|1943 Kenosha Comets||Pitcher|
|1943 Racine Belles||Pitcher|
|1945 Rockford Peaches|
|1946 Peoria Redwings|
|1947 Kenosha Comets||Pitcher|
|1947 Peoria Redwings||Pitcher|
|1948 Kenosha Comets|
|1949 Kenosha Comets|
|1950 Kenosha Comets|
|1951 Kenosha Comets|
|1952 Battle Creek Belles|
|1954 Rockford Peaches||Pitcher|
Hear about Jean's experience in her own words through the Grand Valley State Oral history project.
Biographical information Summary
Written by Jean S. Cione
Birth date - 6/23/28
Hometown - Rockford, Illinois (present population approx. 250,000 - 3rd largest city in Illinois) - birthplace and public school grades 1-12;
Education - Graduated from Rock River Grade School, 1942; Lincoln Jr. High School,1943; and East Rockford Senior High School, 1946
Earned a BS Degree from Eastern Michigan University,1953, an MS from the University of Illinois, 1962, and enrolled in Post MS study at the University of Michigan.
Physical Education Instructor & Department Head - Trenton High School, Trenton, MI (4 yrs)
Physical Education Instructor - West Rockford High School, Rockford, Illinois (4 yrs)
Physical Education Instructor & Dept. Head - Gilford High School, Rockford, Illinois (l yr)
Physical Education Professor- Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, Michigan (29 yrs)
Retired Professor -- Eastern Michigan 1992
All-American Girls Professiional Baseball League (AAGPBL) History - 10 years, 1945-1954
1945 - Rockford Peaches --reserve rookie 1st baseman
1946 - Peoria Red Wings -- starting 1st baseman
1947-1953 - Kenosha Comets -- left-handed pitcher (played some 1st base and outfield)
Kenosha gave up its franchise after the 1951 season and the team was based in Battle Creek & Muskegon, MI, in subsequent years. In 1954, the team was disbanded and the player was assigned to other teams.
1954 - Rockford Peaches
Former AAGPBL-Players Association Positions - AAGPBL-Players Association Vice President and Website Liaison
I was born in Rockford, Illinois, and attended pubic school (grades 1-12) in the Rockford Public School System. I attended a county school (grades 1-8) and when in the 8th grade, I was the only girl and played 1st base on the Rock River School Boys' Softball Team that competed with other league schools. In 1942 (age 14), I earned the first letter ever awarded to a girl by Rock River School. As I grew up, I developed a love for the out-of-doors and all outdoor activities. Athletics and outdoor activities became my primary interest and served as a template for my vocation and avocation throughout my life.
My 10 year career in the All American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL)
This began in 1945. As a young 17 year old junior in high school, I attended a try-out in Rockford, Illinois. Max Carey, a member of the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame, conducted the day long try-out. I was selected and invited to the league spring training session in Chicago, Illinois (spring training in subsequent years was held in places like Havana, Cuba, Biloxi, Mississippi, Opa Locka, Florida and other Southern locations). I "made" the league roster, and was assigned to the Rockford Peaches. I was a young girl who could run, hit and throw. During that first year with the Rockford Peaches, I sharpened those raw skills and learned the strategies of the game from a manager that I consider the best manager in the league, Bill Allington from Van Eyes CA. He was a student of the game and held practice sessions for us "rookies" and "bench warmers" every day that the team played at home. I attribute my 10-year longevity in the league to my first year under this outstanding manager.
Among the many "good" memories of my AAGPBL playing days
These include (1) pitching three no hit games, and (2) while playing 1st base, making an unusual tag play put-out at 3rd base to help secure a 1-0 win for a pitcher who was close to being released and thus preserving her place on the team roster.
Background Information of the All American Girls Professional Baseball League
The AAGPBL was the women's baseball league that was portrayed in the 1992 movie "A League of Their Own." After my tenure in the AAGPBL, my playing days became a "been there, done that, now lets move on to the rest of my life event." Interest in the AAGPBL exploded when the movie was released. An AAGPBL website was created (AAGPBL.org). An example of the interest in the AAGPBL via the website is exhibited by the 27,815 hits the site received in April 2003. Hits come from all over the world -- from all of the 50 USA states & other North American Countries, Canada, South America, Europe, Asia, Australia, Oceana & Africa. I served as the website Liaison between the AAGPBL-Players Association and those contacting the website until 2006.
In July 1982 (40 years after the league was formed by PK Wrigley) the first National Reunion of players and interested fans was held in Chicago, Illinois. Beginning in 1986, annual or bi-annual player reunions were held in various parts of the country, and In May, 1987, the AAGPBL-Players Association was formed
On September 12, 2003, The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, NY, welcomed the AAGPBL to a return celebration in Cooperstown. Fifteen years prefiously--in November 1988, the NBHOF recognized the AAGPBL with a permanent exhibit in their prestigious facility.
In 2003, the 15th anniversary of the opening of the permanent exhibit, the NBHOF's Jane Forbes Clark, Chairperson of the Board of Directors; Tim Wiles, Director of Research; and Jeff Arnett, Director of Education announced that an Italian sculptor had been commissioned to sculpt a life sized bronze scupture of an AAGPBL Batter. The figure is displayed on the Hall of Fame grounds and was unveiled in May 2006. It is displayed alongside two other beautiful bronze sculptures done by the same sculptor--one of a pitcher, Johnny Padres, and one of a catcher, Roy Campanella. They are all impressive.
These recognitions by the baseball world are deeply appreciated by all AAGPBL personnel.
Places Lived & Travels
My tenure in the AAGPBL and my career in education afforded me travel opportunites. In addition to my hometown, I lived in Peoria, Illinois; Kenosha, Wisconsin; and Battle Creek & Muskegon, Michigan while I played baseball. Spring training was held in various locations such as Havana Cuba; Biloxi, Mississippi; Opa Locka, Florida, and French Lick, Indiana.
My 29 year teaching career took me to schools and universities in Rockford, Illinois; Trenton, Michigan; Champaign-Urbana, Illinois; and Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti, Michigan. I made many lasting friendships wherever I played and lived.
During the "off season" of my baseball playing days, I pursued a BS degree in education at Eastern Michigan University, and after my playing days, earned an MS at the University of Illinois and pursed post Masters work at the University of Michigan. I taught on the high school level for 10 years before accepting a position at my undergraduate university where I retired in 1992 after a 29 year tenure..
Professional Work Experiences
During my years of teaching, I assumed many positions. Among my many diverse responsibilities during my 10 years of high school teaching, I established and chaired a physical education department in a newly built school (Guilford HS), and of course organized a GAA. As a synchronized swimming specialist, I directed many student synchronized swimming shows (Trenton HS in MI and West HS in Rockford, IL). Just as when I was a high school and university student, there was no competitive athletics for girls, and therefore no coaching positions.
My university tenure included serving as the First Women's Athletic Director at Eastern Michigan University. The University established a Women's Athletics Program to establish gender equity in athletics in the early 1970s to comply with the then new federal regulations of Title IX.
After establishing the Women's program and seeing it through its initial growth period, I returned to my first love, teaching in the Sports Medicine curriculum.
In 1985, Eastern Michigan University inducted me into their Athletic Hall of Fame recognizing my athletic achievements and contributions to establishing the Women's Athletic Program at EMU.
Some excerpts are based on Jean's Obituary published in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Nov. 28, 2010
Jean Cione died peacefullly surrounded by loved ones. She is greatly missed by family and friends.
By Jeff Samoray
Although most people familiar with Jean Cione knew her as a longtime professor of sports medicine and director of women’s athletics at Eastern Michigan University, she also had an earlier career as a standout player in theAll-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL). Cione primarily pitched and played first base for five teams between 1945 and 1954. For three seasons, she played for the Rockford Peaches, the team depicted in the 1992 film A League of Their Own, starring Tom Hanks, Geena Davis and Madonna.
Jean Shirley Cione was born on June 23, 1928 in Rockford, Illinois, about 90 miles northwest of Chicago. She was the eldest of two daughters born to John Cione, a machinist, and Viola (née Hasselquist), who worked in a beauty shop.
Cione grew up the consummate tomboy, earning a letter at Rock River School playing boys softball as an eighth-grader. Although a talented athlete, she didn’t have the chance to play varsity sports since her high school had no girls teams. Instead, she played for industrial league women’s softball teams in Rockford.
Cione was thrilled to learn in 1943 that Rockford would have a team in the newly formed All-American Girls Professional Softball League (the league evolved in various ways over time, including its name, the size of the ball, pitching distance, and pitching style). She and her father attended many Peaches home games. In the spring of 1945, prior to its third season, the league held tryouts – conducted by Hall of Famer Max Carey who was also president of the circuit. Cione couldn’t wait to hit the diamond. The league invited her to spring training in Chicago; she made the cut and was assigned to Rockford. At age 17, the high school junior became a professional athlete.
“From that moment on, I was learning from and playing with the most talented women softball players in the United States, Canada, and Cuba,” Cione wrote in the foreword to the book The Origins and History of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. “For two years, the Peaches had been my idols, now I was one of them. … Just think, in 1945, a young woman athlete was not only able to dream of competing at a very high level of athletics, but she was able to live her dream. It was unbelievable.”
Cione, who threw left-handed but batted from the right side, was listed at 5-feet-8 and 143 pounds. After playing first base with Rockford in 1945 and the Peoria Red Wings in 1946, Cione returned to Rockford in 1947 and established herself as one of the league’s elite pitchers with a 19-14 record and 1.30 ERA. Despite her performance, the Peaches finished in sixth place at 48-63.
From 1948 through 1951, Cione played for the Kenosha Comets. She had another strong year in 1950 with an 18-10 record and 2.96 ERA. Since 1948, the league’s pitchers had been allowed to throw overhand – but her sidearm southpaw delivery frequently baffled batters.
“I was primarily a power pitcher,” Cione said in a 2009 interview. “I developed a cross fire where I stepped to first base and brought it in right under your ribs. I was not afraid to work the inside of the plate. I had a changeup and later in years, I developed a two-fingered knuckle curve … that’s a ball that’s thrown with a spin on it and when it loses enough momentum, it falls off … I was left-handed and that was good for pitching against some of the very, very good left handed hitters.”
Among Cione’s career highlights were three no-hitters – a league record. She fired two of them in the same month with Kenosha in August 1950. She also completed a rare unassisted triple play while playing first base. She was named a league All-Star in 1952.
“Jean was our star pitcher and one of the best I had ever seen,” said Delores "Dolly" Brumfield White, who played with Cione on the Comets from 1948-1951. “She was very serious about her pitching and was all business on the field. I played first base and hated it when Jean fielded a bunt. It was difficult to catch her hard sidearm throw.”
The Kenosha franchise folded after the 1951 season. Cione joined the Battle Creek Belles in 1952; that team moved to Muskegon, Michigan in 1953. She returned to Rockford in 1954 for the AAGPBL’s final season. Cione ended her 10-year baseball career with a 76-65 record, 2.33 ERA, 86 stolen bases and a .224 average.
During the baseball off-seasons, Cione took classes at Eastern Michigan University (EMU), where she earned a bachelor’s degree in education in 1953. She then taught high school physical education in Trenton, Michigan and Rockford, and earned a master’s in education from the University of Illinois in 1962. Later, she conducted post-master’s work at the University of Michigan.
Cione returned to EMU in 1963 as a professor of Sports Medicine. She spent the next 29 years teaching anatomy, physiology, kinesiology and other classes in the School of Health Promotion and Human Performance. She also coached women’s track and basketball and became the university’s first director of women’s athletics in 1973.
Although Cione didn’t talk much about her baseball career with her students or colleagues, the subject came up occasionally during her classroom lectures.
“One day in kinesiology class, we were discussing the aerodynamics of a baseball pitch,” said Eric Durak, who took undergraduate courses at EMU in the early 1980s. “She mentioned she had played professional baseball as a young girl, but most of the players weren’t strong enough or didn’t know how to throw a curveball. I thought her reference to playing baseball was a little odd at the time. But the reality of what she had done hit me later when the movie A League of Their Own was released. Now I watch the movie with admiration knowing who inspired it.”
Durak also said that Cione carried her no-nonsense attitude from the baseball diamond to the classroom.
“If you asked a question the textbook covered, she’d tell you to look it up and give you the page number,” he said. “She didn’t yell at people, but she didn’t mess around – you were expected to know your stuff.”
Cione mentored generations of students like Durak, who worked with her for two years as an undergraduate teaching assistant in her anatomy and physiology lab.
“She was a lot more than just an anatomy teacher,” said Durak, who became a wellness specialist at the University of California-Santa Barbara. “Cione was a great mentor who encouraged me to pursue graduate work. We stayed in touch through the years. I still occasionally refer to notes I took in her class.”
The impact that Cione and the AAGPBL had on the development of women’s sports went far beyond the diamond. Lucy Parker, retired EMU associate athletic director, says that Cione was instrumental in helping women’s sports at EMU evolve from club teams in the physical education department to a full-fledged athletic program.
“In the 1960s, there was no women’s athletic program at Eastern, just club sports,” Parker said. “Jean ran the club sports program, coached the softball team and did some fundraising. During that time, she created a model for the women’s athletic program in advance of Title IX. She firmly believed in equality in athletics, but she didn’t stand on a soapbox. Once the women’s athletic program was created, she devoted herself to academics. She loved teaching and knew that many of her students were the first in their family to go to college. She was really invested in their success.”
After retiring from EMU in 1992 and moving to Bozeman, Montana, Cione became vice president of the AAGPBL Players Association. A League of Their Own revived interest in the league, and Cione and the other surviving players became celebrities. In addition to granting interviews about her days in baseball, Cione contributed to a video presentation about the league for the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s permanent exhibit about women in baseball. She was inducted in EMU’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 1986 and the National Italian-American Hall of Fame in 2007.
Cione spent her final years traveling, golfing, volunteering at the Museum of the Rockies, and following her beloved Chicago Cubs. She died on November 22, 2010 in Bozeman at age 82. She was survived by her partner, Ginny Hunt.
“We never did, and still do not, envision ourselves as pioneers,” Cione said in a 2005 interview with the Bozeman Chronicle about the AAGPBL. “[A League of Their Own] made us pioneers. For us, it was an opportunity to play a sport we dearly love at the highest level. We would have done it for nothing.”
A version of this article originally appeared in the Summer 2011 issue of Eastern Magazine. SourcesJean Cione player file. National Baseball Hall of Fame; Cooperstown, New York.
Books and newspapers
Cione, Jean. “Foreword.” Published in Fidler, Merrie A. The Origins and History of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Co., 2006.
Welsch, Jeff. “Bozeman Resident an Original Member of the Rockford Peaches,” Bozeman Daily Chronicle, June 26, 2005.
Interviews with the author
Durak, Eric; April 12, 2011.
Parker, Lucy; April 25, 2011.
White, Delores; April 14, 2011.
AAGPBL.org, Jean Cione player profile.
EMUEagles.com, E-Club Athletic Hall of Fame, Jean S. Cione.
Legacy.com, Jean Cione obituary from the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.
Olson, Gordon. Interview with Jean Cione, September 27, 2009. Grand Valley State University, All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, Veterans History Project. http://cdm16015.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/ref/collection/p15068coll11/id/18
United States Census, 1930; FamilySearch.org (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:X39D-26K : 8 December 2015), John Cione, 1930.
Author: Jeff Samoray
Contributed By: Merrie Fidler 2017
Copyright: SABR Biography Project: http://sabr.org/node/27119 - 4/15/2017Jean Cione
Jean S. Cione died peacefully on Nov. 22, 2010, in Bozeman, surrounded by loved ones. She will be greatly missed by all her family and friends who loved her dearly.
Born in Rockford, Ill., on June 23, 1928, to Vi and John Cione (both deceased), Jean attended Rockford public schools through grade 12. As a high school junior, she tried out for, and was selected to play for the All American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL), made famous by the movie, A League of Their Own (1992). One year, she attended spring training in Havana, Cuba, an experience that greatly impressed her and inspired her love of travel.
Jean went down in history as one of the top pitchers in the AAGPBL, pitching for four different clubs including the famous Rockford Peaches. In her rookie season of 1947, Cione won 19 ballgames for the Peaches while posting a stingy 1.30 ERA in 37 games. Three years later with the Kenosha Comets, the southpaw picked up 18 wins while throwing two no-hitters.
In an 8-year career, "Cy" Cione, wound up with a record of 76-65 to go with a 2.33 ERA in an even 1,200 innings. In 1952, Cione appeared in the All-Star Game and also helped the Comets to the league championship.
In 1988, the League and all 600 players were honored by the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. Jean served on the AAGPBL Players Association Board of Directors as vice president and website liaison.
During the off-season of her 10 years playing professional baseball, Jean attained her Bachelor of Science degree in education from Eastern Michigan University (EMU). Later, she earned a Master of Science degree from the University of Illinois, and pursued post-MS work at the University of Michigan. Jean taught at the high school level for 10 years, then became Professor Cione at her alma mater, EMU, where she taught for 29 yrs.
Jean served as EMU's first women's athletic director, and established a Women's Athletic Program (WAP) for gender equity to comply with the federal regulations outlined in Title IX. After she accomplished this historic transition at EMU, she returned to her first love, teaching sports medicine. In 1985, Prof. Cione was inducted into the Eastern Michigan University Athletic Hall of Fame in recognition of her achievements and contributions to establishing the WAP. Upon her square shoulders had rested the responsibility for teaching college women about the responsibilities of gender equity. A favorite story she told was about students inquiring as to their exam results with the plea, "But don't I get partial credit for my answer?" Jean's simple reply was, "There is no such thing as partial credit."
Prof. Cione retired in 1992. She enjoyed visiting her family and friends, and continued her love of the outdoors by cycling and playing golf. She was a member at Valley View Golf Club, where she loved both the course and her friends.
Jean was a voracious reader and an avid fan of watching sports on TV, especially her beloved Chicago Cubs. She kept up with current affairs, a fact known to all who shared the pleasure of her conversation. Jean had a grand stature, a wonderful sense of humor and a soft heart for Lucky, the golden retriever, and her cats Gus and OskarAnne.
In 2007, Jean was inducted into the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in a ceremony held in Chicago IL.
Courtesy of Bozeman Daily Chronicle 11/28/2010
Author: Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Bozeman, Montana
Contributed By: Ginny Hunt
Copyright: Bozeman Daily Chronicle-11/28/2010