History Book – Major League locker rooms and evolution in Tennessee

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Monday, March 9th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Next up on The World and Everything in It: the WORLD History Book.

Seventeen years ago, much like today, daily updates on a virus outbreak centered in China. Plus, 40 years ago, a policy change for Major League Baseball regarding reporters in the locker room.

EICHER: But first, 95 years ago this week, Tennessee made it illegal to teach human evolution. Here’s Paul Butler.

PAUL BUTLER, REPORTER: We begin today with March 13th, 1925. Tennessee House Bill number 185 becomes law. The legislation is by state Representative John Washington Butler. It reads:

AN ACT prohibiting the teaching of the Evolution Theory in all the Universities, Normals and all other public schools of Tennessee, which are supported in whole or in part by the public school funds of the State, and to provide penalties for the violations thereof.

The Butler Act prohibits any teacher—or teachers college—from denying “the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible” as well as any theory that teaches man is descended from lower orders of animals. It goes on to set the fine for each offense as “not less than $100 nor more than $500.” Nearly twenty other states pass similar bills.

Not long after the Tennessee governor signs the act, the ACLU finds John Scopes, a substitute teacher and coach willing to challenge the law. Within months, the Scopes monkey trial is in full swing in Dayton, Tennessee. The trial ends with a guilty verdict and the Butler Act remains in place for 42 years in Tennessee before eventually being overturned in 1967.


Next, we move to the 1970s, and a battle over female reporters in Major League baseball locker rooms.

KUHN: It’s our view that it’s not a fair thing for our players. This is an area where they’re dressing and an area where we think they are entitled to some reasonable privacy. We don’t think it’s really fair to the rest of the press and we also don’t think it’s fair to many of our fans who would have great reservations about this. 

That’s baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn speaking with ABC’s Howard Cosell. A year earlier, Melissa Ludtke—a reporter with Sports Illustrated magazine—sued Major League baseball after the New York Yankees denied her access to the clubhouse during the 1977 World Series. 

At the time, both the NBA, and the NHL allowed women in the locker rooms to interview players and coaches after games. Baseball commissioner Kuhn was a devout Roman Catholic, and resisted following suit. 

A handful of players lobbied for Ludtke, including Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Tommy John—even though he wasn’t thrilled about it. 

JOHN: I think that she has a right to gain her story, and get her story, as a full fledged reporter for S.I. (Sports Illustrated). But I myself as Tommy John would feel a little uncomfortable or embarrassed about having her or having another woman or women in the clubhouse…

Major League Baseball argues for player privacy. Howard Cosell asks Melissa Ludtke about that concern:

COSELL: What’s your reaction to that? 

LUDTKE: If you can call a locker room where you have 30 men who didn’t have anything to do with the game walking around and talking to you, and still maintain that that’s a private situation, I don’t buy that. It’s a situation where they are a public figure at that point. They’re not a private individual in their home, And as many people have said, it’s a question that nothing short of towel won’t solve…

Melissa Ludtke wins her case, and on March 9th, 1979, baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn mandates that players and management must give equal access to female reporters. 

And finally, March 12th, 2003. The World Health Organization issues a global warning over the dangers of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome or SARS. Dr. James Maguire:

MAGUIRE: And we all know that until this disease is eliminated or eradicated…it can spread.

SARS is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by a coronavirus strain. The first case occurred in southern China in late 2002. The flu-like symptoms include a high fever, muscle pain, cough, and sore throat. The virus eventually leads to shortness of breath and pneumonia.

NEWSCAST: This week saw the galloping rise of SARS…and as new cases emerge, and quarantines expand, and the disease spreads to North America, the consequences are multiplying… 

Audio from a 2003 PBS report. 

While the epicenter of the outbreak is mainland China and Hong Kong, from November 2002 to July 2003, doctors diagnose more than 8,000 people in 17 countries with the virus. About one in ten die. No cases of SARS have been reported worldwide since 2004.

That’s this week’s WORLD History Book, I’m Paul Butler.

(Photo/Encyclopedia Brittancia) 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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