Article by Category
Shively, Twila (3/20/1922 - 11/25/1999)
By Merrie Fidler
“Twi” played softball in the Chicago softball leagues as early as 1942 when a headline in the Chicago Daily News said that she “Looks Like a Model, Runs Bases Like Ty Cobb, and Has Baseball ‘Savvy’ Plus a Pretty Face.” Twi was a member of Chicago’s National Girls Baseball League’s (NGBL) Rockola Music Maids team in 1944. The NGBL was organized as a professional softball league in 1944 to keep the best players from migrating to the All-American League which was established in 1943. Nonetheless, Twi was one of those who transferred to the AAGPBL despite the NGBL’s best efforts. She signed up to play for the Grand Rapids Chicks in 1945 and continued to be a member of the AAGPBL through the 1950 season.
A solid defensive player, who routinely ranked among league leaders in fielding percentage, Twi was a starter in left field or first base in every game from 1945 to 1950 with few injury-related exceptions. In 1946 she led the league in runs with 78. In 1947, she was a member of the champion Grand Rapids Chicks. Her career totals included 274 runs, 429 hits, and 255 stolen bases. After leaving the AAGPBL, she remained active in sports, played a couple of more years in the NGBL, and enjoyed golf, hiking, and aerobics.
Twi studied at Illinois State Normal and Indiana University and immediately landed a job as a physical education teacher at South Bend’s Washington High School where she inspired kids for nearly 30 years. She also coached the school’s softball and volleyball teams to several city championships.
Those who knew Twi said she had a good sense of humor, civic pride, and was a joy to be around. South Bend Bat Girl, Ruth Davis, a longtime friend of Twi’s who also taught high school in South Bend for 25 years, noted that Twi had a “real dry wit . . . but she was warm and giving. If she heard of someone in need, she was quick to act, but she didn’t seek out recognition after helping people. She was quiet about her charity work, and many weren’t aware of the extent of her involvement.”
Davis recalled that when Twi just turned 70, in 1990, she still referred to her work for Meals-on-Wheels for 15 years as “Taking food to the old people.” Davis also noted that Twi always had “a young and inquisitive mind,” and that “She took classes at the community college in South Bend while in her 60s just so she could learn.”
Betsy Jochum was an outfielder for the South Bend Blue Sox during Twi’s tenure in the AAGPBL and later became a teacher in South Bend and a friend of Twi’s. She remembered Shively as a fierce competitor. “She was a good ball player back in a time when women didn’t play sports.”
Twi succumbed to four years of Alzheimer’s disease and a year-long fight with lung cancer in a Douglas, Michigan nursing home on Thanksgiving Day, 1999 at the age of 79. According to Gary Umphrey, another longtime friend who looked after Twi during her convalescence, she remained upbeat and lucid even as Alzheimer’s and lung cancer beat her body down. “She was a sweet woman and I hated to see her uncomfortable,” he said. About five days before she died, Umphrey was commiserating with her and said she defied the way Alzheimer’s usually slurred her speech. “She opened her eyes, looked at me and said, ‘I’m not all that uncomfortable.’ And that truly was her spirit—tough to the end.”
Compiled from Twi’s obituary and other articles about her in the South Bend, (IN) Tribune at the end of November and beginning of December 1999.
Contributed by: Ruth Davis
Submitted on: 01/29/2011
Copyright: Summarized from several South Bend Tribune, IN articles