Melissa Ludtke Comes to Tufts

Hosted by Tufts ExCollege, sports journalist Melissa Ludtke spoke on Tuesday night at Pearson Hall. Ludtke spoke of her past experience as a baseball journalist, particularly the events that surrounded the court case of Ludtke v. Kuhn (1978).

At a time when women were battling for equal rights socially, politically, and professionally, Ludtke was caught in a male-dominated industry. Just twenty-six years old at the time, Ludtke was working at Sports Illustrated Magazine as a sports research reporter, with a focus on baseball. Other female journalists were mostly fact-checkers.

And that’s how Ludtke described the system— the men went to games and stadiums, and the women stayed in the office, handling facts and statistics. Ludtke was amongst the first to take full advantage of her position. With her pass, she tried to gain entry into every office and locker room.

Even when Ludtke first started out; when she wasn’t officially covering baseball, she spent all of her days at the stadium— talking to whoever she could and taking in everything she saw, trying to gain contacts, and to absorb the atmosphere at a baseball game.

Ludtke recounted fond memories of her mother. “She was a baseball fanatic,” she said, and went on to describe how much her mother’s passion influenced her— how her mother took her to games, and kept the radio on for updated information.

“The notion that women didn’t love baseball was completely foreign to me.”

During this time, most other sports (such as basketball) had already opened up lockers rooms to people with press passes, regardless of gender. Ludtke explained “I was used to much smaller locker rooms, and much bigger players”.

Ludtke described herself on the job as “cautious”. She had to be aware of many lines and boundaries, and took incredible care not to cross them. She was always very aware of the way she dressed, talked, and presented herself. She couldn’t even be the slightest hint flirtatious, or it would be taken the wrong way. “As long as the press pass falls between two breasts, it is invalid.”

As Ludtke’s recognition grew, her reputation and coverage did, as well. However, her work was always hampered by her lack of access to players in the locker room. During the World’s Series in 1977, the Los Angeles Dodgers played the New York Yankees and won tremendously. Ludtke was initially granted permission to interview players in the locker room, the manager, and even the majority of the Dodgers voted to admit her. Armed with her press pass and the team’s full acceptance, Ludtke was stopped and rejected entry into the locker room by Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn.

The court case soon followed, and through the legal complications, Ludtke emerged victorious, building upon the fight for gender equality. “I hadn’t gone in demanding anything, I had proven myself”.