A few years after her baseball career ended a newspaper article wrote that she was “Keeping a low, low profile in Boise.”
And who could blame her?
Every move she made in baseball drew national attention. She wasn’t trying to become famous for breaking barriers. She didn’t want to be a darling of second-wave feminism. She was, as she told newspapers, “just a gal in love with the Mavs who would like to go and hide.”
In November 1974, the Portland Mavericks hired Lanny Moss as General Manager. She became the first woman to hold that position and run a professional baseball team. The press seized the story and the Maverick’s small office was overrun with reporters calling to talk to Lanny.
A woman general manager was a baseball curiosity at the time. And for the Mavericks, a team that wasn’t afraid to embrace curiosities and outsiders, she was just one of the women that made the team run.
The story of the Portland Mavericks is already familiar to you if you’ve seen The Battered Bastards of Baseball, a 2014 documentary about the team. Actor Bing Russell established the Mavericks in Portland, OR after the Pacific Coast League abandoned the city and allowed the AAA Portland Beavers to move to Spokane. The Mavericks played their first season in 1973. A member of the short season A Northwest League, they were the only independent team in baseball at the time.
The Mavericks embraced their rebellious nickname from the beginning. Open tryouts drew players that the major leagues and affiliated minor leagues had given up on. Players who never got their shot and players whose best days were behind them formed a team of misfits looking for one more chance at baseball success. The team is best remembered for their antics on the field and shenanigans off the field, an ethos that was wonderfully captured by the documentary. Their against-the-grain attitude wasn’t just a bit they performed; behind the scenes the Mavericks subverted traditional baseball expectations as well.
Russell wanted his team to win on the field, and he wanted the team to run like a successful business off the field. He had no interest in fitting into baseball’s strict traditionalism, so when he found someone who could accomplish his off-the-field goals, he did not hesitate just because she was a woman.
Lanny Moss was born in Toronto, Canada. Her parents were both active members of the Salvation Army and her father was minister in the organization. The family moved frequently while she was growing up. They made a few stops in Canada, then toured Phoenix, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. After finishing high school in Hawaii, she found herself in Portland where she initially worked as a secretary for the Salvation Army. After the 1973 season, she took a job as a secretary-bookkeeper for the Mavericks. That winter, she joined the sales team and took over the winter sales drive. When the 1974 season began, she shifted into the front office and took on the work involved in running a baseball team.
During the second half of the 1974 season, Russell decided to go on a trip to Europe and Australia. He put Moss in charge of the business side of the team while he was gone. When he returned, the team was humming along just fine without him, and in better financial shape than it had ever been. Russell had been functioning as the general manager, but after seeing how well Moss handled the work, he knew she could take over the job.
Russell certainly had practical considerations in mind when he hired her, but the side of him that was influenced by Hollywood entertainment had to know he’d draw attention to his team with this hiring. Sure enough, a media storm erupted and the reporters that called and descended into the catacombs of Portland’s Civic Stadium to talk to Moss discovered an entertaining story.
At 24 years old, Moss had worked for the Mavs for just a year when she was given the general manager position. Before she began working in the Mav’s office, she did not know anything about baseball. Truly, nothing. Reflecting on her learning curve, she told the Honolulu Star-Bulletin in 1977, “I once typed up a release calling the seventh-inning stretch the seventh-ending stretch.” Despite her tentative grasp on baseball jargon, she fell in love with the game. At the press conference announcing her hiring, she said of baseball, “It’s better than any head trip you can go on.”
Adding to the media’s interest, Moss’s hiring came right in the midst of second-wave feminism, then called the Women’s Liberation Movement. The movement was a political force in the 1960s and 1970s. It’s members were known as “libbers”. Most of the major legislation associated with the movement was passed in the 1960s, but the quest for equality in the workplace and in life continued into the next decade. It began to influence the sports world as well. The most impactful legislation for women in sports came with the passage of Title IX in June of 1972. Among other benefits, it required parity for men’s and women’s sports in federally funded educational institutes. That same month, Bernice Gera became the first woman to umpire a professional baseball game. In 1974, girls became legally entitled to play Little League Baseball.
Now, the Mavericks were never going to win any awards for their dedication to the women’s movement. Their famous jerseys were a color they unabashedly called “streetwalker red.” Players have told stories about catcalling women from the team bus. Jon Yoshiwara, a Mavericks infielder and, later, general manager, admitted on the Diamonds & Roses podcast that “the players wouldn’t have done well with the Me Too movement these days.” Yet, the Mavericks managed to push their male chauvinism aside and open doors that were previously locked.
I talked to Frank Peters, who managed the Mavericks on the field in 1974 and 1975, last December about Moss. He reflected on the circumstances that led to Moss’s hiring and said of himself and Russell that neither of them were concerned about putting a woman in charge of the team. “I guess you would call us women’s libbers at the time,” he said, “even though we may not have acted like it and probably didn’t even know it.” Peters referenced his background as a bar owner where the majority of his bartenders were women. “Even though I owned the place, really, the bartender is the boss.” As for Russell, he “came from an acting background where you’re almost always rejected and women are literally stars of movies.”
Despite the progressivism inherent in hiring Moss, both Russell and Moss took pains to make sure reporters understood that she was hired because she was the best person for the job and not as a publicity stunt. Russell said point blank, “The fact that she is a girl had nothing to do with the simple premise that I wanted her for the job...She has been through it before. She is much tougher with the dollar than I am and she can help the club in the profit and loss statement.” He also brushed off any suggestion that her lack of baseball acumen was a problem. “There are too many GM’s who don’t know the game,” he said,” but who think they do.”
As for Moss, “I like having doors opened, cigarettes lit and gentlemen being gentlemen. It’s a nice position being a female.” She expressed that she had confidence she could do the job; afterall, she’d already essentially done it while Russell was away during the 1974 season. The only fear she had about taking the job was the fear that because she was a woman, she would not be accepted by the baseball establishment.
The newspapers continue to link her hiring with the women’s liberation movement, however. They were quick to take shots at the libbers, and quick to indulge in their own good old fashioned sexism. Nearly every article about her hiring described her as attractive. Many shared details about her appearance, her height, and even her weight. The Honolulu Star-Bulletin ran a condescending article warning that the libbers were coming for baseball, writing, “Abner Doubleday and Alexander Cartwright probably are spinning in their graves at the mere thought of such a thing.”
Of the coverage she was receiving, Moss remarked, “There’s been more of a reaction to having been given a title than actually doing a job.” Russell backed her up, saying, “If Lanny had been a 61-year-old man and doing the job as well as it was done, then he would have been appointed general manager.”
Turns out, it didn’t take very long for other women to begin running baseball teams. In January 1975, Nadine Horst took over general manager duties for the Lodi Orioles. Soon after, Eva Smith and Velma Wright were named general managers of the Charleston Pirates and Spartanburg Phillies in the Western Carolina League. None of the other women GMs drew nearly the attention that Moss did. It was the burden of being the first.
While Moss was adjusting to holding a new title, Carren Woods was finishing up high school in Lake Oswego, OR, just south of Portland. Woods had grown up a baseball fan and indulged her passion by working as the head umpire for girls softball in the Lake Oswego Parks Department. Shortly after graduating high school, she needed a summer job. She had a scholarship to the University of Oregon waiting for her in the fall, after which she planned to go to law school and work for the city attorney in Lake Oswego. If you’ve ever tried to plan out your life, you know exactly how life has a way of ruining your plans.
Woods learned the Mavericks were looking for a bookkeeper. Having taken a year of accounting in high school, she decided to call about the job. Woods interviewed for the job at a hair salon while Moss was getting her haircut. The strange circumstances worked out. A couple days later, the 17-year-old new high school graduate landed a coveted job working in baseball.
Woods began working right away while the team and Russell were on the road. Like Moss, she was a quick learner and absorbed everything she needed to know to help the team run. However, when Russell got back to Portland he was astonished and upset that Moss had hired someone so young and with no experience. Woods got into Russell’s good graces soon enough though. The team was getting ready to start its opening home stand of the 1975 season when their gameday programs came back from the printers riddled with mistakes. The programs were numbered in order to track sales and run lucky number promotions. Woods immediately tackled the problem by sorting through every single program and finding a way to make it work. Her work ethic and effort changed Russell’s mind about her and Woods was rewarded with a raise to $500 a month, more than the players’ salary of $400 a month.
Joining Moss and Woods in the Maverick’s front office were volunteers Jeanne Armour and Kay Lesser. Although Armour and Leser were technically unpaid, the Portland Maverick’s Facebook page shared a fun bit of information. An arbitration document specified that Lesser was “provided with one-half gallon of Vodka every two weeks, or when requested, whichever is the longer period of time.”
I talked to Carren Woods about her time with the Mavericks. When describing the work she did, she ran through an incredibly long list of things that had to be taken care of every single game day. “Everything that happened with the team, except for the actual play on the field, we had to coordinate one way or the other. It was the two of us (her and Moss) that did everything. We got to work at eight in the morning and we would be there sometimes until after 11 o’clock at night. If the team was going away on a roadtrip I would stay and make sure the bat boys and girl had uniforms washed and ready to go.” She reiterates the obvious, “It was a lot of work.”
Mornings and early afternoons in the front office consisted of bookkeeping and sales support. The team had salespeople who cold called to sell tickets. After they completed sales, Woods would type up invoices, put the tickets together, and mail them out that day. “I had to keep track of every single dollar that went in and every single dollar that went out. We sold fence signs. We sold ads in the program. We sold season tickets and sold booklets of tickets.”
Later in the afternoon, it was time to get ready for the game. Among the myriad responsibilities were delivering tickets and the cash box to the ticket sellers, letting workers into the stadium, distributing programs, unlocking gates, and making sure enough baseballs were rubbed up and game-ready. They calculated attendance and gate sales, and relayed information to the stadium announcer. Any problem that popped up during the game had to be handled by one of them.
Woods remarked that during a Mavericks reunion at a Hillsboro Hops game, she was surprised to see how many people the team employed. The Mavericks had a limited operating budget and the team couldn’t afford more employees to help with the work. One way or another, it all had to get done.
On game days the offices were full of people. The umpires would come hang out before games. Reporters would come in and out. Ballplayers came in when they needed something. The phone was always ringing and without a receptionist, phone duty fell to whoever was available to answer. “We were always relieved when the team would go on the road because then we could catch our breath a little bit,“ Woods said.
As the general manager, Moss had the added responsibility of dealing with all the player contracts and paperwork. Finding players and putting together a roster mainly fell to the field manager, Frank Peters, who remembers, “Lanny took care of the business and I went out and found ballplayers. We worked together and put together some magical teams...here’s a gal that had to do the paperwork I wanted no part of and had to do it all with a smile. I understood, not totally, but to a great degree, her job and I had a lot of respect for her.”
That didn’t mean he didn’t make her job difficult sometimes.“I traded a ballplayer between innings (during a double header) with the other team. We got one of their ballplayers and they got one of our players. They changed uniforms and played in the next game. Well she’s gotta do all the paperwork on that. All I’m doing is saying as the manager, ‘Okay, let’s do this’...She’s gotta do all the work on that and she’s gotta get it right. And she did.”
Moss also took a creative approach to dealing with player contracts. In March 1975, Mavericks pitcher Gene Lanthorn wanted to move into affiliated baseball and work toward a major league career. Lanthorn had won 9 games in each of his two seasons with the Mavs, so the team was not willing to release him without compensation. Instead of selling his contract to another team, Moss had Lanthorn purchase his own contract so he could negotiate with any team he wanted. A couple days later, he signed with the Giant’s organization Although he never advanced past the AA level, Moss gave him control over his contract and the chance to go for it.
Moss certainly seemed well-suited for the job. A few months after her hiring she told the Oregonian, “I’ve been an organizer since I started out peeling carrots in a restaurant when I was 13 and worked my way up to managing the gift shop. Somehow I’ve always enjoyed being out among other people, getting things going.”
With all of her responsibilities, what was the toughest part of being a GM in the minor leagues? In an interview with Doug Lemear of KGW in Portland, Moss said, “the toughest thing I’ll have to do…(is) to sign a release paper for the ballplayer who was released. He’s a young man who believes he has the potential to go to the big leagues and we have to release him and that will be very difficult.”
Somehow Moss managed the chaos of minor league baseball without losing herself. Peters remembers, “She was very likeable, very sweet...I don’t think I ever had a bad moment with Lanny Moss. She was a much nicer person than I was.”
Russell echoed that sentiment, saying one of the reasons he hired her was because of her disposition, “She knows how to ask people to do things in a nice way. I can’t do that...What a job she does.”
As for Moss, she was as complimentary as she could be of her male co-workers and boss. “I’d have to say I work for chauvinists, but more important, I work for men who are capable and get the job done.”
As the 1975 season neared its end, Russell and Moss were so impressed with Woods’ work they asked her to stay into the fall and the next season. She wrestled with the decision, but ultimately decided to give up her scholarship and not go to college in order to keep working in baseball.
“It was a dream job. I grew up a huge sports fan and here I am, 17 years old. I have the keys to Civic Stadium. I grew up watching Kurt Russell in Disney movies. All of a sudden I’m meeting him and his family and becoming part of their family. And Bing is this guy who’s on tv still, and does movies still. It was just kind of a surreal world,” Woods says.
The Maverick’s female persuasion didn’t end in the office. When the team headed out on the road, they traveled in a bus driven by a woman. Diane Tucker was a bus driver for the Portland School District and a huge sports fan. Her husband suggested that she get involved in the sports world and spend her summers driving the Maverick’s team bus. He would take care of their two kids while she was out on the road.
She won the job and fit in well with the players on the team. Peters said he made sure the players respected her by telling them, “Boys...don’t mess with your bus driver because when you want to take a piss, you’re gonna want her to stop.”
Tucker wanted to do more than just drive the bus though. In 1975 she told the Berkshire Sampler, “I want to pitch batting practice, but Frank says no one with boobs is allowed to do that on his team. I offered to get rid of them; who needs them? He didn’t pay attention though.”
That didn’t mean the Mavericks were totally opposed to women on the field though. In 1975, they hired a bat girl. 12-year-old Penny Clemo from Portland was the lucky recipient of the job. Clemo was part of the first group of girls across the country to break the gender barrier in Little League. In June of 1974, lawsuits on behalf of Maria Pepe and Kim Green forced the organization to open itself up to girls. It didn’t take long for girls to prove they belonged in baseball and could play just as well as the boys. During the 1974 season, Bunny Taylor became the first girl to throw a no-hitter.
As for Clemo, she was in sixth grade when she joined the Maverick’s bench, but she played on a team with 7th and 8th graders. She had a reputation as one of the toughest pitchers in the South Powell Little League. But her accolades didn’t end on the mound. She also hit 3 grand slams in 1975.
Given the reputation of the Mavericks players, I wondered what it was like having a girl on the bench. Peters said he didn’t think about it much. “I remember there was a bat girl and she did her job,” he laughs. “That’s what you want, to not have to think about the bat boy.” Or the bat girl.
With women in the front office and driving a bus, and a girl in the dugout, the chauvinists in baseball could be forgiven for thinking the Mavericks were going to drive women to take over baseball. In 1975, the Northwest League found itself with a woman umpire as well.
When Christine Wren took her place behind the plate in 1975, she was professional baseball’s only woman umpire, but not its first. That distinction belonged to Bernice Gera.
After six years of legal battles to earn the opportunity, Gera was hired to umpire in the Class A New York-Pennsylvania League in 1972. The long legal fight had exhausted her before she ever got the chance to take the field, and the sexism showed no sign of letting up. The night before her first game, a group of men broke the light outside her motel room, then swore at her and threatened her as she rushed to get inside. Before the game she tried to connect with her umpiring partner (umpires then worked in groups of two, one behind the plate and one on the bases). He refused to discuss anything with her.
During the game, one of the managers came out to argue a call she made on the bases. “I’ll never forget what he yelled: ‘You should have stayed home in the kitchen peeling potatoes.’” Gera ejected the manager from the game, but to further the insult to her, Gera’s umpiring partner put his arm around the manager and walked him back to the dugout.
Right after the game, Gera quit. Her exhaustion was apparent at a press conference when she said, in frustration, “If they don’t want women in baseball, then women should not go to games.” Despite it all, she couldn’t shake her desire to work in baseball. When Wren took up the cause of women umpires, Gera was working in the New York Mets’ public relations department.
Christine Wren was determined not to follow in Gera’s footsteps. She was determined that she would make it to the major leagues even though she ran into barriers right away. After continuing to receive rejections from umpiring schools, she wrote her name on the application as Chris rather than Christine. That did the trick, and she was able to get the training she needed.
After completing umpiring school, she got a break right away. Peter O’Malley, owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, asked her to umpire an exhibition game between the University of Southern California and the Dodgers. She did a good enough job to secure a job with the Northwest League. O’Malley may have enjoyed the media attention that came with having a woman umpire for one game, but the rest of baseball wasn’t ready to accept her.
Throughout organized baseball, men wondered if she was strong enough to take the physical punishments inherent in umpiring. Wren scoffed at their fears, seeing them as a way to keep her out of baseball.
Her first game behind the plate was a Mavericks exhibition game in Portland. The players initially didn’t take her seriously. C.P. Wilson stopped to kiss her on the cheek when he came up to the plate. She said after the game, “I told him not to do that during the season or he’d be gone.”
Frank Peters related a story from later that season. Jim Swanson, known as Swannie or The Left-Handed Catcher yelled from the bench, “‘Christine, your strike zone is as big as your ass.’ And then he ducks down and so she came over and then she kicked all of the ballplayers on the bench out of the game. There were maybe 5 or 6. Well, the guy who said it...ducked down so he’s the only guy left. Now I gotta go out and put on a scene. You know in a lot of cases that being a manager and yelling at the umpire is an act.”
Peters couldn’t bring himself to swear at Wren to get himself kicked out of the game. “So finally, I said, “Christine, will you just kick me out of the game so I can make it look right for the ballplayers?” Wren obliged.
The players may have given her a hard time, but she had a good reputation as an umpire. Peters said to a reporter after her debut, “I told her she did a terrific job for a lady and it might have even been a good job for a man.” He said of her when we talked, “She was a very good umpire...she could have been a major league umpire.”
Ultimately, she did not make the major leagues. Her final season was 1977. She was tired of the attention she got simply for being a woman. She still believes she was good enough to advance, but she just wasn’t getting promoted. She told the Seattle Times last summer, “In a roundabout way, it was clear to me there was no path.”
Peters sympathised, “It’s a grind, it’s tough. Being an umpire has got to be tougher than being a ballplayer and being a ballplayer is basically impossible.”
Back in the Mavericks front office, it was undeniable that Moss was good at her job. She worked tirelessly to sell more tickets. The Mavericks didn’t have much of an advertising budget and Russell didn’t want to rely on cheap promotions to bring people out to the ballpark. The first part of the Maverick’s strategy was to put together a team that won games. Russell wanted people to feel like the Mavericks were their team and to come out to support them for the baseball itself.
“A lot of people just think of the goofy stuff that happened with the baseball team, and Bing allowed that to go on,” Woods said. “But I guarantee you, he would not allow it to go on if they weren’t winning.” She continued, “Bing wanted people to come out and watch baseball and fall in love with the game of baseball and fall in love with the players.”
Going into the 1976 season, the Mavericks had an advanced sales of $166,585. The team played a short season and did not have a radio contract. In contrast, the most successful minor league team that year was the AAA Tacoma Twins, which opened with an advance of just over $200,000. Tacoma’s assistant general manager, Ron Zollo, told the Oregonian, “There is probably nobody even close to Portland at the Double-A or Single-A level, and she’s done it with a lot less games to sell.”
After the 1976 season, Moss was ready for a new challenge so she resigned from her job with the Mavericks. She told reporters she was “sad about leaving, feeling very melancholy. I have to look to the future and I feel I made the right choice, but that doesn’t make leaving any easier.”
She left the team on top. At the winter meetings, she was named the 1975 Northwest League Executive of the Year, the third person associated with the Mavericks to win in their four years of existence.
When Moss left the Mavs, Russell again made history with his GM hiring. He asked utility infielder Jon Yoshiwara to take over the job. Yoshiwara became the first Asian-American executive in professional baseball when he accepted the job.
Yoshiwara told the Diamonds and Roses podcast, “I was 21 at the time. I didn’t know. I was no more ready for that job than the man on the moon. It dealt more with selling signs and tickets and ticket sales and selling ads, that sort of stuff.”
At the time of his hiring, he drew some attention for the potential to become the first playing general manager. He joked to the newspapers, “I’ll have to do some bargaining with myself to see if I make the team or not.”
Luckily, in addition to making history, he also made the team.
While working together in Portland, Moss and Woods became close friends. So when Moss left the Mavericks, Woods did too. When plans to work for a baseball association in Australia fell through, they worked for the Hawaii Islanders baseball team helping with the winter season ticket drive.
Moss already had her eye on the next step though. She told the Honolulu Star-Bulletin that she was in Hawaii to “get myself ready for the day when I’ll have my own franchise.” She wanted to own a baseball team and estimated that she was about two years away from making that happen.
After a short amount of time with the Islanders, Moss moved over to Team Hawaii, which was the North American Soccer League’s team in Hawaii. Don Paul, who had worked with the Timbers in Portland, was familiar with Moss and eager to bring on board to help sell soccer in Hawaii. After a few months she was promoted from assistant director of marketing and sales to the Director of Public Relations.
Moss just couldn’t shake her interest in baseball though. She approached Woods with the idea that they own a baseball team. Woods agreed and they reached out some contacts in the Northwest League. With that, they headed off to Boise on their next adventure.
In September of 1977, 27-year-old Lanny Moss and 19-year-old Carren Woods had their own baseball team. Moss named the new team the Buckskins because “every field you pass around Boise has a buckskin horse in it. I’ve never seen so many.” The Buckskins would operate as an independent team, like the Mavericks had. Sadly, while the Buckskins were joining the Northwest League, the Mavericks were leaving it. The PCL, after seeing the success of the Mavericks, decided to bring a baseball team back to Portland. They forced the Mavericks to disband in order to make that happen.
Operating without an affiliation with a major league organization saddled the Buckskins with financial challenges right away. In addition to the regular costs of running a baseball team, they needed to raise enough money to pay player salaries. Moss came up with the idea to start a sponsorship program for her players. A business or individual person could choose a player to sponsor. They would pay $3,000 to the team to cover the player’s expenses, and in return they would get advertising and publicity.
It didn’t turn out to be as easy to get sponsorships as Moss had hoped. When former Mavericks players Gerry Craft approached them about managing the team, he promised to bring 12 sponsored players with him. However, he showed up to training camp with only 3 players. “That contributed significantly, not only to the quality of our players, but the financial side,” Woods said. She also thinks their inexperience showed right away. “We should have had more safeguards. Lanny and I trusted people, but we should have thought, ‘What are we going to do if he doesn’t come through with that?’”
In the process of building the Buckskins roster, Moss and Craft sought out former major leaguer Danny Thomas. Thomas was known as the Sundown Kid. He had been a former highly touted prospect with the Milwaukee Brewers, but struggled to fulfill his potential and struggled immensely with anxiety and depression. After reaching the major leagues in 1976, he sought to gain control of his struggles and rejoined a fundamentalist church he had been part of during his childhood. The church had a decree that its members must not work between sundown Friday and sundown Saturday, hence his nickname. The Brewers weren’t happy with his restrictions. After a couple demotions to the minor leagues, Thomas left baseball.
Craft had recently re-found religion himself. As Woods described it, “Gerry said he was not a Christian at all when he’d played in Portland, but he had had some kind of conversion. I believe he was sincere in it, but sometimes when people do that, they swing really hard from one kind of thing to another.” Craft wanted to bring Thomas to the Buckskins and Moss agreed, so the two of them found him in Northern Idaho and signed him.
The Buckskins opened their season to national media attention. CBS News came out to do a story for the Buckskins opening day game. They were treated to spectacular plays and a winning effort. It seemed like the newest team was off to a great start.
Then, the team started to lose. And lose. And lose. After the opening day win, the team lost 12 straight games. Morale was dismal. In the midst of the losing streak, it got much worse.
While the team was in Eugene, Craft decided to cut pitcher Brad Kramer. Kramer was upset with his release and told the newspapers, “He (Craft) said he was reading the Bible the night before and in some passage God had spoken to him directly. God let him know that Brad Kramer was no longer supposed to play on this Buckskins team. Jody Campbell (a player-coach) confirmed it. I guess they were reading the Bible together...They said God didn’t want me on the team.”
Naturally, a story like that spread quickly. Newspapers across the country picked up the wire story. Sports Illustrated ran an item about it. 60 Minutes was calling the front office. Right after the story broke, reporters got in touch with Craft before Moss and Woods had time to come up with a strategy. They would have told Craft not to talk to the press, but by the time they had a chance to talk, the newspapers were running with outlandish quotes about the influence of a higher power in the decisions Craft made.
“Lanny and I had to spend a lot of time going, ‘Whoa, wait a minute. That’s not how we make decisions. We’re a business.’” Woods said. “It was a disaster, obviously, on so many different levels and really crippling to the team for a period of time. It went from being one and oh on opening night and having this great feeling, and CBS. It was all this great feeling to being a one and 12 team. And then all this happened.”
Woods is also quick to say that she didn’t know what really happened when Kramer was released and acknowledges how hard it is on players when they’re released. She had experience with it back with the Mavericks, “I had to say the team’s going to release you today, and I had to give them their money. You see these guys crying because this is their dream. Guys don’t take it well, by and large, when you tell them they’re being cut. So, I’m sure Brad wasn’t happy.”
“What actually happened and what he said, I don’t know, but it certainly got picked up by the press. And it went like wildfire because if you tell people God talks to you, then you can get on any kind of news station.”
Moss decided she needed to defend her manager to the press. She acknowledged that she too was Christian and saw the Buckskins serving a higher purpose. “I think what Gerry is doing is letting everyone be aware of what’s happening with the ball club so that when it does happen as we believe it will happen...taking the division by storm and going into the playoffs...that the focal point is on giving God the honor and glory and not for Gerry and the ballplayers to take it...It’s not that God’s going to make us win, it’s not that we expect God to make us winners on the field.”
As the media attention died down, the Buckskins began to turn the season around. The team had a good lineup, they just didn’t have the pitching to compete. After the losing streak at the beginning of the season, the short season didn’t allow the Buckskins to make up for it. But still, Woods remembered, “We drew really well. The people kept coming out to Boise. They do really love baseball in Boise...so it was never that the fans turned on us.”
Unfortunately, as the players began to win, the team ran into financial problems. They weren’t making enough from gate receipts to meet payroll and the player sponsors weren’t all coming through with their $3,000 obligation. Moss and Woods discovered that the person who had promised to provide financial backing was unable to help. Scrambling, they got some help from local business and limped to the end of the season.
The Buckskins finished the year 23-47, 12 games out of first place. Given the precarious financial situation, Moss began looking for a benefactor. She reached out to a contact she had with the Philadelphia Phillies organization. The Phillies were searching for a short season affiliate. After talking to Moss, they added Boise to a list that included Bend and Salem. Boise seemed to have a lead in the race to gain affiliation, but there were concerns about the debts the team carried as well as the national publicity it had received after Kramer’s release. Moss and Woods both thought the Phillies would choose Boise. Unfortunately, they picked Bend for the 1979 season instead.
“By that point, there was no recovering. There was no ability to financially keep going,” Woods said.
“So, that was the end.”
Moss and Woods both left the baseball world after the Buckskins folded. “For me, it was probably a great thing,” Woods said. “It was four very long years of just planning your whole life around the pocket schedule. I didn’t see my family very much. When I look back on it, that was God’s mercy to me that it did fail in the way it did.”
By the time the Maverick women left baseball, a number of women had taken up the mantle of minor league baseball executive. Moss may have wanted to get back into baseball at some point. She stayed in Boise for a while, got married, and did some work with the Salvation Army. Woods was ready to move on and never tried to get back into the baseball business, despite offers from teams to come work for them. She is currently a pastor at Rivergate Community Church in Portland. If that seems like a drastic departure from baseball, it’s not. Woods said, “I’m in a field now where women still are not always recognized that they should be doing jobs as pastors. So the job with the Mavericks was good preparation for what I do now. I run into people all the time who think a woman shouldn’t be a pastor either.”
Woods describes her time in baseball as being mostly positive. She thinks the ethos of the Mavericks played into her acceptance in Portland. “We were in our own little world in Portland. It was really like the movie portrays,” she said, referring to the Battered Bastards of Baseball. “It was us against everybody else.”
“I certainly met people who thought women had no place except in the bedroom or the kitchen. It wasn’t that I didn’t experience that people thought I didn’t have a place there. I did, but overall what I found is that the bottom line was, ‘Can you get the work done?’ And we proved we could get the work done.”
Moss and Woods attended the winter meetings for several years in a row. Although we spoke before his death, Woods specifically mentioned the support she got there from Henry Aaron. He “was one of the nicest men that I ever met. He was very kind and supportive.” At the time, Aaron was overseeing player development and Atlanta’s entire farm system. He certainly understood the way baseball tried to keep people out of the game.
Neither Moss nor Woods paid much attention to the political implications of their jobs in baseball. “Lanny and I would probably be the least feminist women you could find,” she says of their philosophies at the time. “We were never poster children, or women, for women’s lib so we would have been a disappointment to women.”
There were moments when she made note of their barrier breaking though. “I remember one day sitting in the office with Lanny and Christine Wren was in there. The first woman general manager in professional baseball and the first woman umpire. I was thinking and I said to both of them, ‘This is kind of funny that here we all are sitting, the rare women in baseball.’”
“My experience really was I just put my head down and did the work. I wasn’t trying to make a statement that women should have a place at the table anymore than men...But there were fleeting moments where you would think about that.”
Lanny Moss left behind a baseball world that was changed by her work. She may have been the first woman general manager, but she was also a creative thinker, a hard worker, and someone who had fallen in love with the game. Nearly 50 years later, baseball continues to be dominated by men and the front offices across baseball in both the minor and major leagues have been slow to adopt more gender and racially inclusive hiring practices.
It was only last November that major league baseball finally hired its first woman general manager when the Miami Marlins offered the job to the supremely qualified Kim Ng. Ng also became just the second person of Asian descent to lead a baseball operations department in the major leagues.
Slowly, more women are being hired as coaches. More gender barriers are broken. But for every advancement, there’s a news story about how hostile baseball as a whole remains for women. It shouldn’t be like that. It doesn’t have to be like that.
The Portland Mavericks were a team with a chip on their collective shoulders. Players fought their way back to the major leagues. Women ran the team.
The Mavericks were a team that truly sought to find the best person for the job, and it didn’t matter if they looked different than the white male standard of baseball.
There are a lot of lessons baseball could take to heart from the Mavericks. Opening the pipeline for new talent is one of the most important.
Several years ago Lanny Moss returned to Portland. She reconnected with Carren Woods, but still held herself away from baseball.
The Battered Bastards of Baseball was released and the legend of the Portland Mavericks was alive once again. Frank Peters told me he made more money speaking about the Mavericks after the movie was released than he did managing them. He is rooting for Portland to land a major league team and hopes to put his experience running bars and managing the Mavs to good use by opening a Mavericks themed sports bar in the new stadium. Carren Woods also spoke about how wonderful the experience of doing the movie was. She said people reach out to her all the time looking for advice on working in baseball.
The Hillsboro Hops, a short-season A team west of Portland began to hold Mavericks nights in honor of the team. For one of the reunion nights, the Hops asked Woods if she could convince Moss to come to the game. After thinking about it, Moss agreed.
They kept her appearance a secret. Moss and Woods hid in the front office of the stadium, a callback to all the days they had spent in the front office years before. A group of players were out on the field for the pre-game reunion when the stadium announcer introduced Lanny Moss, the first woman general manager in professional baseball. Woods remembers, “The players were just shocked to have not seen her in 45 years. People were literally crying and then she came out and brought the ball to Frank to throw out the first pitch.”
“She deserved it. She opened a lot of doors for people in baseball, particularly women. But she was really good at her job...She’s done a lot of good things, so for her to be able to come back and have everybody stand up and give her a big salute was a big deal for her.”
I get the impression that Lanny Moss was ready to conquer all of baseball. She may not have totally renovated baseball, but she certainly took a sledgehammer to some of its drywall. Rather than repair it, other women stepped in through the hole and began the work of rebuilding a baseball world that lets women in. It’s a process that is taking far too long, but it’s a process that isn’t going to stop.
What Lanny started, women throughout baseball are working hard to keep building.