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AAGPBL History: Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend
By Joanna Rachel Turner
This 1993 award winning essay was written by Joanna Rachel Turner while attending her junior year at Evanston Township High School, Evanston, IL.
"I wrote this paper about the AAGPBL as part of an exercise to detail an aspect of Chicago History that had an impact on the US as a whole at that point in time. The best projects in the class would be submitted to the Chicago Metro History Fair. My paper and one other paper were submitted along with 8000 other entries from the Chicago area. I was one of approximately 75-100 students to win a prize and my paper was also selected to compete in the statewide competition, where it took blue ribbon honors in its division."
Joanna was born in Chicago on April 4, 1976 and grew up in Evanston, IL just north of the city. In 1997 she is a senior at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY majoring in Agricultural and Biological Engineering and plans on furthering her education by attending medical school. Joanna came across the AAGPBL web site while studying abroad in Australia for the semester, and graciously offered her paper to be posted on the site. If anyone has any questions, Joanna R. Turner invites you to write her at firstname.lastname@example.org
"Personally, the paper was one of the neatest things I have ever done. I got to interview eight of the former players over the phone, and I eventually got to meet Ted Spencer, the curator of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and personally thank him for his help with my project. I sent all of the women and Ted a copy of the paper, and Ted sent me a promo poster from A League of Their Own to hang in my college dorm room, which it has every year since I started school. The women were all wonderful to me, and even sent me invitations to their 50th reunion in South Bend, IN which was the summer after I wrote the paper. Unfortunately, I was on the East Coast looking at schools at that time, but I would have loved to have been able to go. I want to thank again every woman I talked to and everyone who helped me compile the research for my project as it was truly a memorable experience.
"Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend: How P.K. Wrigley started the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League"
by Joanna Rachel Turner
In July of 1943, the world was at war, and America was in the midst of it. Men were fighting overseas in Europe and in the Orient. American men were dying to free people from the wrath of Hitler and Mussolini. It was a dramatic and patriotic time. Back on the home front, those left behind had to go on with life. It was a time of "Rosie the Riveter," the symbol of a woman's ability to take over a man's job. Many women became a part of the work force, but some of them took to the field. In Chicago and throughout the Midwest, they were playing baseball and making history. Imagine, on July 1, 1943, going to a nighttime Red Cross rally at Wrigley Field. Famous Hollywood stars such as Victor Mature were there, helping to raise money for the war effort. The highlight of this evening of course was baseball. What the seven thousand people attending the rally saw was actually "The first night game played at Wrigley Field."(1)
Press coverage was limited and the game was soon forgotten. However, the fact remains that the first night-time baseball game at Wrigley Field was not played on August 8, 1988, between the Chicago Cubs and the Philadelphia Phillies. Rather, it was played forty-five years earlier, on a warm July night as the first all-star game of a new women's professional baseball league. The lights were portables, brought in by P.K. Wrigley for the occasion(2). Two games were played between the all-star teams, one called the "Wisconsins" and the other called the "Illinois-Indiana" club. The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League was four weeks into the first season of its existence(3) and the players, or "girls" as they liked to call themselves, were young, spirited gals who were still marveling over the fact that they were doing something they loved and getting paid for it. Most of them didn't realize that they were becoming a part of history that night and through the twelve years that the League was in existence.
Today many people don't know about the League. Lavonne "Pepper" Paire Davis, an all-star catcher in the League, said that many people still don't believe her. "When someone would ask me why I knew so much about baseball, I would say, 'Well, I played pro ball for a number of years.' They would say, 'Oh, you mean softball?' I would look them in the eye and say, 'No, I mean baseball.' They would look me right back and say, 'You mean softball.' and go on talking."(4)
With the opening of the movie, A League of Their Own, the American public once again became aware of the League. But many still wonder how the League actually came into existence fifty years ago this spring. What they do not know is that the League was the creation of a man who was famous for his unconventional ideas. Philip Knight Wrigley had created this "unique brand of baseball," as he called it, to fill the ballparks in case the war shut down the major leagues(5). His idea soon became a symbol of the new roles women were undertaking in Chicago and national society. The League had a profound effect on how the people of the 1940's looked at something that was supposedly "a man's game."
P. K. Wrigley, a member of one of Chicago's most prominent families, was the ultimate businessman. He had inherited the Wrigley chewing gum empire from his father and, like his father, had used shrewd advertising to increase the family fortune. With the gum came the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs themselves were a disaster, frequently ending the major-league season at the bottom of the National League. They often left Wrigley tied in knots. He tried everything to make them a winning team. He was known to change the Cubs head coach every couple of months. One season he even hired a man who supposedly could put an "evil hex" on opposing teams.(6)
However, 1943 presented a different problem. During the 1930's, the Great Depression had caused attendance to plummet, despite record-setting performances by baseball greats such as Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams(7). As the nation entered the war, Wrigley knew that attendance would keep falling. He also realized that players would be drafted to fight. Wrigley knew that the quality of baseball would drop when the best players went overseas. The public wouldn't go to baseball games if they were poorly played. The lack of money and the lack of good talent threatened to shut down the major leagues. Wrigley did not want to see money go to waste. He needed something to fill the ballparks if the major leagues folded. His solution to the problem was a women's professional softball league(8).
In 1943, softball was the most popular sport in America and women were active participants in the game. Wrigley knew there was something about women playing ball which could be an unbelievable money-maker, if everything was done right. Wrigley's original idea was to create a professional women's league, drawing his ballplayers from the vast number of women's amateur softball leagues across the country(9). But for his league to be successful, he had to change the public's image of women ball players. Women softball players often had reputations equal to that of prostitutes. Traveling teams were known as "Bloomer Girls," and played under team names such as "Slapsie Maxie's Curvaceous Cuties."(10) Wrigley knew that in order for the League to be successful, the ballplayers had to be portrayed as ideal "All-Americans." It required shrewd advertising, which happened to be what Wrigley did best.
He began by assembling his management team. Ken Sells, an employee of the Cubs, was named the president of the League. Branch Rickey, the well-known general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, became an advisor and trustee. Bill Veeck offered his support after the League started. Arthur Meyerhoff became heavily involved in the League as head of the advertising program(11).
Wrigley's next step was to find ballparks in which to put the teams. His original idea was to play the teams in major-league ballparks on off-dates, but black-out regulations, the absence of lights at Wrigley Field and ballparks that were already over-booked caused him to reconsider his initial scheme. He decided to put the teams in mid-sized war production cities throughout the Midwest. In the eventuality that the major leagues did fold, he could then move the teams into major league parks(12). Wrigley began to search for cities for the teams to play in. In proposing the idea to the leaders of potential cities, Wrigley told them, "We will select the kind of players that people will want to see in action. Then we will groom them, to make sure they are acceptable. It won't be like the old days of peep shows and Bloomer Girls...The League will be good for you and your community, good for the war effort, and good for you."(13) He aimed at making the League a patriotic undertaking. The League, based in Chicago, would start up all of the franchises in the cities. If each city were to raise $22,500, Wrigley would match that sum out of his own pocket. Players would sign with the League, and be assigned to a team. The next year, if the player were to sign again with the League, they would go back into a selection pool and be reassigned to one of the teams. The League would be non-profit. Any money made would go to fund projects in the respective cities(14).
Four cities responded positively to Wrigley's call, and the first four teams were born. They were the South Bend, Indiana, Blue Sox; the Rockford, Illinois, Peaches; the Racine, Wisconsin, Belles and the Kenosha, Wisconsin, Comets(15). Eventually, there would be as many as ten teams in the League at a time(16). The cities were eager to support Wrigley's League, which would showcase a hybrid of softball and baseball. Wrigley had concluded that softball was too slow, and he was afraid the fans would quickly lose interest. A Rules Committee had determined the basic rules of the game, but Wrigley tinkered with the rules to speed the game up(17). The underhand softball pitch would still be used, but the pitching distance would be forty-three feet and the basepaths would be seventy feet, measurements approximately halfway between that of a softball and baseball diamond. The number of players was cut from ten to nine and the games would be nine innings instead of softball's seven. Runners could lead off base and the ball was slightly smaller than a regulation softball(18). It was now time to find the players.
Wrigley sent his scouts all over the country and into Canada. Advertisements in the newspapers told the time and place of regional tryouts. The scouts were instructed to search for feminine women who were good players(19). Seventy-five players selected from the regional tryouts came to Chicago in May of 1943 for the final tryouts at Wrigley Field(20). Mary "Bonnie" Baker remembers that "It was very cold and ugly and windy at the tryouts, but I loved it anyway."(21) All of the girls loved it. They were being offered a chance to get paid for something they loved to do. The salaries themselves were unbelievable. The League offered salaries ranging from $55-$150 a week. At the time, the average salary was $40 a week(22). Everyone at the tryouts saw the League as a fantasy that they would have the opportunity to live. The fantasy was especially vivid for a young girl named Dorothy "Dottie" Schroeder. "I was fourteen years old and had been raised on a small farm. (The try-outs) were very awe-inspiring, and they kept us busy. We stayed at the Belmont Hotel not far from Wrigley Field. My mother came up for a few days and stayed with some friends. After a few days she went home. I was very homesick. She said, 'Well, you can come home with me, and everything will be all right, or you can stay.' I wanted to play ball so bad I stayed. The other players took me under their wing and mothered me, and I got over the homesickness. I liked playing ball so much I just wanted to play. I was so young that the thought never crossed my mind that I wouldn't make the League."(23)
Bonnie Baker and Dottie Schroeder were two of the players to make the final cut of sixty players. They were very excited about getting the chance to play baseball, but they were about to find out that Wrigley was going to give them more than they bargained for. Wrigley, as he had advertised to potential backers, was intent on making the players into ideal All-American girls. His aim was to give the League a patriotic image. He had insisted that the League wouldn't take a cent of the profits made at the turnstiles(24). He sought out middle-sized cities that had war industries. In days of gas rationing, the people of these cities would be able to go to their home-town games easily(25). The League would serve as entertainment for the hard working, a chance to relax and watch America's favorite pastime, with an undeniable twist. The girls would truly be All-American ideals.
The public's first impression of the girls was crucial. Much thought went into the design of the uniforms. The final pattern was ultimately designed by Mrs. Wrigley and a famous poster artist by the name of Otis Shepard, who was responsible for most of Wrigley's billboards(26), but the emphasis on femininity was all Wrigley. The uniforms were somewhat like belted tunics, with skirts that flared to the knee but could easily be hemmed. They were short-sleeved, and buttoned up the front on the left side so that there would be room for a circular team logo on the chest. They wore elastic shorts underneath the skirts, and socks that were rolled to just below the knee. The hats were normal baseball caps fitted to the women's sizes(27). Although they were feminine, the uniforms were a bit impractical. Dottie Schroeder remembers that they were "... almost like a ballerina skirt. The pitchers would do the windmill wind-ups and the skirts would get in the way. It took some getting used to but as the years went on we would pin them and they got a lot shorter."(28) The main problem with the skirts was that when the girls would slide, they would often get nasty abrasions called "strawberries." But, as Bonnie Baker knew, "The strawberries came with the territory."(29)
Wrigley then concerned himself with the girls' demeanor. During spring training the girls would work out all day and then attend Charm School at night. The classes were taught by representatives of the Helena Rubenstein cosmetics company. Helena Rubenstein was the feminine ideal of the time, and Wrigley used Charm School as another publicity stunt to give the girls a positive image. At Charm School, the girls were taught everything from how to put on make-up to how to charm a date(30). Former first baseman Dorothy "Kammy Kamenshek remembers that "We had fun with it. If you have to do it, enjoy it."(31) For some of the girls, Charm School was very helpful. Many had grown up on farms and weren't familiar with feminine style and grace(32). But most knew that it was another one of Wrigley's publicity gimmicks.
In order to insure that the players acted like ladies on and off the field, Wrigley instituted a set of "Rules of Conduct" for the players. The girls were not allowed to smoke or drink, wear slacks or shorts in public, etc. If they broke any of the rules, they were fined. If they did anything "inappropriate" on or off the field, they were fined(33). Wrigley wanted the image of the players to be squeaky clean. The players either had to have shoulder-length hair or short hair in curls, and they were to never go without make-up(34). "They were selling a product." said second baseman Sophie Kurys. "They wanted us to be feminine and (at the same time) play like Joe DiMaggio. What they didn't realize was how well the girls could actually play."(35)
To add to the clean All-American image, Wrigley hired chaperones. Chaperones had a difficult job. They were mothers, nurses, communicators, etc. They had to do everything from keeping track of the equipment and the uniforms to making sure the girls were in by curfew(36). Dorothy Hunter was a player the first season of the League. When she refused a contract to play ball, she was sent a contract to be a chaperone. "I said, 'Twenty-eight's a little old to be playing baseball.' They sent me a contract, saying that I had a good disposition to be a chaperone. I went and tried it. I was a little hesitant at first because when I had played ball the gals were snotty to the chaperone, but I liked it and stayed until the end (of the League)."(37)
Getting along with the girls required a lot of stamina, especially since they were always playing pranks. Pepper Paire Davis remembers one prank in particular that she and the Grand Rapids Chicks played on chaperone Dorothy Hunter. "Dottie was a great gal, with a fiery temper. But she was deathly afraid of fish. So, one morning, I went fishing with the guys, and caught some perch. We knew her routine after each game. She would take care of everything, and then she would take a bubble bath. As she was about to get into the tub, one of the girls called her up from their room and said they had a charley horse. So Dottie put on her robe and went to take care of the fake charley horse. Meanwhile, I slipped into the bathroom and put the perch into the tub. She came back and got ready to get into the tub. Meanwhile, all fifteen of us on the team were waiting out in the hall. All of a sudden we heard a scream and she came running out into the hall all wet, with no towel, robe, or anything. Since I was the only one that fished, I was fined the $25. That was a lot of money in those days!"(38)
Encounters with such practical jokes tended to be just part of the job for a chaperone. Some chaperones could handle it. Others couldn't. Amazingly enough, not all of the chaperones knew very much about baseball. Sophie Kurys remembers that "We had one who was famous for yelling things like, 'Hit a home run, honey, and we win!' The only trouble was, we would be four runs behind in the bottom of the ninth with two out and the bases empty."(39) But for the most part, they were able to handle the tough job assigned to them of caring for fifteen girls and sometimes the managers as well. "They were a good group of gals." says Dottie Hunter of her Grand Rapids Chicks. "I enjoyed what I did."(40)
Wrigley had everything he wanted to portray the players as All-American girls. The publicity almost seemed to come naturally. Newspapers and national magazines were ultimately drawn to this "novelty" that, as one magazine said, was another one of "Millionaire Philip Knight Wrigley's radical ideas."(41) There was, of course, skeptism in the beginning. "At first, (the fans) came out of curiosity. But when they saw how good we were, they were hooked,"(42) recalls Dottie Schroeder. In truth, as the popularity of the game grew, the publicity became more widespread. People all over the country were reading about "the Queens of Swat" and "the Belles of the Ball Game"(43) and marveling at this Midwestern ballgame.
The game itself evolved over time. Starting as a cross between softball and baseball, it soon evolved to be "baseball, plus or minus a few feet."(44) The League was originally called the All-American Girls Softball League, but as the League evolved, so did the name. In 1944, it became the All-American Girls Ball League and in 1945, the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League(45). The ball size dropped dramatically, from a twelve inch circumference at the beginning of the League to nine by the last season, the size of a regulation baseball. Pitching styles went from underarm to sidearm and, in 1948, they began to pitch overhand. At the League's end the pitching distance was sixty feet, the same as in regulation baseball, and the basepaths were eighty-five feet, five feet short of the ninety-foot regulation(46).
The managers throughout the League were often baseball legends. However, being a major-league star didn't always mean success as a coach. Besides the usual problems a baseball manager dealt with, he had to cope with husbands coming home from the war and wanting their wives at home, as well as what to do when a player became pregnant. One pitcher, Dottie Collins of the Ft. Wayne Daisies, pitched until she was five months pregnant(47). Managers also faced the risk of losing their job. Towns wanted winning teams, and if the team faltered, the managers were the first to go(48). Some were successful, however. Max Carey, formerly of the Brooklyn Dodgers, coached the Milwaukee Chicks to the championship in their first year in the League. He later went on to become the League President from 1945 to1950(49). Another success story was Bill Allington. In the eight years that he coached the Rockford Peaches, they won four championships(50). It was a tough job and, as one manager grumbled, "This is the only place where you can't go into your own lockeroom."(51)
The summer of 1943 was a good first season for the League. Wrigley decided to try and do what he had originally planned: put the teams in major league ballparks. His experiments were the Minneapolis Millerettes and the Milwaukee Chicks. Minneapolis was an immediate failure, mostly because it was too far away from the rest of the teams. The local franchise was folded by Wrigley within a month, and the team spent the rest of the season on the road. The next year it was adopted by Ft. Wayne, became known as the Daisies, and eventually was one of the top teams in the League(52).
There were a number of reasons why the Milwaukee team eventually failed. The city wasn't very enthusiastic about the team, and they were forced to play in the daytime while the local minor league team, the Brewers, played at night. Because of the long work days, people didn't have time to go to the day games, even when the Chicks won the championship. Being in a major league ballpark also didn't help. Because the diamond was so much smaller, it got lost in the park. Wrigley's hope of someday moving the teams into major league fields was all but lost(53).
By the end of the second season, Wrigley's scheme was gaining massive popularity. Attendance had gone up to 250,000 and looked likely to increase(54). But Wrigley had lost money in starting the franchises, and because the League was non-profit, he didn't earn anything in return. The course of the war indicated that it would be over sooner than he thought, and the major league players would return to baseball. Also, his hopes of establishing women's teams in major cities had failed. Wrigley decided it was time to get out, and sold the League to his advertising executive, Arthur Meyerhoff, for a mere $10,000, and the League became a for-profit organization(55).
Meyerhoff kept the League base in Chicago, and he and his advertising firm began a publicity rampage. He had publicity shots taken of the girls to be displayed in magazines across the country(56). Articles about the League were popping up constantly, and people read about the "Babette Ruths" and the game called "Baseball-with a twist."(57) Cinetone News shorts were run about the League constantly(58). The publicity mirrored the growing popularity. One magazine clip even wrote that "Not long ago, girl's baseball rated along with checkers for spectator interest. Now there are nights when you have to stand up in back to see what's going on at the plate."(59)
Indeed, the fans had latched on to something that they never thought would be that good. Dotty Kamenshek commented that "At first they came to see the girls. But we won them over with good baseball."(60) Dottie Schroeder admits that "once they saw how well we played ball, they were hooked. We even stayed with families the first five to seven years. They treated us like members of the family. They would invite us over for dinner and give us presents, and the kids would ask us for our autographs."(61)
Sophie Kurys remembers her fan club with affection. "There were five boys who were especially faithful. They would come to every home game, and I even had my picture taken with them. One time one of them asked me to dinner. I said, 'Well, I have to be at the park pretty early.' ... So I went to an early pork chop dinner with him and his mother and he was on cloud nine every time I saw him after that."(62)
The people of these middle-sized Midwestern cities didn't become fanatics for nothing. One of the fans, in commenting about the League, said, "You had to see it to believe it, and even then you didn't."(63) They were there to watch women in action, in more ways than one. Pepper Paire Davis vividly remembers the one time she got thrown out of a game. "Lou Rymkus was a pro football player who was moonlighting as an umpire. He was about 6'8" and 280 lbs. (On one play) I had slid into second base. The ball beat me but I slid away from the tag and the girl missed me by about a foot. But I was blocking Lou and the way he saw it, I was out. I was so mad, I jumped up and whirled around. I was 5'3" and 110 lbs, but when I whirled around he was still leaning over. My fist caught his jaw and I knocked him flat on his back. Both of us knew it was an accident, but he said, 'I guess you know Pepper, that I gotta throw you out of the game.' I said, 'Yea, I know I'm out of the game, but I wasn't out at second base.' "(64)
The 1946 championship was a battle that is said to have been one of the highlights of the League, climaxing with a game that Commissioner Max Carey called, "The best game I've ever seen, barring none."(65) In the 1946 championship series, the Racine Belles were up three games to two in a best of seven series against the Rockford Peaches(66). Pepper Paire Davis remembers that "In the second game, I was going for a pop fly and slipped and sprained my ankle. For the rest of the series, they would freeze my ankle before every game and then tape it. At one point I hit a triple and fell down about ten times running around the bases."(67)
The final game was a baseball classic. Carolyn Morris of the Peaches was pitching a no-hitter, but was taken out in the 10th inning. Joanne Winter, pitcher for the Belles, was surviving by the skin of her teeth(68). "There had been three or four squeeze plays," recalls Sophie Kurys, "and one ball went over our leftfielder's head, but she ran and caught it, and saved us from a home run."(69) The game remained scoreless until the 14th inning. Millie Deegan was pitching for the Peaches. She was a former outfielder who was less adept at holding people on base(70). Kurys, who would later become the League's all-time base stealer, remembers that in the final inning they managed to take advantage of that fact. "I got a single and then stole second. Betty Trezza was up and she hit a line drive to right field. I headed for home and the girl threw a strike to home plate, but I slide away from the tag, and we won the game. Everybody came running out onto the field and threw me up into the air. It was very exciting."(71)
It was games like this that kept the fans coming. In 1948, over a million fans went to see the girls play. The League reached its peak that year with ten teams, the two newest ones being the Chicago Colleens and the Springfield Sallies(72). These teams remained as franchises for one season and then turned into traveling teams, touring the U.S. and displaying the Wrigley patent of feminity and ball-playing(73). However, the bulk of excitement remained on the home front. According to one magazine article, "..some towns draw four times their population every season. If the New York Yankees stirred up that kind of excitement, they'd be drawing 32 million, instead of two million."(74)
Even when people couldn't come to the games, the girls were constantly getting letters. Bonnie Baker received a letter from a man who hoped that his daughters would grow up to be just like her(75). Centerfielder Faye Dancer received a letter from a GI after her picture appeared in Life magazine. "I am not proposing," he wrote, "but I have about $1000 and an old jalopy in New Jersey, I am footloose and fancy free, and I can settle anyplace."(76)
It was being argued by some that the women ballplayers were as good as men. Dotty Kamenshek was called "the fanciest fielding first baseman I've ever seen, man or woman" by Wally Pip, formerly an all-star first baseman for the New York Yankees. Later, she was offered a contract by a minor league team in Fort Lauderdale, Florida(77). Charlie Grimm said of Dottie Schroeder, "If she were a boy I'd give $50,000 for her."(78) One day when pitching ace Carolyn Morris played ball with a couple of kids, one asked, "Say, have you got any brothers who'd like to play with us?"(79)
Wrigley's "radical" idea had taken the country and the Midwest by storm. Even after the war ended, they were still going strong. While the men returned home and most women returned to raising families, these women played on and played grueling seasons. The fifteen-girl roster meant that most of them played with injuries and played several different positions. The season went from May to September, and the girls often played six to seven games a week(80). It was grueling, but they loved it. "We were being paid for something we loved to do more than eat." said Pepper Paire Davis(81). For Bonnie Baker, "Everyday was exciting to me."(82)
In 1948, the League was so popular that everyone assumed that it would be around forever. However, the success of the League was short-lived. The downfall of the League was caused by many factors. After the League became a for-profit organization under the ownership of Arthur Meyerhoff and his advertising firm, the individual franchises felt that they were not getting their fare share of the profits. In trying to gain control of the League, they voted to cut the publicity budget of Meyerhoff's advertising company. This caused a dramatic decline in attendance. The struggle for control between Meyerhoff and the franchises would last until 1950, when Meyerhoff sold out to to individual owners. The individual owners did not have the financial resources to do things essential to keeping the teams afloat. The recruitment of fresh playing talent was slacking off and there was no one to replace the veterans when they retired. Cutbacks in operational costs and continued cuts in publicity resulted in fewer and fewer people going to the ballpark(83).
Dotty Kamenshek believes that the reason there weren't enough new players to replace the old was that the League did not have a farm team system to train the converted softball players. "After we began to play real baseball, there weren't enough recruits."(84) Even in the League's heyday, it was becoming harder and harder for women freshly recruited from the softball leagues to convert to playing baseball. When the old players started retiring, there was no one to replace them(85).
In addition, new social trends were developing. Television had been invented, and many people were staying home to watch the tube(86). Those who still got out often would play sports instead of watching them. Playing a game of baseball or a pick-up game of basketball was much cheaper and healthier than sitting and watching someone else do it(87). All forms of entertainment were suffering from the new American lifestyles, but the League, already financially unstable, was one of the hardest hit. Even the people who still went to baseball games were only going to major league games. The ending of the war brought about the opinion that women should go back to being wives and mothers. The age of "Rosie the Riveter" was gone, and not many people wanted to see women play baseball anymore(88).
In the final years of the League, the Ft. Wayne Daisies dominated the scene. They never won a championship, but they basically ruled the standings. The lack of competition against the Daisies made for uninteresting games, and the parks stood practically empty. In the final championship series of the League, the underdog Kalamazoo Lassies upset the Daisies(89). That championship marked the last days of the League. That winter, the team owners voted to temporarily suspend the League(90). Never again would the girls wear the uniforms of women and play the game of men.
Philip Knight Wrigley started the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League as a sort of experiment, something to have in case the majors folded. The majors never went under, but for twelve glorious seasons these women, or "girls" as they'll always call themselves, had their chance to do something no one else ever had a chance to do. P.K. Wrigley was one of Chicago's great advertisers, and he knew that in order for the League to succeed, the women had to "play like men, look like ladies," as former player Elizabeth Mahon would say(91). Despite the criticism of many of his peers, Wrigley put his heart into the League its first two seasons, and that heart kept it going for nine more. He had the money and he had the patriotic spirit. During WWII, everything was done with patriotic fervor, and the League was no exception. In Chicago and throughout the Midwest, these ideal All-American Girls became a symbol of hometown support for the troops and provided a form of entertainment for the weary workers at the end of a long day. For some, it became an obsession, going to the ballpark every night to watch these girls, in their one piece uniforms with their charm school-learned grace, playing some fantastic baseball. P.K. Wrigley was definitely someone who knew what it would take to make the League work in that day and age. His innovation did much more than drum up patriotic spirit. It did much more than attract more people to his products and gain recognition for the Wrigley name. Wrigley's "unique brand of baseball" showed that women could definitely play a man's game. It symbolized a time when women came forward and took over men's positions, in work and in play. The fact that the League survived for so long after the war had much to do with Wrigley's hard-driven determination to project an image the public would embrace. Dorothy Hunter remembers her days in the League as being a unique moment in time. "I don't think we'll ever see anything like it again," says Hunter. "It's quite a shame."(92)
(1) RWAACs in Diamond Rally: All-Star Battle at Wrigley Field Under Lights, Chicago Herald-American, 1 July 1943, sec.5:21.
(2) Lois Browne, Girls of Summer:In Their Own League, 48.
(3) RWAACs in Diamond Rally: All-Star Battle at Wrigley Field Under Lights, 5:21.
(4) Interview of Lavonne "Pepper" Paire Davis, 12 February 1993.
(5) Browne, 14.
(6) Ibid., 8.
(7) Ibid., 10.
(8) Ibid., 14.
(9) Ibid., 19.
(10) Ibid., 16.
(11) Ibid., 23.
(12) Sharon Roepke, Diamond Gals, 6.
(13) Browne, 24-5.
(15) Roepke, 6.
(16) Vickie Pietryga, "All-American Girls: Hundreds reported for duty to America's favorite pastime during WWII.," Cubs Magazine, Spring 1992, 106.
(17) Browne, 26.
(19) Jack Fincher, "The Belles of the Ball Game were a hit with their fans." Smithsonian Magazine, July 1989, 92.
(21) Interview of Mary "Bonnie" Baker, 12 February 1993.
(22) Pietryga, 106.
(23) Interview of Dorothy "Dottie" Schroeder, 6 February 1993.
(24) Browne, 24.
(25) Ibid., 22.
(26) "Ladies of the Little Diamond; Professional Softball League for Women," Time, 14 June 1943, 74.
(27) Browne, 40.
(28) Schroeder, interview, 6 February 1993.
(29) Baker, interview, 12 February 1993.
(30) Fincher, 92.
(31) Interview of Dorothy "Kammie" Kamenshek, 11 February 1993.
(32) Baker, interview, 12 February 1993.
(33) Browne, 38.
(34) Nancy Randle, "Their Time at Bat: A women's professional baseball league that made baseball herstory," Chicago Tribune: Sunday Magazine, 5 July 1992, 13.
(35) Interview of Sophie Kurys, 11 February 1993.
(36) Browne, 66.
(37) Interview of Dorothy Hunter, 7 February 1993.
(38) Davis, interview, 12 February 1993.
(39) Fincher, 94.
(40) Hunter, interview, 7 February 1993.
(41) "Ladies of Little Diamond", 73.
(42) Schroeder, interview, 6 February 1993.
(43) Fincher, 88.
(44) Randle, 13.
(45) Browne, 58.
(46) Randle, 13.
(47) Browne, 64.
(48) Bill Fay, "Belles of the Ball Game", Colliers, 13 August, 1949, 44.
(49) Browne, 86.
(50) Ibid., 73.
(51) Fay, 44.
(52) Browne, 56.
(53) Ibid., 57.
(54) Ibid., 84.
(55) Ibid., 85.
(56) Ibid., 87.
(57) "Baseball: Babette Ruth's", Newsweek, 29 July 1946, 68.
(58) Browne, 87.
(59) James Gordon, "Beauty at the Bat", American Magazine, June 1945, 24.
(60) Kamenshek, interview, 11 February 1993.
(61) Schroeder, interview, 6 February 1993.
(62) Kurys, interview, 11 February 1993.
(63) Browne, preface.
(64) Davis, interview, 12 February 1993.
(65) Fincher, 91.
(67) Davis, interview, 12 February 1993.
(68) Fincher, 91.
(69) Kurys, interview, 11 February 1993.
(70) Fincher, 91.
(71) Kurys, interview, 11 February 1993.
(72) Browne, 138.
(73) Ibid., 174.
(74) Fay, 44.
(75) Fincher, 94.
(77) Ibid., 96.
(79) Gordon, 24.
(80) Larue, Larry, "Belles of the Ball: Barnstorming women's pro league captivated America." Press Telegram, 17 May 1987, 4.
(81) Davis, interview, 12 February 1993.
(82) Baker, interview, 12 February 1993.
(83) Roepke, 12.
(84) Kamenshek, interview, 11 February 1993.
(85) Roepke, 12.
(91) Interview of Elizabeth Mahon, 11 February 1993.
(92) Hunter, interview, 7 February 1993.
(93) Browne, preface.
(94) Davis, interview, 12 February 1993.
(95) Browne, appendix
Baker, Mary "Bonnie," Catcher in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Interview by the author of this paper, 12 February 1993, Evanston, IL.-Regina, Canada. Interview by telephone. Collection of the author of this paper, Evanston. Talking with Mrs. Baker really gave me a personal insight to how people felt during the 1940's.
"Baseball: Babette Ruths." Newsweek, 29 July 1946, 68-9. This article was one of the publicity pieces done about the girls.
Browne, Lois. Girls of Summer: In Their Own League. Toronto: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd., 1992. The book provided much of the information about how P.K. Wrigley started the league and general statistics and dates. Some pictures were also taken from here.
Davis, Lavonne "Pepper" Paire, Catcher in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Interview by the author of this paper, 12 February 1993, Evanston, IL.-Van Nuys, CA. Interview by telephone. Collection of the author of this paper, Evanston. Mrs. Davis was a pleasure to talk to. She provided many stories of her experiences in the league, including how she wrote the victory song.
Fay, Bill. "Belles of the Ball Game." Collier's, 13 August, 1949, 44. The article talked mostly about how difficult it was to manage a girl's baseball team. It provided some good information from the manager's point of view, as well as some good quotes.
Fincher, Jack. "The Belles of the Ball Game were a hit with their fans." Smithsonian, July 1989, 88+. This article was another historical perspective on the league. It provided a lot of general information, as well as some stories and the majority of the pictures used in the paper.
Gordon, James. "Beauty at the Bat." American Magazine, June 1945, 24-5. This article was mainly a publicity spread on pitcher Carolyn Morris, but it also provided a perspective on the league from an outsider's point of view.
Hunter, Dorothy, Chaperone for the Grand Rapids Chicks and player in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Interview by the author of this paper, 7 February 1993, Evanston, IL.-Grand Rapids, MI. Interview by telephone. Collection of the author of this paper, Evanston. Ms. Hunter was a definite help in giving me information about what it was like being a chaperone for the ballplayers.
Kamenshek, Dorothy "Kammie," First baseman in the All-American Girl's Professional Baseball League. Interview by the author of this paper, 11 February 1993, Evanston, IL.-Cathedral City, CA. Interview by telephone. Collection of the author of this paper, Evanston. Ms. Kamenshek, rated as the top all-around ballplayer in the league during its existence, was able to tell me many things about the league, including why she thought it failed.
Kurys, Sophia "Sophie," Second baseman in the All-American Girl's Professional Baseball League. Interview by the author of this paper, 11 February 1993, Evanston, IL.-Scottsdale, AZ. Interview by telephone. Collection of the author of this paper, Evanston. Ms. Kurys was extremely helpful in giving me many facts about the league, as well as a few personal opinions that were very accurate to the subject matter. She was also extremely helpful by giving me the phone numbers for Mrs. Mary Baker, Mrs. Lavonne Davis, and Ms. Dorothy Kamenshek.
"Ladies of the Little Diamond; Professional Softball League for Women." Time, 14 June 1943, 73-4. This article published in the early days of the league gives a hint of the skepticism surrounding the league.
LaRue, Larry. "Belles of the Ball: Barnstorming women's pro league captivated America." Press Telegram, 17 May 1987, 4-5. This is another historical perspective on the league and a few facts and statistics were obtained from it.
Mahon, Elizabeth, Player in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Interview by the author of this paper, 11 February 1993, Evanston, IL.-South Bend, IN. Interview by telephone. Collection of the author of this paper, Evanston. Ms. Mahon was very helpful in giving me insight about the league.
Pietryga, Vickie. "All-American Girls: Hundreds reported for duty to America's favorite pastime during World War II." Cubs Magazine. Spring 1992, 102-6. This is another historical perspective about the league and a few facts and statistics were obtained from it.
Randle, Nancy. "Their Time at Bat: A women's professional league that made baseball history." Chicago Tribune: Sunday Magazine, 5 July 1992, 11-15. This article, printed before the opening of A League of Their Own, also gave a historical perspective of the league and described what Wrigley expected from the girls as players and as ladies.
Roepke, Sharon. "Diamond Gals: The story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League." Cooperstown, New York: The National Baseball Hall of Fame & A.A.G.P.B.L. Cards, 1986. This pamphlet, courtesy of curator Ted Spencer of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, gave a fairly concise history of the baseball league. Many facts were obtained, including reasons why the league failed.
Schroeder, Dorothy "Dottie," Shortstop in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Interview by the author of this paper, 6 February 1993, Evanston, IL.-Champaign, IL. Interview by telephone. Collection of the author of this paper, Evanston. Ms. Schroeder, the only woman to play all twelve years in the league, was a delight to talk to and gave much insight on how it felt to be a professional ballplayer, especially as a teenager.
"WAACs in Diamond Rally: All-Star Battle at Wrigley Field Under Lights." Chicago Herald-American, 1 July 1943, final ed., sec 5:21. This article gave documented proof that the first nighttime baseball game to be played at Wrigley Field was not on August 8, 1988.