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AAGPBL LogoSpirit of '45 LogoIn the fall of 1942, Major League Baseball team owners were informed by the War Department that professional baseball might have to be postponed for the summer of 1943 due to the manpower demands of WW II.  To provide a substitute for men’s baseball during the summer of 1943, Philip Wrigley funded and supervised the creation of the All-American Girls Softball League, which by 1945, had changed to the All-American Girls Baseball League (AAGBBL).  In 1945, AAGBBL teams existed in the Midwestern war production cities of Kenosha and Racine, Wisc.; Rockford, Ill.; South Bend and Fort Wayne, Ind.; and Grand Rapids, Mich.  A number of these cities lost men’s minor league teams during the war, and it was left to their AAGBBL counterparts to keep baseball alive and morale high during the last two years of WWII and until the league disbanded in 1954.

The three individuals highlighted below are among the stellar All-Americans still living who were providing recreation and entertainment for their team cities’ war-bound citizenry when the war’s end was announced on August 14, 1945:

Sophie 1

Sophie 2Sophie Kurys, Flint, Michigan native and Racine Belles’ All-Star second-sacker, was the league’s base stealer extraordinaire from 1943-1950. She averaged 158 stolen bases a year, with a record 201 thefts in 1946 when she was the leagues MVP—all in a skirted uniform! Sophie remembered that on August 14, 1945, everyone was out in the streets all excited and yelling and celebrating. She recalled that she and teammates Irene Hickson, Maddy English, Pepper Paire, and Marnie Danhauser joined a crowd celebrating near a large fountain in Racine.

Betsy 1

Betsy 2Betsy Jochum, a South Bend Blue Soxer recruited  from Cincinnati, Ohio, was one of the AAGPBL's best hitting outfielders from 1943-1948.  Betsy recalled that the Blue Sox played a double header against the Chicks in their hometown of Grand Rapids, Mich. on Aug. 14, 1945. She remembered that after the night game, people were hollering, hooping it up, and jumping into a pond in the public square across the street from the hotel where the Sox spent the night.  

Snookie 1

Snookie 2

Dorothy “Snookie” Harrell Doyle, LosAngeles area transplant to the Midwestern league, was a perennial All-American All-Staat shortstop for the Rockford, IL Peaches from 1944-1952.  The Peaches were the All-American World Champions in 1945, 1947, 1948, and 1949.  They were also one of the teams featured in the 1992 motion picture film, “A League of Their Own.”  The main thing Snookie remembered about August 14, 1945 was losing a batted ball in the press box lights until it smacked her in the face and broke her nose.  While others celebrated the war's end, she spent the night in a hospital emergency room.

To learn more about the "Spirit of '45" Campaign, CLICK HERE.

Posted on Tuesday, August 2, 2011

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