When it comes to baseball teams names such as the Milwaukee Brewers, the Boston Red Sox or the Chicago Cubs come to mind. However, what about the Milwaukee Chicks, the Rockford Peaches or the South Bend Blue Sox?
Although they no longer exist today, these teams and many others made up the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) from 1943 to 1954.
The league, which was the brainchild of Phillip Wrigley (principle owner of the Chicago Cubs), was created in response to male players going off to war during World War II. Team owners were concerned that if players were going off to war then fans would not attend games as often. So, in 1943, Wrigley formed four teams throughout the Midwest with the hope that the idea would expand to multiple teams across the nation.
Wrigley's wish for expansion is exactly what happened. In the decade or so that it lasted, the AAGPBL drew in about a million spectators per season in its peak years. “(One) of the reasons why the league is so successful during WWII is because women are taking up what’s seen as men’s job elsewhere so why not play baseball as well," historian Liz Matelski says.
One thing that set the AAGPBL apart from the male teams was the specific decorum the women needed to display on and off the field. Wrigley was adamant in maintaining an aspect of femininity within the sport. “Women had to be not only professionals on the field, they had to be professionals off the field as well," says Matelski. "And what that meant was that they had to have that unique balance of masculinity and skill on the field but to still be women."
The history of the AAGPBL will be on exhibit throughout this summer at the Jewish Museum Milwaukee in an exhibit called Chasing Dreams: Baseball and Becoming American. The exhibit, which covers the history of baseball itself, also shares the story of notable Jewish baseball players throughout history, such as Sandy Koufax and Hank Greenberg.
Historian Liz Matelski will be giving a lecture this Thursday called “There’s No Crying in Baseball," in which she will discuss her research into the the AAGPBL and the Midwest's integral part in its history.