A League of Their Own

(This is a recreation of the original post that had been on the blog section of baseballbetsy.com. It was lost when I upgraded the website so I have recreated it from the original saved file from 2011.)

Before the movie, “A League of Their Own” few people born after the 1950’s knew of the women of the All American Girls Professional Baseball League. Phillip K. Wrigley, of Wrigley Gum and Chicago Cubs fame, wanted to keep baseball in the public eye during World War II, when most able-bodied men were away fighting.

These woman played professional sport at a time when most women would be expected to stay home, have babies and keep house; MAY BE have a job such as a secretary, but professional sports? It was unheard of. They likely didn’t know it at the time, but they started to break down the barriers, break the stereotypes that allow women to do what ever they want to do today.

Sara Jane "Salty" Sands of the Rockford Peaches
Sara Jane “Salty” Sands of the Rockford Peaches

Along this line, other than the fact that I, myself appreciate this, what stood out to me, was the little girl in the teal shirt in the first photo above. She was so excited to meet these ladies, she asked to have her picture taken with each and every one of them. For any other little girl, you might have thought that there were six Justin Beibers up there signing autographs. She was nearly in tears to see these ladies who were clearly heroes to her.

Ruth Hartman sits at the Head of the table in Red.
Ruth Hartman sits at the Head of the table in Red.
The All American Girls in Reading

When you look at the pictures of the ball below, you will see that these ladies just didn’t sign their name and pass the ball, they each noted what teams they played with and when. Ruth Kramer Hartman “The Queen of Baseballtown” made the comment to me, “These boys today, they just scribble on the ball. You can hardly read them.” It was obvious that they took this seriously and it meant something to them as well.

ALOTO ball 4
Virginia Ventura 1951-53 Rockford Peaches Gert Alderfer Chicago Colleens (1950), Kalamazoo Lassies (1950), Springfield Sallies (1949)
ALOTO ball 3
Joanne McComb Springfield Sallies 1950
ALOTO ball 2
Sara Jane “Salty” Sands Rockford Peaches 1953-1954 Gloria Cordes Elliott All Star Team (1952, 1953, 1954), Battle Creek Belles (1951), Kalamazoo Lassies (1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954), Muskegon Lassies (1950), Racine Belles (1950)
Ruth Hartman's Autograph
Ruth Hartman Fort Wayne Daisies (1946), Grand Rapids Chicks (1947), Racine Belles (1946)

I think one of the more telling moments was when the gentleman behind me in line saw Sara Jane “Salty” Sands “Baseball Hall of Fame” t-shirt. He asked her, “Oh so you’re in the women’s hall of fame.” She gave him the eye and said, “No, THE Hall of Fame, the one in COOPERSTOWN, New York.” I was so proud of her.

Ruth Hartman-Queen of Baseballtown Trophy
Ruth Hartman-Queen of Baseballtown Trophy

As I mentioned earlier, Ruth Kramer Hartman is a Queen of Baseballtown. A King or Queen of Baseballtown is honored every year for their accomplishments and contributions to baseball/softball. Since 2003, only 8 people have been so honored…Ruth is the only woman, so far.

My first contact with Ruth was several years ago. Since retiring from teaching, Ruth has gone on to raise sheep for competition. Ross’ cousin also raises sheep. So one cold January, Ross and I went to the Pennsylvania Farm Show to check out the animals and see his cousin’s sheep.

While we were standing there in the livestock barn, this lively lady walks by and says hello to Ross’ cousin and he introduced us and we spoke for a few minutes. After she left, Ross’ cousin told us who she was and that while they had been friends for years, she had only mentioned to him a few months earlier her storied past. Ross’ cousin was involved in a charity auction and asked for just a signed baseball. She sent a number of items, not just a ball. Ross’ cousin was astounded by her kindness and generosity.

I suppose I should mention that there was a game in Reading last night as well.

Austin Hyatt coming off a series of well-pitched games started for the Reading Phillies. Chuck LaMar, the Director of the Phillies Minor League system as sitting behind home plate. He was obviously there to check on Hyatt’s development.

I was late getting to my seat as I had been getting my ball autographed. It wasn’t even the end of the first inning and Hyatt was out. He gave up 4 runs and was pulled after only two outs. Hyatt seemed unable to find the strike zone and his night was over early.

It was a rough night in Baseballtown. Behind by 5 in only the first inning, it looked to be a long night. Brent Clevlen did get a homer but they did little else.

In the 9th, they started to rally back…they fought to within one and with 2 outs and the bases loaded they brought in a new pitcher to pitch to Derrick Mitchell. Sunday night, Mitchell was hot, hitting a home run, a triple and a double, so it was apparent that the Baysox wanted to bring in a fresh arm. Alas, there was no joy in Baseballtown, the mighty Mitchell was struck out.