In a League of Their Own: The History of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League

Posted on Tue, Mar 28, 2023 | HOMAGE Blog

AAGPBL Historic Image

There’s no crying in baseball - but between 1943 and 1954, there was the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. The league immortalized by A League of Their Own was the brainchild of chewing-gum magnate Philip K. Wrigley, who worried that World War II would precipitate the collapse of Major League Baseball and the sport he loved. The draft of young men over 18 had depleted many minor league teams of enough players to operate, and Wrigley was concerned that the majors would follow. 

Enter the AAGPBL. Blending the 12-inch ball and underhand pitching of softball with longer base paths and pitching distance, plus the base running rules of baseball, each team of 9 players was composed of talented women with a background in softball or baseball. Various baseball scouts traveled the nation and Canada to recruit for teams like the Racine Belles, Rockford Peaches and Kenosha Comets, and tryouts were ultra-competitive.

But raw talent wasn’t the only thing the scouts were looking for. In addition to specialized rules about the sport itself, the AAGPBL also had Rules of Conduct related to femininity and manners. Helena Rubenstein’s Beauty Salon was a fixture of spring training, and each player was schooled in manners, hygiene, etiquette and proper dress. Wrigley wanted to ensure that the AAGPBL players were as “ladylike” as possible, even as they were sliding into home plate.

AAGPBL Historic Images

The league's popularity far surpassed Wrigley’s expectations. The 1943 season saw 176,612 fans come out to their local ballparks to watch this new brand of baseball, fueled by the talented players and the sense of patriotism that had gripped a nation at war. With most Americans contributing to the war effort in some fashion, leisure time was often spent locally. The AAGPBL games were a way to enjoy downtime and heart-pounding sports action while celebrating the idea of the “All-American Girl” waiting at home for her soldier to come home from the front. 

Players in the league were heavily involved in wartime support, visiting hospitals to comfort wounded soldiers and playing exhibition games for army camps. By the end of the war in 1945, total season attendance for the league was 450,313, and at its peak in 1948, the league saw almost one million fans pass through the turnstiles. The league’s popularity and the players’ talent and passion made the AAGPBL’s years in baseball an unprecedented milestone in women’s sports in America. 

AAGPBL Historic Images

Stars like Dottie “ The Human Vacuum Machine” Shroeder, Sophie Kurys, Doris Sams and Dorothy Kamenshek captivated baseball fans with incredible athleticism and talent. In 1946 Kurys stole 201 bases in just 113 games, a world record for professional baseball. Kamenshek’s 1009 career hits made her the best hitter in the league. And Sams could hit, pitch, field, run and throw, making her one of the greatest all-rounders in baseball history, man or woman. 

The league disbanded in 1954, but its legacy lives on with the AAGPBL Player’s Association, which preserves the history of the league and helps raise funds for girls and women in baseball today, so that they might have the opportunity and training to compete in America’s pastime, now and always.

AAGPBL Historic Images
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