Tuesday, June 18, 2019

On This Day: "An Umpire's View of Girls' Baseball"

On this day in 1944, the Milwaukee Journal published a very interesting take on the All-American Girls Professional Ball League.

Journal Sports Editor R.G. Lynch had an ongoing column titled "Maybe I'm Wrong", in which he would expound upon the sports subjects of the day. On June 18, 1944, he turned nearly the entire thing over to a verbatim interview with visiting umpire Bob Kober, in town to officiate a game between the hometown Milwaukee Chicks and the Rockford Peaches.

Kober's perspective is interesting. He was a veteran umpire who had spent nearly twenty years calling balls and strikes in the minors. Now he was behind the plate in the AAGPBL, a unique perspective to be sure.

Here's what Kober had to say:

Maybe I'm Wrong
[Sports Editor]

A Veteran Umpire's View of Girls' Baseball

After 19 years of umpiring minor league baseball, Bob KOber finds the brand of ball played in the All-American Girls' Professional league a bit strange, more exacting for the umpire but "very interesting." Kober, who umpired in the American association in 1935-'36 and spent the last seven years in the Southern association, came to town Friday to work the series between the Milwaukee Schnits and Rockford. He said that he passed up a chance to umpire in the International league, "because I knew the trials and tribulations of baseball and thought I'd see what this new league was like—and I'm not sorry I did. In men's baseball," he said, "the pitch is overhand or from the side and you have time to look it over, but in this girl's game the distance is so short that you can't turn your head for a second, you've got to keep your eye on the ball all the time, and it looks as if it comes out of the ground because the pitch is underhand.

"The plays on the bases are closer, too. The base lines are shorter and the ball doesn't travel as fast as a baseball, so the ball and the runner get there about the same time. We have more close ones to call and plays are more complicated. In baseball, you know what the men will do, pretty well, but you can't tell what the girls will do. You can't loaf a minute. I never saw a soft ball game until I went to work in this league, and when I opened at Racine I knew I was in for something, but I sure like it.

They Play Hard

"It's a real game. Anyone who goes to see it once will go again. The girls play harder than men. They put their heart and soul into it and they cry when they lose. A little girl named Audrey Haine, with Minneapolis, allowed only three hits in one game. Then a ground ball was hit to her and she threw wild to first and lost the game. She cried like a baby. Bubber Jonnard (Minneapolis manager) told her that big leaguers made wild throws, but she kept on crying.

There are some ballplayers in this league that if they were men they'd be worth $150,000. Dorothy Schroeder, South Bend shortstop, is only 16, but if he doesn't handle the ball like Charley Gilbert or Donie Bush my name isn't Kober. I'll bet money you have shortstops in the American association who can't play like she does, she fields and throws like a man, and a damned good one. Go out and see her. Bonnie Baker, the South Bend catcher, handles herself just like Muddy Ruel. She's classy. You've got a dandy catcher on the Schnits in Dorothy McGuire, and a player in Merle Keagle that stands up at the plate just like Rogers Hornsby.

"There are four or five real stars on each team, and the rest are coming along. Boys who worked in the league last year say the four old clubs &mdash Racine, Kenosha, South Bend and Rockford—have improved 60%. Your Milwaukee team and Minneapolis will improve, too. These girls are used to soft ball, and they have to adjust themselves.

Heartfelt Rebukes

"This league is a high class outfit. The players are paid better than men in the lower minors, and some get more than a good many do in the American association. The people who run it are high class and it is handled that way. You'd be surprised at the crowds we play to in the four cities who had the girls last year.

"Things are a lot different for umpires. You don't get the cussing and the riding you get in baseball, but you get things that make you feel worse. In baseball, when a player yells 'Open your eyes, you blind sob!" you just get mad. In this game I've had a girl say 'I'm giving you a dirty look, Mr. Umpire.' And I've had one come up and say 'Mr. Umpire, you didn't treat me right. You could have called me safe. I had a tie.' And an old lady at Racine stopped me to say, 'Aren't you ashamed of yourself for calling that little girl out at third?'"

SOmetimes a thing like that get you, because you know they really mean it.
Fascinating. Obviously Kober isn't a completely objective observer, as an employee of the league. But even so, it's interesting to see how he, or the league, or both, are selling the game to the Journal's readers.

No comments:

Post a Comment