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INFO VINE * The History of The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League *

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INFO VINE *  The History of The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League * Empty INFO VINE * The History of The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League *

Post by Paul Mon 29 Jan 2024, 6:47 am

The History of The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League






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Photo Courtesy: [Archive Photos/Stringer/Getty Images]
Women played a crucial role during WWII for the United States by stepping up and filling positions for the men that left for war. They kept America's pastime, baseball, alive with the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL). It was a women's professional baseball league that existed for twelve seasons based in Midwestern cities. The AAGPBL gave women the opportunity to play professional baseball. The league became very popular, and women were able to show the world that they were just as talented as the men.





The Professional Women's Baseball League Started In Chicago In 1943


Women started playing professional baseball in 1943, in the All-Women's Professional Baseball League, AAGPBL. The league was started after many Major League Baseball players joined the armed forces to fight in World War II. 


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Photo Courtesy: [Archive Photos/Stringer/Getty Images]


The idea for the league actually came from President Franklin Roosevelt when he mentioned to Philip Wrigley the idea of women playing baseball. President Roosevelt stated, "Baseball is important for Americans, especially now. Times are tough, and we need something to cheer about."


The League Players Were Paid $45-$85 A Week


Players were paid between forty-five and eighty-five dollars every week, which was a pretty good salary for women in the 1940s. The players had to sign contracts that stated they couldn't have any other job during the baseball season. 


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Photo Courtesy: [Archive Photos/Stringer/Getty Images]


Each team had fifteen players, a business manager, a manager who was usually a former Major League player, and a chaperone. The teams needed to have a chaperone because some of the players were as young as fifteen.


There Were Originally Only 4 Teams


There was an extensive scouting drive when the league first started, and two hundred and eighty women were chosen as finalists and invited to tryouts in Chicago. During the tryouts, sixty players were picked and then divided into four teams. 


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Photo Courtesy: [Bettmann/Contributor/Getty Images]


The four teams were the Rockford Peaches, the South Bend Blue Sox, the Kenosha Comets, and the Racine Belles. Eventually, several more teams were added to the league. Some of the players chosen were as young as fifteen years old.


The Players Had To Take Beauty Classes


In the evenings, at spring training, the women were required to attend Helena Rubinstein's charm school classes. They were taught proper etiquette for every situation, and each player was given a beauty kit and instructions on how to use it. 


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Photo Courtesy: [Bettmann/Contributor/Getty Images]


In addition, they were trained on personal hygiene, mannerisms, and the dress code. For example, they were to carry themselves like ladies, always wear makeup when in public, and were not permitted to have short hair. They were fined if they didn't follow the rules; it was five dollars for the first offense, ten for the second, and the third was a suspension.


They Were Not Allowed To Drink Alcohol Or Smoke In Public


The players were not allowed to drink or smoke in public, but a couple of alcoholic drinks were allowed with meals after a game. The women were not allowed to swear, had to wear lipstick, and were to always appear in feminine attire when not playing baseball. 


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"I never heard anyone complain about riding those buses all night. We'd put on our jeans and ride them, but we could not get off that bus in jeans. We always had a skirt. We had to be seen in skirts. We were a glamour league. Mr. Wrigley wanted us to look like ladies, which we did, and we played ball like men." ---- Terry Donahue.


The Racine Belles Won The First Championship


The final two teams in the 1943 championship game were the Racine Belles and the Kenosha Comets. In the end, the Racine Bells took home the win for the very first championship game. However, the Rockford Peaches won more championships than any other team in the league. 


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Photo Courtesy: [Archive Photos/Stringer/Getty Images]


Barbara Thompson, from the Rockford Peaches, stated that their coach loved to teach women how to play ball, and that is why the team won so many championships.


The League Ended In 1954


In the years after 1948, the number of people in attendance began to drop because the league had become decentralized, and there were no efforts to publicize the games. Another reason for the league's demise was the rise of televised major league games. 


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Photo Courtesy: [Topical Press Agency/Stringer/Getty Images]


Unfortunately, the league folded in 1954 because the teams were left unable to cultivate a local fan base and recruit new talent. At the height of the league in 1948, the attendance peaked at more than 900,000.


Philip K. Wrigley Founded The League


Philip K. Wrigley was the founder of the AAGPBL. He was also the owner of the Chicago Cubs and a chewing gum franchise. Wrigley was determined to make a difference and approved a focus group's recommendation to create a women's softball league. 


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Photo Courtesy: [Bettmann/Contributor/Getty Images]


During the first season, each of the four teams played a total of one hundred and eight games. However, halfway through the first season, the league owners switched from softball to baseball.


WWII Created Women's Baseball


When America entered into World War II, major league baseball took a huge hit because the men were sent off to war. Wrigley feared that Major League Baseball would end because of the war, so he founded the AAGPBL. 


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Women stepped up to the plate, literally, and played baseball. They also filled jobs that were needed after the men left for war. It was because of the war that Professional Women's Baseball became a thing, but it was because of the women's baseball that America's pastime survived the war.


Some Of The Rules Changed For The Women


The rules of baseball were different for the women than for the men. Some of the rules that just women had to follow were that they had to always wear skirts or dresses in public, couldn't consume alcohol, could not have short hair, couldn't move without permission, must always have their beauty kits on hand, and they would be fined if they broke the rules.


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Photo Courtesy: [Underwood Archives/Contributor/Getty Images]


 In addition, game rules were different: the ball size was 12 inches for the women, the pitcher's mound was only forty feet from home plate, and pitchers threw underhand.


The Women's Uniforms


The women had much different uniforms than the men did. The womens' uniforms consisted of a belted, short-sleeved tunic dress with a flare of the skirt. In addition, the skirts had to be worn no more than six inches above the knee. 


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Their baseball caps featured elastic bands in the back, so they were one size fits all, and a circular team logo was sewn on the front of each dress. The women sustained many more injuries because of wearing skirts and their legs being bare.


Ann Harnett Was The First Women To Sign With The League


Ann Harnett was the first player to sign a contract with the new women's baseball league, and she helped in recruiting other players. Ann also helped design the uniform adopted by the league. Ann played the third baseman in the beginning, and then in 1945, she moved to catcher. 


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Photo Courtesy: [Minnesota Historical Society/Contributor/Getty Images]


She then switched to the outfield in 1947 and played in the Chicago league in 1949. She was also really good at badminton and basketball, and after her baseball career, she became a nun.


Bill Allington Was The Most Successful Manager In The League's History


Bill Allington was the most successful manager in AAGPBL's history. He never had a losing season, had a .594 winning percentage, and is the all-time leader in victories in the league. 


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He also helped to recruit players for the league. Bill reached the playoffs eight times, and he won the championship title in 1945 and in consecutive years from 1948 until 1956. Bill also posted a 583-398 record from 1945 to 1954.


Kenosha Comets


The Kenosha Comets were a professional baseball team based in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The team played from 1943 through 1951 and were one of the first four teams in the AAGPBL. 


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The team was originally named the Shamrocks but was later changed to the Comets. The teams' most productive season was in 1950 when they finished with a 64-46 record. However, they lost in the first round of the championship.


Racine Belles


One of the first original teams, the Racine Belles, played from 1943 through 1950 and won the league's first championship. They were known for strong pitching, timely hitting, solid defense, and speed on the bases.


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In addition, they were a close-knit team that won the attendance trophy in 1945 for having the largest audience on opening night with 4,019 fans. They were also the first team in the AAGPBL to sponsor a junior team named the Junior Belles. Sadly, after eight seasons the team lacked the financial resources and moved to Battle Creek, Michigan.


Rockford Peaches


The Rockford Peaches played from 1943 through 1954 and represented Rockford, Illinois. They played in every season and were one of the most successful teams in the AAGPBL, winning the championship in 1945, 1948, 1949, and 1950. 


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Photo Courtesy: [Transcendental Graphics/Contributor/Getty Images]


Several Peaches players were named all-stars, including Dorothy Kamenshek, Lois Florreich, Dorothy Harrell, and several others. The Peaches' uniforms were a peach-colored dress with red socks and a cap.


South Bend Blue Sox


The South Bend Blue Sox team played from 1943 through 1954 and represented South Bend, Indiana. They played in every AAGPBL season without ever relocating. They were usually a second-division team and appeared in six playoff series and won two league titles.


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There was only one player that played in all of the teams' seasons, Dottie Shroeder. They included some very talented players, such as Jean Faut, Betty Whiting, and Mary Baker. They ended their first season just out of second place.


Milwaukee Chicks


The Milwaukee Chicks only played in the 1944 season and were managed by Max Carey, who was the former star player for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Brooklyn Robins and a future Hall of Famer. The team was also known as the Brewettes and the Schnitts. 


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Photo Courtesy: [Transcendental Graphics/Contributor/Getty Images]


The team was a very well-balanced group with the talented players Josephine Kabick, Merle Keagle, Connie Wisniewski, and Alma Ziegler. The Chicks were added to the league's roster the same year that the Minneapolis Millerettes were added.


Minneapolis Millerettes


The Minneapolis Millerettes only played for one season in 1944 and were based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The teams' uniforms consisted of a maroon cap and socks and a pink dress uniform with the Minneapolis city seal at the center of the chest. 


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The team had several nicknames such as Lakers, Millerettes, and the Orphans. They were managed by Bubber Jonnard, were twenty-six games out of first place, and their most significant player was their pitcher, Dorothy Wiltse.


Fort Wayne Daisies


The Fort Wayne Daisies played from 1945 through 1954 and were based in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The team replaced the Minneapolis Millerettes and ended their first season 62-47, four and a half games behind the first-place team, the Rockford Peaches.


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The Daisies made it to the playoffs every year but failed to ever win the championship title. Some of their best players were Betty Foss, Joanne Weaver, and Helen Callaghan, and they did win six batting crowns and set a league record.


Grand Rapids Chicks


The Grand Rapids Chicks played from 1945 until 1954 and were based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The team originated in Milwaukee as the Milwaukee Chicks but moved to the Grand Rapids Chicks in 1945. 


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They went on to win the championship in 1947 and 1953. The team included several all-star players, including Wisniewski, Earp, Ziegler, Ruth Lessing, Merle Keagle, Eleanor Moore, and Doris Satterfield.


Muskegon Lassies


The Muskegon Lassies represented Muskegon, Michigan, and had a 46-66 record their first year. They improved in 1947 with a record of 69-43 and won a close pennant race with the Grand Rapid Chicks. 


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The team's star player was Doris Sams, who collected eleven victories, a perfect game, and the Most Valuable Player Award. In the year 1950, the team had the worst record in the league with 36-73 and then were moved to Kalamazoo and renamed the Kalamazoo Lassies.


Kalamazoo Lassies


The Kalamazoo Lassies came from Muskegon and played from 1950 through 1954, representing Kalamazoo, Michigan. Their uniforms were white if home and gold if away, with dark green numbers, belt, socks, and cap. 


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They were one of the more popular teams in the league, and in the 1954 season, the Lassies took home the championship title. Sadly, the league ended right after their win, after the women had devoted so much time and energy into making professional women's baseball a reality.


Peoria Redwings


The Peoria Redwings played in the league from 1946 until 1951 and represented Peoria, Illinois. They started kind of rocky, finishing their first season with a record of 33-79 and in last place. However, they did improve the next year with a record of 54-57, finishing in fifth. 


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Some top players on the team were Doris Barr, Dorothy Mueller, Margaret Cooaghan, Dorothy Stolze. Thelma Eisen and Mary Reynolds ended up serving as players/managers for the team.


Chicago Colleens


The Chicago Colleens played from 1948 until 1951 and represented Chicago, Illinois. The team was managed by former Major League player Dave Bancroft and was the worst team in the league. 


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They became rookie development teams, along with the Springfield Sallies, that played exclusively exhibition games, and their tours were contests at Yankee Stadium and Griffith Stadium. The team completely dissolved in 1951.


Springfield Sallies


The Springfield Sallies played in 1948 and became a development team based in Springfield, Illinois. The Sallies were the worst in the league and ended the season 35.5 games behind the first-place team. 


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They were managed by Carson Bigbee, and they did not have any all-star players on the team. The team joined the Chicago Colleens as touring player development teams and toured exhibition contests at Griffith Stadium and Yankee Stadium. The team ended in 1951.


Battle Creek Belles


The Battle Creek Belles played from 1951 through 1952 and represented Battle Creek, Michigan. The original Belles had moved to Battle Creek from Racine, Wisconsin, and kept the same name. The Battle Creek Belles are on the right side of the photo.


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Photo Courtesy: [Transcendental Graphics/Contributor/Getty Images]


They finished last in the first half of the 1951 season with a record of 11-45 and then in the second half, improved to 19-35. In the 1952 season, they had a record of 43-67 and finished in last place. In 1953, the team moved to Muskegon and was renamed the Muskegon Belles.


Muskegon Belles


The Muskegon Belles played during the 1953 season and represented Muskegon, Michigan; Muskegon was the only city in AAGPBL history to host multiple teams. The team was previously called the Battle Creek Belles and then were renamed the Muskegon Belles. 


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Photo Courtesy: [tigers/Twitter]


They were the worst team in 1953, finishing the season with a 39-70 record and finished after their one and only season. That left the AAGPBL with only five teams for the 1954 season.


Victory Song


The official song of the All-American Girls Baseball League was made famous in the 1992 film A League of Their Own. The Victory Song was co-written by Pepper Paire and Nalda Bird. 


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It is common to hear the original AAGPBL players singing the song at their annual reunions. In the film, they change the word 'Irishmen' to 'Irish ones.' Nalda Bird was a pitcher in the league, and Pepper Paire was a catcher, shortstop, and third baseman.


Dorothy Kamenshek (Dottie)


Dorothy Kamenshek, also known as Dottie and Kammie, played from 1941 until 1953 and played for the Rockford Peaches. Dottie was the first basewoman and outfielder, and she batted and threw left-handed. She was an All-Star for the league almost every year she played, and she was called the finest fielding first baseman in all of baseball, man or woman. 


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Dottie finished among the league's top ten career batting leaders and was named one of the top one hundred female athletes of the century by Sports Illustrated. She was known as the face of the Rockford Peaches.


Sophie Kurys


Sophie Kurys played from 1943 through 1952 as a second basewoman and played for the Kenosha Comets, Racine Belles, and the Battle Creek Belles. She won the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League Player of the Year Award in 1946, was on the All-Star team four times and was the all-time leader for runs in a single game. 


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In addition, she was the all-time leader in stolen bases, and single-season record for walks, stolen bases, and runs scored. Kurys was inducted into the National Women's Baseball Hall of Fame in 2013.


Betty Weaver Foss


Betty Weaver Foss, also known as Fossey, was an infielder and outfielder, and she played from 1950 through 1954. She played for the Fort Wayne Daisies and also had two younger sisters in the league, Jean and Joanne. 


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She was named an All-Star in 1952 and 1953 and Player of the Year in 1952. She was awarded two-time champion batter in 1950 and 1951, was the all-time leader in doubles, won Rookie of the Year in 1950, and made five playoff appearances.


Jean Faut


Jean Faut was considered one of the best players in the AAGPBL, and she was a pitcher for the South Bend Blue Sox. She played from 1946 through 1953, and she led the league with the best ERA in 1950, 1952, and 1953. 


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Jean pitched twelve shutout games in 1949 and was on the All-Star team four times throughout her career. She was also voted Player of the Year in 1951 and 1953; she pitched two perfect games and two no-hitters. Jean made six playoff appearances and was inducted into the National Women's Baseball Hall of Fame in 2012.


The League Changed Names Several Times


Philip Wrigley originally founded the league as the All-American Girls Softball League, and then in 1943, the name was changed to the All-American Girls Baseball League. For only two years, in 1949 and 1950, the league was called the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. 


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Finally, from 1951 until 1954, the league was called American Girls' Baseball League. The title All-American Girls Professional Baseball League or AAGPBL is what we commonly call it today.


Jim Hamilton And Johnny Gottselig Were Scouts For The League


Jim Hamilton was a manager, owner, and Chicago Cubs' scout. He was hired as the Head of Procurement to locate and sign women from all over the United States and Canada. Johnny Gottselig was a former player for the Chicago Blackhawks National Hockey Team in the 1920s and 1930s. 


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Gottselig was also a recruiter for the AAGPBL and became the first manager of the Racine Belles in 1943, and his team won the first World Championship of the new league.


Tryouts For The Season Were Held At Wrigley Field


The very first AAPGBL tryouts in 1943 were held at Wrigley Field in Chicago. The women were scouted from amateur softball games across the country, and over two hundred women were recruited to try out for the new league. 


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Photo Courtesy: [Chicago History Museum/Contributor/Getty Images]


About sixty of the women were chosen for the roster, but like the men's league, no African Americans were recruited or hired for the league. The women chosen were picked for their level of skill but also needed to fit a wholesome feminine ideal.


The Teams Started Out Throwing Underhand And Used A Soft Ball


For the first few years of the AAGPBL, the teams used a softball, and pitchers threw underhand or used a side-arm pitch. The ball was a regulation softball, the pitching mound was only forty feet from home plate, and the bases were only sixty-five feet apart. 


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However, starting in 1948, the league finally switched to overhand pitching, and the game started to resemble regulation baseball. That was also when the name was changed to the All-American Girls Baseball League.


Women In Baseball Exhibit At The Baseball Hall Of Fame


A committee was formed in 1986 to achieve a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Dottie Collins played for the Fort Wayne Daisies, was one of the top hurlers, and was on the committee.


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The USA Today reported, "former players would like to see their league remembered, perhaps in a permanent collection of memorabilia at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y." The special exhibit was called the Women in Baseball exhibit and it opened in 1988.


AAGPBL Became Extremely Popular


The attendance during the 1948 AAGPBL season peaked at 910,000 paid fans. The first year was also successful, with more than 176,000 fans across 108 games. In 1945, after the war ended, attendance reached more than 450,000, with the popularity continuing. 


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However, in 1954, it became difficult to find talented players to fill the teams and fans to fill the stands, so the league came to an end. Even though it ended, the league gave more than six hundred women the opportunity to play professional baseball.


Doris Sams (Sammye)


Doris Sams, also known as Sammye, played as an outfielder and a right-handed pitcher from 1946 through 1953. She played with the Muskegon Lassies and the Kalamazoo Lassies. She was the only player in the league that was selected for the All-Star team to play in two positions, as a pitcher and outfielder. 


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Sams won the Player of the Year Award in 1947 and 1949; she pitched a perfect game in 1947 and a no-hitter game in 1948. She ranked eighth on the all-time list for batting average and was inducted into the National Women's Baseball Hall of Fame in 2012.


Hele Earlene Risinger (Beans)


Hele Earlene Risinger, also known as Beans, played from 1948 through 1954 and played for the Grand Rapids Chicks and the Springfield Sallies. She was an All-Star pitcher and had the ability to deliver an overhand fastball called a nickel curve. 


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Risinger helped take the Grand Rapids Chicks to the championship in 1953 and made six playoff appearances. She was inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame in 1973.


Alma Ziegler


Alma Ziegler, also known as Ziggy, was an infielder and pitcher who played from 1944 through 1954 for the Milwaukee Chicks and the Grand Rapids Chicks. Alma had eleven playoff appearances and won the championship in 1944, 1947, and 1953. 


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She was on the All-Star team four times and won the Player of the Year Award in 1950, where she had a record of 19-7 and an ERA of 1.38. She was also the official team's captain and interim manager.


AAGPBL Reunions


The leagues' alumnae began holding annual reunions in the 1980s to allow the vets the opportunity to re-connect and share their memories. The players even faced each other in pickup baseball games, and it was at the 1982 reunion where the thought of being recognized by the Hall of Fame began. 


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"These women have been such an integral part of the National Baseball Hall of Fame dating back to when we opened our first women in baseball exhibit. On that day in 1988, more than 150 former All-American girls were here to help us." ----- Jane Forbes Clark.


Mary Pratt


Mary Pratt, also known as Prattie, played from 1943 through 1947 for the Kenosha Comets and the Rockford Peaches as a pitcher. Mary pitched a no-hitter game in 1944 and was a left-handed batter and pitcher.


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She was also the last surviving member of the Rockford Peaches until her death in 2020; she died at the age of 101. Mary was also elected and served on the AAGPBL Board of Directors from 1999 until 2000 and initiated the 'Out and About' project.


Connie Wisniewski


Constance Wisniewski, also known as Connie, played from 1944 through 1952 as a pitcher and outfielder for the Milwaukee Chicks and the Grand Rapids Chicks. Connie batted left-handed but threw the ball right-handed. 


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Connie won the Player of the Year Award in 1945, was on the All-Star team four times, and had eight playoff appearances. She held the all-time postseason record for the most wins and was a two-time single-season leader in earned run average in 1945 and 1946.


Dorothy Shroeder


Dorothy Shroeder, also known as Dottie, played from 1943 through 1954 as the shortstop for the South Bend Blue Sox, the Kenosha Comets, the Fort Wayne Daisies, and the Kalamazoo Lassies. Dottie was the youngest player at fifteen years old, was the most popular player, and the only player to compete for all twelve seasons. 


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Dottie holds the record for the most at-bats and the most games played. She was on the All-Star team three times, won the championship in 1943 and 1954, and was added to the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in 1988.


Audrey Wagner


Genevieve Wagner, also known as Audrey, played from 1943 through 1949 for the Kenosha Comets as an outfielder. She won the Player of the Year Award in 1948, with a .312 batting average, 56 runs batted in, 70 runs, 53 stolen bases, and a .469 slugging average. 


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She was on the All-Star team twice and got the batting crown title in 1948. She was a three-time season leader in home runs in 1946, 1947, and 1949 and total bases from 1946-1948 and had four playoff appearances.


Joanne Weaver


Joanne Weaver, also known as Joltin Jo, was a right fielder who played from 1951 through 1954 for the Fort Wayne Daisies. Weaver was awarded the Player of the Year Award in 1954, and she was on the All-Star team three times. 


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She received three batting championship titles and was the all-time leader in batting average, and made four playoff appearances. She was included in the Women in Baseball exhibit at the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in 1988.


AAGPBL Players Association


The Players Association was formed after a 1986 reunion of the AAGPBL players; the reunion came about after former pitcher June Peppas launched a newsletter project. 


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The project was started so she could get in touch with friends, teammates, and opponents. A meeting with former players was held at Fran Janssen's home in South Bend, in which the AAGPBL Players Association was born, and Peppas was nominated the President.
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