The other day at roller derby practice, the subject of women and baseball came up. Okay, to be fair, my teammates may have just been quoting lines from the movie “A League of Their Own,” which was recently inducted into the Library of Congress National Film Registry. But, nonetheless, with baseball season upon us, it’s no wonder the subject was on their minds.
The movie follows the real-life All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL), which celebrates its 70-year anniversary this year. The organization was founded the spring of 1943. Men all over the country were being drafted into the armed forces during World War II and with that came fear the Major Leagues might disappear. Chewing-gum mogul and Chicago Cubs owner Philip Wrigley proposed a professional women’s league to keep the sport in the public eye.
What started out as four teams – the Kenosha Comets, the Racine Bells, the Rockford Peaches and the South Bend Blue Sox – grew into some 10 teams and more than 600 women athletes. Initially softballs were used, but as the league grew, so did their adherence to regular baseball regulations like smaller balls, base stealing and full overhand pitching.
While these women may have been strong athletes, league officials strived to keep up the femininity of its players – from their short-skirted uniforms to their outward feminine appearance and deportment.
Dottie Schroeder (one of several real-life female ballplayers who helped inspire the fictional Dottie Hinson, played by Geena Davis, in “A League of Their Own”) was a slick-fielding shortstop and the only player to play all 12 years of the league, according to the AAGPBL. She started playing at age 15 with the Blue Sox but spent the majority of her career with the Fort Wayne Daisies. She also played on several All-Star teams.
In addition to playing 12 AAGPBL seasons, Schroeder holds all-time records for most games played (1,249) and most at-bats (4,129). She also produced the most RBIs in league history, 431, making her one of only five players to collect over 400 RBIs. Oh, and she was pretty and friendly to boot.
She listed “winning playoffs in 1954, South and Central American Tour in 1949, spring training in Havana, Cuba  and just simply playing ball in each and every game” as her favorite memories in a questionnaire for the AGPBL Archives at the Northern Indiana Center for History. She passed away in 1996.
The League disbanded in 1954, following financial difficulties, declining attendance and the advent of televised Major League baseball games.
I think you could agree that these athletes were pioneering a new opportunity for women, which perhaps opened the door for future professional sports like women’s softball, basketball and hopefully, one day, roller derby.
The Library of Congress publication, “Baseball Americana,” features the story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League and more, peppering each chapter of America’s favorite pastime with items from our baseball collection, one of the world’s largest.
Want to see more? We’ve gathered a variety of our online resources on baseball here.
Here are some more links where you may find information on your team or baseball in general:
Benjamin K. Edwards Baseball Card Collection
The Business of Baseball (Business & Economics Research Advisor)