Results tagged ‘ All-American Girls Professional Baseball League ’

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.

On the road at TwinsFest

DiFranza_90.jpgBy Lenny DiFranza

I spent the last weekend of January representing the Baseball Hall of Fame at TwinsFest in the Metrodome, one of baseball’s largest fan fests. It’s great to celebrate the National Pastime in the dead of winter as the baseball world turns its attention from hot stove planning to spring training.

02-08-10-DiFranza_TwinsFest.jpgTwinsFest, a fundraiser for the Minnesota Twins Community Fund begun in 1989, has raised millions of dollars for local organizations. Many fans stopped by our spot in right field to see the artifacts we brought and to say hello, weigh Bert Blyleven’s chances for election to the Hall next year, talk about trips to Cooperstown and sign up for our membership program.

Many Twins fans, young and old, enjoyed over 50 artifacts from the Hall’s collection, like Ty Cobb’s small glove, Lou Gehrig’s jersey from his final season in pinstripes and a tunic from a 1940s Michigan team in the women’s pro league, the AAGPBL. But the most popular items were from Twins history, including the ball Dave Kingman hit into the Dome’s roof in 1984, the ball Gene Larkin knocked into left-center to win the 1991 World Series, hometown hero Joe Mauer’s bats from each of the three seasons he won the AL batting crown and the Hall of Fame plaque of Harmon Killebrew.

Many current Twins were on hand such as Mauer, Justin Morneau, Joe Nathan and new Twin Jim Thome, as well as former greats Blyleven, Rod Carew, Paul Molitor, Jack Morris and Tony Oliva. Bob Feller had Frank Howard and Denny McLain at his booth, while Fergie Jenkins led Rollie Fingers and other players raising money for Haitian relief.
 
02-08-10-DiFranza_TwinsFest2.jpgThough the Twins have hosted the Hall at TwinsFest for many years, it was my first trip to the Twin Cities. I was impressed by the friendly folks and fantastic food. I only got lost a few times in the downtown skyways and enjoyed a tour of the Twins new outdoor home, Target Field, which looks like a great place to see a game.

After a thrilling season last year and a new ballpark in 2010, I sensed a lot of excitement from the Twins and their fans. It turned out to be one of the biggest TwinsFests they’ve ever had.

Our thanks to Jackie Hoff and the team from the Science Museum of Minnesota, who installed the exhibit and showed me the ropes. The Twins’ staff was great, especially Heidi Sammon, Glo Westerdahl, and their new curator, Clyde Doepner. I hope the Twins and their fans have a great 2010.

Lenny DiFranza is the assistant curator for new media at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Giving Back to the Game

Carr_90.jpgBy Samantha Carr

With more than 17,000 men having played major league baseball, little boys have plenty of baseball role models to look up to.

For girls, it is not always so easy.

Norma Metrolis, 84, passed away Tuesday at her home in Melbourne Beach, Fla. For five of those 84 years, “Trolley”, as she was known, was a catcher in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.

02-03-10-Carr_Metrolis.jpgMetrolis last visited the Hall of Fame with a group of family and friends in September, happily autographing her baseball cards and posing for photos with visitors in the Museum. During a visit to the Hall of Fame Library, Metrolis pored through photos and clippings of her baseball career, telling stories and sharing memories.

Metrolis serves as a role model for me – a former college softball player – and for all of us girls who grew up loving baseball and spending our weekends covered in dirt and learning how to be tough when a ball took a bad hop and got you in the chin.

Debuting in the AAGPBL at age 19, Metrolis played for the Muskegon Lassies, Racine Belles, South Bend Blue Sox, Peoria Red Wings and Fort Wayne Daisies during her professional days. She adjusted from catching a softball to catching a baseball and even traveled to Cuba with the league to promote the game.

And she did all of this in a skirt.

When the league folded, these women didn’t have a place to play, so they went back to normal life. Metrolis spent thirty years working for the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a fruit and vegetable inspector. After retirement, Metrolis kept giving back to the game. She spent her free time golfing (she is credited with six hole-in-ones) and working at the Rebel Spring Games, a college softball tournament in Kissimmee, Fla.

Her family is arranging a celebration of Metrolis’s life, and donations may be made to the Rebel Spring Games for a softball player scholarship fund for college women.

Even after she’s gone, Norma Metrolis is finding a way to make little girls’ baseball dreams come true.

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

Former AAGPBL pitcher makes the pilgrimage

Wiles_90.jpgBy Tim Wiles

At age 85, Jane Jacobs Badini made her first trip to Cooperstown Friday. “I will definitely be back,” said the former pitcher for the Racine Belles (1944-45, 1947) and the Peoria Redwings (1946) of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.

The native of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, made the pilgrimage along with her extended family, Niece Jeannie McCrossin, her husband William McCrossin, and daughters Khloe (17) and Amanda (15).

8-10-09-Wiles_Jacobs.jpgBadini, known by her maiden name of Jane Jacobs in her ball-playing days, enjoyed the entire museum, but especially the Diamond Dreams exhibit on the history of women in baseball (including, of course the AAGPBL), and an extended visit to the A. Barlett Giamatti Research Center, where she both donated photos and clippings from her career and received copies of other photos from the Hall’s archives. She even helped identify some former teammates who were unidentified in old team photos.

Jacobs was a relief specialist, a control pitcher who specialized in what today are called breaking pitches. An interesting moment in her career came when a male manager ordered her to throw at the head of an opposing hitter. She refused, feeling that the order was unsportsmanlike. The manager benched her for ten days – except when he would get in tight spots and need to bring in his “fireman.”

These days Badini, who is retired from a career owning a dry cleaning shop which also offers ceramics, spends her time speaking to kids groups about fair play, sportsmanship, and the history of the AAGPBL, which the kids all know about because of the popular movie A League of Their Own.

Tim Wiles is the direcotr of research at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

 

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