Sunday, August 18, 2019

On This Day - A Spouse Comes to Visit

On this day seventy-five years ago, the Milwaukee Journal published a "ballplayer and spouse" photo of the kind very familiar to baseball fans.

But this was no ordinary ballplayer, this was the starting right fielder for the Milwaukee Chicks baseball club. And her spouse was on leave from the Army and in Milwaukee for a visit.

This photo is amazing. Not only is it a perfectly distilled image of its era, but it's framed to be very respectful towards Chicks outfielder Pat Keagle; she sits higher in the frame, not diminished or minimized. It's remarkable how unremarkable it is to our eyes.

Wives of ballplayers usually sit in the stand, but in the case shown above the situation was reversed Thursday night at Borchert field. Staff Sergt. Richard Keagle of the army air forces came from Luke field, Phoenix, Ariz., to visit his wife, Merle, and attended the game between the Milwaukee Schnitts and Rockford. His wife, who plays right field for the Schnitts, got two hits and scored two runs to help win, 9-6. The Keagles were married a year ago.
—Journal Staff
Known to her friends by her middle name, Keagle was a rookie in 1944. She had traveled from her home in Arizona to attend tryouts for the All-American Girls' Professional Ball League, and was assigned to Milwaukee. She made an immediate impact on her new team, becoming one of the best hitters on a very good squad. That year, she led the Chicks in five offensive categories: batting average (.264), home runs (7), hits (107), runs scored (72), and RBI (47).

Keagle sat out the 1945 season following the birth of her son. She had a rocky next few years, returning to the now-Grand Rapids Chicks in 1946, forced to stay in Arizona due to heath concerns in 1947, and playing again in 1948, before hanging up her spikes. She was diagnosed with cancer in 1951 and died at the too-young age of 37.

By her teammates' accounts, Pat Keagle was as friendly in the clubhouse as she was fierce at the plate. Good to see the Journal giving her the respectful treatment she deserved.

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