A Century of Progress: From My Great-Grandmother's Legacy to the Cubs' First All-Female Broadcast

by candy barone Jul 09, 2024

This past Sunday, July 7th, a notable mark in sports history (or should I say … her-story) was made as the Chicago Cubs had their first-ever, all-female live broadcast.

“Why is this significant?” you might ask.

Baseball Is in My Blood

Well, as the great-granddaughter of the first woman to ever own an MLB team, this moment in baseball history hits a particular high note for me.

In a previous article, I shared the legacy of my great-grandmother, Helene Hathaway Robison Britton, who was the first woman to own a Major League Baseball franchise when she took over ownership on the St. Louis Cardinals back in 1911.

Note this was BEFORE women could even vote!

She owned the team for six years, after my great, great uncle, Stanley Robison, bequeathed it to her upon his death.

During her tenure as team owner, one of the tributes to her legacy was reinstating Women’s Day at the ballpark, giving women the freedom to attend ball games without a male escort.

Just let that settle in for a moment.

Now, a little over a hundred years later, women still are fighting for a seat at the table and a spot on the field.

As a diehard sports fan, baseball being my true love, growing up listening to games on the radio and watching my beloved Cubs on WGN, I always dreamed of being a sports announcer.

I even have a clip of me mimicking Harry Caray when they invited my family to honor Helen’s legacy in St. Louis for a tribute to Women in Baseball, back in 2017 (signifying 100 years from Helene sold the team).

I studied the play-by-plays, the stats, and the inner workings of the game. 

When given opportunity I found ways to connect on deeper levels to the sports world and the energy of games I loved so much.

From keeping stats for our boys’ high school basketball team, to running scorecards in summer baseball games, to being the team manager for the men’s hockey team in college, where I had every job imaginable … keeping stats, moving goals on the ice, to taping up broken ribs.

Not only did I take on many roles behind-the-scenes, even traveling with the teams on roadtrips, I was an athlete myself.

I played softball, even making the team my first year of college. And, then soccer … where my major of distinction is I will go down in my alma mater’s hall of fame as the first graduate from our women’s soccer team.

History in the Making

To see this moment in history, and witness this broadcast first-hand, was like being given a historical roadmap of women’s evolution in baseball over the last century. It’s pretty amazing to see. 

Let’s take a look at the three women who carried this broadcast: 

  • Beth Mowins, a veteran play-by-play announcer and sports journalist for ESPN CBS, and Marquee (Cubs) Network, typically broadcasting for women’s college sports, and does play-by-play for the NFL and NBA, and was the first woman to call a nationally televised NFL game and play-by-play for an NBA game on network TV.
  • Elise Menaker, game analyst for the Triple A Iowa Cubs, a Cornell University softball hall-of-famer and alum from the professional Swedish softball team, doing in-game analysis.
  • Taylor McGregor, former college football and XFL sideline reporter for ESPN and former field reporter for the Rockies’ TV network, serving as the field reporter for the Marquee (Cubs) Network.

Needless to say, these three women bring some creds to the show, no doubt. And, for me, it was a lot of fun to listen to and watch. 

Highlights of the Broadcast

First of all, I have to admit, I can listen to Beth Mowins call a game all-day. She has the perfect radio voice and knows this game inside-and-out. She’s highly knowledgeable and draws on great baseball history and analogies. 

There’s an easy, yet direct approach in her call rhythm that matches a lot of what you hear from the men when they take that seat. 

Personally, I think they should pair her with Pat Hughes (hall-of-fame Cubs radio announcer) as the blend of their voices and styles would be magical. 

Next, let’s look at Elise Menaker. She has a depth of insights in her game analysis. She breaks down pitches and areas of opportunity quite well. She also understands the overall mechanics of the game, and as well as the strengths individual players bring to the plate and the field. 

Lastly, we have Taylor McGregor, who brings a freshness, yet depth in her knowledge to the sidelines. Her field interviews and trivia tidbits are engaging and interesting. She also appeals to a different audience and demographic, as she draws in the younger fans. 

With the combination of a veteran play-by-play broadcaster in Mowins, paired with the depth of analysis Menaker provides, and the energy, freshness and knowledge McGregor brings to the trio, I found the cadence, the synergy, and the overall dynamic to be really good between the three. 

I was more engaged listening to them than I have been with some of the other announcers. They stayed focused on the game, the players, and didn’t veer off into weird and ridiculous tangents. 

Personally, I loved the broadcast. I hope they do more broadcasts together. 

Of course, that’s just my opinion. 

You might be wondering what others had to say about the whole event …

Reactions from the Fans & Baseball Gurus

As for the fans, overall from all the social media buzz and posts, the majority of the comments were very uplifting, celebratory, and supportive. 

The support also poured in from sports media channels, writers, and other broadcasters. Jim Deshaies (J.D.), former MLB pitcher and Cubs color commentator shared this on X during Sunday’s broadcast:

“Loving this broadcast today-Elise nailed the Quees to the game!!”

Not to Leave the Haters Out

Of course, there were also more than a fair share of misguided commentary and snarky remarks about how women broadcasting is ruining baseball, and how it’s a “man’s game.”

I find it interesting those who balk (pun intended) at the thought of an all female broadcast and how it’s “changing the game of baseball.”

Have you watched baseball over the last few years? 

The game has done nothing but change. It’s not even close to being the same game I grew up with. I still love it, but c’mon now …

There have been a tremendous amount of changes to brings fans back and the appeal to new demographics.

The other comment that is baffling to me is “How can they have female announcers when they haven’t been big leaguers themselves.”

Do I need to count all the announcers who never set foot in the minors or a farm league, let alone the show itself?

One does not need to have Major League playing experience to know how to effectively and engagingly announce the game.

They’re two different skill sets.

To be honest, some of the current announcers aren’t even that good and spend the majority of their time rambling about nonsense versus actually talking about the game, and about baseball.

So, to all those grumbling and bashing the idea of female broadcasters, my response to you is simply: “Get over yourself.”

Times are a-changing … and, I don’t know about you, but I am ready for even more expansiveness when it comes to the evolution of sports. 

The Future of Baseball

In the 4th inning, Laura Ricketts, co-owner of the Chicago Cubs, joined Mowins and Menaker in the booth to talk about how the time has come to evolve sports for women.

Her initial comment was “it’s about time” in regards to this moment happening. She then proceeded to say,

“Sports is a platform for diversity and equity.”

She also discussed how excited she is to see more opportunities for women in sports to unfold. I really appreciated that she highlighted that women in sports is not something new, and that it’s been a part of us.

Many women grew up playing and watching sports. In many cases, they just haven’t been fully invited into the conversation.

We are evolving, and it’s time to create environments in sports that lend to greater diversity, inclusion, and equity. 

To see continued barriers be broken down is promising of even more inclusivity for others to become part of the game, as well.

From my great-grandmother’s groundbreaking ownership of the Cardinals to this historic all-female Cubs broadcast, women have been integral to baseball’s story and to its ever-evolving legacy. 

This broadcast isn’t just a milestone. 

It’s a stepping stone to a brighter, more inclusive future where women’s voices in sports are the norm, not the exception. 

As we celebrate this moment, let’s look forward to the day when such events are no longer notable and newsworthy. 

When, instead, they’re just another day in baseball.

For those who see the significance of moments like these and the opportunities we are opening up for new horizons and possibilities for our kids, especially our young girls, I celebrate with you!


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