Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Judge Sylvia Pressler, Who Opened Little League to Girls, Dies at 75

Judge Sylvia Pressler


The New York Times; February 16, 2010

Sylvia B. Pressler, whose 1973 ruling as a hearings officer with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights opened the door for girls to play Little League baseball, and who later rose to be the presiding administrative judge of the state’s Appellate Division, died Monday at a family cottage in Sparta, N.J. She was 75, and her primary residence was in Englewood, N.J.

Her husband, David, confirmed her death. The specific cause was uncertain, but his wife had lymphoma, he said.

Judge Pressler was an especially prolific jurist, the author of hundreds of opinions in 31 years on the bench.

In 1995, she extended the legal rights of gay couples in a ruling that allowed a woman to adopt her partner’s 3-year-old twins.

“They function together as a family,” Judge Pressler wrote of the two women, who had lived together for 14 years. “The twins are, by reason of upbringing, daily lives and ties of mutual affection, the children of both Mary and Hannah, and no court order granting or denying the adoption will change that.”

In 2004, three years before the New Jersey Legislature abolished capital punishment, she ruled that the state’s procedures for carrying out the death penalty were insufficient to guarantee the rights of the condemned and that they had to be re-examined before the state could perform another execution by lethal injection.

“It is one thing for proponents and opponents to talk about capital punishment as an abstract proposition,” Judge Pressler wrote. “It is quite another to see it carried out.”

But she was best known for her decision in the Little League case, which she made before she was elevated to the bench. This was in 1973, when discrimination cases in New Jersey were heard by the Division of Civil Rights before government-appointed examiners, of which Sylvia Pressler, then a lawyer, was one.

The previous year, a 12-year-old girl, Maria Pepe, had played three games for a Hoboken Little League team before national Little League officials learned of her participation and threatened to revoke the local league’s charter if she continued to play. The National Organization for Women brought suit on behalf of the girl and all others in New Jersey. Ms. Pressler’s ruling in favor of them was upheld by the New Jersey Appellate Court, and in 1974 Little League Baseball agreed to allow girls to play on its teams and to start a softball division especially for girls.

“The institution of Little League is as American as the hot dog and apple pie,” she wrote in her ruling. “There is no reason why that part of Americana should be withheld from girls.”

Sylvia Diane Brodsky was born in New York City — either in Upper Manhattan or the Bronx, her husband said — on April 10, 1934, and grew up in the Bronx. (Professionally, she used the initial of her maiden name as a middle initial.) Her parents were Jewish immigrants, her mother from what is now Belarus and her father, who came to New York via Argentina, from what is now Poland. For a time he was an owner of a parking garage; he died when his daughter was a young girl.

Judge Pressler graduated from Hunter College High School in Manhattan and then attended Queens College before transferring to Boston University, where her future husband was in school, and where she received a bachelor’s degree. Her law degree was from Rutgers School of Law — Newark. Before becoming a hearings examiner, she worked in private practice and was the Englewood city attorney.

She was named to the bench in Bergen County Court in 1973 by Gov. William T. Cahill; Gov. Brendan T. Byrne appointed her to the state’s Superior Court in 1976, and she was assigned to the Appellate Division the following year. In 1997 she was named presiding judge for the administration of the Appellate Division. She retired in 2004.

Judge Pressler was at the center of a controversy in 1983, when a state senator, Gerald Cardinale, invoked the privilege known as senatorial courtesy to block her reappointment to the Superior Court. Mr. Cardinale claimed that she lacked a judicial temperament, but the Senate overwhelmingly approved her reappointment anyway, after it was disclosed that Mr. Cardinale had appeared before Judge Pressler as an unsuccessful litigant.

In addition to her husband, whom she met in 1953 when both were working as waiters at a Jersey Shore hotel, she is survived by a daughter, Jessica Pressler of Tenafly, N.J.; a son, Noah, of Englewood; and three grandchildren.

“She was not a good waitress,” her husband said in an interview on Tuesday. “She was very good at other things — almost everything else.”

Monday, February 01, 2010

2010 Election of the Shrine of the Eternals

Baseball Reliquary Announces Candidates for 2010 Election of the Shrine of the Eternals

The Baseball Reliquary, Inc. has announced its list of fifty eligible candidates for the 2010 election of the Shrine of the Eternals, the membership organization’s equivalent to the Baseball Hall of Fame. This year marks the twelfth annual election of the Shrine, a major national component of the Baseball Reliquary, a Southern California-based organization dedicated to fostering an appreciation of American art and culture through the context of baseball history. The thirty-three individuals previously elected to the Shrine of the Eternals are, in alphabetical order: Jim Abbott, Dick Allen, Emmett Ashford, Moe Berg, Yogi Berra, Ila Borders, Jim Bouton, Jim Brosnan, Bill Buckner, Roberto Clemente, Steve Dalkowski, Rod Dedeaux, Jim Eisenreich, Dock Ellis, Mark Fidrych, Curt Flood, Josh Gibson, William “Dummy” Hoy, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Bill James, Bill “Spaceman” Lee, Roger Maris, Marvin Miller, Minnie Minoso, Buck O’Neil, Satchel Paige, Jimmy Piersall, Pam Postema, Jackie Robinson, Lester Rodney, Fernando Valenzuela, Bill Veeck, Jr., and Kenichi Zenimura.

The Shrine of the Eternals is similar in concept to the annual elections held at the Baseball Hall of Fame, but differs philosophically in that statistical accomplishment is not a criterion for election. Rather, the Shrine’s annual ballot is comprised of individuals – from the obscure to the well-known – who have altered the baseball world in ways that supersede statistics.

On a procedural level, the Shrine of the Eternals differs significantly from the Baseball Hall of Fame in the manner by which electees are chosen. While the Baseball Hall of Fame’s electees are chosen in voting conducted by a select group of sportswriters or committees, the Baseball Reliquary chooses its enshrinees by a vote open to the public. A screening committee appointed by the Reliquary’s Board of Directors prepares a ballot consisting of fifty candidates, on which the membership votes annually. The three candidates receiving the highest percentage of votes gain automatic election.

Among the fifty eligible candidates for 2010, nine individuals appear on the Shrine of the Eternals ballot for the first time. A tenth candidate, Roger Angell, returns to the ballot after an absence of eleven years. (Angell appeared on the Shrine ballot one previous time in 1999.) The newcomers and returnee, in alphabetical order, are:

ROGER ANGELL (b. 1920) – self-described baseball “reporter” whose elegant and masterful prose, and remarkable power of observation, on display for years through his books and essays in The New Yorker magazine, established a new standard for baseball journalism.

STEVE BLASS (b. 1942) – one of the National League’s top pitchers in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, Blass inexplicably lost his control after winning a career-high 19 games for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1972; while no definitive explanation has ever been given for his sudden ineffectiveness, Blass was out of baseball by 1975, and to this day pitchers who have had success and then mysteriously could not find the strike zone are referred to as having “Steve Blass disease.”

JAY BUHNER (b. 1964) – one of the most beloved and charismatic ballplayers of his era, Buhner was a right-handed power hitter for the Seattle Mariners from 1988-2001, known as much for his shaved scalp, goatee, free-spirited ways, and occasional fielding miscues (hence his nickname “Bonehead,” or “Bone” for short) as for his dramatic home runs.

JEFFERSON BURDICK (1900-1963) – often referred to as “the father of card collecting,” Burdick amassed a collection of 300,000-plus trading cards, including over 30,000 baseball cards, for which he developed a system of cataloging that remains in use today; he eventually would donate his collection to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and remains a stellar example of the baseball card collector as researcher and scholar rather than speculator and celebrity hunter.

HECTOR ESPINO (1939-1997) – known as “the Babe Ruth of Mexico,” Espino slugged over 450 home runs between 1962 and 1984 in the Mexican League, while steadfastly refusing to play in the United States because of the racism he encountered while playing in Florida during the Civil Rights era; a true national hero along the lines of Jackie Robinson (his number 21 was retired by all Mexican professional teams), he was admired by fans throughout Mexico as much for his sense of pride and loyalty for his country as for his incomparable baseball skills.

EDDIE GRANT (1883-1918) – the first major league ballplayer killed in action during World War I, the Harvard-educated Grant was a light-hitting infielder for the Philadelphia Phillies, Cincinnati Reds, and New York Giants from 1907 to 1915; his unusual academic pedigree stood out in an era when many fellow players were barely literate, and his bravery was honored by a legendary granite monument that stood for decades in New York City’s Polo Grounds.

CONRADO MARRERO (b. 1911) – the elder statesman of Cuban baseball, the diminutive 5-foot-7 Marrero was a great amateur pitcher in his homeland before joining the Washington Senators from 1950 to 1954; after returning to Cuba, where he is reportedly the last surviving major leaguer living on the island, he taught baseball to children and became a beloved goodwill ambassador for the amateur game.

FRANK O’ROURKE (1916-1989) – one of the greatest, albeit largely unknown, baseball fiction writers of the post-World War II era, O’Rourke authored gritty, highly realistic short stories and novels that were influenced by his ballplaying experiences (he even worked out with the Philadelphia Phillies in spring training in the late 1940s) and his intimacy with the major leaguers he used for his fictional characters.

PETE ROSE (b. 1941) – the inimitable “Charlie Hustle” began his assault on the record books in 1963 as the first piece of what would become the Big Red Machine; his prowess at hitting a baseball would be matched only by his penchant for generating controversy, and, in the eyes of many, his eventual placement on baseball’s ineligible list and banishment from the Hall of Fame made what he had achieved between the white lines seem irrelevant.

MAURY WILLS (b. 1932) – single-handedly restoring the stolen base as a potent offensive weapon with the Dodgers in the 1960s, paving the way for the even greater stardom of Hall-of-Famers Lou Brock and Rickey Henderson, Wills electrified the baseball world by stealing 104 bases in his 1962 MVP season; but his popularity and public acclaim came with a steep price, as he would eventually battle cocaine and alcohol addiction.

A complete list of all fifty candidates for the 2010 election of the Shrine of the Eternals follows. Election packets, containing ballots and biographical profiles of all candidates, will be mailed to Baseball Reliquary members on April 1, 2010. To be eligible to vote, all persons must have their minimum $25.00 annual membership dues paid as of March 31, 2010.

The three new inductees will be announced in May, with the Induction Day ceremony scheduled for Sunday, July 18, 2010 in Pasadena, California. In addition to the presentation of plaques to the 2010 inductees, this year’s ceremony will honor the recipients of the 2010 Hilda Award (named in memory of Hilda Chester and acknowledging a baseball fan’s exceptional devotion to the game) and the 2010 Tony Salin Memorial Award (presented annually to an individual dedicated to the preservation of baseball history).

For additional information on the Shrine of the Eternals, contact Terry Cannon, Executive Director of the Baseball Reliquary, at P.O. Box 1850, Monrovia, CA 91017; by phone at (626) 791-7647; or by e-mail at


2010 Candidates
The number to the right of candidates' names indicates number of years on Shrine of the Eternals ballot.
1. Hank Aguirre (6)
2. Roger Angell (2)
3. Eliot Asinof (7)
4. Billy Bean (8)
5. Steve Blass (New!)
6. Chet Brewer (11)
7. Charlie Brown (3)
8. Jay Buhner (New!)
9. Jefferson Burdick (New!)
10. Helen Callaghan (7)
11. Charles M. Conlon (9)
12. Dizzy Dean (10)
13. Ed Delahanty (7)
14. Buck Dent (2)
15. Hector Espino (New!)
16. Eddie Feigner (10)
17. Lisa Fernandez (10)
18. Rube Foster (12)
19. Ted Giannoulas (8)
20. Eddie Grant (New!)
21. Jim "Mudcat" Grant (6)
22. Pete Gray (12)
23. Ernie Harwell (7)
24. Dr. Frank Jobe (8)
25. Charles "Pop" Kelchner (3)

26. Mike "King" Kelly (3)
27. Effa Manley (12)
28. Conrado Marrero (New!)
29. Dr. Mike Marshall (5)
30. Jocko Maxwell (2)
31. Tug McGraw (7)
32. "Nuf Ced" McGreevey (4)
33. Fred Merkle (4)
34. Manny Mota (3)
35. Frank O'Rourke (New!)
36. Phil Pote (8)
37. Vic Power (2)
38. Dan Quisenberry (4)
39. J.R. Richard (11)
40. Pete Rose (New!)
41. Rusty Staub (5)
42. Casey Stengel (12)
43. Chuck Stevens (2)
44. Luis Tiant (8)
45. Fay Vincent (9)
46. Rube Waddell (12)
47. John Montgomery Ward (4)
48. Maury Wills (New!)
49. Wally Yonamine (3)
50. Don Zimmer (6)