by David Nemec
(This article appeared in the Winter 1992/1993 issue of HardBall Magazine)
The second baseman for the Oakland Oaks was a slender, blue-eyed former college star named Sal Coats. Thanks to Sal, her teammates and every other player in Division #4, 40+ American Division, made MSBL history. On November 2, 1992, Sal became the first woman to play in the MSBL World Series.
In her second at-bat, Sal collected her first Series hit, a sharp single to left. The next day, when she singled off Phillie righthander Leon Cattolico, he quickly trotted to first to shake her hand, one of the many tributes she received during the Series. Coats finished the week with a .357 batting average.
Tributes, Gracious and Otherwise
From some teams she heard: "You don't throw like a girl.” All but one opponent took Sal pretty much in stride. In her final game, attempting to turn a double play, Sal threw wildly when a base runner came into second standing up and flung an elbow in her face. She escaped injury and, even in anger, recognized the shabby maneuver as a tribute of sorts. "I guess he wouldn't have done it, if he didn't think I'd get two,” she said.
Career in Sports
Sal was an MSBL rookie in 1992 at the age of 31. She got into baseball because age pushed her out of women's fastpitch softball after a decade of top-level competition. In 1985, her Hayward Hustle team won the gold medal at the National Sports Festival in Baton Rouge. In 1987 her club won an Amateur Sports Development tourney in Hong Kong. Sal received All-American mention in her junior year at Chico State. She feels she has not reached her peak, and rates her performance in the MSBL as "just okay,” because of her long absence from baseball.
Sal Coats grew up playing hardball in the early 1970s on the sand lots of Oakland's Piedmont district. The boys nicknamed her "Bando” partly because of her first name, but mostly because Sal Bando, third baseman of the A's, was her idol. Adopting Bando's hardnosed style, Sal held her own on the sandlots, but in the ninth grade her family moved to Sonora. Though she wanted to try out for baseball, Sonora High insisted she play girls' softball.
The Sonora school policy drove Sal to basketball. She planned to play basketball at Chico State, but she was cut from the team. That spring, she tried out for softball and made the quad as a freshman. Under Coach Joan Wallace, Chico State won the AIAW Division III National Title in 1980, Sal's first year.
A Chance to Play Again
The success of outfielder Stephanie Amato in the Bay Area MSBL induced Sal to attend a winter tryout for the 1992 season. Hampered by an elbow injury, Sal still impressed many managers, but was not drafted.
At the tryout, she met Andy Weissmann, who became her strongest booster. Weissman was drafted by the Reds, and urged his teammates to let Sal practice with them in case a roster spot opened later in the season. Eventually one did. The rest is history.
Sal was a popular choice when Weissman and this writer assembled the Oakland Oaks' Series roster. Her first request was to wear number 6, Bando's old number and the one she's always worn. When the Series ended, she said, "For me, the highlight will always be getting the chance to prove to myself and others that I can play this game. I always believed I could, but softball isn't baseball.”
About the Author
Author David Nemec, novelist and baseball historian, managed the Oakland Oaks at the 1992 MSBL World Series.