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Published:September 12th, 2011 20:16 EST
Certain Athletes Belong in A League of Their Own

Certain Athletes Belong in A League of Their Own

By Tom Ski

As the world knows, there was a time long ago when the female race was able to step into the ultimate venue, walk onto that magnificent field, wearing that amazing baseball uniform.  That moment in time began as simply a joke to some, while others believed it to be one of the first fantastic steps for women everywhere.  This "real-life` event gave back to the people of America their favorite game, as the world across the sea was fighting a war.     

These courageous, wonderful, hardworking women had the same spirit and tenacity as all the male baseball players who had to go away and fight for their country, and from their own home turf they proved that America was still the only country that offered a fair and just system when it came to females in sports.  The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) opened the door for women everywhere to be a part of the sports world, and gave them a path to walk that would allow each and every woman to one day be able to compete professionally.     

The league was first called the All-American Girls Professional Softball League, which was the name that lasted until 1943.  At that time, the All-American Girls Baseball League came forward, and then in 1949 the ladies got their ultimate nod of acceptance when they became the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.   

The Rockford Peaches are the ones that are remembered, by the movie-going public at least, because Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Madonna, and others told the story of these truly amazing women who graced the covers of the sports magazines, and worked their behinds off in order to be the best of the best where softball and baseball were concerned.  They wanted to win over the crowds with the fact that they - just like the men - knew how to catch, hit home runs, and run those bases in order to bring home the victories.  The Rockford Peaches were only one of the two teams that stayed in their home cities for the full twelve-year period that the league ran - and their uniforms were as special to them and their fans as were the uniforms of America`s boys who had headed off into battle in World War II.     

People and fans needed to be entertained, enthralled, and be able to have fun at home, " especially when the war was going on and fear was etched into the hearts of everyone.  And that is exactly what several major league baseball executives thought as they started a new professional league with women players in order to maintain baseball in the public eye.   

The initial tryouts were held at the beloved Wrigley Field, but what some people do not know is that the women of the AAGPBL never actually played regulation baseball. In the first season, the league played a game that was a hybrid of baseball and softball.  Pitchers would wind-up and throw the windmill pitches that most no longer see nowadays.  It took strength, quickness, intelligence, and skill to play the way these women did; but there were similarities, as well. Major similarities between the AAGPBL and baseball included nine player teams and the use of a pitcher`s mound (softball pitchers throw from flat ground).  And the truly laughable statistic?  Considering nowadays, that one professional athlete can have a good year and the next year he`s paid fifty million dollars, these women`s salaries only ranged from $45 "$85 a week during the first years of play, to as much as $125 per week if they stayed in the league.  They would probably gasp in surprise if they saw today`s salaries "   

Now, the baseball uniforms were a bone of contention and gossip for all - from the players, to the fans, to the executives.  The uniforms worn by the female ballplayers consisted of a belted, short-sleeved tunic dress with a slight flare of the skirt. Now the rules stated that skirts were to be worn no more than six inches above the knee, but the regulation was most often ignored in order to facilitate running and fielding.  A circular team logo was sewn on the front of each dress, and baseball caps featured elastic bands in the back so that they were one-size-fits-all.  And frankly, it`s been stated that a great many people attended the AAGBL`s games just to witness those pretty ladies in their slightly daring " uniforms.   

The ladies of the AAGBL had to do one other thing far different from their male counterparts.  During spring training the girls were required to attend  Rubinstein`s evening charm school classes, where they would learn the  proper etiquette for every situation.  (Again, can you imagine the New York Yankees or any owner on the planet giving two figs about etiquette?)  The women also had to learn every aspect of personal hygiene, mannerisms and dress code - and, a lot like the Top Model " world of today - each and every woman had to make the effort to be as physically attractive as possible, with the league providing each and every player with a beauty kit and instructions on how to use it.  There was no short hair allowed (the long hair was far more beautiful apparently), they were not allowed to smoke, drink, or curse.  These women were not only the "belles of the field,` but they also had to remain the "belles of the ball.`   

The most successful manager in the league`s history was Bill Allington, who posted a 583-398 record for a .594 winning percentage.  His women never had a losing season and are the all-time leaders in victories in the league.   But one of the things that Allington liked more than anything else was the fact that he worked as an active scout searching for more and more talent for the league.     

But, at the end, those uniforms - and how they came to be - are still one of the most talked about moments in softball uniform and baseball uniform history.  Women, before the AAGPBL, were often not even allowed to play baseball.  It was Alta Weiss in Cleveland in 1907 who tried to wear absolutely everything in order to be able to catch, hit, field, and run with the best of them.  But Alta, like the rest, had to play in bloomers.  But, when magnate Philip K. Wrigley saw that the fans loved to see the flesh " revealing uniforms, he made sure to outfit all the players in short, flashy skirts, when he created the league in 1943.   

When the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League was unable to continue in 1955, its history seemed to simply disappear.  Life went back to normal as the war was over and all the men and boys were back home taking their rightful places " in America and on the field.  But the strength and sincere talent of these incredible women came back to life when, in 1980, a former pitcher launched a newsletter project to get in touch with friends, teammates and opponents.  And, when they all got together for their reunion, the Players Association was born.   

And should have been.  Without these wonderful women, sports could`ve have taken this incredible new path.  Because of them, generations coming up behind sought for better, sought to be number one, and sought perfection "and they have achieved it!   

The women also made a statement that was completely true, and remains just as true in this much more horrific day and age.  The AAGBL had their own theme song, and each and every one of us should remember it for all time, as well as the concept and meaning behind the words:   

We come from cities near and far
We`ve got Canadians, Irishmen and Swedes,
We`re all for one, we`re one for all
We`re all Americans!!

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