Hear about Helen's experience in her own words through the Grand Valley State Oral history project.
Helen "Gig" Smith
Excerpts from Article: "Remembering the All Americans..." by Jim Sargent
Upon graduation from Richmond's John Marshall High in 1940, Smith was voted the school's outstanding girl athlete. She lettered in all four sports available to females: field hockey, basketball (she stood 5'5"), track, and tennis--and she won the city's doubles tennis championship. A right-handed batting third baseman who had power, Smith starred on five amateur clubs which won the state championship. Her 1940 team became the first from Richmond to make it to the national finals. Usually her team's clean-up hitter, she averaged a home run per game during her last two seasons.As a result of her outstanding record, Smith was inducted into the National Softball Hall of Fame in 1975.
In early 1943, when the All-American League was organized, Smith was offered a contract to go to the league's spring training in Chicago. "I turned down the offer," she recalled. "I figured, `I'm getting too old for professional ball.' That made my mother happy, because she didn't want me to play. But it made my father unhappy, because he wanted me to keep playing." Following the example of her brother, who had joined the Navy, Helen joined the Women's Army Corps (WAC). She was dubbed "Gig" (government-issued-gripe) the first day, and her nickname stuck. After being mustered out of the WACs in the fall of 1945, Smith moved to New York City and attended classes at the Pratt Institute of Art.
By the spring of 1947, however, Smith was running out of money. Thinking over her softball experiences, she called the scout whom she had met in 1943 and asked if the contract was still available. He sent one, and she signed up.
The All-American flew her to Chicago to meet Max Carey, the league's president. Later, she flew to Kenosha, Wisconsin, and spent the remainder of the summer with the Comets. In 1947 the league allowed pitchers to use a sidearm or underhand delivery, a shift which began in the 1946 season. But in 1948 the AAGPBL switched to overhand pitching, which made the game close to regulation baseball.
Gig arrived at the peak of the AAGPBL's life. In 1948 a record ten teams competed in a 120-game regular season. Teams in the West Division finished in this order: the Racine Belles, the Rockford Peaches, the Peoria Redwings, the Kenosha Comets, and the Chicago Colleens.
The complete article is attached.
Author: Jim Sargemt
Contributed By: Jim Sargent
Copyright: Jim Sargent