Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Baseball Just For Men....It Wasn't Always

By: Shannon Hall

          Baseball has always been an American past time. When you think of baseball you think of male players. Baseball, hockey, football and basketball teams are all made up of men. There are very few women's professional basketball teams and none of baseball, hockey or football. However that wasn't always that case. Since baseball is my favorite sport I will use it to set the record straight about baseballs history.
          Can you guess which player ended the baseball season with 117 runs scored, 201 stolen bases, 93 walks, 5 runs in a single game and a fielding percentage of 0.973? Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, or Shane Victorino? The answer is none of the above. These stats belong to Sophie Kurys who played for the Racine Belles. Never heard of the Racine Belles? They were just one of the teams that played in the All American Girls Professional Baseball League.

1943 Racine Belles

          The AAGPBL was created by Phillip Wrigley, owner of the Wrigley Gum Co., to fill in the gap that was left when the baseball greats such as Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra and Ted Williams went to fight in World War II. The league operated from 1943 until 1954 when it was shut down because the men were returning from the war and it was felt that households that had televisions would not want to watch women playing professional baseball.
          These women were dedicated to the sport and worked hard to overcome the prejudices that they faced daily to play the sport that they loved. For instance, the field that they played on was smaller than the field that men used, the pitching mound was closer to the home plate and the bases were closer together as well. They also had to use a bigger ball (a softball) and had to throw underhand. The reason given for this was it would enable the women to play a more competitive game. All the women on the teams also had to attend "charm" classes. Can you image the players on today’s teams, such as the Phillies, taking charm classes? The skirts on the uniforms seemed shorter than what a teenage girl would wear today, and to top it all off, they had to put up with team names such as Racine Belles, Rockford Peaches, Fort Wayne Daisies, and Grand Rapids Chicks.
          Over time the women proved that they were able to play just as well, if not better, than their male counterparts and eventually the field grew bigger for them and the ball decreased to the regulation size, and was pitched overhand and with curve balls and fast balls thrown in for good measure. Unfortunately, the team names did not change, nor did the uniforms.
          While I love to watch the Phillies play, even though they haven't been doing such a great job lately, I feel that it is important to remember that women can also play baseball and that we should bring back the AAGPBL. In Cooperstown's Baseball Hall of Fame there is a "Women in Baseball" exhibit which honors the women. And in 1992 their story was made known to all in the movie “A League of Their Own" with Geena Davis, Tom Hanks, Rosie O'Donnell and Madonna.

"Women In Baseball" Exhibit

"A League of Their Own" Geena Davis, Tom Hanks, Madonna

For more information about the players and the teams in the league visit: http://www.aagpbl.org

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