"We had a woman on third base, so the Toronto players are saying, 'Look there's a girl at third base, let's hit there.' So the first batter hit it to third base, she bent down, scooped up the ball, threw it to first base, he was out. So the second batter hit to third base, she bent down, picked up the ball, and out at one. The third guy looked down there, and he decided he was gonna hit someplace else. Well by the middle of the game, this gal came to me and she said, 'Shirley, they're not hitting to me any more.' One of the best third basemen around.... They thought she was gonna be easy. She cried through the whole game, she never saw a ball again after that."
Fitzpatrick created, and relied on, LGBT community in Milwaukee by playing softball. Fitzpatrick doesn't think of herself as a political person. She was never particularly out at work. She calls herself a "gay woman" rather than a "lesbian" because she thinks the word "gay" captures it all - and any term we use, according to Fitzpatrick, should include everyone.
Indeed, the thing that Fitzpatrick likes most about softball and bowling is that, in Milwaukee at least, sports were ways that women and men could get to know each other and get along better. She can't see how we're going to get anyone else to accept us if we can't even get along with each other. Even today, the biggest problem LGBT people face in Fitzpatrick's view is women's and men's failure to get to know each other and work together.
Fitzpatrick remembers getting softball started in Milwaukee when she used to hang out at the Finale on Center Street in the early 1970s. She told some of the guys there that women could beat them at softball. The guys just laughed, so Fitzpatrick went to the Beer Garden, rounded up some women, and challenged the guys to a game.
Soon after that, a league formed. It was well organized, with published schedules, from early on. Fitzpatrick played first base and pitched in her early days, but mostly coached and managed for over thirty years.
Softball may not seem very political, but people whose citizenship is seriously in doubt, people who live in constant fear of police harassment or other violence, will not create a softball league. On one hand, the very aspects of civil society that make LGBT softball leagues possible also make organizations and events such as the Community Center and PrideFest itself possible. On the other hand, what good is a social movement to people like Shirley Fitzpatrick if it doesn't help create the freedom necessary for them to do what they want to do - get and keep a job they're qualified for, get married, have children.
Or play softball.