All American Girls Professional Baseball League



The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League operated from 1943 to 1954 and represents one of the most unique periods in baseball history. The league went through a full life cycle in its eleven years of existence and ended up being a predecessor for other women’s leagues to come. The All American Girls Professional Baseball League had many successes that surprised a lot of people but also faced many failures, which resulted in its death as a women’s professional baseball league.
The league was the brainchild and social experiment of Philip K. Wrigley the chewing-gum mogul who had inherited the Chicago Cubs major league baseball franchise from his father. In 1943 American men were serving in the armed forces during the second world war and but it was late in 1942 when Mr. Wrigley helped developed the idea of women playing professional baseball which eventually grew into the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. He believed that famous managers, such as Hall of Fame players Dave Bancroft, Max Carey, and Jimmie Foxx, would draw fans to the new league. Wrigley already had an established recruitment network in place from his ownership of the Cubs and had sports connections throughout North America. Talent for the league was abundant and it was soon evident that the women\'s high caliber of play was going to be the main drawing card for the fans.
In Canada, the driving force for the All American Girls Professional Baseball League was Johnny Gottselig, who was a

former defenseman for the Chicago Blackhawks national hockey team in the 1920\'s and 1930\'s. He was from Regina, Sask. and by 1942 was managing the Blackhawks\' Kansas City farm team. He had many contacts among sporting figures in the Prairie Provinces, one of which was a Regina-based hockey scout named Hub Bishop. It was Bishop who was responsible for signing Mary "Bonnie" Baker. Bishop was also responsible for scouting Arleene "Johnnie" Johnson after she had moved to Regina and started playing for the Meadows Diamonds of the Inter-City Ladies\' Softball League. In America, heavy recruitment came from the North Central States while many women boarded the train in California and headed out to Chicago to try out for the new league. The All-American Leagues recruiting had played havoc with some of the Canadian and American teams. In fact two entire Chicago-based teams were wiped out by Wrigley\'s intense recruiting.
In 1943 when the league began, the girls were actually playing fast-pitch softball using an underhand pitching delivery but with certain variations to make the game faster (Nash, 23). Runners were allowed to lead off and steal, and the size of the diamond was larger than the field used in softball but smaller than a baseball diamond. As the league grew in the number of teams and fan support into the postwar years, fast-pitch softball rules were modified. For example, the circumference of the ball was decreased in increments from the original 12-inch ball in 1943 to 10 3/8 inches in 1949 and finally to 9 inches, regulation

baseball size, in mid-1954, the league\'s final season. The pitcher\'s mound was moved further from home plate in gradual steps, from 40 feet in 1943 to 50 feet in 1949, to 55 feet for the next four years, and finally to 60 feet in 1954. Also, a cork center and red seams were added to the ball in 1948 (Life, 46). Combined with overhand pitching, which also began in 1948, the smaller and livelier ball led to an increase in batting averages during the last half of the league\'s existence.
After the 1944 season it was evident that the Major Leagues would not be affected by the war, Wrigley decided to sell the league to Chicago advertising executive Arthur Meyerhoff. It was under Meyerhoff that expansion and publicity of the league reached its peak. In the first three years after World War II, teams often attracted between two and three thousand fans to a single game. One league highlight occurred when an estimated 10,000 people saw a Fourth of July double-header in South Bend in 1946. The girls were having a good time and for a while the league was prospering; but who exactly was playing the