Francis Ford Coppola wants women and men to play baseball together

Francis Ford Coppola speaks in Denver.
(Image credit: Jason Bahr/Getty Images for Francis Ford Coppola Winery)

Most Americans likely have no idea that over the last 10 days, the United States has hosted the 2018 Women's Baseball World Cup — much less that women play baseball at all. But the athletes of Team USA have an ally in Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola, whose winery's Diamond Collection was one of a handful of sponsors at the event.

"I am convinced baseball would be a much more wonderful game if it were men and women playing together," Coppola, who was in attendance at a number of games, told The Week.

Coppola fell in love with baseball when he was a child, but was prevented from playing seriously due to a bout of polio that left him practically paralyzed for three years. "For Christmas one year, hearing that story, my wife gave me a Christmas present of a baseball field in the back of the winery," Coppola said. "And the tradition started to happen where whenever anyone got married, the two families would play a game — and I was always astounded with somebody's aunt or somebody's cousin or … sister who was the great star of the game."

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Baseball-playing women in the U.S. face intense pressure after Little League to switch to softball, although Coppola dismissed it as an equivalent sport: "Women have been playing baseball for 150 years. Softball was invented by a lot of drunken college boys who apparently tied up a boxing glove." (Fact check: true).

Coppola played a pivotal role in encouraging the integration of the Sonoma Stompers, an independent league team, during the 2015 offseason: He promised to make his nearby winery a sponsor if it recruited female players. Two of Sonoma's stars, outfielder/pitcher Kelsie Whitmore and pitcher Stacy Piagno, played with Team USA in the exciting bronze-medal nail-biter earlier in the day. "For awhile there it was pure baseball," Coppola marveled. "I didn't know if it was boys, girls. Whoever they were, it was an exciting game of baseball."

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Jeva Lange

Jeva Lange was the executive editor at TheWeek.com. She formerly served as The Week's deputy editor and culture critic. She is also a contributor to Screen Slate, and her writing has appeared in The New York Daily News, The Awl, Vice, and Gothamist, among other publications. Jeva lives in New York City. Follow her on Twitter.