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Hutchison, Anna May "Hutch" (5/1/1925 - 1/29/1998)

By Milwauke Journal Sentinel (WI)

Anna May Hutchison, a star pitcher in a time immortalized by the movie "A League of Their Own," died of cancer Thursday at her home in Racine. She was 72. 

Hutchison, known as "Hutch" in her baseball days, played from 1944 to '49 for the Racine Belles in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. 

She was in Cooperstown, N.Y., in 1988 when the Baseball Hall of Fame honored her and other members of the Midwestern League, which operated from 1943 to '54. 

She helped the Belles win the league championship in 1946 with a 74-38 record. The team drew crowds of 5,000 and more at Racine's Horlick Field. 

Hutchison pitched the first nine-inning no-hitter by a Belles player and also hurled two 19-inning games. The score of one of those games, against the Peoria Red Wings, was 1-1 when the game was called because of darkness. Her team lost the other against the Grand Rapids Chicks, 1-0. 

The league was founded by Chicago Cubs owner Philip Wrigley, who thought the government might suspend major-league baseball during World War II. 

The league began with the ladies pitching underhand, but soon the overhand throw took over. Hutchison was known for her side-arm delivery. 

Hutchison was born May 1, 1925, in Louisville, Ky., and it was there that baseball scouts spotted her playing softball and invited her to the professional league. She was a catcher her first year in the pros before shifting to the mound the next year. A baseball card issued in 1988 shows her in catcher's gear. 

Joyce Hill Westerman, of Kenosha, nicknamed "Speedy" because she wasn't, and Annastasia "Stash" Batikis, of Racine, played on the Belles with Hutchison and remained friends with her until her death. Both spoke of the shrill whistle Hutchison could sound on and off the field, sometimes to get others' attention and sometimes just for the heck of it. 

"She was a very outgoing person," said Westerman, who caught her pitches for two seasons. "She could tell jokes and make people laugh." 

The girls league had lots of rules for its players. The field uniform, which included a short one-piece skirt over shorts, was tailored for attractiveness but made it rough on the legs when the players had to slide into home. Short hair was not allowed, so the women had to curl their tresses as well as think about their playing. 

"They wanted you to look feminine but wanted you to play like a man," Westerman said. 

Wrigley required his players to wear skirts and makeup off the field and never to smoke or drink in public. Female chaperons tried to enforce the rules. 

Teams carried names such as Milwaukee Chicks, Muskegon Lassies and Rockford Peaches, and they played seven days a week, with doubleheaders on Sundays and holidays. 

Gladys Day was in the U.S. Air Force when Hutchinson arrived in Racine, and Day's mother rented out her room to the ballplayer. Day and Hutchinson would later become friends and third-grade teachers in Kenosha. They lived together in Racine for 37 years. 

Hutchison moved to California after she left baseball and taught golf there. When she returned to Racine, she owned and operated a Laundromat for a while and then got a teaching degree from the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. She retired from teaching in 1987. 

In the early 1980s, many members of the league had a reunion that led to recognition at the Baseball Hall of Fame. 

In 1992, "A League of Their Own" was filmed with stars Geena Davis, Tom Hanks and Madonna. Hutchison, Westerman and others were asked to go to Cooperstown, where they played before cameras for 11 days. They were shown at the end of the movie. 

Hutchison is survived by a brother and a sister.

A service was held at Hanson Funeral Home, 3014 Northwestern Ave., Racine. She was buried in Louisville

Contributed by: Helen Nordquist
Submitted on: 03/04/2016
Copyright: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (WI) - Monday, February 2, 1998

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