Mary (Nesbitt) Wisham was a sharp fielding first baseman who was orginally an outfielder and pitcher. "Wish" was a hard hitting player who hit shots through the infield and also long triples. She was one of the best. The Redwings made her their first pick in Havana where she became their first baseman because of her powerful bat. In 1943 she led the league in mound appearences with 47 including 26 wins and again in 1944 with 45 appearences and 23 wins. Her ERA over those two years was 2.68! Mary has the "Mary Wisham Ball Field" named for her in Interlachen, FL.
Mary's daughter recalled meeting Irene Hickson, her mother's first catcher, in Cooperstown in November 1988 fduring the opening of the Women in Baseball Exhibit. Irene and Mary were recruited out of Chattanooga, Tennessee at the same time and were known as the Chattanooga Battery. Irene told Mary's daughter, "Your Momma was a damn good pitcher. One of the best!"
Mary L. Nesbitt Wisham, 88, of Hollister went to be with the Lord on Sunday, November 17, 2013 at the Haven Hospice Roberts Care Center in Palatka following an extended illness. She was born in Greenville, SC and had been a resident of Hollister for the past 57 years coming from Miami.
She grew up in Miami and was a 1943 graduate of the Central High School in Chattanooga, TN. She was retired from the Putnam County School Board as a school bus driver retiring in 1990 after 22 years of service. She had also worked as a newspaper carrier for 10 years for the Palatka Daily News. She had been active with the Arc of Putnam County since its inception.
She was drafted from a men’s baseball team in Chattanooga to play women’s professional baseball, and that she did. She played in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League from 1943-1950. The league was founded by Philip K. Wrigley, owner of the Chicago Cubs, in response to the manpower shortage during World War II. She enjoyed many firsts in her fruitful All-American Girls Professional Baseball Leaguecareer. She is recognized as one of the sixty original founding members of the league. An ideal fastpitch, knuckleball left-hander, she was one of the most dominant pitchers in the early years of the circuit. She posted a 65–49 record with a 2.44 earned run average in 120 pitching appearances. After that she switched to first base, to become a dangerous and productive hitter through the rest of her career, ranking among the top 10 AAGPBL players for five out of her six seasons. After moving to Hollister she played fast pitch softball for the Palatka Azaleas. In the 1970s she played first base on a slow pitch softball team, the Florida Truck and Tractor team, which placed 9th in the nation. In November of 1988 she, along with the other ladies who played in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League where honored with a permanent display in the Baseball Hall of Fame and Muesum in Cooperstown, New York. The movie, A League of Their Own, told a fictionalized story of Mary and the other female professional baseball players in the league. The Mary Wisham Ballfield in Interlachen was named in her honor. Mary was deemed by many to be the most famous female athlete of Putnam County.
She was preceded in death by her husband of 52 years, Vester Wisham, who drove the bus for her professional ball team; a daughter, Luree Wisham; a grandson, Jason Wisham; her father, William G. Nesbitt; her mother, Lucille E. Jordan and an aunt, Marie D. Harrell.
Survivors include two sons and daughter-in-law, David and Debra Wisham, and Todd Wisham, all of Hollister; a daughter, Mary Elizabeth Wisham of Winter Garden; two brothers and sister-in-law, Chuck Griffin of Hudson, FL, and Billy Joe and Ladora Nesbitt of Chattanooga, TN; a grandson, Joshua Wisham; four great grandchildren, Paisley Wisham, Jason Wisham, Maddox Dyson and Makayla Dyson; and numerous nieces and nephews.
The family will receive friends from 5:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. Wednesday, November 20th at Masters Funeral Home in Palatka. Funeral services will be 11:00 a.m. Thursday, November 21st at the Mary Wisham Ballfield in Interlachen with Pastor Larry Litzell and Pastor Tony Clubb officiating. Friends are encouraged to bring a lawn chair. In case of rain the services will be held at the First Baptist Church of Interlachen. Burial will follow in the Hollister Sweetwater Cemetery.
Memorial gifts may be sent to the Arc of Putnam County, 1209 Westover Dr., Palatka, FL 32177 or Haven Hospice Roberts Care Center, 6400 St. Johns Ave., Palatka, FL 32177. Masters Funeral Home of Palatka is in charge of arrangements.
Mary Lillian Wisham: February 1, 1925 - November 17, 2013
Author: Masters Funeral Home, Palatka, FL
Contributed By: Mary Elizabeth Wisham
Copyright: Masters Funeral Home, Palatka, FL