Venezuelan Writter. Journalism student passionate about sports: baseball, rugby, basketball, etc. Voracious reader and lover of life.
The All American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) was, as its name suggest, a professional circuit of female baseball that ran from 1943 to 1954. The league was founded by Phillip Wrigley, former Chicago Cubs owner who feared that with America’s entry into WWII and the subsequent absence of some of the best players due to military service, the attendance to MLB parks would drop. The league lasted for 12 seasons and went through three periods of ownership and rules changes to make the perfect transition from softball to baseball.
During its existence the league saw more than 600 girls taking a position on the field, with some of them having better performance than others, that’s why we will rank the best 10 players in the AAGPBL history.
10. Eleanor Callow
Batted and Threw: Switch hitter/ right-handed
Teams she played for: Peoria Redwings (1947), Chicago Colleens (1948), Rockford Peaches (1948-1954).
Canadian (born in Winnipeg) Eleanor Callow holds the all-time record of the league in home runs and triples with 55 round trippers and 60 three baggers. Callow was a rare combination of speed, power, patience at the plate and fielding. She was also one of five who surpassed the 400 RBI mark (407) ranking third all-time in that stat.
Her career started in 1947 and ended in 1954, collecting at least one home run in each season she played. In 1948 she won her first triples title with 15 and topped at least 10 triples in each of the three next seasons. Her best year was 1951 when she was named an “All Star” and had her best numbers: .326 batting average, 66 runs scored, 84 runs batted in, 124 hits, 16 doubles, 40 stolen bases, 172 total bases, 49 walks and 10 triples, she won (shared) the home run crown with 4.
Her 1954 season was spectacular as well batting .324 with 23 stolen bases and 20 home runs, being only one of two 20-20 players in the history of the league and her season would have been the best offensive performance in the history of the league if not for Joanne Weaver epic season that same year.
9. Joanne Weaver
Batted and Threw: Right-handed
Teams she played for: Fort Wayne Daissies.
Betty Foss’s little sister won three batting titles in the three last seasons of the league history. Her first crown came in her second season: 1952, when she posted a league-high .344 batting average but lost the Player of the Year award to her sister Betty who had a better year overall.
The only skill lacking in Joanne was defense, but she improve in that category after she switched from third to right field. In 1953 she won the batting crown again with a .346 average. She was second to Betty in total bases (187) and hits (142), she finished third in runs (79), stolen bases (70) and RBI (76).
1954 was the last season in AAGPBL existence and Joanne had the best offensive season for any player in the history of the league. That year she hit a record .429 batting average, winning her third batting title (record for the league) and posting the highest average in professional baseball during the 20th century. She won the Player of the League Award that season after establishing a record of 29 home runs, she also stole 79 bases, being one of two (the other being Eleanor Callow) players in the league history to make the 20-20 club. In 1954 she also led the league in hits (143) and runs (109) and was second in doubles (16) and triples (4).
She died in 2000 of Lou Gehrig’s disease, the same disease that end her sister Betty’s life in 1998.
8. Dorothy Schroeder
Batted and threw: Right-handed
Teams she played for: South Bend Blue Sox (1943-1945), Kenosha Comets (1945-1947), Fort Wayne Daissies (1947-1952), Kalamazoo Lassies (1953-1954).
Dorothy Schroeder was called “The Human Vacuum Machine” by the person who holds number one on this list before Brooks Robinson was called like that. She was arguably the best fielder in the history of the league, making amazing plays in the shortstop.
Her first season was in 1943 and her last was in 1954 making her the only player to participate in all seasons of the league history, holding records for the most games played (1,249), at bats (4,129) and RBI’s (431) being one of five players to achieve the 400 RBI milestone. Her 870 hits were good enough for second of all time and her 42 home runs ranked third in history. Dottie, as she was called, was also the youngest player in the league history, making her debut at age of fifteen.
When the AAGPBL’s dead ball era ended after 1949 season, Schroeder saw her offensive numbers climbed, batting .242 with 38 home runs from 1949 to 1954 and topping personal numbers in 1954 with .304 batting average, 17 home runs and 65 RBI.
Dottie was perhaps the prettiest girl in the league history and her face adorned the cover of Parade Magazine in 1948. After the league disbanded she was part of the All American All Stars, a national touring team that played during three more years all over United States against man teams, completing 15 seasons played in professional baseball, a record for a women, which is unlikely to be broken soon.
She died of aneurysm in 1996, at age of 68.
7. Helen Nicol-Fox
Teams she played for: Kenosha Comets (1943-1947)
Another Canadian on the list. She was pitcher and holds the record for most wins in the AAGPBL history: 163, in addition she holds other all-time pitching records: appearances (313), consecutive wins (13), strikeouts (1,076), batters faced (7,537), and innings pitched (2,382). She posted a 13-7 record with a 1.83 earned run average in postseason game.
Her debut occurred in 1943, that year she won 31 games with a solid 1.81 ERA, 220 strikeouts and 8 shutouts in 348 innings of work, she won the Pitcher of the League Award and the Pitching Triple Crown. She won the ERA tittle again in 1944 with 0.93 and threw a no-hitter and 4 one hitters being named Pitcher of the League one more time. In 1945 she got married and changed her name to Helen Fox, that year she won 24 games with 1.34 ERA, a remarkable achievement considering her team finished last.
In 1947, after the switch from underarm to sidearm pitching, she won only 6 games and lost 16 but she recovered for the next season winning 17 and losing 13 with 2.61 ERA. 1949 was even better, she posted a 13-8 record with 7 shutouts and a minuscule 0.98 ERA. The next three season she maintained her ERA under 3.00 and posted positive record on that span.
In 1998 she gained her induction to Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.
6. Betty Weaver
Position: First base / Outfield
Batted and threw: Switch Hitter/Right-handed.
Teams she played for: Fort Wayne Daissies.
Betty Weaver was undoubtedly one of the greatest hitters in the history of the league. She debuted in 1950 and won the batting crown with .346 average, earning the Rookie of the Year honors for that season. In 1951 she won the batting title again after posting a .368 average. In 1952 she was named “Player of the League”.
Over her career Betty hit .342, second only to her sister Joanne, while collecting 32 home runs and 294 stolen bases. She always ranked amongst the top 10 sluggers and base stealers, in addition she was a talented fielder being solid and speedy in the outfield and skilled defender at first base.
Besides scoring 401 runs and driving in another 312 runs, Foss topped the league in doubles three times. She holds the single-season records for hits (144 in 1953), doubles (34 in 1951) and triples (17 in 1952) and also set a record for career doubles (117). She collected 294 stolen bases, and is only one of six players to have hit 30 or more career home runs (32). Her career .963 fielding average as an infielder would have been higher except for her rookie season at third base, when she committed 47 errors in 374 chances.
However, Betty and her sister were benefited by playing in the most offensive years in the league history and we should be careful when comparing them to players from previous years.
Position: Second Base
Batted and Threw: Right-handed.
Teams she played for: Racine Bells (1943-1951) Battle Creek Belles (1952).
Sophie Kurys was a 5’5 second basewoman who was so gifted and talented in the art of base stealing that she was nicknamed “Tina Cobb”. In 1946, in just 113 games she stole 201 bases (bases were 72’ apart), which is not only the AAGPBL record but the worldwide professional baseball record. Even more impressive: that year, she was caught stealing only two times. In her career, she amassed a total of 1,114 stolen bases, the all-time record for the league and the world record until surpassed by Rickey Henderson in 1994. She averaged 123.77 steals per season in her 9 season career. In addition, she also holds the all-time record for runs scored with 688.
Sophie Kurys was a gifted athlete, performing well not only in baseball but also in basketball, volleyball, track, bowling and golf. Her debut occurred in 1943 at age of 17, taking part in the first season of the league.
1946 was definitely her best year and one of the best seasons for any player in the league history. She established several season records that year; besides aforementioned stolen bases record (201), she also put season marks of runs scored (117), walks (96), most runs in a game (5), the best fielding average for second base-woman (.973) and her team, the Racine Belles won the championship with Kurys stealing fives bases in the decisive sixth game of the series and scoring the winning run in the bottom 13th inning after she leaded off with a single and stole second and scored on a short single. She was named, without discussion, Player of the Year and appeared on the back cover of the 1947 Major League Baseball Guide (Stan Musial on front cover).
She had good years after but not equal of that 1946, in 1949 she was co-winner of the home run crown with 7, same of Eleanor Callow. Except for 1946, she did not have peak years like the Weaver sisters but she was consistent and finished with a lifetime average of .260 with (15th all time), 859 hits (3rd), 22 home runs (12th) and 39 triples (3rd).
4. Dorothy Kamenshek
Position: Outfielder and First Base
Batted and Threw: Left-handed
Teams she played for: Rockford Peaches.
Wally Pipp considered her “the fanciest-fielding first baseman I’ve ever seen, man or woman” that quote only mystifies one aspect of her spectacular talent. It is truth that Kamenshek was probably the best fielding player in the AAGPBL but in addition she was –no-doubt- the best hitter in the league history.
Kamenshek was the only player to surpass the 1,000 hits barrier, finishing with an all-time record of 1,009 hits and a batting average of .292, fourth of all time but surpassed by players who spent the bulk of their careers in the league “live-ball era. Dorothy was not a slugger but she accumulated 89 doubles and 41 triples (2nd of all time).
Kamenshek was strikeout in only 3,736 at bats for an unbelievable strikeout ratio of 1 per 46.12 AB. She won two batting titles in 1946 and 1947 with batting averages of .316 and .306 respectively. She was a contact hitter more than a power one, she only hit 13 home runs and had 280 runs batted it but she hit more than 100 hits in 8 of her 10 seasons topping 129 hits in 1946 and one of the seasons she failed to make 100 hits, she hit 98 (1949). She also was a good base stealer, amassing 631 thefts.
In 1951 a back injury reduced her playing time and her game abilities but still she hit .345 that season, trailing to Betty Foss in the batting crown.
3. Jean Faut
Teams she played for: South Bend Blue Sox (1946-1953)
When the league switched from underarm pitching to sidearm and overhand later, the change affected all good pitchers who saw their success drop, but that was not Jean Faut’s case since she continued being one the best pitchers of the league.
In none of her nine years in the league her ERA climbed over 1.60 points, she was named an All Star 4 times and was only one of two (the other, the number one on the list) to gain two Player of Year award, earning the honors in 1951 and 1953 and almost won in 1952 but lost it for one vote. She threw 4 no hitters and is, to the point that my research has come, the only person to throw two perfect games in professional baseball.
She led the league in ERA from 1950 to 1953 (the most offense-friendly years in the league history) with the following marks: 1.12 (1950), 1.33 (1951), 0.93 (1952) and 1.51 (1953). She lead the league in shutouts with 12 in 1949, her lifetime ERA was 1.23 and her winning record was of 140-64, ranking second in the all-time list for wins. She never had a losing record and won at least 20 games three times, two of them in a row.
Not measured by the number but remembered by her contemporaries’ testimony was her smartness at pitching, it is said that she had such a great memory that she never repeated the same pitch against a batter.
2. Connie Wisniewsky
Position: Pitcher and Outfielder
Batted and Threw: Left/Right-handed.
Teams she played for: Milwaukee Chicks (1944), Grand Rapid Chicks (1945-49, 1951-52)
She was called the Polish Riffle because of her heritage and also “Iron Woman” due to her durability. Connie was one of the best all-around players in the league history. Her nickname “Iron woman” originated after her epic performance in the 1944 Championship Series when her team (Milwaukee Chicks) faced the Kenosha Comets of Helen Nicol. Wisniewski lost game one and her team lost game 2 as well but in game 3 the Polish Riffle threw a shutout for Milwaukee first win and she was on the mound the next game when Milwaukee tied the series. After losing game 5 Wisniewski took the mound again for game 6 against Helen Nicol and both battled on a 13 inning pitching duel that Wisniewski finally won 2-1. In crucial game 7 Connie threw a 3-0 shutout and defeated Nicol again, earning the win and the championship for her team. In that series, she went 45 innings of work, allowed 21 hits and 2 walks for a 0.40 ERA that series.
1944 was her debut year and she posted a 23-10 record and improved the next season, winning 32 and losing 11 with a 0.81 ERA with 391 innings of work (a season record never broken or threatened). She was named Player of the Year in 1945.
In 1946 she opened 40 games and… threw them all complete! She had 366 innings of work, 79 strikeouts, 33 wins and 9 loses, her ERA was 0.96 and was named for the “All Star Team”. She repeated the All Star honors in 1948… not for her pitching but her hitting, that year she hit a league high of 7 home runs with .289 batting average (3rd overall) and 66 RBI (2nd). In 1949 she continued hitting steadily but quitted on pitching since she could not adjust for the pitching style switch.
She played 1950 in a rival league but returned for the 1951 season, making the All Star Team again but she retired after 1952 season since she considered that her skills had gone away. She finished with career numbers of: .274 batting average, 595 hits, 79 doubles, 30 triples, 1.68 era and a 107-48 record for a .690 winning percentage, the league all-time record. She died of cancer in 1994.
1. Doris Sams
Position: Outfielder and pitcher
Batted and Threw: Right-handed.
Teams she played for: Muskegon Lassies (1946–50) Kalamazoo Lassies (1950–53)
In Major League Baseball there is no an equivalent with who we could compare her. Sams was probably the only six tool player in the league history: she could hit for average and power, she could field, she could run (she was not a great base stealer but her speed helped her to make spectacular running catches), she could throw and she could pitch… no wonder why she was our number 1 pick as the best player in AAGPBL history.
She finished her career with a .290 batting average, sixth all-time but keep in mind that she spent most of her career in a pitching-friendly era. Her first year (1946) was not that impressive: she played 42 games and hit .274 and took the mound in 25 games, posting an 8-9 record with 3.78 ERA.
Her take-off year was 1947 with Muskegon Lassies when she hit .280 (third overall), had 41 RBI, 97 hits, 31 runs scored, 40 stolen bases and hit 5 triples; on the mound, she won 11 games and lost 4 and her ERA was an impressive 0.98 and on august 18th she threw a perfect game against Fort Wayne Daissies; on defense, she led the outfielders in assistances with 31. That year she was named “Player of the Year” and made the “All Star Team” as outfielder… and pitcher! Being the only player to make the team in two different positions. She appeared on the back cover of the 1948 Major League Baseball Guide (Ted Williams on the front cover).
In 1948 she threw a no hitter but her offensive year was not so good since she finished 9th in batting average (.257), 8th in home runs (3rd), 5th in RBI (59) and 7th in triples (7). But her pitching made the year up for her, she finished with an 18-10 record and 1.54 ERA. In 1949 Sams became the first player to earn “Player of the Year” honors for a second time, leading the league in hits (114) and batting average (.279), on the mound she posted a 15-10 record with 1.58 ERA. 1949 was the first of 4 consecutive seasons as an “All Star” outfielder.
When the league entered its “lively ball era” in 1950, Sams began a streak of four consecutive seasons with above .300 batting average. She hitted .301 that year and posted 2.60 in her last full season as pitcher. In 1951 she allowed 11 runs in her last 3 innings of pitching work but batted .306, finishing sixth in the batting crown.
1952 was her best season at bat, she posted a career high of .314 batting average and accumulated 57 runs batted in, she broke the home run record as she hit 12 round trippers, including the longest in the league history and being one of few players in the league existence to collect 2 homers in one game. The record lasted only one season but it was impressive when it occurred.
After hitting .312 in 1953 she retired because as she said: “The league was going down”. She was great as pitcher, hitter and fielder and that’s why we choose her number one.
Alex J Ulacio (author) from Barquisimeto on January 17, 2015:
Thank you Kile. I'm glad you enjoyed and learned, that was my main purpose
Kile Taylor from Roanoke, VA on January 15, 2015:
Great hub! I enjoyed it and learned quite a bit. This was very interesting and you did a good job of making it informative, but not boring. I honestly did not realize that the league went on for 12 years.