Kathy and Donna Caterino - 1977
Little League Discovers Girls
Kathy and Donna Caterino play hardball with the Brookline Little League because they were too young for girl's softball.
That was back when they were seven. At nine they started with hardball teams, and now Kathy, 12, has been playing hardball for three years, two of them with her present team, the Quaills.
Kathy was the first girl in Brookline to play on a Little League team. And she's still the only girl on her team.
Which might be an issue with the adults, but it's not with her fellow teammates.
"I'm treated the same as everyone else."
"Yeah," sister Donna, 10, agrees. "They treat us real good." Donna started this year with the American Legion team, after playing one year in the minor, training leagues, with her father as manager.
Kathy credits her manager, Jack McGee, with her success as a right-handed pitcher.
"He gave me my first chance. He told the kids, 'If you don't like girls on the team, just drop your hat now.'"
No one did. The team was 10-0 that year, with Kathy pitching.
Kathy says she's the best pitcher on the team, with the quiet candor that isn't bragging that only kids have. For those of us who need proof, she made the Brookline All-Star team.
She'll be the only girl on that team, too.
Which is fine with the guys. But Donna sometimes gets bothered by the fact that "the adults always say stuff about us."
Her mother agreed that adults' comments sometimes get her daughters down. "If a kid slips and says something, it doesn't bother them. But the adults, yes."
Like the mother of the pitcher Donna hit her first homerun off of. She made that one the first time she was at bat for the Legion team.
Manager Angelo Masullo threw up his arms with typical Italian zest. "Mama mia! Look at that girl!"
The guys were all standing at home plate when Donna came running in.
Besides pitching well, Kathy gets homeruns too.
And they both "get money when we get homeruns," Donna smiled. Five dollars from proud mom and dad.
What's the secret to being a winning pitcher?
Kathy says she has to "relax." She chews gum and walks around the plate between pitches. And the guys come over to tell her jokes and make her laugh.
"I pitch low to the big kids. I throw where the catcher has the mitt."
Kathy's specialty is fast balls, "but sometimes I throw gopher balls, too," she said.
That's when you "throw it easy and they're waiting for a fast ball. It puts 'em off balance."
She lines up her foot, looks straight at the batter and screws up her freckled nose. She lifts her leg high and lets go with a darn fast ball. For a girl?
Donna was a pitcher in the minor leagues and although her dad was sad to lose her, the other teams were glad to get rid of her fast ball.
What do the girls think of playing softball now that they're old enough?
Not much. Donna hates pitching underhanded. "Softball's too girlish," she said.
Her mother thinks the problem is "there's not enough competition in softball."
"We've raised them in ball," she said. "They're more mature in it than most girls. Softball holds them down."
The girls started playing wiffle ball with their mother at four. At six their dad advanced tham to softball and then introduced hardball.
The family often plays backyard baseball. Mom is pitcher, dad is outfielder and the four children, including two other daughters, 6 and 16, split up the other positions.
The girls go to Pirate games with their father whenever there's a weekend they aren't playing themselves. Avid Pirate fans, they say they'd "much rather play themselves," than watch.
"Watching the Pirates is nothing compared to watching their games," Mrs. Caterino agreed.
"I've never let them miss a practice. We live for ball. We never go away during the season."
But, she points out, "they're not just boys. Donna loves tap and jazz dancing. She took ballet but found it wasn't active enough."
Both girls are gymnasts and Kathy loves art, especially drawing. Sports figures are among her favorite subjects. She's made a wire sculpture of a baseball player.
What do the sisters like most about school?
There's no hesitation. It's gym.
The girls aren't quite sure they understand what Women's Lib is.
But Donna tells a story about when she and another girl player were in the minor leagues.
"Some kid was up at bat and he hit the ball to the other girl on our team. She threw the ball to me - I was on first base. We got him out. The guy that was announcing, he said, "That's Women's Lib!"
* Article by Mary Sedor - Reprinted from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - July 2, 1977 *
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I can remember Donna Caterino from her year as a Minor League player. She was a few years younger than us Senior League boys, but she could always hold her own during pickup games. She wasn't intimidated at all by taking the field with the older players. I used to pitch to her in the dim light on the Senior Field in 1976 and she took her cuts well.
Over the years, she became quite a ballplayer, and proved it to everyone when she pitched a regular season no-hitter and went on to win the MVP award in the Robinson Township All-Star tournament in 1979. Donna was not just a thrower. She could also hit, and with power. She was one of the league's leading batters with several homeruns to her credit.
Most Brookliners remember the caging McConnell sisters, Maureen, Kathy and Suzie. Let's not forget the Caterino sisters, Kathy and Donna, the dymanic duo who burst onto the Little League scene and, from 1976 to 1979, taught us all a little bit about the game of baseball.
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Brookline's 1978 World Champion was 11-year old Donna Caterino, who set a baseball throwing record for her age group in the National Jesse Owens Games in California. Donna tossed the hard ball 195 feet, 8 inches, proving why she (and her sister Kathy, a two-year star for Quaill's Cleaners 1976-77) became the first sister duo, or for that matter girls period, to play in the Brookline Little League in 1977.
Donna had just completed her second season in Little League with American Legion. She credited the three "men" in her life with her success in setting the world record; her dad, who taught her how to throw, catch and bat; Angelo Masullo , who was her first Little League manager in 1977; Jack Lombardi, her manager in 1978 and 1979.
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