Jean Hastings Ardell, a nationally-recognized baseball writer and coastal Orange County columnist, died at her Laguna Beach home after a three-month battle with leukemia on Friday. She was 79.
Ardell was born in Brooklyn on Jan. 23, 1943, and grew up in Queens, New York. Her mother’s love of books and father’s love of baseball propelled her to become one of the country’s leading female writers on the sport.
“Literature and the game of baseball have informed my life. I became a writer because I kept finding stories that demanded to be told — of places, events, and people,” Ardell wrote on her website.
Her book “Breaking Into Baseball: Women and the National Pastime” and co-authoring “Making My Pitch: A Woman’s Baseball Odyssey” afforded her opportunities to present to the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture, and NINE Spring Training Conference.
As a long-standing member of the SABR Women in Baseball committee, Ardell served as a moderator for a number of panels, SABR Vice President Leslie Heaphy said.
“Jean was an untiring advocate for women being involved in all aspects of baseball,” Heaphy said. “[She] was a great supporter of all our members who wanted to learn, contribute and be involved in any aspects of women and baseball.”
After a stint at Butler University in Indianapolis, Ardell moved to Orange County in 1965. Her first job after the move was with renowned architect William Periera who created the Master Plan for UC Irvine.
Ardell returned to college in her forties and earned her bachelor’s in English from UC Irvine in 1988. She went on to earn her master’s in non-fiction writing from the University of Southern California.
Besides her love of baseball, Ardell was a devoted member of the Laguna Beach Democratic Club and Village Laguna. She was also a former Elder at St. Mark Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach.
“She’s an incredible woman who dedicated her life to really having everyone’s voices heard and really exposed and bringing to light the positive side of what we as human beings do,” Gwen McNallan, a close neighbor of Ardell and president of Laguna Beach Democratic Club.
Ardell was a devoted supporter of the New York-based nonprofit Braver Angels, which is dedicated to depolarizing national politics by hosting events that encourage Republicans and Democrats to talk with each other.
She was also an ardent supporter of anti-racist causes, gender equality and safeguarding freedom of the press.
“Jean was a committed member of the Orange County Press Club board for several years, a willing volunteer and calm presence. She loved talking and writing about baseball, a passion developed growing up in Brooklyn,” former Orange County Press Club president Dennis Foley said.
By 2012, Ardell felt compelled to write about politics in Orange County and across the nation for several years in a semi-monthly column, “Left of Center,” for the Newport Beach Independent. Outraged over the murder of George Floyd in May 2020, Ardell resurrected the column with the Laguna Beach Independent and continued writing about the town until early 2022.
“Jean was one of a kind. A woman in a man’s world, recognized for her knowledge and her gifts as a sports writer. Watching her and Arnold Hano talk sports was a game of mutual respect. She was insightful, gentle and kind,” City Councilmember Toni Iseman said.
Ardell was a close friend of Village Laguna co-founders Arnold and Bonnie Hano. Up until their deaths earlier this year, Ardell visited their home every week to read the Independent. Ardell bonded with Arnold Hano, a renowned baseball writer and fellow New Yorker, over their mutual love of the game. She was among the speakers at a memorial service for Arnold Hano in March 2022.
Besides being a prolific writer and journalist, Ardell loved to teach writing to people of all ages. Her teaching credentials include UC Irvine Extension, the Blue Ribbon Schools Foundation, and the Newport Beach Public Library Foundation. She was also a long-time mentor with the Third Street Writers, which holds weekly writing workshops at the Susi Q Senior Center.
Ardell enjoyed a 41-year marriage with Daniel Ardell, a real estate executive and former professional baseball player with the California Angels. The couple lived in Corona del Mar for 25 years before moving to Bluebird Canyon.
Ardell is survived by her husband, Daniel Ardell; children Jeffrey Tyler, Matthew Stevens, Robert Ardell, Julie Ardell; and six grandchildren.
In her final days, Ardell told McNallan she was grateful to be able to help organize her own memorial service. Funeral arrangements are still pending.
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