Mary Moore, a Battle Creek Belle, tags out runner at second base.
From Springfield Sally to Battle Creek Belle, Lincoln Park native Mary Moore pitches stories about life as an infielder, from 1950 to 1952, for the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.
The league, which began in 1943 when many men were off fighting in World War II, was designed to keep professional baseball in the public eye and ostensibly for the country’s morale. The league ended in September 1954.
The story of the AAGPBL had a resurgence in popularity in 1992 when the film “A League of Their Own,” directed by Penny Marshall, and starring Garry Marshall, Geena Davis, Lori Petty, Jon Lovitz and Tom Hanks, introduced a new generation to the league, which broke ground for professional women sports teams that followed.
Moore, 86, was born in Detroit June 7, 1932, and moved with her family to Lincoln Park when she was entering the first grade.
She said she had a paper route when she was growing up, and was able to buy sports equipment, including bats and balls.
“If the boys wanted to play, they had to come and get me, because I had all the equipment,” Moore said. “We would go out in the field, cut the weeds down, make a halfway decent ball diamond. It was quite sparse back then.”
Moore said she learned her baseball skills from her Lincoln Park neighbor, Eddie Lake, a professional baseball player, who played with the Detroit Tigers from 1946 to 1950, and who would give tips to the neighborhood kids playing ball.
“He would come out on his day off if he was home and hit balls to us kids,” she said. “He took us to Tiger Stadium with him.”
When she was 15, Moore played fast-pitch softball for the Wyandotte Chemicals team in the Michigan Industrial League.
In 1950, Moore graduated from Lincoln Park High School, and was introduced to former AAGPBL player Doris Neal by her high school English teacher. Neal told Moore what to do to get a tryout, which led to her first year with the Springfield Sallies playing second base.
“There were 100 girls at tryouts, and they selected 30 of us,” Moore said.
Two teams were formed: the Springfield Sallies and the Chicago Colleens, with 15 players each.
“They wanted the girls to be feminine, to look nice, but they wanted us to play like men,” Moore said. “They taught us to do make-up, and your hair had to be about shoulder length. They didn’t want it to be too short.”
She said the AAGPBL had discipline, rules and bed check every night.
“If you were caught out after bed check, you would get fined or sent home,” Moore said. “They had strict rules, and if you wanted to play ball, and stay with the team, you didn’t try to break any of the rules. We were all quite young.”
Moore said she was 17 when she started with the AAGPBL, and some of the girls were 15 and 16. She said it was a “completely different world back then.”
Her first year with the Springfield Sallies, Moore said they toured the country and played exhibition games and promoted the AAGPBL. She said the went to 21 states and Canadian provinces in three months. They played 77 games out of a 90 game schedule, with 13 games rained out.
She said one of her most exciting opportunities was playing in Yankee Stadium before a Yankees game.
“We got to meet Joe DiMaggio, Izzy Stengel, Phil Rizzuto, and all those guys,” Moore said. “That was quite a thrill. We also played in Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C.”
Moore led the Sallies by playing 77 games, got 75 hits, 48 runs batted in, with 95 total bases and 61 walks. She hit three home runs and scored 65 runs to lead her team.
After her first season, Moore was promoted to the Battle Creek Belles expansion team for the 1951 season.
However, during the off-season, when Moore worked in an auto parts factory, her fingers were injured in a punch press.
“I had the guard on, but it repeated, and took off a finger and damaged the others,” Moore said. “I went to spring training, but they didn’t keep me because they didn’t want to be responsible, because when you can’t reach with your glove, you automatically reach with your bare hand.”
She didn’t start the season, but was called up to play toward the end of the season when injuries depleted the team’s roster.
“I did go, and played a little bit that year, and then I went back in ‘52,” Moore said.
While she was back on the roster for the 1952 season, her hand held her back.
“I was pretty disappointed in my own play,” she said. “Two weeks before the end of the season, I slid into second, and twisted my ankle, and Jimmy Fox and my manager, Joe Cooper, carried me off the field.”
Fox was the manager of the Rockwood Peaches at the time.
Moore was offered a contract in 1953, but made the difficult decision to not go back.
Moore did play fast pitch for the amateur Wyandotte Chemical team for years after she left the AAGPBL. Later, she said she played slow pitch for many years.
“I finally quit when I was 78,” Moore said.
Moore said when she was playing for the AAGPBL, her boyfriend proposed when he got out of the Navy, and wanted her to quit and stay home. She turned down his proposal. She never married, and said she was relieved she didn’t have to take care of anybody.
Moore worked for AT&T, starting in 1954, until she retired in 1989.
She said her parents were thrilled about her playing with the AAGPBL.
“They were tickled to death,” she said. “You get paid for doing something you love to do, and travel all over the country, and get paid for it.”
Moore said she didn’t realize that they were breaking ground for women and were early feminists in a sense.
“It was just like, ‘we get to do this,’” she said. “Not many people had the opportunity. You’re not going to get millionaire companies to back women again to have a league of their own.”
She said the AAGPBL was inducted at Cooperstown as a league. Moore was the first women to be nominated for the Lincoln Park Sports Hall of Fame.
When “A League of Their Own” was filmed, she, along with 40 other former players, were in Cooperstown for the end of the movie.
“We were there 11 days for that five minutes at the end,” Moore said. “You watch all through the credits, that’s when we play our reunion game. I was the one that slid into home.”
She said she is also visible in another play, and was the first one visible when they panned down the bench.
Moore said she goes to many AAGPBL reunions and events.
For more information about the All-American Girls professional Baseball League, go to aagpbl.org.
Source : Sue Suchyta, “Lincoln Park woman fields memories of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League“, New Herald Downriver Life, July 30, 2018.