"THE GIRLS OF SUMMER"
ROSE GACIOCH PAGE 1 of 1

Rose Gacioch
Photo courtesy The Northern Indiana Historical Society.


ROSE GACIOCH

Born 1915
Right Field

All-Star Ranger Girls, 1934
South Bend Blue Sox, 1944
Rockford Peaches, 19451954

Rose Gacioch was 16 years old when her mother died. She lied about her age, said she was 18, and got a job in a corrugating plant in Wheeling, West Virginia. She also joined the Little Cardinals, the boy's baseball team in town. One afternoon in 1934, the president of the corrugating company came to a Little Cardinals game. He knew Maud Nelson, the manager of the All-Star Ranger Girls, and asked Maud if she'd swing through Wheeling on her next tour, and give this kid a tryout.

The kid did good. Maud Nelson signed Rose for the Rangers, where she alternated between the outfield and pitching. But 1934 was the last year that the "Bloomer Girls" teams would play. Companies that had sponsored women's baseball were switching over to the less expensive game of softball--a game that relied mainly on one outstanding player, the pitcher.

So Rose, like most other women players, switched to softball, barnstorming around the Midwest on weekends for as much as $50 for two days' play. She was working in a factory during World War II when she read about the new women's baseball league, the All-American Girls Baseball League, being formed.

"I'm going to be on that team," she announced one day at lunch. Her fellow workers laughed. Rose was 28 years old, much too old to play baseball. But another co-worker said that his daughter was a chaperone for the South Bend Blue Sox, and he'd ask her to come and look Rose up.

She made the cut and played for the Blue Sox in the 1944 season under manager Bert Niehoff, the same man who had sent Jackie Mitchell to the mound to face Babe Ruth a decade earlier.

In 1945, Rose was one of the ten players on the Blue Sox Niehoff asked to have protected from being traded at a league meeting in Chicago. But the president of the ball club, a Mr. Livengood, decided that Gacioch's poor English made her a liability for the team, not the ladylike image he was seeking. And so he traded her to the Rockford Peaches for the 1945 season.

It was a bad move on Livengood's part. As a member of the Rockford team, Rose lead the league in 1946 with nine triples, and batted .262. Peaches Manager Bill Allington moved her from the outfield to the pitcher's mound in 1948; her record was 14-5 that season. Her best year with the Peaches was 1951, when she went 20-7, becoming the league's only 20-game winner. She pitched a no-hitter in 1953, and was voted to the AAGBL All-Star team in 1952, '53, and '54.

Rose Gacioch stayed with the Peaches until the league disbanded in 1954, and she retired from baseball at the age of 39.

 


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