A baseball-loving girlfriend on Facebook posted a link to a new exhibit at the Louisville Slugger Museum in Louisville, Ky., honoring outstanding baseball players. I was intrigued and clicked on the link. One second into reading about "Baseball Hotties: Studs We Love," I wanted to hurl. According to the description on the museum's website, the goal of the exhibit is to "celebrate the boys of summer who make fans swoon" by spotlighting "the game's steamiest superstars."
Allow me to make a completely dated pop culture reference -- really?
It's 2012 and we continue to have the same debate. Women make up 46 percent of MLB's fan base and still struggle to be taken seriously. Can female baseball fans really appreciate the game without cooing and batting eyelashes at the players? The Slugger Museum seems to think women's interest in baseball will be piqued by the physical attributes of the players, rather than their actual baseball skills.
Some of the highlights of the exhibit include a "Field of Dreamboats" where six of "today's sexiest ballplayers" (including Yankees captain Derek Jeter and the Reds' Joey Votto) emerge from the museum's indoor cornfield. There's a tribute to Louisville native, Morganna "The Kissing Bandit." The display "celebrates the fun and excitement Morganna brought to the game as she pursued the best-looking players and caught them with a kiss." No, I am not making this up.
A major feature is the "Baseball Hotties Hall of Fame" which pays tribute to the hottest players in baseball history. Included in this elite group are Ted Williams, Jackie Robinson, Roberto Clemente, Jim Palmer and Jeter. Each of the players is either in the Hall of Fame or will be. There's no debating their greatness on the field. Apparently it's important to debate their "studliness" as well. Female fans are encouraged to "go to bat for your favorite hotties" and vote on the museum's website for three more hall of fame inductees.
Am I immune to some of the better looking players in the game? Of course not. I appreciate the physical gifts on display as well as baseball prowess. There are a few players I've been known to fangirl on occasion -- I am only human and female. But the exhibit's message is troubling.
In an interview with the New York Post in October, museum director Anne Jewell called the exhibit "a walk back in history. It's a fun, light-hearted look at good looking guys over the years in baseball and how trends and tastes have changed from the handlebar moustache to now."
There may be some entertaining and, possibly even, educational aspects of the show. But this whole exhibit smacks of pandering. The main graphic for the website shows a red lipstick kiss mark on the cheek of Ted Williams. It's Ted Williams!
I admit many female fans would enjoy the exhibit (my friend included). In fact, it's the museum's most popular exhibit in its history. This makes me sad. Female baseball fans should have earned the right to celebrate and appreciate great baseball players for their baseball abilities, not their studliness.