Seventy-Eight years ago, the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League had its first day of league play. The women’s league was founded, in part, because most of the Major League Baseball players were fighting in World War II. Baseball executives had to find a new way to maintain revenue and keep people interested in the sport.
The league was the brainchild of Philip K. Wrigley, owner of the Chicago Cubs, whose father had founded the William Wrigley Jr. chewing gum company. Major League Baseball owners recruited women from several amateur women’s softball leagues throughout the Midwest. Of the 200 women invited to try out at Chicago’s Wrigley Field, 60 were chosen for league play. They were outfitted in the now-iconic mini-skirt uniform. They also had to follow strict rules of etiquette, which dictated how they dressed and wore their hair and makeup off-field.
The first day of league play was March 30, 1943. The Rockford Peaches of Illinois lost to the South Bend Blue Sox of Indiana 1-0. The Kenosha Shamrocks of Wisconsin beat the Racine Belles, also of Wisconsin, 8-6.
The league lasted from 1943 to 1956. The Rockford Peaches won the league championship a record-setting four times. The National Baseball Hall of Fame put up a permanent exhibit dedicated to the league in 1988. In 1992, Penny Marshall’s film, A League of Their Own, told a fictionalized story of the Rockford Peaches. Rockford’s Beyer Stadium, where the Rockford Peaches played their home games, was rebuilt and dedicated to the Peaches in 2010.
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