When America entered World War II, many male baseball players were drafted to fight, leaving many baseball parks empty and waiting to be used. In 1943, women took up the mantle and competed in the first-ever professional women's baseball league.
With the women of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League reuniting this past weekend, it's time to look at some of the top things to know about the league.
1. Gum's the word
Philip K. Wrigley, c hewing gum mogul and past owner of the Chicago Cubs, was the mastermind behind the creation of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Wrigley commissioned the assistant to Cubs general manager Ken Sells to come up with a solution.
2. Softball or baseball?
Initially, Ken Sells and his committee came up with the idea to form a professional softball league, naming it the All-American Girls Softball League. After two years of softball rules, they finally adopted more traditional baseball rules in 1945 by using overhand pitching and a smaller ball. Consequently, the league name was changed to the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.
3. Hybrid model
In order to capitalize on the strengths of the already-playing semi-pro softball players and the popularity and speed of men's baseball, league officials created a set of rules that included rules and techniques from both softball and baseball, including increasing the pitching and base path distances, and adding the ability to lead off and steal.
4. Calling all ballplayers!
In order to find the best players for a brand new league, Jim Hamilton and Johnny Gottselig held tryouts in various cities across America and Canada and scouted softball leagues. Hundreds of women came to try out, but only 280 were invited to the final tryouts in Chicago; only the top 60 players were chosen to play in the league.
5. Men of intrigue
In order to drum up interest in a brand new woman's baseball league, Wrigley believed that hiring famous male players and coaches to be team managers would do the trick. The first managers were Johnny Gottselig, a former Chicago Blackhawks hockey player; Bert Niehoff, former major-league player and minor-league manager; Josh Billings, former major-league player; and Eddie Stumpf, former MLB catcher.
6. Midwest living
After encountering resistance from current MLB cities to host an all-women's baseball team, Wrigley decided to keep the teams close together in the Midwest. The first four teams were stationed in Racine and Kenosha, Wisc.; Rockford, Ill.; and South Bend, Ind.
7. Big bucks
The first salaries offered to women in the league ranged from $45-$85 a week, often much more than their parents in skilled labor positions. Towards the end of the league's time, women were making as much as $120 a week.
8. Typical macho athletes?
Wrigley felt that femininity was important, so he required the players to attend charm school at Helena Rubenstein's Beauty Salon where proper etiquette was taught for every situation. Players were also given beauty kits and taught how to use one.
9. Uniform uniforms
The players' uniforms -- a one-piece short-skirted flared tunic -- were designed by Mrs. Wrigley, and styles were pulled from popular figure skating, field hockey, and tennis outfits of the time.
10. The last inning
The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League ended in 1954. Over 600 women played in the league over the course of its history, and attendance peaked in 1948 when over 910,000 people paid to see the women play.
Steve is a lifelong baseball fan, and even caused a lockdown of Tigers Stadium as a 5-year-old.
- Sports & Recreation