Results tagged ‘ AAGPBL ’

Remembering Edith Houghton

Wiles_90By Tim Wiles

“I guess I was born with a baseball in my hand or something,”  said Edith Houghton.  “I enjoyed it more than anything.”

Edith, who died on Feb. 2, just eight days shy of her 101st birthday, lived a baseball life that would be the envy of many men. Not only did she scout for the Philadelphia Phillies beginning just after World War II, but she was a professional baseball player too.

Edith Houghton generously donated artifacts from her collection that are now on display in the Museum's Diamond Dreams exhibit. (NBHOF Museum)

Edith Houghton generously donated artifacts from her collection that are now on display in the Museum’s Diamond Dreams exhibit. (NBHOF Library)

 

Edith Houghton generously donated several artifacts from her baseball career to the Hall of Fame – many of which are on display in the Museum’s Diamond Dreams exhibit. (Craig Muder/NBHOF Library)At the tender age of 10, Edith, a natural athlete, joined the Philadelphia Bobbies, a young women’s baseball team named after their fashionable 1920s haircuts, as their shortstop, in 1922.

In 1925, the Bobbies embarked on an amazing cross-cultural baseball journey, touring Japan and playing against men’s college baseball teams.

Upon her return to the States, Edith joined first the New York Bloomer Girls and later the Hollywood Girls, two leading women’s baseball teams of the pre-AAGPBL era.  The teams toured the country playing against local men’s teams.

During World War II, Edith served in the Navy and reportedly played for the WAVES women’s baseball team, a fascinating chapter in the history of women in baseball about which little is known today.

Upon her return from the war, she approached Phillies owner Bob Carpenter and asked to become a scout.  After leafing through Edith’s remarkable scrapbook, Carpenter hired her, and she signed a number of players for the Phils, though none ended up making the major leagues.

I have had the privilege of leafing through that amazing scrapbook, as Hall of Fame Photo Archivist Pat Kelly and I had the chance to meet Edith in her Sarasota, Fla., home during the summer of 2000.  We were in West Palm Beach for the annual SABR convention, and we drove across the state to meet and conduct an oral history interview with Edith.  She was charming, gracious, and still in love with the game.

Edith donated several artifacts from her career to the Hall of Fame.  In our Diamond Dreams exhibit, visitors can see her Bobbies cap, her jersey from the Japanese tour, with U.S.A.  across the front, along with her belt.

Tim Wiles is the director of research for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

A Little ‘Pepper’ in That Song

Wiles_90By Tim Wiles

As I mentioned in my previous blog about the late, great All-American Girls Professional Baseball League star Lavonne “Pepper” Paire Davis, her other great love, besides baseball, was writing and singing – songs and poems.

All American Girls Professional Baseball League star Pepper Paire poses for a picture with her catchers gear. (NBHOF Library)

Lavonne “Pepper” Paire Davis putting on her catching equipment (NBHOF Library)

I had called Pepper while doing some research related to the centennial of “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” back in 2008.  I knew that she was the writer behind a great parody of baseball’s anthem. Whenever several veteran players from the AAGPBL were gathered for an appearance at a ball game or a card show, they would often break into song, usually singing the league’s “Victory Song” (also written by Pepper along with fellow player Nalda Bird Phillips), and then they would go into their own version of “Take Me Out To The Ball Game.”

AAGPBL Rosters were not nearly as large as major league rosters, usually featuring anywhere from 15-18 players.  Therefore, when injury struck, the ladies either played through the pain, or, if they had to sit out, often someone else had to play out of position in order to field a team.  These were tough women.

So, her parody makes fun of what she saw as the more frail players of later generations, though she was careful to note that not all modern players are like this.  Pepper told me that Ernie Banks and Duke Snider were great fans of her version of the song, and would ask her to sing it when they ran into each other at card shows and other events.  Here’s how it goes:

Take Me Out of the Ball Game
I don’t think I can play;
I’ve got a headache and a hangnail too,
What’s more I think I’m coming down with the flu;
So please, Take me out of the ball game,
If we don’t win it’s a shame;
But I’ll still get my
One, Two, Three million or more
At the Old Ball Game.

Tim Wiles is the director of research for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

Caring for history

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

Tina Carey stood up from her chair at the Hall of Fame’s Giamatti Research Center and identified herself as the granddaughter of Max Carey.

05-26-10-Muder_CareyTina.jpgBut for anyone who knew or had seen pictures of the Hall of Fame centerfielder of the Pirates and Dodgers, no introduction was necessary.

“I’ve got his eyebrows and his chin,” said Tina, pouring over pictures of Max from the Hall of Fame’s archive. “Look how young he looks in these. My memories of him are all when he was in his 70s.”

Tina Carey came to Cooperstown on Monday from her home in Virginia, bringing with her warm memories of her famous grandfather. Tina’s father, Donald F. Carey, was one of Max’s three children – born in 1925, the year Max and his Pittsburgh Pirates won the World Series. Donald Carey passed away last year.

Tina was born in 1961 – the year Max was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

“My grandfather moved to Miami Beach right after he left baseball,” said Tina, whose famous relative retired as a player following the 1929 season before managing the Dodgers in 1932 and 1933. “I remember that in his house in Miami he had this little room plastered with all the photos and clippings from his career. I’d sit on a chair in that room and we’d watch baseball games on TV.”

05-26-10-Muder_Carey.jpgMax Carey passed away in 1976 following a career working in the dog racing industry. His big league baseball career began in 1910 with the Pirates – but was almost derailed by a higher calling.

“He was in seminary school to become an Episcopalian minister, but he just loved baseball,” Tina said. “He never made more than $16,000 a year as a ballplayer, and he lost more than $100,000 in the 1929 stock market crash. But he was very smart with his money, and very smart on the field.”

Max Carey was a fleet-footed centerfielder, stealing 738 bases (still ninth on the all-time list) while leading the National League 10 times, banging out 2,665 hits and leading the league in putouts nine times. Later, Carey managed in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League and also served as the league president.

But for Tina Carey, Max George Carey was more than a ballplayer. He was grandpa.

“He believed in fundamental baseball: Getting on base any way possible and not swinging for the fences,” Tina Carey said. “He would have been successful in anything he did. It’s wonderful to see his history here at the Hall of Fame.”

Craig Muder is director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Remembering Dottie

Carr_90.jpgBy Samantha Carr

Generally speaking, first baseman are not known for their speed. Hall of Famer Frank Chance was an exception to that rule, once stealing a league-leading 67 bases in just 125 games in 1903.

05-20-10-Carr_KamenshekMug.jpgBut All-American Girls Professional Baseball League player Dorothy Kamenshek didn’t just steal more bases, she shattered Chance’s number. Kamenshek, also known as “Dottie” or “Kammie,” stole 109 bases in 107 games in 1946.

Kamenshek passed away Monday at the age of 84. She was considered by many the greatest women’s baseball player ever.

“Kammie had no weakness,” said fellow AAGPBL player Lavone “Pepper” Paire Davis. “She hit left-handed line drives and was a complete ballplayer.”

In 10 years with the league (1943-1951, 1953), Kamenshek led the league in batting twice (1946 and 1947) and stands as the league’s all-time batting leader with a .282 lifetime average.

05-20-10-Carr_Kamenshek.jpg“I’m not one for statistics, really,” Kamenshek once said. “I never paid any attention to that. I didn’t consider myself an individual player, team victories were more important to me.”

She spent her whole career with the Rockford Peaches. She was selected to play in the All-Star Game in each of the seven seasons during her career that a game was held.

It wasn’t just women who were impressed by Kamenshek.

Yankees first baseman Wally Pipp called her “the fanciest-fielding first-baseman I’ve ever seen, man or woman” after seeing her play.

She was even offered a contract with the minor league baseball club in Fort Lauderdale in 1947. She turned down the offer because she thought it was a publicity stunt. Kamenshek led her team to four league championships and retired in 1953 after suffering back injuries.

The Baseball Hall of Fame has files of clippings and photos of Kamenshek in its collections, and her memory lives on in the Diamond Dreams exhibit on the second floor of the Museum.

Samantha Carr is the manager of web and digital media at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

An All-American education

Voss_90.jpgBy Emily Voss

Last week, a class of eighth grade students from Fort Washington, Pa., got quite a surprise when they connected with the Baseball Hall of Fame for Dirt on Their Skirts, a videoconference lesson on women’s history as part of the Museum’s education program.

If this had been a normal videoconference, the students and I would have spent about an hour discussing 150 years of women who broke barriers to play the National Pastime.

04-08-10-Voss_VideoConference.jpgBut this videoconference was different.

We reviewed female players of the 19th century, such as Alta Weiss and the Vassar College Resolutes, who played the game long before they had the right to vote. Then, as the lesson brought us into the 20th century, the students were introduced to a very special guest: Dolly Brumfield White, a player from the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.

At the age of 14, Dolly became one of the youngest players to ever join the AAGPBL when she was signed by the South Bend Blue Sox in 1947. Dolly played in the league from ’47 to 1953, not only with the Blue Sox but also with the Kenosha Comets and the Fort Wayne Daisies. She was primarily an infielder, and a tremendous threat at the plate, leading the Comets in hitting in 1951 and finishing second in the league after batting .332 for Fort Wayne in 1953.

Now living in Arkansas, Dolly was in town for the Hall of Fame’s Salute to Women in Baseball program which took place on March 27.

The students from Fort Washington, Pa., enjoyed a rare opportunity to find out about the experiences of women in baseball from someone with first-hand knowledge of the subject. Dolly is a great storyteller, and she entertained as well as informed the students with tales from her life in the AAGPBL. The students were able to ask questions of Dolly as well.

Although we can’t always promise that our education programs will include former baseball players, we draw upon our remarkable Hall of Fame resources, such as archived audio, video and still images to enhance the experiences of students who connect with us via videoconference.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum currently offers 15 baseball-themed curriculum units to schools nationwide through videoconference programs. The current curriculum units include mathematics, American history, leadership, labor history, fine arts, character education, cultural diversity, communication arts, economics, civil rights, pop culture, geography, industrial technology, science and – of course – women’s history.

Learn more about our programs.

Emily Voss is a school programs associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Women Who Made History

Carr_90.jpgBy Samantha Carr

The women of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League got their start just like we did. They played baseball in their backyards with their fathers, brothers and friends.

But they didn’t realize at the time that playing ball was opening doors for women everywhere then – and in the future to have opportunities to follow their dreams.

03-31-10-Carr_AAGPBL.jpgDolly Brumfield White, Sarah Jane “Salty” Ferguson, Joanne McComb and Gloria Elliot participated in a special interview about their memories of playing the AAGPBL on Saturday during the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Women’s History Month Celebration.

It is hard to imagine that most of these women went to schools that had no sports teams for women. Today, girls are offered varsity level sports in pretty much anything you can think of, as well as recreation leagues, travel teams and tournaments around the country.

“I would’ve enjoyed school a lot more if there were sports after school,” said Elliot.

Now this I can relate to. I remember writing out our lineup and doodling the softball field during science class on the day of a big game.

All four ladies told about how they first got into the league – and although every story was a little different, they all had support to help them get there.

White’s mother had to borrow her grandparents’ car and drive 60 miles to a tryout at age 13. Ferguson only had to travel to the local park with her father and a scout.

“We just took our gloves and a ball and I threw about five pitches and the scout began walking toward me and my father. I hadn’t even touched a bat or anything and I thought: ‘Boy, I’ve done something wrong here.’”

The scout offered her a formal tryout with the league.

“I don’t think my feet touched the ground after that,” said Ferguson.

Elliot had been working for an insurance company making $30 per week. When the league offered her $50 per week to start and the chance to make up to $100 per week, she jumped at it.

“They didn’t have to pay me at all to play ball. But I had a number of men who were playing minor league ball at the time tell me that we were making more money then they were,’ said Elliot.

Brumfield was very young during her time in the league and saved most of the money she was making.

“We would get about $3 a day for food and money for rent and we played games seven days a week with doubleheaders on Sundays and holidays, so there wasn’t much of an opportunity to spend it.”

03-31-10-Carr_Presentation.jpgWith her savings, Brumfield was able to put herself through college.

“When I got out of the league and told my dad I wanted to go to college, he said, ‘We don’t educate girls.’ He later apologized to me, but that was the thinking at the time.”

The message that all four women gave to mothers and fathers across the globe is simply to support your daughters. It was that support that allowed them to have the opportunity of a lifetime.

The women of the AAGPBL followed a strict code of rules. They attended charm school, were not allowed off the bus without a skirt on and their hair had to be long enough to be seen from under a ballcap.

Quite different than it is today. McComb even remembers being a young girl and playing ball on the street with the boys.

“A neighbor came up to my mother and said, ‘Why does your daughter act like that? Why can’t she be more ladylike?’ My mother never said a word.”

Women have come a long way. One of the earliest women’s baseball teams, the Vassar College Resolutes who played during the late 1860s to early 1870s, played in long skirts that were thought to be useful in fielding ground balls. But I can’t imagine they were easy to move in.

Brumfield, Ferguson, McComb and Elliot all spent their lives helping women earn the opportunities that we have today, all while having careers and families of their own. They volunteered as coaches, began women’s sports and recreation teams, helped to establish Title IX and served as trailblazers showing just how much women were capable of.

“The farthest a girl was allowed to run when I was young was a half-mile,” said Brumfield. “Running a marathon would have been unthinkable.”

Women who play sports today as well as all others who have the opportunity to follow their dreams owe these four women – and the 596 other AAGPBL players – a great deal of thanks.

Samantha Carr is the manager of web and digital media at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Dirt in the Skirt

Carr_90.jpgBy Samantha Carr

Like most women my age who grew up playing softball and loving baseball, I have seen the movie A League of Their Own about a million times.

03-03-10-Carr_ParadeMagazine.jpgBut I have only seen the ending once.

I just can’t bring myself to watch Dottie Hinson drop the ball in the championship game. I figure maybe if I don’t watch it, they went back and changed the ending and Dottie holds on for the win.

Growing up, I wanted to be Dottie. I want to be covered in dirt, with bruises on my knees, playing the game I love. Dottie had it all – she was smart, beautiful, a hard worker and one heck of an athlete.

Of course, when I was younger, this was just a story. Only as I grew up did I realize that this league was real and there were women just like Dottie who lived out their dreams in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.

On Saturday, March 27, four women who played in the AAGPBL will be in Cooperstown to celebrate Women’s History Month at the Baseball Hall of Fame.

03-03-10-Carr_Action.jpgDuring a special interview program beginning at 1 p.m., fans have the chance to sit down with Gloria Elliott (Kalamazoo Lassies, Racine/Battle Creek Belles) Sarah Jane Ferguson (Rockford Peaches), Joanne McComb (Springfield Sallies) and Dolly Brumfield White (South Bend Blue Sox, Kenosha Comets, Fort Wayne Daisies). Tickets for the program are free. Members may reserve their tickets now, by calling (607)547-0397. Any remaining tickets will be available to the general public beginning Monday, March 22.

These amazing women will give first-hand accounts of their experiences playing the game they loved. They will relate memories of the good and bad parts of playing baseball – stories that years from now will only be found in books.

Other events will take place throughout the day to commemorate women in baseball, including artifact spotlight presentations, and a special 11 a.m. lecture on the history of women in baseball given by the Hall of Fame’s director of research, Tim Wiles.

Make sure you get your tickets today, and join in celebrating these special women who – just like me – miss the dirt.

Samantha Carr is the media relations coordinator at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

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