During the gloomy days of World War II–when many men from the major and minor leagues left fields of play to serve their country–professional baseball’s story lost much of its appeal. A rewrite job was badly needed, and Chicago Cubs owner Philip K. Wrigley proposed adding a touch of beauty to the thrills of the game. In the spring of 1943 the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) was introduced, featuring young women with both athletic ability and feminine appeal.
Hundreds of women were eager to play in the new league, and 280 were invited to final tryouts at Wrigley Field in Chicago. Of those, sixty were selected as the first women to play on the first four teams–the Racine Belles, Kenosha Comets, Rockford Peaches and South Bend Blue Sox. Each team had fifteen players, a manager, business manager and female chaperone. Player salaries ranging from $45 to more than $85 per week were generous in comparison to those for other work at the time.
At first considered by many as little more than a novelty, the AAGPBL became increasingly popular when baseball-hungry fans discovered girls really could play the game well. For the rest of the war years and into the 1950s, the AAAGPBL was a big deal in several Midwestern cities, and for more than fifty young Michigan women who contributed their athletic talent to teams in four Michigan cities and several others in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Indiana.
Michigan fans had their first chance to enjoy AAGPBL action in 1945 when the Chicks moved from Milwaukee to Grand Rapids. The only team to make the playoffs every year of the league’s existence, the Chicks was one of the AAGPBL’s most successful franchises. A year after the Chicks came to Grand Rapids, Muskegon joined the league with its Lassies. In 1950 the Lassies moved to Kalamazoo. Battle Creek joined the list of AAGPBL host cities in 1951 when the Belles moved there from Racine.
Declining attendance in the early 1950s signaled the end of the AAGPBL. But for more than a decade, the AAGPBL brought happiness to thousands who loved baseball, both in the stands and on the field.
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Photo credit: Northern Indiana Center for