When Women Ruled Baseball

Introduction

During World War II, American’s most popular sport went to the girls. There were not enough men around to play baseball to please the fans during the war. They all went to war. From near the end of the war, about 1943 to 1954, women played baseball in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League or AAGPBL. By 1954 a total of 10 girl baseball teams were formed with close to 1 million fans watching them play the game once played exclusively by men. Some of these teams survived the entire eleven year period while others only lasted one or two seasons.

The Rockford Peaches Baseball Team
The Rockford Peaches Baseball Team
Dorothy "Dottie" Kamenshek, first baseman
Dorothy "Dottie" Kamenshek, first baseman

The Reason Women Stepped Up To The Plate

When United States entered the war after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941 just about every young, able body man joined or was drafted into the armed forces. Many joined because they thought it was the patriotic thing to do. World War II was a frightening time for the country. At the beginning of the war young men joined and left by the thousands each week to fight overseas. Before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor there were around 139,000 men fighting in the war and by 1945 there were more than 10 million men in the U.S. army, including over half of all major league baseball players.

Women eventually had to fill the jobs in offices and factories. They built planes, tanks, and supplies that enable the U.S. and its allies to win the war. At the same time some popular sports such as football and baseball took a hit because of the decrease in the number of men available to play the sports. Women started stepping up to the plate to keep baseball alive.


The Start Of The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League

In the 1940s, it was difficult for women to play on professional sport teams. The opportunities weren’t there for them and their male counterpart in the sport arena did not take them seriously. They got their break when President Franklin Roosevelt mentioned the idea of women playing baseball to some of Philip Wrigley’s colleagues. He said to them “Baseball is important for Americans, especially now. Times are tough, and we need something to cheer about”. Philip Wrigley, the owner of the Chicago Cubs and the Wrigley chewing gum company, turned that idea into reality by starting a women baseball league. His idea was to start a women league and have them in the baseball park as backup to play the game in case the attendance at baseball games started to fall.

Wrigley started the first American Women Softball League in the spring of 1943 during the height of the war with women players dressed in skirts. More than 250 women met at Wrigley Field that May to try out for 60 spots on four teams in the league. The women did not wear uniforms with pants they worn a one piece flared skirt uniform with long baseball stockings and a baseball cap. Mr. Wrigley wanted them to look like ladies but play like gentlemen. The name of the league was later changed to All-American Girls Professional Ball League (AAGPBL) and was changed again in 1950 to All-American

South Bend Blue Sox Women Baseball Team
South Bend Blue Sox Women Baseball Team

The Rules were Different From Softball

Most of the women who joined the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League were originally recruited from girl softball teams. There were differences between softball and baseball rules and the rules essentially evolved from softball rules to baseball rules from 1943 to 1954. The ball size went from a big 12 inches to a smaller 9 inch size during that period. The length of Base Paths went from 65 feet to 85 feet in that same period. Pitching distant increased from 40 feet to 60 feet and pitching style was changed from an underhand pitch to an overhand pitch. All these changes were made to give the game a more professional appeal especially for serious baseball fans.


Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGBBL). When the women league was first formed many owners of the major league ballparks did not want the women to play there despite the fact that the parks were only used half the time since attendance was down. So Wrigley decided to have the women league play in four non-major league parks near major league parks close to women’s league headquarter in Chicago. Two cities in Wisconsin were chosen, Racine and Kenosha, Rockford in Illinois, and South Bend in Indiana.

Each team had 15 women players, a manager who was usually a formal major league player, a business manager, and a chaperone since some of these players were as young as 15 years old. The women on the teams were not allowed to have any other job when they joined the league. They were paid as much as $85.00 a week. That was a pretty good salary back in the1940s especially for women.


This is the way they were dressed,  as ladies and playing like gentlemen
This is the way they were dressed, as ladies and playing like gentlemen

Act Like Ladies Play Like Gentlemen

These women had to act like ladies. Wrigley made sure these girls stayed that way once they joined the league. He enrolled all of them in charm school to learn mannerism, proper etiquette for various situations, personal hygiene and dress code. They were taught how to use also a beauty kit to make them more physically attracted. Obviously, this was one way to attract men to watch women play baseball. Wrigley was a smart man. The first year of league turned out to be a successful one due to a respectable attendance of more than 176,000 fans watched 108 games played by the women league. Attendance for the women league reached more than 450,000 in 1945 after the war ended and reached a peak attendance of 910,000 fans in 1948 with 10 teams in the league. The women baseball league popularity continued into 1954 until it became difficult to find talented women baseball players to fill the teams. In the end the league gave 600 women the opportunity to play professional baseball at the same level as the men between 1943 and 1954 to thrill the fans during the war and after the war.


The Teams In The Women League

Originally, there were four teams in the league and in the later years ten teams were formed before the women league folded in 1954. The names for the teams were colorful and feminine in nature. The four teams were Kenosha Comets, Racine Belles, Rockford Peaches and South Bend Blue Sox. Racines won the first championship for the All-American Girls Baseball League in 1943. The names of the other teams, with just name changes in some cases, were Milwaukee Chicks, Minneapolis Millerettes, Fort Wayne Daisies, Grand Rapids Chicks, Peoria Redwings, Muskegon Lassies, Chicago Colleens, Springfield Sallies and Kalamazoo Lassies. 


A Little About Some Of The Players

There were a few outstanding women players in the league. There are many but I will mention only four of them here. Dorothy “Dottie” Schroeder who played as a short-stop on several of the teams and was the youngest player at 15. She was the most popular of all the players and was the only player to play for the entire 12 seasons. She holds the all time record for the most games played (1,249) and the most at bat (4,129 times).


Doris “Sammye” Sams was a tall player who stood at 5 feet 9 inches tall. Played as an outfielder and a right-handed pitcher. She was voted “Player of the Year”twice in 1947 and in 1949 and was also named to the All-Star Game to play in two positions as a pitcher and outfielder. Sammye is the only player in the women league to accomplished that feat.


Hele Earlene “Beans” Risinger was 6 foot 1 inch right-handed pitcher from Oklahoma. She had the ability to deliver an over hand fastball called a “nickel” curve. With her pitching ability her team, Grand Rapids Chicks, won the league championship in 1953 and today that trophy is on display at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. She was inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame in 1973 in Johnson County, Oklahoma.


Jean Faut who played for the South Bend Blue Sox was considered one of the best player in the women professional baseball league. She earned many accolades during her career as pitcher for one of the four original teams. She led the league with the best ERA in 1950, 1952, and 1953. She pitched 12 shutout games for her team in 1949 and was selected to the All-Star team four times in 1949, 1950, 1951, and 1953. Jean was voted the league’s Player of the Year in 1951 and 1953 and finally she earned a lifetime ERA of 1.23 with a won-loss record of 140-64.


Conclusion

Women played a crucial role during wartime for the United States. They kept the moral high and kept the economy in the country from hitting rock bottom by filling in jobs and keeping America's favorite pastime alive in the eyes of the fans until the boys came back home.

© 2011 Melvin Porter

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Comments 48 comments

melpor profile image

melpor 4 years ago from New Jersey, USA Author

Tanya, thanks for tour comment.


taniya 4 years ago

love it


seattleamilehigh1 profile image

seattleamilehigh1 4 years ago from Seattle, Washington

I just think it would be another great platform for the sport. Everyone is out to make a buck, should be milking it for what it is worth.


melpor profile image

melpor 4 years ago from New Jersey, USA Author

Seattleamilehigh1, thanks for your comment and stopping by to read my hub. You are right it would be nice to see a professional women baseball league playing again. It would be something different to see.


seattleamilehigh1 profile image

seattleamilehigh1 4 years ago from Seattle, Washington

One of my favorite stories in baseball lore. i wish I was around to see them ladies play. I don't think it would be a bad idea even today. Thanks for the read and voted up :D


Shannon 4 years ago

This was a great hepl to me - I'm doing a project for National History Day that is based on this


ian warren 5 years ago

love reading about the woman. As a English man I'm still trying to work out how to play the game.? I was wondering how many player's are still alive.?


melpor profile image

melpor 5 years ago from New Jersey, USA Author

Cecilia, thanks for your commit and for stopping by to read my hub.


Cecelia Millhouse profile image

Cecelia Millhouse 5 years ago from Sanford, North Carolina

I love reading about this. I prefer baseball over softball and played it for as long as I could. I lived in Fort wayne and my dad always had a picture of the daisies hanging in our house. Loved this hub and enjoyed learning more of the background! Thanks!


melpor profile image

melpor 5 years ago from New Jersey, USA Author

Dahoglund. Thanks for stopping by to read my hub. It is a very interesting piece of history that most people are unaware of that took place when the world was at war. It is good to hear from you again.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

I had never heard About this. of coarse I do not come from a sports minded family. I like this bits of unusual history.


melpor profile image

melpor 5 years ago from New Jersey, USA Author

Baseball Training Bat, thanks for your comment.


Baseball Training Bat 5 years ago

Really interesting to read this post and photos are good.


melpor profile image

melpor 5 years ago from New Jersey, USA Author

KateWest, thanks for the comment and for stopping by to read my hub.


KateWest profile image

KateWest 5 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

Hooray!


melpor profile image

melpor 5 years ago from New Jersey, USA Author

Thanks Rhonda. I appreciate the thumbs up and thanks for stopping by to read my hub.


Rhonda Waits profile image

Rhonda Waits 5 years ago from The Emerald Coast

The movie I saw was a league of their own. This was and is a great movie. Great hub about those times and back then. Voted up.

Sweet wishes Rhonda


melpor profile image

melpor 5 years ago from New Jersey, USA Author

mortgage-news, thanks for the comment. I have to sit down one day and watch this movie in its entirety. I only saw bits and pieces of the movie.


mortgage-news profile image

mortgage-news 5 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

A league of Their own was a great movie! Nice job providing more background about that era.


melpor profile image

melpor 5 years ago from New Jersey, USA Author

Ketou, when the United States went to war during World War II just about all able-bodied man including the professional baseball players were drafted to fight the war. Some men volunteer their services.


ketou 5 years ago

:).. never knew baseball was once ruled by girls. Interesting.


melpor profile image

melpor 5 years ago from New Jersey, USA Author

Dhart, thanks for the comment. I am planning to write a hub on the Women Negro Baseball League in the near future.


melpor profile image

melpor 5 years ago from New Jersey, USA Author

Scooby, thanks for the comment and for stopping by to read my hub. I am glad you enjoyed reading it.


Dhart profile image

Dhart 5 years ago from Culver City, CA

Great hub! The only bad thing about those women's leagues is that they never integrated, even after Jackie Robinson & Co. broke the color line in MLB - I think that was a factor in those women's leagues folding.

Mamie, Peanut, and Toni should've been integrated into that women's league!


Scooby 5 years ago

Enjoyable, well-formed article. I'm a history buff and I'd never seen this covered before. Thank you. :)


melpor profile image

melpor 5 years ago from New Jersey, USA Author

TurtleDog and Eiddwen, thanks for your comments and for stopping by to read my hub.


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

Brilliant hub and thanks for sharing.

I now look forward to reading more of your work.

Take care

Eiddwen.


TurtleDog profile image

TurtleDog 5 years ago

Really great hub. Enjoyed reading it and, thanks to your article, really looking forward to some Major League Baseball starting this week.... Thanks for the post


melpor profile image

melpor 5 years ago from New Jersey, USA Author

Justom, I am planning to write a future hub on women who played in the Negro League and thanks for the comment.


justom profile image

justom 5 years ago from 41042

This is a nicely done hub, Dottie Kamenshek is from my town. Since this was about girls and baseball I was surprised to see the three women that played in the Negro Leagues (against men). Mamie "Peanut" Johnson, Connie Morgan and Toni Stone were not mentioned. Those three were most impressive to me. Peace!! Tom


melpor profile image

melpor 5 years ago from New Jersey, USA Author

Jay, thanks for your comment and for reading my hub.


Jay 5 years ago

Thank you for your excellent and timely article. I just put a similar piece in our newsletter at work. March is National Women's History Month.


melpor profile image

melpor 5 years ago from New Jersey, USA Author

gg.zaino, thanks for the comment and thumbs up on my hub.


melpor profile image

melpor 5 years ago from New Jersey, USA Author

Saloca, thanks for your comment and for stopping by to read my hub.


melpor profile image

melpor 5 years ago from New Jersey, USA Author

Conter Strike Hacks, thanks for your comment.


melpor profile image

melpor 5 years ago from New Jersey, USA Author

Chrisand, thanks for the comment and for stopping by. Baseball fans everywhere need to salute on the women out their for keeping this game alive during the war.


gg.zaino profile image

gg.zaino 5 years ago from L'America

Melpor- great hub to read on opening day! Voted 'UP" and 'awesome' my friend of the game.

am going to share this on facebook if you don't mind...

A very strong paper- your research was presented interestingly and professionally.

thank you for this 'Opener' Melpor.

peace ~ greg


Saloca profile image

Saloca 5 years ago from Liverpool, UK

Fantastic hub! These women were amazing!


Counter Strike Hacks 5 years ago

lol cool hub


chrisand profile image

chrisand 5 years ago

Women really did play a crucial role in many areas while the war was on. Keeping this game alive during the war gave baseball fans a lot of enjoyment during this tough time. A well researched hub melpor


melpor profile image

melpor 5 years ago from New Jersey, USA Author

Gabbler, thanks for stopping by to read my hub. I hope you get an "A" on your report.


gabbler 5 years ago

this helped me on my report at school thank you!!!!


melpor profile image

melpor 5 years ago from New Jersey, USA Author

Genna East, thanks for your comment. During World War II women filled in a lot jobs at the time while the men went off to war. The country would not have won the war with their contribution in jobs.


Genna East profile image

Genna East 5 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

I am so happy someone decided to write an article about these terrific gals! This is just another example of the many ways women "stepped up to the plate" during WW II.


melpor profile image

melpor 5 years ago from New Jersey, USA Author

Kingis, thanks for your comment on my hub.


kingis profile image

kingis 5 years ago from Springfield, IL

Great hub. I tend to forget that my hometown was home to team in the AAGPBL.


melpor profile image

melpor 5 years ago from New Jersey, USA Author

Thanks Husky1970. Also thanks for stopping by to read my hub.


Husky1970 5 years ago

Great hub and great topic. These ladies could really play. Nice job.

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