Thursday, May 16, 2019

On This Day - Max Shows Annabelle How to Steal

Seventy-five years ago today, on this day in 1944, the Milwaukee Chicks started coming together.

The women of the All-American Girls Professional Ball League, as it was then known, were in their Spring Training in Peru, Illinois. The women were being instructed by, among others, freshly-minted Milwaukee skipper Max Carey.

Milwaukee's manager, Max Carey, coaches girls Monday at the Peru (Ill.) training camp of the All-American Girls' Professional Ball league. Max, who was one of the greatest base stealers baseball has had, shows Annabelle Lee of North Hollywood, Calif., how to slide under the ball. Lorraine Borg, Minneapolis, is tagging the California girl out. Former big leaguers, who will manage teams, are training 120 girls, 90 of whom will be retained.
Shame that the microfiche scan of this photo isn't better, but even in this state it's fascinating.

And boy, the caption writer wasn't kidding about Max's base stealing. He had a twenty-year big league career, most of it with the Pirates. After sixteen and a half seasons in Pittsburgh, where he had become the star and team captain, Carey had an argument with a minority owner and was waived by the club. Brooklyn quickly scooped him up and Carey finished out his career with three and a half seasons in a Robins uniform.

Over those two decades, he led the National League in stolen bases an astonishing ten times (1913, 1915–1918, 1920, and 1922–1925). He was eventually elected to the Hall of Fame, where his biography begins with the paragraph:
Many Hall of Famers made it to the big leagues with their bats or their arms. Max Carey did it with his legs.
The two women he's instructing would indeed be signed by the league, although neither would accompany him to Milwaukee. Lorraine Borg would stay in her native Minneapolis, joining the expansion Millerettes club. She only played in the AAGPBL the one season.

The other player had a much longer career. Annabelle "Lefty" Lee was also assigned to the Millerettes, pitching a perfect game on July 29th. When the Minneapolis club was moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana the following season she was one of a handful of players to go with it. She would go on to a seven-year career in the league, pitching not only for the Millerettes and Fort Wayne Daisies but also the Peoria Redwings and the Chicks after they moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan.

On July 7, 1945, two years before she put on a Chicks uniform, she visited Grand Rapids as a member of the Daisies. Lee pitched a complete game no-hitter and Was immortalized in a poem by K.C. Clapp, published in the Grand Rapids Herald three days later on July 10. Titled “Annabelle Lee Again Arouses Poet’s Muse”, it was a play on Edgar Allen Poe's 1849 poem "Annabel Lee":
It wasn’t so many hours ago
July 7, specifically,
That a maiden there pitched whom you may know
By the name of Annabelle Lee,
And she hurled so well that not a Chick hit,
Going down to her, one, two, three.

She was not wild, this talented child,
Who twirled so effectively.
And no free passes were handed out
By this stingy Annabelle Lee
But the base hits rang for the Fort Wayne gang
For a 6-0 victory.

And this is the reason as 3,000 know
Who witnessed her wizardry
That not a Chick could hit a lick
Off the slants of Annabelle Lee,
So they sharply dropped from second spot
To a humble berth in 3.
But Fort Wayne cheers its peach-clad dears
Because of Annabelle Lee.

The moon never beams without bringing me dreams
Of the curves of Annabelle Lee.
And the South Field lights will gleam many nights
Before such a sight I may see—
No hits by Ziegler or Tetzlaff or Eisen,
No hits by the bustling “B.”
No hits by Maguire or Petras or “Twi,”
Why? Because of Annabelle Lee.
Nothing in there about her base stealing, but that's a heck of a review for her pitching.

Lee is today also remembered for her nephew, Red Sox and Expos pitcher Bill "Spaceman" Lee. He gave her a lot of credit for his fourteen-year major league career, saying "She was the best athlete in the family. She taught me how to pitch." One of her uniforms, from her Peoria days, is in the collection of the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

As for Carey's squad, we would have to wait to see which players were assigned to Milwaukee.

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