Tuesday, May 21, 2019

On This Day - "Baseball Gals Are Awaiting Contracts"

This column is part of our "On This Day" review of the Milwaukee Chicks' championship year. Exactly seventy-five years ago, on this day in 1944, that the women of the All-American Girls Professional Ball League, were wrapping up their Spring Training in Peru, Illinois.

And after largely ignoring the league to date, the Milwaukee Sentinel stepped up strong with its coverage.

It may be below the fold, but the Sentinel was at least devoting a nice chunk of its sports pages to the women's league.

There are actually two stories here, both well worth examining.

The first, and longer, piece gives us a rare peek into the human side of the league's spring training.


Sentinel Staff Correspondent

PERU, Ill., May 20—There is hijinx in the locker rooms at Washington park, the Peru, Ill., ball field where the All-American Girls Professional Ball league is completing spring training.


An almost imperceptible air of suspense hovers over the 130 girls who have sifted in for the final weeding out. Many have their fingers crossed, hoping they will be offered contracts to be signed. Those who have contracts aren't sure to which team they will be assigned.

In the "no man's land" that is the locker room, the players come and go, happy go lucky, giving no indication of their status. In the center of the room a coach-chaperone rubs down a player with a practice lame arm. On the benches sprawl other players, an outfielder who forgot to put sunburn lotion on the backs of her knees, a third baseman who has turned an ankle. Another coach-chaperone, who has just helped button one of the players into a uniform, mends a catching glove.

As they rest between practices, or dress before games, some talk turns to husbands, many of whom are overseas, or the brothers or friends in the armed forces. Once in a while they will query a new girl about her out of season occupation, for new girls arrive continuously. Out of season they follow such fields as school teaching secretarial work, welding, bookkeeping, housekeeping. Some few are students, just out of high school or completing a second year of college.


Right now main interest is centered in the practice diamond. They swing bats, warm up, and take instruction from former big leaguers who are teaching them the ropes.

There is no sign of feminine jealousies. On the side lines, at the locker room, back at the hotel in he evening an easy camaraderie reigns. The girls' ages range from 15 up —oh, say, to 24. Their likes and tastes are similar and they gather like campers to listen to one who can play a mouth organ or piano.

Today, when no player knows to which team she will be assigned. all are close friends. Later, after all are assigned to the six teams in the league, they will single out their team mates with intense loyalty.

When teams are selected criticism will become sharper. Now it is impersonal—for all have the American virtue known as good sportsmanship. Later they intend to prove to the spectator public they retain that — along with an intense desire for victory.
Fascinating. I'm not familiar with Margot Patterson, the "Sentinel Special Correspondent", but I'm almost positive that's Margot Patterson Doss, who went on to write a column for the San Francisco Chronicle for thirty years. Ms. Doss had graduated from Illinois Wesleyan University, about sixty miles south of Peru, the previous spring, and was working as en editor for Seventeen magazine in Chicago about this time. Seems a likely candidate for the Milwaukee papers to contract for a human-interest story.

And this doesn't read like your typical sports-page filler. Ms. Patterson makes the scene come alive with vibrant and emotional detail usually overlooked by (overwhelmingly-male) sportswriters. Perhaps we can forgive Patterson her small dig at "feminine jealousies", for all the work she does making these women come alive even today, seventy-five years later.

There's a second piece on this page, but that deserves its own entry.

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