On this day in Phillies history: Edith Houghton becomes first woman MLB scout

A Philadelphia Phillies batting helmet (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
A Philadelphia Phillies batting helmet (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /

On this day in Phillies history, they became the first major-league team to hire a woman baseball scout, Philadelphia native, Edith Houghton

It took the Philadelphia Phillies 97 seasons to win their first World Series in franchise history.

Thankfully, it took far less time for them to make Major League Baseball history by breaking a major gender barrier. On February 15, 1946, the Phillies became the first team to hire a woman baseball scout.

Edith Houghton was a Philadelphia native who grew up playing baseball. Her father also played baseball and, breaking with societal norms of the era, loved teaching his daughter the game.

By the time she was ten, Houghton was the star and youngest player on the Philadelphia Bobbies, a semi-pro team. In 1925, the Bobbies went to Japan to play baseball against men; she was 13. Among her teammates were former MLB pitcher Earl Hamilton, who had spent the final season of his career with the Phillies in 1924, and catcher Eddie Ainsmith.

As she grew up, Houghton didn’t wait for baseball to find her; she found it any way she could. In 1932, she convinced a men’s semipro team to give her a tryout and won the first-base spot. Throughout the 1930s, she played semi-pro baseball, barnstorm, even adding softball to her repertoire. She also played baseball with WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Services) during World War II.

Post-war, she arrived on the Phillies’ proverbial doorstep. In 1946, she went to team owner Robert Ruliph Morgan Carpenter Jr. (who thankfully, just went by Bob), and told him she’d like to be a scout for her hometown team.

The 1945 Phillies – also briefly known as the Blue Jays – had finished 48-108, in eighth place in the division-less National League. In short, they were a disaster, and Carpenter had nothing to lose by hiring a woman.

At the time of her hiring, Carpenter gave her a strong endorsement:

"“There’s no reason why a woman shouldn’t be just as good a judge of a ballplayer as a man. Some of them know a lot more about baseball.”"

Between 1946-52, Houghton scouted hundreds of players and signed either 15 or 16, depending on the sources. None of them ever made it to the majors, though a few came close. Today, roughly 10% of minor leaguers are able to make their big-league debut; it’s never been a cake-walk.

After leaving the Phillies, Houghton re-enlisted with the Navy reserves, and she spent the next two decades there before retiring and moving to Florida. She passed away on February 2, 2013, the week before her 101st birthday.

On this anniversary of her historic hiring by the Phillies, I recommend her induction to their Wall of Fame. There are no women from Phillies history currently enshrined, and Houghton is the clear and perfect first solution to that. Her colorful, inventive, persevering baseball career, and the barrier she broke with the Phillies deserve to be memorialized to honor her and inspire future women in baseball.

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