Oakland Athletics Thursday Throwback: One of the many innovations former A’s owner Charles O. Finley brought to baseball after the A’s arrived in Oakland was ball girls.
In 1971, Oakland Athletics owner, Charles Finley introduced Debbie Sivyer and Mary Barry, two local teenagers from Oakland’s Bishop O’Dowd High School stationed along the Oakland Coliseum foul lines fielding foul balls and, between innings, serving the umpires lemonade and chocolate chip cookies.
The sex appeal of the two teens with Sivyer by the Oakland Athletics bullpen and Barry on the first base side caught the eye of fans and other owners.
The cute pair was clad in tight white shorts, green or gold fitting shirts (depending on the uniform of the team for the game), gold knee socks and white shoes in an era when the majority of other major league teams relied on wiry teenage boys to field foul balls on the playing field – ball boys, on the other hand, are rarely seen wearing tight shorts.
When asked about why he brought in Barry and Sivyer, Finley told the media, “I wanted to get the female interested in baseball.”
When it was suggested that the Oakland Athletics ballgirls mainly intrigued men as well as many teenage boys like myself back then (Hey, Mary Barry, are you out there reading this?), Finley chuckled happily. “That didn’t hurt either.”
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Like many of Finley’s innovations, the ball girl novelty would develop around other MLB stadiums in upcoming years and are still used in some ballparks today – though maybe not as sexily attired.
Outside of the Oakland Athletics ball girls, the best-known ballgirl in major league history may well be Marla Collins, who in 1986 was dismissed after she removed her Cubs uniform to pose nude for Playboy.
Sivyer, who came up with the idea to serve the umpires her homemade cookies, later married and became Debbie Fields, eventually opening her cookie shop in Palo Alto in 1977– Mrs. Fields Chocolate Chippery.
As Dan Epstein put it in Big Hair and Plastic Grass – a fascinating look at baseball and American culture in the ’70s, “The shop… would eventually grow into a worldwide empire, netting the former ball girl a substantially larger payday than any A’s player ever made under Finley.”
In Nancy Finley’s recently released Finley Ball, she writes that at the end of 1974 the ballgirl plan was eventually scrapped due to complaints from several player wives. Before the start of the 1975 season, Oakland Athletics General Manager Carl Finley determined the girls had to go in “the interests of the players’ marital harmony.”
With that the girls were gone and we’re back to guys, 18-20 wearing MLB uniforms and batting helmets, and guys who can usually catch a ball hit in their direction.