I went into De Lauer's Super News Stand in Oakland, and there wasn't a Sports Illustrated magazine to be found. The clerk smiled and said a number of people had already been in that morning asking for it. He offered to put my name down on a list.
Why the sudden demand for SI? This wasn't the popular swimsuit issue featuring buxom models bursting out of skimpy bikinis. Two words. "Mo'ne Davis."
Davis, in case you haven't heard, is the 13-year-old pitching ace from Philadelphia. She is the first girl to throw a shutout in the Little League World Series and became an overnight national sensation.
Sports Illustrated put Davis, who is African-American, on the cover. It was the first time a Little League player had been featured so prominently. Albert Chen, who wrote the article, called Davis, "a lot of things to a lot of people, all of them good things: a totem for inner-city baseball, a role model for your 10-year-old niece, a role model for your 10-year-old nephew."
Add to that list a role model for women who were denied the right to participate in male sports like baseball because we grew up pre- and in the early years of Title IX. The federal law passed in 1972 prohibited discrimination based on gender for any educational program or activity that receives federal funds. It has had a huge impact on girls' and women's participation in sports despite continuous efforts by some to water down the legislation, claiming it hurts boys and men's sports. The year before Title IX passed there were about 310,000 girls and women in the U.S. playing high school and college sports. Now, there are more than 3.3 million.
I get a vicarious thrill watching Davis, cool as a cucumber, fire 70 mph fastballs past her male opponents. It transports me back to my childhood.
When I was in sixth grade, I was never without my glove. I played center field and could throw a runner out at home. I could hit. But there was no Little League for girls in New Delhi, India, where my family was living. There was however, a Little League for boys.
One of the coaches invited me to join his team. I still remember my excitement taking the field for my first game in my new uniform. My joy did not last long. I don't think I'd been out there 10 minutes before some guy in the stands yelled, "get that girl off the field!" The heckling continued when I went up to bat. I was terrified. I was the only girl and the only African-American.
It was my first and last game. The league organizers, which included the husband of my sixth-grade teacher, got together to officially ban girls, which in effect meant me. My teacher spent much of the rest of the year lecturing me about the proper place for girls.
It was the same year that another girl named Maria Pepe from Hoboken, New Jersey, sued for the right to play Little League. League officials claimed that girls didn't have the skill or stamina to play. Pepe won her lawsuit, but by then she was too old to play. She helped break down the barrier that paved the way for Davis.
Fans lined up for tickets at the stadium in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, 12 hours before Davis and her team, the Taney Dragons, were scheduled to play Las Vegas. (The Dragons lost 8-1.) Record numbers of TV viewers tuned in on ESPN and countless others on the Internet. People were hawking baseballs purportedly signed by Davis for $500 on eBay.
People who couldn't have cared less about Little League in the past were rooting for the eighth-grader with braids down her back to go all the way.
Some speculated about whether she might become the first woman to pitch in the major leagues. Davis says she wants to play basketball -- at the college level and then go on to the WNBA. She's only 13. Who knows what she ends up doing?
Alas, the story of Davis and the Taney Dragons does not have a Hollywood ending. On Thursday, the Dragons lost to the Jackie Robinson West team of Chicago in a hard-fought 6-5 elimination game. Davis wasn't allowed to pitch. Under league rules, a pitcher who exceeds the number of allowed pitches is required to rest the arm.
I'm sorry I didn't get to watch her again in the Saturday championship, but I doubt this is the last we'll be hearing about Mo'ne Davis.
Tammerlin Drummond is a columnist for the Bay Area News Group. Her column runs Thursday and Sunday. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her at Twitter.com/tammerlin.