Bernice Gera (Bernice Shiner Gera)
Bernice Shiner Gera (June 15, 1931 – September 23, 1992) was the first female umpire in professional baseball. Born in Ernest, Pennsylvania, Gera loved baseball as a child, but never considered a career in baseball until she was already in her mid thirties, married, and working as a secretary. According to a Time Magazine article, the idea to become an umpire just suddenly hit her one night. Gera sold her husband on the idea and enrolled in the Florida Baseball School in 1967. As umpiring had been a strictly male profession up to that point, the school had no facilities for Gera, and she spent much of the six-week program living in a nearby motel. By several reports, she excelled in her training, yet Gera was rejected by the National Association of Baseball Leagues (NABL), which claimed that she did not meet the physical requirements of the job. Undeterred, Gera fought the NABL in court for several years. On January 13, 1972, Gera finally won a discrimination suit against the NABL and she received a contract to work in the New York-Penn League on April 13, opening the door for her to become the first female umpire in professional baseball. On June 23, 1972, she gained national attention when she umpired the first game of a Class A minor league doubleheader between the Geneva Senators and Auburn Twins.
In the fourth inning, Gera ruled Auburn base-runner Terry Ford safe at second on a double play, then reversed her call. Auburn manager Nolan Campbell disputed the decision and said that Gera’s first mistake was putting on an umpire’s uniform, and that her second was blowing the call. Campbell was ejected from the game, but Gera still decided to resign between games, saying she became disenchanted with umpiring when the other umpires refused to cooperate with her on the field. She was scheduled to be the home plate umpire for the second game. “Bernice would always say, ‘I could beat them in the courts, but I can’t beat them on the field,'” Steve Gera, her husband, quoted his wife as saying. Although she stopped umpiring, Bernice Gera stayed in the game. She went to work for the New York Mets in the team’s community relations and promotions from 1974 to 1979 before retiring to Florida. Bernice died of kidney cancer in 1992 in Memorial Hospital West in Pembroke Pines, Florida at 61 years old.
- June, 15, 1931
- Ernest, Pennsylvania
- September, 23, 1992
- Pembroke Pines, Florida
Cause of Death
- kidney cancer