have not eluded female athletes.
6-4-3 will also initiate a larger conversation about the ways in which women’s modern day participation in baseball challenges deeply ingrained American gender ideals. Although some girls and women do continue to find success on the baseball field and baseball has long been considered America’s most democratic team sport, cultural beliefs about gender and athletics have molded America’s pastime into an institution that oftentimes actively - and sometimes violently - works to exclude girls and women from the baseball diamond.
Since the passage of the educational amendment Title IX in 1972, girls and young women have had increasingly more access to both academic and athletic opportunities. Because of girls and women's increased involvement in sports, athletic space is now perceived - to some degree - as a feminine sphere. But, when it comes to sports such as baseball, the belief that traditionally male sports should remain open to male athletes only remains steadfast in America’s cultural belief system. While on the one hand girls and women have achieved some success on the ball field, on the other hand many female baseball players have been physically attacked, sexually harassed, and undeservingly cut from teams. It seems as if cultural support for barring female athletes from playing baseball still runs strong and deep in America’s cultural belief system because as 6-4-3 follows baseball players through their baseball stories, it becomes evident that the youngest of girls are oftentimes denied one of the most simple and basic (and seemingly innocuous) of American rituals - to dream of playing in the big leagues.
By stepping into the cleats of several female baseball players, 6-4-3 is able to both explore the lost history of women’s involvement in baseball as well as ask larger cultural and historical questions about America's national pastime. 6-4-3 follows the stories of the girls and women who have had successful baseball careers, who stopped playing baseball because they were afraid of being attacked - again, and who have been threatened for stepping onto the ball field. These are the players that, despite the popular catch phrase,* know that there’s a hell of a lot of crying in baseball.
*In the 1992 film, A League of Our Own, Tom Hanks' character Coach Jimmy Dugan introduced, in a somewhat comical scene, the catch phrase "There's no crying in baseball!". This phrase has become quite popular in modern American culture and the phrase carries with it more than the simple, literal meaning.