Sophie Kurys
Photo courtesy The Northern Indiana Historical Society.

Sliding across the hard-packed dirt of the infield resulted in huge bruises and multiple "strawberries"-- broken skin that often bled through the players' uniforms. Kurys said, "The year I set the record, my chaperone made this donut affair so the wound wouldn't leak onto my clothes, because if it did, it would be torture to try to get the clothes off. . . . I had strawberries on strawberries. Sometimes now, when I first get up in the morning, I have problems with my thighs."

Despite that, Kurys stole a league record 1,114 bases in the eight seasons she played for the AAGBL. (Only Rickey Henderson, who has stolen 1279 bases in 20 seasons of play, has a higher career total.)

  Video Clip
video caption
Can you compare the single-season base-stealing records of Sophie Kurys and Rickey Henderson? In their respective record seasons, Henderson stole 65% as many bases as Kurys.

But in 1946, the AAGBL's base paths were 20% shorter -- 72 feet, compared to the major league's 90 feet -- and the ball used was slightly larger. (By 1954, the last year of the AAGBL, the base path lengths and ball size were the same as those in the majors.)

So, according to Dr. Robert K. Adair, a physics professor at Yale, an AAGBL runner like Kurys had a theoretical .04 second advantage over the pitcher-catcher battery. Henderson and other major league runners have a .15-second disadvantage.

audio caption

But Dr. Adair stresses that those microsecond numbers reflect perfect conditions. The athlete would have to have Olympic-quality speed and an uncanny ability to judge the right moment to steal in order to gain that .04 second advantage.

There are too many variables to really make accurate comparisons: the condition of the field, the speeds of the individual pitchers, the speed and accuracy of the catchers, the skills of the people playing second base. Each of those has an affect on the statistics -- whether the competition is real or projected.


To learn more about Sophie Kurys visit her page on Major League Baseball's "Women and Girls in Baseball" web site.


Choose a Player or ...


Return to the Girls of Summer Introduction


© Exploratorium