Baseball: once considered a man’s sport had soon found itself in a crisis in the fall of 1942. Men had gone to fill the ranks for World War II while America’s favorite pastime had left a gaping hole in the hearts of many Americans. Major League Baseball (MLB) raced to find male recruits’ but finally turned to its last option: women.
More than 206 women played baseball in a minor league on a daily basis. So when baseball season started up in the spring, the first ever All-American Girls Baseball League was established. The movie “A League of Their Own” captures the ups and downs throughout the season of Women’s Major League Baseball. The movie, most remembered for its famous saying “There’s no crying in baseball,” captures a true image for the league in the day. Many don’t know that the movie was truly inspired by real events.
The idea for an All-American Girls Baseball League was created by Philip Wrigley. Facing no other choice, the MLB agreed to his terms and Women’s Major League Baseball was born. In the start of the spring season, Philip Wrigley, Commissioner for the AAGBL, portrayed by David Strathairn in “A League of Their Own,” faced two difficulties. First, Philip Wrigley was in charge of hiring people to set the rules of the game. This group of specialists included Jack Sheehan, former shortstop for the Chicago Cubs, and Vern Hernlund supervisor of recreation for the Chicago Parks Department, with some help from Ken Sells, President of the League from 1943 and 1944.
First the group had to decide the style in which the game was to be played. Women’s baseball at the time was played two different ways. One style was played pitching overhand with a smaller ball, while the other was played with pitching underhand with a bigger ball. The group wanted the game to resemble men’s baseball as much as possible, so they extended the base path and decided to pitch overhand with a smaller ball.
Next, the group had to find good recruits for the teams. They hired Jim Hamilton, Chicago Cubs scout in the United Sates and Johnny Gottselig in Canada.
Then finally, what baseball fans had been waiting for happened. The first game was scheduled for May 30, 1943. Among the players was an outstanding catcher named Mary “Bonnie” Baker. In the movie, the character Dottie Hinson (Geena Davis), is portrayed as a caring and strong person.
Ironically, as many people remember in the movie, women were also forced to attend etiquette classes. Femininity was highly valued and often women had beauty salon people do their hair and makeup before and after a game. Women attended classes that taught everything from proper posture to speech.
Overall, the league was a great success. With total attendance of 176,612 people and 108 games, the AAGBL met more success than imagined. Women were paid $45 to $65 per game and families all across the US attended these games. Philip Wrigley gave a sense of patriotism to the games. He often set the women to play in front of wounded warriors and while reciting the pledge of allegiance before every game, he made the women stand in a “v” formation which stood for victory for war.
Although there is no current women’s baseball, it is still a part of baseball’s history. It not only helped the players to improve their game on the field, it also played an important part in the everlasting, changing view of women. For once in many years women gained respect and wages outside their houses. Who knows, maybe someday women could join men in baseball leagues as well.