Contrary to popular belief, Fox's Pitch is not based on a true story.
The Fox drama chronicles the story of Ginny Baker (Kylie Bunbury), the first woman to break the gender barrier in Major League Baseball.
Created by Rick Singer and Dan Fogelman, the show is produced in partnership with MLB thanks to a groundbreaking deal between the league and Fox that provides the project with unparalleled access to team logos, stadiums and more.
While producers hope the series becomes the latest instance where TV serves as a groundbreaker for history, many people believe that a woman has already played in the majors.
"When we were shooting in San Diego, someone came up to us and asked what we were shooting. We would say it was a story about the first female Major League Baseball player - and they would ask if it was based on a true story," showrunner Kevin Falls told The Hollywood Reporter during the show's first day of production at Los Angeles' Dodger Stadium. "So it's already in people's minds; they feel like it could happen."
On Pitch, Ginny becomes a late-season call-up for the San Diego Padres and instant worldwide sensation after working her way up through the system before finally making history. Her uniform number, 43, was selected for a specific reason that is revealed in the pilot: It's one up from Jackie Robinson's 42. That number, the only one retired across all of Major League Baseball, represents Robinson's groundbreaking role as the first African-American to play in the majors. And like Robinson, Ginny's journey won't be a smooth one, either, though she will have personal and professional victories.
Singer originally envisioned Pitch as a feature film after being inspired by the U.S. team that won the 1999 Women's World Cup soccer tournament and other major athletic victories. Falls, whose credits include baseball movie Summer Catch, which explored life in the Cape Cod League, attributes strides in women's athletic programs thanks to Title IX and recent success stories including Little League World Series hero Mo'Ne Davis, whom producers have been courting for a role on Pitch.
"It's something that could possibly happen," Falls says of a woman breaking through MLB's gender barrier. "I think we're probably a few years away from that, but it would thrill me if we were able to start more hardball leagues for women because women hit that ceiling. But they can only play softball. And there's no outlet for them to play hardball. A lot of girls - and my son played against them in Little League - held their own. At some point biology takes over, but there's no reason why they still can't play that particular game."
While a woman has yet to play in the big leagues, history seems to be just waiting for it to happen. French teen shortstop Melissa Mayeux recently became the first woman ever added to the Major League Baseball international registration list, making her eligible to be signed by a MLB team. In June, the Sonoma Stompers of the independent Pacific Association of Professional Baseball Clubs signed Kelsie Whitmore and Stacy Piagno, creating the first co-ed professional baseball team since the 1950s when Toni Stone, Mamie "Peanut" Johnson and Constance Morgan became the first women to play alongside men in the Negro Leagues. Eleanor Engle was signed by the Harrisburg Senators in 1952, but the team's manager opposed her playing and her contract was subsequently canceled. In the 1990s, the Colorado Silver Bullets were revived, becoming the first all-female baseball team since the folding of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League - featured in A League of Their Own - in the 1950s. The team - sponsored by Coors Brewing Co. - lasted four seasons of play, taking on men's all-star amateur and semi-pro teams.
"There's a great aspirational story for young women here that obviously I'd love if that was a conversation," says Fogelman. "It's moving and a total underdog story. And it's a father-daughter story and a story about nothing being impossible because 20 years ago this would have been impossible. There's something about seeing Ginny in the uniform and on the field with men that just captures kids' attention. Not everybody needs to be the first woman in Major League Baseball, but I think if that's the kind of walkway of, like, 'I'm going to keep plugging away - I don't have to stop.' And that's a good inherent thing."
Pitch premieres Thursday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Fox.