A League of their own...

There were professional softball teams for women, but that's a very different game -- shorter base paths, a larger ball, underhand pitching, no steals. In 1943, with many major league players off at war, Philip K. Wrigley organized the All-American Girls Softball League to entertain fans. The league's rules permitted stolen bases, but it was essentially softball.

Dottie Stolze
Dottie Stolze caption  
For the first season anyway. In the twelve years that the league existed, it slowly evolved from softball to baseball-like softball, to baseball, eventually becoming the All-American Girls Baseball League (AAGBL). The base paths got longer from season to season, and the ball got smaller, so that by the last season, in 1954, the women were playing straight baseball. They played in skirts, but they played baseball.

Popularized in the movie, A League of Their Own, the AAGBL teams played for twelve seasons. Over six hundred women played for Midwestern teams like the Rockford Peaches, the Muskegon Lassies, and the Racine Belles. According to the book, Women at Play by Barbara Gregorich, "For those who actually saw them play, the women of the AAGBL changed forever the unquestioned concept that women cannot play baseball. For their managers, they played the national pastime as only professionals can . . . . They were equal to the game . . . more serious than the skirts they were required to wear, more intelligent than the various board directors who would not let them become managers."

The All-American Girls Baseball League played its last season in 1954. Television was bringing men's major league games into people's living rooms, and there just wasn't enough audience for the women's league to continue.

In June of 1952, shortstop Eleanor Engle signed a minor league contract with the AA Harrisburg Senators. George Trautman, head of the minor leagues, voided the contract two days later, declaring that "such travesties will not be tolerated." On June 23, 1952, organized baseball formally banned women from the minor leagues.


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