Women's Baseball In World War II
When America was deeply involved in World War II, baseball was at risk as the Americans did not want to see handsomely paid athletes hitting balls while their loved one were dying in foreign countries. Interest in baseball started declining, especially when young baseball players were being drafted for combat.
During the early 1940s, Philip K Wrigley, owner of Chicago Cubs and a chewing gum factory, started worrying about baseball and his chewing gum. The president of the professional league of baseball wanted to end the league because he felt that the interest had gone out of baseball and the league would lose money. However, President Roosevelt convinced him otherwise. During the depression era, Roosevelt created jobs as a means of fighting unemployment. Since men were needed for war, women were recruited to work in factories and they were building tanks, airplanes, ships and trucks.
Wrigley thought that the survival of baseball depended on women and in 1942 he formed the professional women’s league. Wrigley wanted the women to play hardball instead of softball. So, Wrigley and his advisors ended up inventing a mix of two. The underhand pitches of a 12-inch ball and the 65-foot base path was the same. What changed was that runners were allowed to steal a base and lead off.
The women who joined the professional league were expected to act like ladies and adhere to the rules of conduct. They also had to attend charm school so that they could continue to act like proper ladies. Thirty scouts were sent all over the United States and Canada to select outstanding softball players and four teams were formed. The teams started their first season in 1943 and the league increased to 6 teams in 1944. By 1946, there were 8 teams playing 110 games each season.
The women playing baseball in the professional league wore skirts and used to play exhibition games for soldiers at training camps. They also used to visit military hospitals. In addition, the players had to sell war bonds and teach young children how to play baseball.
The schedule of 110 games per season consisted of playing single games 6 days a week and then playing double headers on Sundays. The only time women baseball players got off was when games rained out. However, they had to make up the loss of play by double headers the next time around. The women in baseball traveled by bus and would leave right after the game and often arrive in time to play the next game.
The players were paid between $55 and $125 a week. All expenses on the road were borne by the team. In addition, players received $2.25 per day for meals.
The All American Girls Professional Baseball League lasted from 1943 to 1954. In 1948, 910,000 fans attended the 10 team league. The league provided a means of forgetting war worries and concerns.
On November 5, 1988, the All American Girls Professional Baseball League memorabilia was enshrined in Cooperstown, New York Hall of Fame. Over 550 names are mentioned on a plaque in the exhibit that is name Women In Baseball.
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