Women Baseball Pros Holding Reunion
Aug. 25, 2000
MILWAUKEE (AP) _ Dozens of former professional baseball players will take the field at County Stadium over the weekend, but few people will recognize their names.
They will, however, know their story.
Milwaukee will play host to a reunion of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, featured in the 1992 movie ``A League of their Own.''
Philip Wrigley, the millionaire chewing-gum mogul and Chicago Cubs owner, launched the league during World War II when men traded their baseball uniforms for military garb. The league initially was called the All-American Girls Softball League.
``After the first few years, we were playing hardball, just like the men,'' said Jacqueline Baumgart of Milwaukee, who played for the Springfield Sallies and Kenosha Comets during the league's 12-year span from 1943 to 1954. ``I don't know if anyone expected that when the league started.''
Baumgart, a reunion organizer, expects about 120 members to attend the various events, including a youth softball clinic conducted by former league players Saturday morning at the home field of the Milwaukee Brewers.
The league players then will be recognized in a pregame ceremony before the Brewers take on the San Diego Padres.
Baumgart said the reunion will be the largest gathering of former league players in a major league city and ballpark. Many of the women are in their 70s and 80s, she said.
Women from across the country played on the original four teams in Racine, Kenosha, Rockford, Ill., and South Bend, Ind.
``We had all kinds of women,'' said Milwaukee native Vivian Sheriffs, known as Vivian Anderson in 1944 when she played for the Milwaukee Chicks. ``There were farmers' daughters, office workers, everything imaginable. We all came for the love of the game. That's the big difference between us and players today. They just play for the almighty dollar.''
Wrigley wanted the women on the team to be good athletes who conducted themselves as perfect ladies. The players wore one-piece dress uniforms, went to charm school, had chaperones at social events and avoided smoking and drinking in public _ and faced fines if they didn't.
``We understood why they did it,'' Sheriffs said. ``They didn't want us to be classified as hoodlums for playing a man's game.
The league attracted 538 women from the United States and Canada in its dozen years. Top players earned as much as $100 a week.
The league expanded after its first few years, but attendance dropped with the advent of television and the end of the war.
The league received little notice until the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y., erected a permanent display about it in 1988. Then came ``A League of Their Own'' four years later starring Tom Hanks, Geena Davis and Madonna.