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By Ed Runyan


By Ed Runyan


By By Ed Runyan

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Ed Runyan
Warren, OH Tribune Chronicle
Warren, OH Tribune Chronicle, 4/27/2024, p. 1
Ed Runyan

By ED RUNYAN, Staff Writer, Warren (OH) Tribune Chronical, April 27, 2024, p. 41.

MECCA (OH)— Helen Snyder, then known as Helen Y’Barbo, was about 14 years old in 1950 when she came to Ohio from the Houston area to visit her sister, who was married and lived in the Warren area. 

Little did Helen know, she would never return to Texas as she attended high school while living with her sister. 

Growing up in the Lone Star State, Helen learned to play baseball from her large family. Her ancestor, Gil Y’Barbo, founded the town of Nacogdoches, Texas, which is considered the oldest town in Texas, in 1799 when his family came over from Spain.

 “I’m more proud of my family, my dad’s people than this,” Snyder said of her baseball career. “I liked the baseball, but it wasn’t nothing like this,” she said of the history her family was such a big part of.

“We’re known all over the town,” she said.

Helen did well in school in Leavittsburg and finished a year early in 1954 at age 17. But before she received her diploma, she tried out and was selected to be a member of the South Bend, Ind. Blue Sox, a team in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.
The league was made famous by the 1992 movie ”A League of Their Own,” starring Tom Hanks, Geena Davis and Madonna that depicted the women of the AAGPBL, which played from 1943 to 1954.

The league was formed out of concern that Major League Baseball might not survive World War II because young men 18 and over were being drafted into the armed services. By 1954, the league was winding down and contracted from a high of at least 10 teams to five.

Helen won one of 10 spots as she competed in tryouts against 50 girls from across the United States. She was the only one from Ohio selected, she said.

“I was amazed at that,” she said. “I was amazed that I was just picked.”

She has few memories of her time as a professional player, however. “It was different for me because I was so young,” she said.
“They fed us. We traveled by bus. That was something being picked. Ten people out of the United States. That would make you feel good.”

The only mention of Y’Barbo in published news accounts of the league found in appears to be a box score with an article in the Sidney Daily News of Sidney, Ohio, May 24,1954. It was an exhibition game between the Blue Sox and Fort Wayne Daisies several days before league play started.

About 2,000 people attended the game played at Minster Park in Minster, which is northwest of Dayton. The main attractions for the game were two Minster High School softball standouts, Katie Horstman playing for Fort Wayne, and Mary Froning, playing for South Bend, according to the article.

Snyder said she started the year with South Bend, but later played for the Kalamazoo, Mich., Lassies. She added she does not remember playing exhibition games in the weeks leading up to the start of the regular season.

“It’s been so long. I just know that I went there (to the Blue Sox) and then I was traded to the Kalamazoo Lassies,” she said.
She remembers it was a good experience. “I loved it. And the most important thing was I was chosen,” she said. “I loved playing baseball.”

Carol Sheldon, of Royal Oak, Mich., a director of the All American Girls Professional Baseball League Players Association and chairperson of the archives and memorabilia committee, said Friday she just recently obtained a 1954 Kalmazoo Lassies scorecard with Helen Y’Barbo’s name listed as a rookie on the South Bend team.

The score card contained the names of all of the players from all five teams in the league. It listed Y’Barbo as a “rookie.” Sheldon said Y’Barbo is not listed on the official roster of the league, but because she has Y’Barbo’s name on an official scorecard, Y’Barbo’s name will be added to the official roster.

“The fact that she is on a scorecard from the season that’s going to solidify the fact that she was a bona fide player in the league,” Sheldon said.

She said Y’Barbo also will be invited to attend this year’s league reunion Sept. 5 to Sept. 8 in downtown Cincinnati. Sheldon said the league is down to about 30 still-living players from the league whose location is known. Only About 10 of those attended last year’s reunion, she said.

At the time Snyder played in the league, pitchers threw overhand, not underhand like softball. Also, in 1954, the league was using an official men's baseball with pitching distances the same as the men, according to the AAGPBL website.

Y’Barbo was on the Blue Sox and Lassies throughout the three months of the season, but she concedes that she did not get a lot of playing time, perhaps because she was young and most of the other players were into their 20s.

Snyder came home to the Warren area when the summer was over and started working at the Packard Electric Division of General Motors and played for several Trumbull County women’s softball teams.

Among them were teams from Cortland, Hubbard and North Bloomfield. She has her old jerseys from those teams. The professional teams did not allow her to keep her jerseys, she said.

An Aug. 10, 1958, photo from the Springfield News Sun in Ohio shows Snyder with three other women who played for the North Bloomfield team posing with a bat when they played in the State Women’s Softball Tournament at Lagonda Park in Springfield.
Snyder, now 88, would have liked to have played a second season with the AAGPBL, but the league did not continue into 1955.
She worked 37 years at Packard Electric, settled in Mecca Township and became a member of the new St. William Parish in Champion in the early 1960s as one of the founding members. Over the years at St. William Church, she ran a booth at its church festival, was a 30-year member of the parish’s finance committee, was on parish council and worked fish dinners. Recently, Snyder’s baseball career came to the attention of several women at the church. She had asked a couple of them to help plan her own funeral because Snyder doesn’t have family in the area anymore. The women came to her house and helped her pick out readings and songs.

Then they talked and started to look at some of Snyder’s memorabilia. The visitors learned that Snyder was a professional baseball player. 

“That’s when all of this stuff came up,” she said. “I played baseball for all of these places and I played bocce, and I was head of some of this stuff.” 

She was also an officer of her golf league for 20 years.

“They were all excited,” Helen said of the women from church, Tina McCue and  Pat Maciejewski.

Sharon Gilmore, Snyder’s longtime friend and caregiver, was part of the conversation that day.  “She never, ever talks about baseball,” Gilmore said. “I think that’s so amazing. I think that’s something to be so proud of.”

Snyder said she was surprised by how much the women reacted to the news that she had played in the league that inspired “A League of Their Own.”

“One thing led to another. That’s the way it started,” she said. “I was shocked that they even went into that. I was never the type of person to brag about myself except to brag about my family, and I just never talked about it.”

An article by Troy Farkas on the National Baseball Hall of Fame website offers the opinion that the League of Their Own movie “shed light on the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League for the first time to generations of baseball fans.

“Prior to the film, fans across the country hardly knew of the league, despite its (12-year) tenure during World War II and the early Cold War,” it stated. 

Farkas added, “As soon as director Penny Marshall released the movie, which received several Golden Globe nominations, the role of women in baseball history was more recognized and appreciated than ever before.”

An article in the Warren Tribune Chronicle from May 26, 1954, announced Snyder’s selection to play in the AAGPB, stating “Trumbull County will be represented in girls’ professional softball.” It added that Snyder “reported late last week for a brief spring training stint and now is back for graduation at Leavittsburg.” She graduated the same day the article was published.

The AAGPBL season was set to begin May 30, 1954. “‘Tex,” as she was known to her schoolmates, would be on a team playing a 90-game schedule that ended Labor Day. Games were to be played under the lights, the article states.

“Miss Y’Barbo (Snyder) pitched for the Leavittsburg girls’ softball team and was the leading hitter,” the article stated. “She was a member of the girls relay team in track. She can handle any position. While residing in Texas, she was able to (pitch) year around.”

Snyder said she did not get upset that her career did not bring her fame. She said she understood that she had to earn a starting position.

“I knew that’s just the way it is because these girls were older than me. They were professionals and they had been there a long time,” she said.

That is also the way it was when she played softball in high school and as an adult.

 “You have to wait your turn. Some of the ballplayers, they stay on the team for years,” she said.

She did not get to play a second pro season because Snyder’s only season — 1954 — was the league’s last. She said it might not have mattered even if the league had resumed in 1955 because “I had to make a living.” The Packard Electric Division of General Motors offered her the ability to make a living, she said.

Players in the professional league got paid enough to eat and live, “but it wasn’t like the players get now.”

                                      Have an interesting story? Email Ed Runyan at [email protected]


Sections Print Cite

Ed Runyan
Warren, OH Tribune Chronicle
Warren, OH Tribune Chronicle, 4/27/2024, p. 1
Ed Runyan

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