All-American Girls Professional Baseball League
|Motto||who was it|
|Inaugural season||May 30, 1943|
|No. of teams||15|
|Ceased||September 5, 1954|
|Last champion(s)||Kalamazoo Lassies|
|Most titles||Rockford Peaches (4)|
|Founder||Philip K. Wrigley|
The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League was a women's professional baseball league founded by Philip K. Wrigley which existed from 1943 to 1954. During the league's history, over 600 women played ball.1
Although the name All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) is commonly used today, it was official for only two seasons. The league was founded as the All-American Girls Softball League.1 This lasted until 1943, when the name was changed to the All-American Girls Baseball League.2 In 1949 and 1950 the league was called the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League and from 1951 to 1954 the league adopted American Girls' Baseball League.
The league went through three periods of ownership. The League was owned by chewing gum mogul Philip K. Wrigley1 from 1943 to 1945, Arthur Meyerhoff from 1945 to 1951, and the teams were individually owned from 1951 to 1954. In 1947 and 1948, spring training exhibition games were held at the Gran Stadium in Havana, Cuba.
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The teams generally played in second-tier Midwestern cities. Only two teams stayed in their home cities for the full 12-year period, the South Bend Blue Sox and the Rockford Peaches.
With America's entry into World War II, several major league baseball executives started a new professional league with women players in order to maintain baseball in the public eye while the majority of able men were away. The founders included Wrigley, Branch Rickey and Paul V. Harper. They feared that Major League Baseball would cease, due to the war.2 Initial tryouts were held at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
The name of the league is something of a misnomer, as the AAGPBL never played regulation baseball. In the first season, the league played a game that was a hybrid of baseball and softball. The ball was 12 inches in circumference, the size of a regulation softball (regulation baseballs are 9 to 9¼ inches). The pitcher's mound was only forty feet from home plate, closer even than in regulation softball and much closer than the baseball distance of 60 feet, 6 inches. Pitchers threw underhand windmill, like in softball, and the distance between bases was 65 feet, five feet longer than in softball but 25 feet shorter than in baseball. Major similarities between the AAGPBL and baseball included nine player teams and the use of a pitcher's mound (softball pitchers throw from flat ground). Over the history of the league, the rules were gradually modified to more closely resemble baseball. The ball shrank from season to season until it was regulation baseball size, the mound was moved back to 60 feet, the basepaths were extended to 85 feet (still five feet shorter than in regulation baseball), and overhand pitching was allowed.3
The uniforms worn by the female ballplayers consisted of a belted, short-sleeved tunic dress with a slight flare of the skirt. Rules stated that skirts were to be worn no more than six inches above the knee, but the regulation was most often ignored in order to facilitate running and fielding. A circular team logo was sewn on the front of each dress, and baseball caps featured elastic bands in the back so that they were one-size-fits-all6
During spring training the girls were required to attend Helena Rubinstein's evening charm school classes. The proper etiquette for every situation was taught, and every aspect of personal hygiene, mannerisms and dress code was presented to all the players. In an effort to make each player as physically attractive as possible, each player received a beauty kit and instructions on how to use it. As a part of the leagues 'Rules of Conduct', the girls were not permitted to have short hair, smoke or drink in public places, and they were required to wear lipstick at all times. Fines for not following the leagues rules of conduct were five dollars for the first offense, ten for the second, and suspension for the third.7
During the 1946–1948 seasons the league went on the road for spring training. They went to Mississippi in 1946, Havana, Cuba in 1947 and to Florida in 1948.
The AAGPBL peaked in attendance during the 1948 season, when 10 teams attracted 910,000 paid fans.7
The Rockford Peaches won the most league championships with four (1945, 1948, 1949, 1950). The Milwaukee/Grand Rapids Chicks were second with three (1944 in Milwaukee, 1947 and 1953 in Grand Rapids). The Racine Belles (1943 and 1946) and the South Bend Blue Sox (1951 and 1952) each won two, and the Kalamazoo Lassies won in the league's final season (1954).
Bill Allington was the most successful manager in the league's history. From 1945 to 1954, he posted a 583-398 record for a .594 winning percentage, never had a losing season and is the all-time leader in victories in the league. He also was an active scout talent for the league. Allington reached the playoff eight times, winning the AAGPBL Championship Title in 1945 and in consecutive years from 1948 to 1950.
The 1992 film A League of Their Own, although fictionalised, covers the founding and play of this league. Tom Hanks, Rosie O'Donnell, Geena Davis and Madonna were the stars of the film, which was directed by Penny Marshall. Several histories of the AAGPBL have been published in book form.89
Lois Siegel documented the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League in her film Baseball Girls, which was produced by he National Film Board of Canada. Olive Little threw the first no-hitter in team and league history.10
Although the AAGPBL was the first recorded professional women's baseball league, women had played baseball since the nineteenth century. The first known women's baseball team played at Vassar College in 1866,11 while barnstorming Bloomer Girls teams12 (sometimes including men13) flourished from the 1890s to the 1930s. There were at least three women players in the professional Negro Leagues – Toni Stone, Mamie Johnson and Connie Morgan.
Women before the AAGPBL were often not able to play baseball, constricted by their heavy clothing. Alta Weiss started her career near Cleveland in 1907, but found it extremely hard to play baseball in her skirt, which she wore over bloomers. "I tried. I wore a skirt over my bloomers and nearly broke my neck. Finally, I was forced to discard it, and now I always wear bloomers." Women of this time were left to play in bloomers, not real uniforms as the major league players wore. But, magnate Philip K. Wrigley saw that people loved to see the arm and leg revealing uniforms that others had worn, so he outiftted the players in short, flashy skirts, when he created the league in 1943.16
The theme song made famous in the 1992 film A League of Their Own was the official song of the All-American Girls Baseball League, co-written by Pepper Paire and Nalda Bird (although in the movie, the word "Irishmen" was changed to "Irish ones").17
Batter up! Hear that call!
The time has come for one and all
To play ball.
We are the members of the All-American League
We come from cities near and far
We’ve got Canadians, Irishmen and Swedes,
We’re all for one, we’re one for all
We’re all Americans!!
Each girl stands, her head so proudly high,
Her motto ‘Do or Die’
She’s not the one to use or need an alibi.
Our chaperones are not too soft,
They’re not too tough,
Our managers are on the ball.
We’ve got a president who really knows his stuff,
We’re all for one, we’re one for all,
In their annual reunions since 1998, it is usual to hear the original AAGPBL players singing the song.18
- Kenosha Comets1 (1943–1951)
- Racine Belles1 (1943–1950)
- Rockford Peaches1 (1943–1954)
- South Bend Blue Sox1 (1943–1954)
- Milwaukee Chicks (1944)
- Minneapolis Millerettes1 (1944)
- Fort Wayne Daisies1 (1945–1954)
- Grand Rapids Chicks1 (1945–1954)
- Muskegon Lassies (1946–1949)
- Kalamazoo Lassies1 (1950–1954)
- Peoria Redwings1 (1946–1951)
- Chicago Colleens1 (1948)
- Springfield Sallies1 (1948)
- Battle Creek Belles (1951–1952)
- Muskegon Belles (1953)
- 1943 – Racine Belles
- 1944 – Milwaukee Chicks
- 1945 – Rockford Peaches
- 1946 – Racine Belles
- 1947 – Grand Rapids Chicks
- 1948 – Rockford Peaches
- 1949 – Rockford Peaches
- 1950 – Rockford Peaches
- 1951 – South Bend Blue Sox
- 1952 – South Bend Blue Sox
- 1953 – Grand Rapids Chicks
- 1954 – Kalamazoo Lassies
When the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League was unable to continue in 1955, its history and its significance were not soon forgotten. Many people in the 1950s thought that women were not supposed to play baseball, so most female athletes competed on other fields of endeavor. Finally, in 1980, former pitcher June Peppas launched a newsletter project to get in touch with friends, teammates and opponents, that resulted in the league’s first reunion in Chicago, Illinois in 1982. Starting from that reunion, a Players Association was formed five years later and many former players of the defunct league continued to enjoy reunions.
National Women's Baseball Hall of Fame inductees19
- 1982 - Toni Palermo
- 1999 - Claire Schillace
- 2002 - Faye Dancer
- 2003 - Dorothy Ferguson
- 2005 - Joanne Winter
- 2010 - Dorothy Kamenshek
- All-Star Team
- Player of the Year Award
- Batting records
- Fielding records
- Pitching records
- List of players
- List of managers
- A League of Their Own, a film that follows the beginnings of the league
- Ted Williams Museum and Hitters Hall of Fame, which includes AAGPBL exhibit
- Kathryn Cullen-DuPont (1 August 2000). Encyclopedia of women's history in America. Infobase Publishing. pp. 9–10. ISBN 978-0-8160-4100-8. Retrieved 28 November 2011.
- "All-American Girls Professional Baseball League Player Marg Callaghan Sliding into Home Plate as Umpire Norris Ward Watches". World Digital Library. Library of Congress. Retrieved 31 December 2013.
- Rules of Play All-American Girls Professional Baseball League
- Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–2014. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved February 27, 2014.
- [Johnson, Anne Janette. Great Women in Sports. Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1996.]
- Macy, Sue. A Whole New Ball Game: The Story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. ISBN 0-14-037423-X
- Browne, Lois. Girls of Summer: The Real Story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. ISBN 0-00-637902-8
- Immodest and Sensational: 150 Years of Canadian Women in Sport, M. Ann Hall, p.57, James Lorimer & Company Ltd., Toronto, 2008, ISBN 978-1-55277-021-4
- Debra A. Shattuck, "Bats, Balls and Books: Baseball and Higher Education for Women at Three Eastern Women's Colleges, 1866–1891," in the Journal of Sport History, Summer 1992.
- Berlage, Gai Ingham. Women in Baseball. ISBN 0-275-94735-1
- Ritter, Lawrence S. The Glory of Their Times: The Story of the Early Days of Baseball Told by the Men Who Played It. ISBN 0-941372-08-1
- Max Carey at the SABR Baseball Biography Project, by John Bennett, retrieved November 16, 2013
- Jimmie Foxx at the SABR Baseball Biography Project, by John Bennett, retrieved November 16, 2013
- AAGPBL website
-  Victory Song at All-American Girls Professional Baseball League official site
- YouTube.com – AAGPBL players at the 2006 MLB All-Star Game FanFest in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
- National Women's Baseball Hall of Fame inductees
- A Whole New Ball Game, by Sue Macy
- Muscle in the Bud (an article in Baseball As America), by Barbara Gregorich
- All American Girls Professional Baseball League official website
- Grand Valley State University All-American Girls Professional Baseball League Oral History Project