Monday, May 27, 2019

On This Day in 1944: Play Ball!

On this day in 1944, Milwaukee Chicks managerMax Carey opened the 1944 All-American Girls Professional Ball League season at Borchert Field.

Earlier today, we looked at the Milwaukee Sentinel's rather hit-or-miss preview of the season opener, at once taking them seriously and being outright dismissive. Fortunately, the paper's coverage of the game itself was much, much better.

South Bend Tips Local Girls, 5-4


The Milwaukee team of the All-American ball league lost a heartbreaking 10 inning fray to the South Bend Blue Sox, pennant favorites, by 5 to 4, in the season's opener at Borchert field before around 700 fans.

In the early innings it was largely a pitching duel between Connie Wisniewski of Milwaukee and "Sonny" Berger, South Bend ace. Connie was the victim of nine errors, her own two wild throws attempting to pick runners off the bases costing runs on two occasions.

Anderson's infield single and advance to third on Schroeder's wide throw set the stage for the first run in the fifth, Wisniewski dropping a fly single back of second to bring in the tally. The Blue Sox got this back and one more in the sixth. Panos walked and Jochum singled. Attempting to pick Panos off second, Wisniewski tossed wildly and both runners advanced. A passed ball and Gocioch's fly netted the two runs.

With two away in the Milwaukee sixth. Elsen got hold of a fast one and drilled it over the head of Jochum in left field for a home run to even it at 2-all.

The Sox took the lead in the ninth, singles by Baker and Hageman starting the rally. Again Wisniewski threw wildly attempting to pick Baker off second, both runners advancing, Schroeder's hit and Grant's bobble in right field let both runners score.

Milwaukee tied it up in its half, Whiting singling, Schulze walking and Anderson bunting safety to jam the lanes. Wisniewski fouled out to Baker and Grant's single plated Whiting, but Schulze, hesitating after rounding third, was run down. Koslowski singled, but Jochin fielded it in time to hold Anderson at third. Meanwhile Grant ran to that base and was tagged out by Baker.

A walk to Stefani with one away, her advance to third on an infield out and Baker's hit drove home the winning button in the first of the tenth.
We get two field-level photos of the team in action.


Shirley Schulze, comely centerfielder for the Milwaukee team of the All-American Girls' Baseball league, attempted to drag a bunt down the third base line in the second inning of Saturday's game against the Blue Sox from South Bend, Ind., but found catcher Mary Baker alert and was tossed out on a close play, despite the fact that she was away to a flying start. The Sox won, 5 to 1, in 10 innings to spoil the league opening for Milwaukee fans.
Sentinel photo.
The "comely" part isn't strictly necessary, but the caption of the next photo is more gently ribbing fans than the players.


As usual, there was a bald headed row right down front when the Milwaukee Girls' baseball team opened its season. A Sentinel cameraman was on the spot to prove it with a picture.
"As usual"? I need to do more research on this. If the bald-headed men were fixtures at Brewers games, the 1940s equivalent of Front Row Amy, I'd like to learn more about them. And it would be a positive sign for the AAGPBL if they were reaching fans of the Brews.

The Sentinel filled out its coverage with this report on the festivities surrounding the game.

Gals Plus Color

Snappy Plays Feature Opener


Colorful pre-game ceremonies marked the opening of the All-American Girls Professional Ball league in Milwaukee yesterday afternoon at Borchert field in a contest between the Milwaukee team and the South Bend Blue Sox.

Opening the ceremonies, the girls from both teams ran out from their dugouts and with a double criss-cross at home plate and second, came to attention in the form of a "V" at home plate.

Represented at the ceremonies were the Milwaukee County Council of the American Legion, the Spars, Waves, Wacs, and women's marine corps.

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Celebrities included Judge Ed Rusts of Kenosha, Capt. H. H. Hankin of the marines, Ken Sells, league president, and Mayor John L. Bohn, who officially welcomed the team to Milwaukee and tossed the first ball to Wave Lt. Russell, who smacked it back to the infielders.
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A three-gun salute was fired by the Legion firing squad and the band played the national anthem as the flag was raised.
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The girls really did some fancy playing as was attested by the 5-4 Blue Sox victory. It was either team's game all the way.
*     *     *
Many close decisions helped make the game a thriller. Pitcher Connie Wisniewski of Milwaukee, going after a sacrifice bunt, just touched the ball inside the foul line and it went as a hit. Twice runners were caught between the bags and run down. A delayed steal by Shirley Schulze of Milwaukee caused a round of applause and put her in scoring position.
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The feature was Left Fielder Thelma (Pigtails) Eisen's home run into left field - the only homer of the game. 'Pigtails' won herself quite a following, not only because of the home run, but because of her distinctive pigtails which stood almost straight out as she tore around the bases to tie the game up in the sixth at 2 all.
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Catcher "Mickey" Maguie and Shortstop Betty Whiting turned in excellent performances too, but were more than a little disheartened at dropping the close one.

"Wait until tomorrow," said Schulze, "we're going to take both games." "It's my turn to make a home run tomorrow," shouted Olga Grant, another Milwaukee outfielder.

This afternoon a double header is scheduled, starting at 1:30. Pitchers for Milwaukee will be Josephine Kabick and "Lefty" Thompson, while Charlotte Armstrong and Doris Barr will work for South Bend.
Lieutenant Russell smacked the ceremonial first pitch back to the infielders? I'd like to have seen that!

The "V" formation mentioned here would become associated with the AAGPBL, as seen in this photo from a different game:

Aven today, it is a symbol of the league. Surviving AAGPBL players posed in a Victory formation on the County Stadium infield during a league reunion in 2000:

Today the Players Association continues to make it an important part of their iconography.

Great stuff from the Sentinel.

Finally, it's interesting that the paper had by this time dropped the name "Brewerettes", but had not yet adopted "Chicks". That would come later.

As for Schulze's confident prediction that "we're going to take both games" in the next day's double header, we'll see how that went.

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