The All-American Girls’ Professional Baseball League is no secret of Baseball History, but it does seem to be underappreciated in many ways. Prior to writing this article, I couldn’t have named a single player from the league; even the classic baseball film “A League of Their Own” didn’t actually feature characters who were real players. So, in honor of Women’s History Month, let’s look at the AAGPBL and the women who were the best the league had to offer.
A Brief History of the League
The AAGPBL lasted from 1943-1954, featuring eleven different franchises, playing in fourteen cities over those twelve years, all of them from cities scattered across the Great Lakes region of the Midwest. The teams and the years they played are listed below:
Inaugural Teams (1943, League Size: 4 teams)
Kenosha Comets (WI) : 1943-1951 (Defunct after 1951)
Racine Belles (WI) : 1943-1950 (Relocated in 1951)
Rockford Peaches (IL) : 1943-1954
South Bend Blue Sox (IN) : 1943-1954
First Expansion (1944 , League Size: 6 teams)
Milwaukee Chicks (WI) : 1944 (Relocated in 1945)
Minneapolis Millerettes (MN) : 1944 (Defunct after one season)
Second Expansion and Relocation (1945, League Size: 6 teams)
Fort Wayne Daisies (IN) : 1945-1954
Grand Rapids Chicks (MI) : 1945-1954 (Previously Milwaukee)
Third Expansion (1946, League Size: 8 teams)
Muskegon Lassies (MI) : 1946-1949 (Relocated in 1950)
Peoria Redwings (IL) : 1946-1951 (Defunct after 1951)
Fourth Expansion (1948, League Size: 10 teams)
Chicago Colleens (IL) : 1948
Springfield Sallies (IL) : 1948
* Both teams became travelling development teams after the 1948 season, lasting until the both folded in 1951
Relocation in 1950 (League Size: 8 teams)
Kalamazoo Lassies (MI) : 1950-1954 (Previously Muskegon)
Relocation in 1951 (League Size: 8 teams)
Battle Creek Belles (MI) : 1951-1952 (Previously Racine, Relocated again in 1953)
Relocation in 1953 (League Size: 6 teams)
Muskegon Belles (MI) : 1953 (Previously Battle Creek, Defunct after 1953)
In the league’s twelve seasons of existence, the Championship was awarded to five of the franchises. The Belles franchise won two championships while playing in Racine, including the inaugural title. The Chicks won the 1944 title in Milwaukee, and added two more in 1947 and 1953 while playing in Grand Rapids. The Rockford Peaches collected the most Championships with the 1945 title, as well as becoming three-peat Champions from 1948-1950. The South Bend Blue Sox claimed back-to-back titles in 1951 and 1952, and, finally, the Lassies franchise was able to win their first and only title in the league’s final year of 1954, while playing in Kalamazoo. Noteably, the Fort Wayne Daisies came close to winning Championships on many occasions, having played in the Championship series five times, more than any other team.
In 1988, every woman who played in the AAGPBL was named an honorary inductee to Cooperstown.
Below are some of the best players in the AAGPBL’s history and their career stats. You’ll notice with nearly every hitter that various stats change dramatically over the progression of the league’s history. That is due primarily to the following rule changes:
- Ball size and Liveliness: The ball was dramatically decreased in size over the twelve years of the league, starting at a 12″ circumference in 1943 (roughly the size of a modern softball), and finishing at a 9″ circumference in 1954 (the size of an MLB baseball in modern day). Additionally, the league would create livelier baseballs (as we would call “juiced”) in many years.
- Basepaths: The length of basepaths was increased from 65′ to 68′ in 1944, again to 72′ in 1946, and finally to 85′ in 1954
- Pitching Distance: The pitching rubber began at a distance of 40′ which was extended to 42′ in 1945, and, again, to 43′ in 1946. Two years later, it was extended to 50′, which would be extended to 55′ the following year, in 1949. In the final year of play, the league would pitch from a distance of 60′.
Note: All statistics used are from aagpbl.org
Eleanor “Squirt” Callow
C/LF — Winnipeg, Manitoba
Peoria Redwings (’47)
Chicago Colleens (’48)
Rockford Peaches (’48-’54)
“Squirt” was the face of the Peaches franchise during her years in Rockford, making the All-Star team four times in her eight seasons. Regarded as a very scrappy, switch-hitting power hitter, she was a true offensive threat. In 1951, she played a truly magnificent season, finishing at or near the top of the league in home runs (4), RBI (84), and BA (.326). She also impressed with an .856 OPS and just 23 strikeouts in 429 plate appearances — a K-rate of just 5.4%. In the league’s final season, the 27 year-old Callow was a nightmare to face, and one of the few bright spots on a 37-55 Rockford team, hitting 20 bombs and walking 50 times in just 86 of her team’s 92 games, good for a 1.016 OPS to end her illustrious career. The 92 year-old Callow is the AAGPBL’s all-time leader in home runs and triples, and was inducted to both the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Manitoba Softball Hall of Fame in 1998.
RHP/3B — East Greenville, Pennsylvania
South Bend Blue Sox (’46-’53)
Faut made her debut in South Bend at age 21, and immediately began to make an impact. As a two-way player, and defensive-minded infielder, she never put up too many extraordinary batting statistics, though she was still a disciplined hitter, striking out just 100 times in 2840 career plate appearances (3.5% K-rate).
While she was still a good player in the field, her legend was made on the mound. In eight seasons, she never held an ERA above 1.50 in any season. In a league where strikeouts were rare, she maintained an ability to strikeout hitters that was as good as any in the league, leading the league in strikeouts three times. Her dedication to the Blue Sox franchise was rewarded, as they came to win back-to-back Championships with her leading the pitching staff. She has the lowest career-ERA in AAGPBL history (1.23) and is second in career wins (140). She threw two of the five Perfect Games in league history, and two more No-Hitters, as well as earning herself two Pitching Triple Crowns in 1952 and 1953. She was named the the All-Star team four times, and awarded the Player of the Year award twice, one of two players to accomplish the feat, and the only winner of the award still alive today, at the spry age of 94.
Betty “Fossey” Foss
1B/3B/OF — Metropolis, IL
Fort Wayne Daisies (’50-’54)
“Fossey” was one of the AAGPBL’s most-dangerous offensive weapons. From her debut at age 21 with Fort Wayne, she was causing problems for opposing pitchers. Foss won batting titles in each of her first two seasons, earning her a Rookie of the Year award in 1950 as well. The dangerous switch-hitter is the league’s all-time leader in career doubles (117), and earned single-season records for hits (144), doubles (34), and triples (17) — all of which are remarkably impressive when you consider they were each accomplished in 110 games or less. The best season of her career was in 1952, when she tallied 137 hits, including 26 doubles and 17 triples, along with 56 stolen bases, which earned her the coveted Player of the Year Award. She would be elected to the All-Star team in both 1952 and 1953. As a member of the Daisies, she made appearances in the playoffs of each of her five years in the league, and in the Championship series in four of those seasons. Foss passed away in 1998.
Helen “Nickie” Nicol-Fox
RHP — Ardley, Alberta
Kenosha Comets (’43-’47)
Rockford Peaches (’47-’52)
Helen “Nickie” Nicol-Fox is the most-accomplished pitcher in the history of the AAGPBL, without question. She is the all-time league leader in Games Pitched (313), Innings (2382), Wins (163), and Strikeouts (1076). Making her debut at age-23 with the Kenosha Comets, she was immediately recognized as the league’s best pitcher, earning the Pitcher of the Year award in both 1943 and 1944. She had two seperate seasons (’44 and ’49) where she threw over 200 innings and maintained a sub-1.00 ERA. She was the leader of the pitching staff for the Three-peat Champion Rockford Peaches from 1948-1950. In MLB-terms, she’s the female Cy Young. Her glaring success carried into the post-season as well, having a career 13-7 record with a 1.83 ERA in post-season games. In 1998, she was inducted to the Canadien Baseball Hall of Fame, along with Eleanor Callow, and is still alive today at age 99, one of the oldest living players from the league.
Dorothy “Kammie” Kamenshek
1B — Norwood, OH
Rockford Peaches (’43-’51,’53)
As the face of the Rockford Peaches for her entire career, “Kammie” is considered by many to be one of the best players in AAGPBL history. There were members of the MLB who even declared her “the finest fielding first-baseman in all of baseball, man or woman.” Following three straight national titles with her softball team in Cincinnati, OH, Kamenshek came to the AAGPBL in it’s inaugural year, and would become one of the best hitters in the game. Totaling just 81 strikeouts in 4,251 career PA’s (1.9% K-rate!), her plate discipline was remarkably to say the least. Once she would reach base, she was an absolute nightmare there as well, having 631 stolen bases, including 109 SB in 107 games in 1946, the same season she won her first of two batting titles — the other came the following year in 1947. She was a seven-time All-Star (1943, 1946-1951), and is the league’s career leader in hits (1090) and total bases (1300). She was inducted into the National Women’s Baseball Hall of Fame in 2010, the same year of her passing.
Dorothy “Dottie” Schroeder
SS — Champaign, IL
South Bend Blue Sox (’43-’45)
Kenosha Comets (’45-’47)
Forth Wayne Daisies (’47-’52)
Kalamazoo Lassies (’53-’54)
Dottie Schroeder holds the remarkable distinction of being the only woman to play in each of the twelve seasons of the AAGPBL’s existence. Making her debut at the unbelievably young age of just 15, Schroeder proved that she belonged on the field with any of the other women with her slick defense, and intelligent baserunning. She wasn’t a fantastic hitter until later in her career, but that didn’t stop her from becoming the all-time leader in games played (1249), RBI (431), and walks (696), as well as finishing second all-time in hits (870), and third in home runs (42). Her plate discipline was always impressive, with a 14.4% career walk-rate, and drawing up to 80 walks in 1953 when she played just 110 games. After her long career in the AAGPBL, she was finally rewarded in the league’s final season by winning her first and only Championship alongside the Kalamazoo Lassies. Schroeder passed away in 1996.
Joanne “Jo” Weaver
RF — Metropolis, IL
Fort Wayne Daisies (’51-’54)
Along with her older sister, Betty Foss, Jo Weaver formed the second-half of the sisters who led the Fort Wayne Daisies to four Championship finals in just five years. Despite having short careers, the sisters made the most of it, winning each of the five final batting titles in league history, with Weaver winning each of the final three. Weaver was also elected to the All-Star team in each of those three seasons (1952-1954), and earned herself Player of the Year in 1954, having finished with 143 hits, 29 HRs, 87 RBI, a .429 batting average, 109 runs scored, and 79 stolen bases, all of which led the league. Jo Weaver is the AAGPBL’s all-time leader in career batting average (.359), and set single-season records for batting average (.429), home runs (29), and total bases (254) — each of which were set in her legendary 1954 season. That same year, she hit for a 1.242 OPS, a mark which has only been beaten thirteen times in MLB history. Weaver passed away in 2000, just two years after her sister.
As seen from the accomplishments of these women’s careers, the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League was full of remarkable women who have left a lasting impact on the game of baseball. As baseball fans, we shouldn’t let their names be forgotten to time. These women should be held up as examples to inspire young generations of athletes to follow their dreams, as they played professional sports at a higher level than any woman before them, and began planting the seeds that would one day turn into the foundations of leagues like the WNBA, NWSL, and WPGA that continue to give women the chance to play professional sports today.
Photo Credit: https://www.wuwm.com/post/remembering-racine-belles-all-american-girls-professional-baseball-league and the Racine Public Library