Betty Bushman had been a model and a television weather forecaster when Charles O. Finley, the cantankerous owner of the Kansas City Athletics, asked her to join his moribund team’s radio crew in the waning days of the 1964 season.
“I know as much about baseball as the average woman does,” she said at the time.
Ms. Bushman (who was known at the time as Betty Caywood) was a pioneer — the first woman to call a major-league baseball team’s games. But her hiring was a promotional ploy by Mr. Finley, then baseball’s foremost perpetrator of gimmicks. He needed her to appeal to “the dolls,” as he put it — to turn more women into A’s fans.
As she tried to bring a feminine perspective to baseball, she endured sexism, including the refusal of baseball writers to let her eat in the dining room at Fenway Park. She was also the subject of headlines like “A Breakthrough! Finley Signs a Girl” and the focus of frequent references to her blond hair and blue eyes.
The job did not last long. She worked on only 15 games before her contract expired, and Mr. Finley declined to renew it. Nonetheless, she enjoyed working with her partners, Monte Moore and George Bryson; briefly made more money than she had in the past; and was proud to have broken into an exclusively male sportscasting bastion.
Ms. Bushman died on Sept. 3 in her condominium in Kansas City, Mo. She was 89. Her son Craig said the cause was a stroke.
While women sportscasters became more commonplace in the decades after Ms. Bushman’s brief stint with the A’s, they are still rarities in the baseball booth. In 1977, Mary Shane, a sportswriter, was part of the team calling Chicago White Sox games on radio and TV, but she worked only one season.
Suzyn Waldman has had a far more successful experience as a color commentator for Yankee games, first on local television and, since 2005, on radio. Jessica Mendoza, an Olympic softball gold medalist, was an analyst on ESPN’s Sunday Night baseball games from 2016 to 2019.
Betty Jean Congour was born on March 10, 1931, in Chicago. Her father, Vernon, was a ward boss for Mayor Edward J. Kelly. Her mother, Irene (Wolf) Congour, was an office worker. They divorced in the 1940s, and she moved with Betty and her brother, Stanley, to Kansas City, Mo.
She married Frank Caywood, a tournament supervisor for the Professional Golfers Association, in 1950, and the couple moved to Salina, Kan., two years later. She earned a bachelor’s degree in education at Marymount College, in Salina, and a master’s in speech therapy at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. After she and Mr. Caywood divorced in 1957, she moved back to Kansas City, where she began modeling for high-end stores and hosting a TV program that showcased houses for sale.
She moved to Chicago in 1960 and was hired to deliver weather reports on WBKB-TV. She met Mr. Finley, an insurance magnate based in Chicago, when he appeared on the station. When she left in 1964, Mr. Finley suggested she join the A’s radio team.
“I think we accomplished what we set out to do, but I know we’d have done much better with more time,” she told The St. Joseph News-Press in December 1964, after her time with the A’s had ended.
Soon after losing that job, she met and married Jordan Bushman, a construction executive. He died in March.
In addition to her son Craig, Ms. Bushman is survived by two other sons, Stephen and Jeffrey Bushman. Her daughter, Michelle Bushman, died in 2003.
Ms. Bushman, who later ran a travel agency and got involved in charity work, recently recalled Mr. Finley’s boozy middle-of-the-night calls to her.
“When he first hired me, he told me that he wanted me to wear Kelly green and that awful yellow,” she told the podcast “The A’s (A’s on the Air)” in 2018, referring to the gaudy color scheme he had introduced for the team’s uniform. “And I said, ‘Your male broadcasters wear that?’ And he said, ‘Well, of course not,’ and I said, ‘Neither does your female one.’”