Monday, September 3, 2018

1945 AAGPBL Player of the Year - Connie Wisniewski

Starting in 1937, the Whitman Publishing Company of Racine published an annual paperback guide to the national pastime under the informative-if-slightly-cumbersome name Major League Baseball: Facts and Figures and Official Rules.

It contained a review of the past season, stats and numbers going back to the earliest days of the twentieth century, and articles on the sport. By 1941, this was all published under a striking cover showing a league MVP from the previous season.

Starting with the 1945 edition, Whitman branched out to cover the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. And when the All-American League introduced its own MVP award that same season, the winner's photo graced the back cover of Whitman's guide.

That inaugural MVP, winner of the AAGPBL's "Player of the Year Award" for 1945, year was pitcher Connie Wisniewski of the Grand Rapids Chicks. The photo chosen by Whitman had been taken a year earlier, during her rookie season with the 1944 Milwaukee Schnitts.

It's a good photo of Wisniewski, and a rare look at the Schnitts' uniform, with its bold circle-M on the cap and seal of Milwaukee on the tunic.

The Whitman Publishing Company was uniquely well=positioned to cover the AAGPBL; their hometown Racine Belles were a charter member of the league. Still, it's a measure of the league's success that they were included in a prominent baseball publication.

Major League Baseball: Facts and Figures and Official Rules was taken over in 1947 by Dell Publishing, who shortened the title to Major League Baseball: Facts and Figures. Shifting the publication from Racine to New York City didn't mean they stopped covering the league, though, with the AAGPBL Player of the Year remaining on the back cover for the next few years.

Major League Baseball: Facts and Figures was discontinued after the 1953 edition, meaning that it couldn't cover the AAGPBL's final season that year. Still, it remains an invaluable resource for researchers, one I expect to use in our ongoing exploration of the Milwaukee Schnitts.

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