AGOSTINI: Pang was ahead of her time

May 4, 2013 

Shay Wing Pang still reflects on the events of 1969 from time to time.

Those memories aren't baggage from the past, she insists. She's filed them away like calling cards from another time and another place.

And she's thankful for the experience, even if she was caught in the middle, a pawn in the hands of adults.

Besides, what are your options when you're an 8-year-old girl and barred from baseball? Call your congressman? Stage a hunger strike? Pile your toys in the back yard and burn them?

Pang, 54, remembers her plight with amusement and, just maybe, a trace of resentment. All she sought 44 years ago was a glove and bat and place to play.

Like a lot of girls, in fact, three years before the signing of Title IX.

"I guess I was (bitter) when I was younger," Pang said this week. "But as I got older, and girls were allowed to compete, I wasn't."

It started innocently enough in '69, the Woodstock summer. Tryouts were held for the Everett School pee-wee league team, which eventually included her brother and her father, Jim, as an assistant coach. Pang, encouraged by friends, tried out — even had her hair cut so she wouldn't look totally out of place — and continued to practice with the team.

"I was pretty good," she said. "I'm sure I wasn't the best, but I could hold my own at that age."

Enter coach Chuck Sellers, who thinks Pang undersold her talent.

"She was the best player we had. She could out-run, out-hit and out-throw everyone on our team," Sellers said. "She wanted to play so bad. With her hair cut short, she looked like a little boy sitting on the bench."

Only she wasn't, as everyone understood.

Pang had an ally in Sellers, and the players' parents lent tacit approval for a while. But eventually, the parent of a player whose time on the field was limited by Wing's presence raised a fuss.

And the issue escalated.

Remember, Title IX — the landmark federal law mandating gender equality in sports — didn't happen until 1972, three years later. Athletic options for girls back then were painfully limited.

"I didn't think it was fair that the boys got to play and I didn't," Pang said. "I was a little bit emotional. My mom and dad wrote letters to the mayor. I remember them doing something on the city-wide level to see if there was a possibility to get the league rules changed."

The episode didn't end well for Pang. She was forced to leave the team and, from the sideline, watched the team win the league title.

Sellers learned his baseball from the late Dick Windemuth at Modesto High, and that title was the first of four in a six-year run. But to this day, he believes Pang was wronged.

"We tried our hardest to legally keep her on the team. The parents answered that I was teaching the kids how to cheat," he said. "I would have cheated for her. She deserved a chance. It still bothers me."

That conflict surely took place more than once. Thankfully, Title IX opened the sports doors for all girls, and that sorry scene eventually disappeared.

Worry not about Pang. Her life proceeded nicely, thank you.

She became one of Beyer High's first standout female athletes and competed in softball, basketball, volleyball and gymnastics. Later, she was a member of the University of the Pacific's first powerhouse volleyball teams, a program that eventually produced national titles in 1985 and '86. Pang contributed to that foundation. In 1979, her UOP team placed fourth in the country.

Today, she lives on a farm outside Wilton with her husband, Roland (a former Modesto Junior College trainer). They raised three children, one of them who at 13 — get this — was one of two girls on a boys baseball team.

Pang no doubt instilled some fight in her children.

"You can say I was a pioneer, but when I was 8, I didn't have a say in anything," she said. "When you love something, you keep trying to find avenues to do what you love. Look where the girls are now?"

Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at ragostini@modbee.com or (209) 578-2302. Follow Ron via Twitter @modbeesports.

Ron Agostini

Modesto Bee is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service