Dallas Green's daughter pioneered Title IX spirit

Posted: June 20, 2012

KIM GREEN was 9 years old when she was on the "The Mike Douglas Show." On the air with her that day in the spring of 1974 was Marlo Thomas, the actress who played "That Girl"; Barry Manilow, whose career as a singer had yet to take off; and Larry Csonka, the bruising fullback for the Miami Dolphins.

The young daughter of Dallas Green stood with a bat in her hand on stage as Csonka lobbed a tennis ball at her.

With her cap yanked down over her eyes, Kim swung at the first one. She whiffed.

Csonka lobbed another one.

Kim slammed it back at him.

The audience cheered.

"Nice going, kid," Csonka told her. "Way to hit."

Kim hit one after another until Douglas called a halt and told his viewers, "You see how that girl can hit? Come on, don't you think little girls can play baseball?"

Kim laughs. "I remember Marlo Thomas was just so friendly to me," she says. "She pulled me aside and said, ‘I am just so proud of you. Little girls can do whatever they want to do.' And Barry Manilow and his group were wonderful. For years, his company sent me copies of his albums."

How Kim ended up taking swings on "The Mike Douglas Show" is an obscure footnote in the history of Title IX, legislation that was passed 40 years ago this Saturday banning discrimination on the basis of sex for any education program receiving federal financial assistance.

Two years after the law passed on June 23, 1972, Kim and five other girls became involved in a lawsuit against the Midway Little League in Wilmington, Del., that charged unconstitutional discrimination. Kim attracted more attention than the others because her father was a former Phillies pitcher who was then in charge of the club scouting department and minor league system.

Currently a firefighter at Station 20 in Oakland, Kim, 47, was the third of four children born to Dallas and Sylvia Green. Closest in age to her was her brother John, who was a year older and went on to pitch in Triple A with the Yankees. John remembered Kim being "a terrific athlete … a bulldog." John said the two of them were always competitive with one another in whatever sport they played, including organized baseball into their teen years.

Said Dallas, "Kim was always a ‘me-too' girl. If anyone was doing something, she would say: ‘Me-too!'"

That spirit had continued through the next generation of Green girls. John's daughter, 9-year-old Christina-Taylor, was the only girl on her baseball team in an otherwise all-boys Little League in Arizona when she was killed in the shooting spree that wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in January 2011.

In the spring of 1974, New Jersey had just declared that girls were allowed to play Little League baseball. Nationally, Little League had not changed its rules, with president Dr. Creighton Hale saying that girls "don't have as many muscle fibers as boys" and that "their bones are weaker." Recalls Sylvia Green, "I had no idea it went state by state." On signup day at the Midway Little League, Kim and two friends went down to register, only to be turned away because of their gender. Sylvia says that Kim and her friends came back in tears.

Kim says, "I had been a batgirl the year before, but I was good enough to play, so I just assumed I would get the chance."

Sylvia looked into what happened. "They were devastated," says Sylvia, then a high school teacher. "I said, ‘Well …"

Sylvia spoke with a colleague who was with the National Organization for Women. That colleague spoke with the American Civil Liberties Union, which asked the court for a restraining order against the Midway Little League. The court denied the request. Had the league allowed the girls to sign up, officials feared the league might lose its charter and the insurance benefits, cheaper equipment and championship eligibility that comes with it. Sylvia called Dallas in spring training and told him, "Your daughter could be facing nine men in black robes." She says Dallas replied, "What?" When word of the lawsuit leaked, Dallas began getting phone calls from reporters from across the United States. Dallas told everyone who called that it was not a big deal.

"Everybody was knocking on my door," says Dallas, who, Kim said, was generally supported by his colleagues in baseball but endured some teasing. "Basically, what I said was that I saw nothing wrong with it. Girls will seek their own level and realize at some point that baseball is not suited for them. I just said, ‘Let them play.' "

How good was Kim?

"Very, very good," says Dallas. "She was very competitive, and she has carried that with her throughout her life."

Kim says she was blessed with supportive parents. "I grew up in a household that encouraged me," she says. "Pop was very supportive. His response was — and it was the correct response — that someone should not be judged if they were a boy or a girl, but by their ability. So that was his stance. He said, ‘I know my daughter can play. I have seen her play. So she should be able to play.' "

A procedural technicality blocked the ACLU lawsuit. "Apparently, it was filed incorrectly," Sylvia says. But Kim found that the doors began to open for her in the wake of her appearance on "The Mike Douglas Show," perhaps because Douglas himself had been progressive in his support. In the face of litigation across America, Little League officials amended their charters to permit girls. But when Kim and her friends once again tried to join the Midway Little League, they were told that the teams had been chosen for that season, and to come back the following year. Instead, Sylvia and some other parents organized a girls team to compete against the boys.

"We held a tryout and 60 or so 8- to 10-year-olds showed up," says Sylvia. "Balls were bouncing off their heads. And I would think, ‘Oh, God!' But we whittled it down to a team. I ran it for a while, and then handed the team over to a brother of one of the other players. We won our first eight games. I remember we had some good pitchers. By winning the way we did — and beating the boys! — I think it helped defuse the issue in the community. I think out of 12 or 13 games, we won nine of them."

Kim chuckled. "We finished in second place," she says. "I played leftfield and rightfield."

Kim played in organized baseball leagues until she was 16. While she said she was a .270 hitter, she conceded that she did not have a strong enough arm to play in high school. But she did participate in softball, field hockey, basketball and track and field. That led to a field hockey scholarship to San Jose State University, where she also played softball when a program was created there in her final 2 years. She later went to be an accomplished rugby player.

"I have always loved sports," she says. "And Title IX enabled me to have opportunities that my mother never had. Mom was an outstanding diver and head majorette, but there were only a few options available to her when she was in school. I could do whatever I wanted to do. I was able to get an athletic scholarship to college because of it."

Kim graduated with a degree in biology from San Jose State. Initially, she worked in the biotech field in a desk job with which she grew bored. In search of a career that would enable her to work with people, she worked in construction and, ironically, for the apparel company Title IX Sports while she studied for a job with the Oakland Fire Department. In the 10 years she has been at Station 20 (also known as "The Animal House"), she has climbed through the ranks to engineer and paramedic. She says she hopes to be promoted at some point to an officer.

"Our station is the second-busiest in Oakland," she says. "Our logo is a pit bull, which is why they call us ‘The Animal House.' We have some wild guys and gals, but we work hard. Because the fire service is such a male-dominated world, it has been another door to walk though."

Her brother John says he is proud of Kim. "Kim is one of those girls who never saw a closed door that could not be opened," said John, a scout for the Los Angeles Dodgers. "She believed in equal rights for women and she fought for it."

Kim says the struggle for women continues. "Title IX opened up a door," she says. "But every step of the way has been a struggle. So when you come to a door, the question is: Do you go through it? Or do you stop? I have always gone through it, but not just for myself. Maybe it will make it easier for the person behind me."

Send email to kramm@phillynews.com

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