Hungry for baseball

Among the many frustrations wrought by this Covid-19 pandemic, it’s hard to top what is being endured by fans of summer sports.

So far, I have had to tear up pricey tickets to an Atlanta Braves-St. Louis Cardinals game and wait impatiently for the Durham Bulls season to start so I can use my 10-game ticket package and enjoy some real baseball in the Bulls’ inviting ballpark.

Easing our pain somewhat, ESPN and other networks have been serving up a diet of movies about baseball, notably Bull Durham and A League of Their Own, both of which are based on true stories and actual teams. Both of these iconic films are shown repeatedly.

Last night, as I watched A League of Their Own yet again, I was transported back to a memorable evening in my childhood when my father took me to Baltimore’s Municipal Stadium to witness an exhibition game between the Fort Wayne Daisies and the Racine Belles.

These two teams were part of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, a professional women’s baseball league created during World War II.

From its creation in 1943 until its demise in 1954, the AAGPBL employed 545 women. Philip K. Wrigley, chewing gum magnate and Chicago Cubs owner, started the league out of a concern that men’s major league baseball would suffer when players were called for military service. The teams delivered such a high level of play that, at the league’s peak in 1948, they drew more than a million fans to the stands, according to Encyclopaedia Britannica.

The league eventually grew to 15 teams, all based in Midwestern cities: Battle Creek Belles, Chicago Colleens, Fort Wayne Daisies, Grand Rapids Chicks, Kalamazoo Lassies, Kenosha Comets, Milwaukee Chicks, Minneapolis Millerettes, Musekgon Belles, Muskegon Lassies, Peoria Redwings, Racine Belles, Rockford Peaches, South Bend Blue Sox, and Springfield Sallies.

Those familiar with the women’s league say that A League of Their Own was a fairly realistic portrayal of the lives experienced by these young women. I can testify that my father and I were treated to a well-played, competitive ballgame that evening many years ago.

The Braves refunded the price of my tickets, and the Durham Bulls promise that I’ll get to see my 10 paid-for games —  eventually. Watching that movie again last night whetted my appetite even more. I can’t wait to get back in the ballpark and watch some baseball, live and in person.



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