The Quirky History of Baseball’s Ball Girls

We take a short milk and cookie break at the Water Cooler to look at the fascinating History of the Ball Girl at baseball games.

Interesting story about the connection between Mrs. Fields Cookies and the History of MLB Ball Girls.

Debbie Fields, also known as Debbi Fields, is the founder of Mrs. Fields Bakeries, a renowned chain of cookie stores. She got her start in the baking industry in the late 1970s.

Fields’ journey began with a desire to share her homemade chocolate chip cookies with others. Despite facing initial rejections from potential investors who doubted the viability of her business idea, Fields persisted. In 1977, she opened her first cookie store, Mrs. Fields Chocolate Chippery, in Palo Alto, California, with the support of her husband, Randy Fields.

The quality and taste of Fields’ cookies quickly gained popularity, leading to the expansion of her business. Through innovative marketing strategies, such as offering free samples and warm cookies straight from the oven, Mrs. Fields Bakeries grew rapidly, eventually becoming a global brand.

Debbie Fields’ entrepreneurial spirit, coupled with her passion for baking and commitment to quality, propelled her to success in the competitive food industry. Today, Mrs. Fields Bakeries continue to delight customers worldwide with a variety of delicious cookies and baked goods.

But one more step back in time illuminates the connection…

Debbi (Sivyer) Fields was also one of baseball’s first Ball Girls.

In the 1970s, the Oakland Athletics introduced “ball girls” (young girls who would sit in foul territory near the baselines to retrieve baseballs grounded foul by batters) to the team. Sivyer, with the help of a sister who was then a secretary at the A’s offices, was one of the first ones hired. She was paid five dollars an hour and would use the money to buy ingredients for what would become her famous cookies. 

Additionally, she instituted a “milk-and-cookies” break for the umpires. (from wikipedia)

The NYTimes looked at the history of Ball Girls in a 1991 story (found here), which included:

Until the early 1970’s, there were no women on the field — unless one counted Nancy Faust, the longtime organist for the Chicago White Sox. Then, along with garishly colored uniforms, rock music, exploding scoreboards, and a smaller strike zone, teams began introducing ball girls as part of what A. Bartlett Giamatti, the former baseball commissioner, sadly described as the “N.F.L.-ization of baseball.”

Charles O. Finley, the flamboyant former owner of the Oakland Athletics, was the first to hire ball girls. “I wanted to get the female interested in baseball,” he explained. When it was suggested that ball girls mainly intrigued men, he chuckled happily. “That didn’t hurt either.” (The ballgirl novelty swept the country, with varying regional interpretations — until two years ago, the Baltimore Orioles had dancing ball girls.)

The story doesn’t age well with some rather awkward quotes from purist George Will and some fans discussing their opinion of the Ball Girls.  But it does provide some great historical context and notes, like:

The Jackie Robinson of ball girls was Sheryl Lawrence, a 14-year-old who broke the gender line in 1971. Mr. Finley hired her and her partner, Debbi Sivyer, 13, his secretary’s sister.

Ms. Sivyer became the belle of the ball club. In white shorts, gold knee socks, and tight kelly green jerseys, she and her colleagues fielded foul balls and, between innings, served the umpire lemonade and chocolate chip cookies baked by Ms. Sivyer. “I was never really gifted at throwing or catching,” she recalled, “but it was a wonderful experience.” She left baseball after two years, married and founded Mrs. Field’s Cookies.

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