In 1943, worried that World War II and the draft would hurt baseball revenues, Chicago Cubs owner Philip K. Wrigley decided to create a professional women’s baseball league to capture the public interest and bring in money.
The league, mainly centered in the Midwest, began playing in the spring of 1943 with four teams, though that number would grow over the 12 seasons the league lasted. Originally called the All-American Girls Softball League, the league underwent numerous name changes over the years and today is referred to as the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. The rules of play also evolved over time, with the game initially being more like softball but by its final seasons having become nearly identical to men’s baseball.
In addition to having to make the transition from softball to baseball, players in the league also had to take charm-school classes where they learned grooming and etiquette. Uniforms included shorts covered by a short-skirted tunic, which made sliding to bases painful.
The women’s baseball league did well in mid-sized cities, reaching its peak attendance in 1948 with almost a million people in the stands over the course of the season. In the 1950s, the league began to decline, due in part to the decision to operate teams independently rather than under centralized league control, and the league was finally suspended following the 1954 season.
If you’ve seen the 1992 movie A League of Their Own, the story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League may sound familiar, as the film is based on one of the teams in the league. To learn more about the true story behind the film—and see photos of the real-life players—check out these clippings from Newspapers.com:
- A 1943 photo of the first woman to sign a contract with the league
- A 1944 article about injuries sustained by league players
- A 1944 photo of the woman who pitched the league’s first perfect game
- A photo of the 1948 player of the year
- A 1948 article (and photos) about the Fort Wayne Daisies team
- A 1948 photo of a player arguing with an umpire
- An account of a 1949 game between the Springfield Sallies and Chicago Colleens
- A 1950 photo of a player that was almost scouted by a men’s team
- A 1950 ad for a league game
Do you have any family stories about the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League? Tell us about them! Or find more articles and photos pertaining to the league by searching Newspapers.com.
18 thoughts on “Find: All-American Girls Professional Baseball League”
What fond memories I have of my dad taking me to the city park in Park Ridge, IL to watch the Bloomer Girls play softball. It gave me a life long love of baseball.
Mary Ellen I too was always at the park (Parichy Stadium) back in the day. My mother played for the Bloomer Girls as the 3rd baseman – June Borowy (nee Hardy). That was a very fun time for me.
I lived in Forest Park in the 40’s, where Parichy Stadium is located and home of the Parichy Bloomer Girls. Saw a coupla’ games.
In 1957, I joined Bill Allington All American Baseball Touring team, I was 17 and had just graduated from high school. Bill gave me a tryout and I was good enough to be on the team. We traveled all over the US playing against men’s teams. I played with such notable players as Dottie Schroder, Katy Horstman, Betty Weaver, Jean Smith, Ruth Richards to mention a few. It was a great experience.
Margie…That is a very interesting story…did you get paid a salary… were all your expenses paid for…what kind of hotels/motels did you stay at…did you eat a decent restaurants.. will await your reply thanks…
A team I miss is the Colorado Silver Bullets baseball club (yes, sponsored by Coors). It must have been the late ’80s, and my wife loved them. We followed them to Reno, and down to San Diego, where they played a game against a Mexican All-Star team as part of a double header which featured the Minnesota Twins against the San Diego Padres. They were also pitted that year against a team headed by Kevin Costner (shortstop) – the Hollywood Star Sox. Tim Busfield on the mound, Adrian Zmed at 3rd, and Mark Harmon at 2nd base. But the best part of the game for the ladies seemed to be getting Mr. Costner’s autograph.
Millie Earp, our famous pitcher for the Grand Rapids (Michigan) Chicks was our phys ed teacher at Burton Junior High in Grand Rapids in 1949. This was the one year I really enjoyed gym class. Millie made it so much fun and taught us so much.
I grew up in Racine, Wisconsin, home of the Racine Belles. The venue where they played, Horlick Field, is still in use today.
There were touring women’s teams going way back to the very early 1900’s. Of course, some of the “women” were male ringers with wigs, dressed as women.
The Hall of Fame pitcher, Smokey Joe Wood, got his start playing on one of those teams as a 16 year old. He was one of the fastest pitchers of all time.
I played pitcher and third base for a local Appleton,WI team. Then I was invited to go to nationals in Detroit. That was around 1939???!
Many great memories from those years of playing.
My daughter penned this for me as I do not have e-mail etc.
Marie Salm Heinritz
I have seen the movie several times and love it but think about what was happening. The nation was at war and we as a nation that found some positive outlet for people to enjoy. We were not fighting among ourselves everyone was working together to make us a stronger nation. There was much sorrow at that time for the loss of lives but somehow we came together. Now we are having riots as presidential hopefuls speak and nasty things directed at different races and women and candidates. We are now becoming the laughing stock of the world.
Thank you for putting things in perspective.
Derrick Piersol, Guthrie OK
This is interesting. I didn’t know there was professional girls baseball. I was born in 1943 so during the twelve years of its existence, I was a bit young to be aware of it.
Greenville, North Carolina
I was recently at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater campus for a softball clinic with my daughters. On the lower level of the Kachel Fieldhouse, there is a tribute to two Wisconsin-Whitewater staff members who had played professional baseball. There was a lot of memorabilia on the wall, and it was really cool to see. If you’re ever on the UWW campus, I recommend wandering over to the fieldhouse to see this display.
The years were somewhere around the mid 40’s. I was maybe 7+ and we lived just a few blocks east of the stadium on Berteau Av were the Rockola Chicks had their home field. This stadium was located at Central and Berteau Av on the NW corner in Chicago, behind the stadium covering several blocks of land, that started as a development, but because of the big war became Victory gardens. Things were not controlled as they are today and several of my friends and of course I would slip through the back fence to watch the girls play ball. We would marvel at how could girls play such good baseball, that was a great time to live, with the Rockola Chicks right down the street from my house. I watched the stadium being torn down in the 50’s to make room for homes and Luther North High School. That was a sad day but time moves on.
My time was in the late 40’s watching minoe league games with my grandparents at Cressey Park in Compton, Ca. So different today, things seem to have changed for the worse. I remember such peace and neighborliness back then, no matter the color of your skin or the leaning of your politics. Civility was the plate of the day and all shared in it. My happiest hours are now spent reminiscing of those days when a person needed a helping hand his neighbors were the first ones there.
I lived in South Bend, Indiana, and saw the Blue Sox at least once. I loved the movie, too.
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