Rules of Play
Just how does baseball as played in the All-American Girls' League differs from men's baseball? That's a question often posed by AAGBBL fans, new or old, and we would like to explain briefly the few differences and the changes that occurred from 1943 through 1954.
With only a few exceptions, girls' baseball was the game being played in the Major Leagues by men's professional baseball players. All in all, the rules, strategy and general play were the same. Differences were only in the distances between the bases, the distance from the pitching mound to home plate, the size of the ball, and pitching styles. These differences varied from the beginning of the league, progressively extending the length of the base paths and pitching distance and decreasing the size of the ball until the final year of play. That year, 1954, the league was using an official men's baseball with pitching distances the same as the men. The length of the base paths, however, remained shorter than regulation baseball by 5 feet.
Girl's baseball began in 1943 with a 12 inch ball which was pitched underhand a distance of 40 feet. The base paths were 65 feet in length. The league quickly adopted a smaller ball in mid-season of 1943, extended pitching distance to 42 feet and base paths to 68 feet. This game was modified fast pitch softball which was played with baseball rules, including leading off bases. The pitching distance and the base paths were, however, longer than regulation softball.
Modifications were made throughout the league's history, including changing to pitching overhand in 1948, as detailed in the Table below:
|Record of AAGPBL Equipment & Facility Changes|
|Year||Ball Size||Length of
SOURCE: "Evolution of the Ball Size Used in All-American Girls Base Ball League From 1943 to 1949, And Diamond Changes," Dailey Records, 1943-1946; "History During 1946-7," Dailey Records, 1943-1946; AAGBBL Board Meeting Minutes, 15 June 1946, Dailey Records; "All-American Girls Baseball League - 1948," Dailey Records, 1947-1949; AAGBBL Board Meeting Minutes, 8 Jun, 11 July, 1949, 18 January 1950, 14 November 1951, 12 March 1952, 10 June 1954, Dailey Records; AAGBBL Board Meeting Minutes, 20 January 1953, Dailey Records. (The Dailey AAGBBL Records are currently held in the Special Collections Department of the University Libraries of Notre Dame.) Thanks to Jim Sargent for base path length information obtained from the Aug. 2, 1946 South Bend Tribune.
AAGBBL Balls, 1943-1954
(AAGBL Collection, University Libraries of Notre Dame)
|12'||11 1/2"||11"||10 3/8"||10"||9 1/4 "|
The foregoing table and picture are reproduced with permission from Merrie A. Fidler from her book, The Origin and History of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.
Men's baseball calls for 90-foot baselines, setting up a distance of 127 feet, three and three-eighths inches from home plate to second base or first base to third base It is 60 feet, six inches from pitcher's box to home plate in men's.
Men's baseball rules call for a ball to be "not less than five ounces nor more than 5 1/4 ounces and from 9 to 9 1/4 inches in circumference. The balls in the Girl's League varied from softball to regulation men's baseball. The changes were always aimed at making the game more exciting and competitive for the teams and the spectators. " For instance, in 1948, the girls' baseball rules called for a ball "of 5 1/8 ounces, with a tolerance of an eighth of an ounce and 10 3/8 inches in circumference, with a tolerance of an eighth of an inch " So the weight was almost exactly the same as men's being slightly larger in size, giving the girls a little bigger target to hit and field.
Bats can be up to 42 inches rounder and heavier in men's baseball. The girl baseball players used a bat slightly lighter, on the average, than most men players would swing.