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Kurys, Sophie (5/14/1925 - 2/17/2013)
By Donna McLin, photo by Ruth Davis
RECORD HOLDING BASE STEALER DIES
Sophie Kurys, iconic player for All American Girls Professional Baseball League, passes away at age 87
Rockford, Michigan, Feb. 19, 2013 –The AAGPBL Players Association reports legendary player Sophie Kurys died Sunday, February 17. She was 87.
Nicknamed the “Flint Flash” for her base-stealing prowess, Sophie was a leading player in the All American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) immortalized in the 1992 Penny Marshall directed film, “A League of Their Own”.
Kurys (pronounced CURRIES) holds the single season base-stealing record among professional baseball players, male or female, with 201. Even more remarkable was her conversion percentage. In her record setting 1946 season she was successful on 201 out of 203 attempts. “Sophie displayed an uncanny talent for reading a pitcher’s delivery,” commented AAGPBL player Helen “Gig” Smith. “She focused on the pitcher’s feet and always managed to get a quick start,” stated Smith.
Signed to her professional contract on May 13, 1943, just one day before her 18th birthday, Kurys was assigned to the Racine Belles, one of the original four teams of the AAGPBL. Her $50 a week salary was significant in helping to provide financial assistance to her working class family during the difficult times of the World War II era.
Kurys began her professional baseball career in the inaugural 1943 season of the AAGPBL, where she was placed in the lineup as the Belles cleanup batter. Leo Murphy, who would join the Belles as manager in 1945, recognized that the speed and aggressive style of play Kurys demonstrated was more suited for the leadoff batter role. The new position in the batting order gave her greater opportunities to get on base, steal and score. She led the AAGPBL in stolen bases for seven consecutive years from 1944 until her final full season in 1950. Kurys had a career total 1,114 stolen bases and 688 runs scored. In addition to her well-documented offensive skills, Kurys was also a talented fielder, spending most of her career at second base.
Named Player of the Year in 1946, Kurys posted five league records: most runs scored in a season, most stolen bases in a season, most walks in a season, most runs scored in a single game and best fielding percentage at second base. It was a banner year for the Racine Belles as well; they defeated the Rockford Peaches for the AAGPBL league championship. The fourteen-inning championship game ended with a single to right field off the bat of Betty Trezza that sent the “Flint Flash” from second base to home. “A hook slide away from the tag by a player wearing a skirt – how about that?" exclaims Lois Youngen, former AAGPBL Players Association President. “Sophie was certainly one of our best,” stated Youngen.
Born in Flint, Michigan on May 14, 1925, a versatile athlete, Sophie excelled at numerous sports, but had a special love for baseball. She played in the AAGPBL from 1943 to 1950 and returned for 17 games in the 1952 season. The AAGPBL may have ended in 1954, but Sophie maintained lifelong friendships with fellow AAGPBL players and enjoyed reliving the glory days of the league during the annual reunions of the AAGPBL Players Association.
When Sophie left baseball she became vice president for Apex Machine Products, INC in Racine WI. Upon her retirement in 1972, Sophie moved to Scottsdale AZ. She enjoyed going to baseball games, golfing and spending time with her family.
In 1986 Sophie was inducted into the Greater Flint Area Sports Hall of Fame. She and all the other AAGPBL players were featured in Penny Marshall's movie A League of Their Own and are honored in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown NY.
Sophie Kurys died in Scottsdale, Arizona on Sunday, February 17th, the result of surgical complications. She was the daughter of Antony and Antonina Kurys. She was preceded in death by her parents, sisters Mary, Terry, and Ann Gensel, brothers, Morris and John. Sophie is survived by Genevieve Kurys, her sister-in-law, numerous nieces and nephews. A funeral Mass [was] held at 1:00 p.m. Saturday February 23, 2013 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, 3801 N. Miller Road, Scottsdale AZ 85251. Memorials: In lieu of flowers contributions may be made to AAGPBL, My Sister's Place or Vista del Camino Food Bank. [The priest said it is ironic that the church shares its parking lot with the San Fransico Giants training camp. Also, Saturday [Feb. 23] at 1:05 is their first spring training game.]
See a Biography of Sophie under the "Articles" menu on the home page.
Contributed by: Donna McLin, photo by Ruth Davis
Submitted on: 02/20/2013
Copyright: AAGPBL Players Association