There is No Crying in Baseball
Doris Sams, pitcher for the Muskegon Lassies. 1947. Sams played all twelve seasons that the league operated, excelling on the mound, in the outfield and at the plate. In 1947, she went 11-4 with a microscopic 0.98 ERA and threw a perfect game against Fort Wayne.
Sophie Kurys, second baseman, Racine Belles, 1946. Kurys was a marvel at second base, whether stealing it or defending it. In 1946, she stole a league-leading 201 bases and posted a .973 fielding mark.
During an Amateur Softball Association game, Linda McConkey of the Atlanta Lorelei Ladies executes a full-extension dive into third base. The Lorelei Ladies won a number of of state titles and made appearances in the ASA national tournament, which held its first championship for women's teams in 1933. By the 1940s and the 1950s, star players were developing local and regional followings with heads-up and headfirst-play.
When it was thought that the Major Leagues might disappear (as did many farm teams) or play might be suspended during WWII, Chicago Cubs owner and chewing-gum magnate Philip Wrigley proposed a professional women's league to keep the home front entertained. Branch Rickey and Paul V. Harper joined Wrigley in establishing the nonprofit, community-oriented venture, and Hall of Famer Max Carey signed on as league president. In 1943, women from all over the country traveled to Chicago to try out for positions on four teams: the Kenosha Comets, the Racine Belles, the Rockford Peaches and the South Bend Blue Sox.
This slice of baseball history is best remembered from the film, "A League of Their Own."
I was lucky to view a recreation of one of these games and ended up writing a story about it for The New York Times:
No Madonna. No Geena Davis. But Still in a League of Their Own.
Here is the opening:
SOUTH ELGIN, Ill. — Strike one. “You swing like a girl!” the pitcher barked, heckling yet another player at the plate. Sonja Bushnick of the Rockford Peaches lifted her wooden bat again. She passed on one ball and fouled off another. On the next pitch she hit a short pop-up that the pitcher caught with ease. He laughed at her.
The pitcher — wearing suspenders, a necktie and a newsboy cap — was Jody McQuarters, the husband of the Peaches right fielder and a designated ham. At the sound of gunfire from a nearby military re-enactment, he pretended he had been shot in the backside and limped around the infield.
Bushnick walked back to the bench with her head held high. There were no hurt feelings. She and her teammates, like the Peaches of the 1992 movie “A League of Their Own,” know that there is no crying in baseball.