Kristi Dunn and Kristen Madden from The History Museum in South Bend, IN give an overview of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL).
Contact Us: firstname.lastname@example.org
Featured Resource: Local History Archives
The History Museum: All-American Girls Professional Baseball League
Connections: A Podcast of the James L. Hamner Public Library
Published May 18, 2022
Transcripts are edited to aid with ease of reading. Verbal fillers, stuttered phrases, sounds of listening, and laughter are generally removed, but grammatical errors and similar verbal idiosyncrasies are included. Ellipses (…) are used to indicate unfinished sentences or interruptions.
[Intro Music] Jill 00:04
Welcome to Connections, a podcast of the James L. Hamner Public Library. I'm your host Jill and the ideas in this episode represent the opinions and experiences of the speakers. They may not represent the library's official position.
Hello, everyone. With me today is Kristi Dunn and Kristen Madden. They will introduce themselves in a little bit, but today, we are once again talking about women in baseball. Specifically, the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. This is the league that a popular movie was made on, but there's a whole lot more history about it than the movie could cover. There's so much history in the woman of baseball, even just talking about this league is a tiny, tiny little bit.
And, I did not intend it to make a baseball series, but usually when I reach out to people, you know, I might get one person to say yes, out of all the people I reach out to and in this case, so many people said yes. And now, the podcast has a series and it's been so exciting. And the more that I learn, the more curious I get about things.
At any rate, today we are talking about women in baseball from a more personal perspective. Like, what kind of clothes did they wear? Were they comfortable? Were are they suitable for the activity that the woman were engaged in? Those sorts of things. What did the society of the time in general think about a woman who did or did not wear makeup? Those sorts of things. But first, our featured resource.
Today's featured resource is the digital Local History Archives. The digital Local History Archives is digital scans of the Amelia Bulletin Monitor from 1973 through 2020, as of this recording. Each year as we get a full run of the newspapers and we have the budget, we send the previous year, full run, to be digitized and it gets added on to the digital Local History Archives. So, if you're listening in 2022, depending on how far into the year it is and what our budget was like, you might have access to the whole run of 2021 Amelia Bulletin Monitors digitized on the Local History Archives. These scans are organized by decades and can be text searched. So it's easy to find obituaries and other specific articles, or at least easier than when old newspapers needed to be searched through a microfilm machine, instead of scanning through issue after issue after issue, because you kind of know that the person died in the 1970s. But you're not sure exactly. You think it was '77, or maybe it was '79. Well, with the digital version, you can search for the person's name and see all of the newspaper articles that have that name in it. And that can help you narrow down your search faster. So, these scans of the Amelia Bulletin Monitor can be accessed through the Digital Library tab on hamnerlibrary.org. And now, for the episode.
Kristi and Kristen, thank you for joining us today. I am excited because you both work at a museum. And you're here specifically to talk about women in baseball. We have had a whole episode on the history of women in baseball with Dr. Leslie Heaphy. And then coming out, as of this recording, coming out tomorrow, we have an episode with Jennifer Francis who is a woman who currently plays baseball. So this is very exciting. I did not expect it to turn into a series but I'm so interested to hear all these different perspectives on things.
Can you give us, like, the two-sentence version of why you're qualified to talk about women in baseball? Because if you work in museums, you're probably like in libraries where we want people to understand where their information is coming from.
Well, it's gonna be slightly more than two sentences. Just Kristen, I want to give you a brief background of us. I did my master's work in public history focusing on material culture. So that's history of stuff, looking at things. And I came here to The History Museum about 11 years ago. We are recognized by the AAGPBL Players Association as the national repository for the League. And when I got here, I was able to look at our collection and sort of jump right into material culture, looking at the uniforms and the balls and starting from that aspect and work with the league. And then, Kristen has a different perspective.
Yeah. So I got my master's in library science focusing on archives and records management. So I handle a lot of the 2D and audio visual materials. So I get to play with all the scrapbooks, and team yearbooks, and photographs and any of the like, audio that has been recorded over the years of the women. I started a little bit before Kristi did. So I've been here for 11 years, as well.
Yeah. And so like we said, the the League actually has acknowledged within, I think, the last 10 or 15 years, The History Museum as the national repository. And with that, we've not only had a chance to look at the artifacts and the scrapbooks, in the videos and whatnot. But also, we've been able to go to the reunions and meet the players and get first hand accounts as well as second and third. And of course, get to touch with and play with all the things that no one else gets.
It sounds like you both have very fun jobs.
Kristen and Kristi 06:14
Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. We love it.
When I was thinking about this episode, it makes sense that we should, or, you could talk a bit about the overall history of, hopefully I get the full name right, All- American Girls Professional Baseball League.
The more I thought about it, the more I was curious about the actual, I guess, social aspect, like the clothing and the makeup and what social expectations were for a woman and this kind of an element of it. I did the same thing to Jennifer Francis. In her episode, I asked her to talk about her experience, and we ended up talking about sports fashion. So if you have, maybe give us the short history of the League, and then we can talk some of the details on what actually affected these woman's lives as day to day players.
Okay, well, Kristen, I'll let you take over that part.
Okay, so really, most people know that the beginning of the League kind of started with our introduction into World War II. A lot of the players for the major leagues were heading overseas, and so especially in the Midwest, what's kind of considered America's pastime was declining. People needed something to kind of keep the morale up and so Wrigley back then... You know, Wrigley gum, Wrigley stadium, everyone kind of knows that. So, he and a couple of other owners of baseball teams from the Midwest kind of got together and they're like, "What do we do? We need something to keep the money going. People need something to hold on to while everybody's overseas."
And they're like, "Well, we know baseball," and "Who's still around to do this stuff? Women are still around. They're still women out there playing sports, so let's get them together." And so they put a call out, specifically in the Midwest, but it did spread to other areas, to do tryouts at Wrigley Field. And they ended up getting about they had 600, over, a little over 600 were actually chosen to be in the League for originally four teams.
South Bend being one of them. We get the proud, to proudly claim that we are one of two teams to make it from the beginning to the end of the League.
South Bend Blue Sox
Yeah. I'm very bad, when I've driven through other towns that have had them, I go, like, "South Bend Blue Sox forever!"
Nick's like, "The League's been over for 70 years, Kristen. Be cool."
But, so this happened, and it really, it, it hit, it did really well. There was the sensationalism of a professional women's baseball team. Because although in the beginning, they were playing, more or less they were playing, with softball's standards, they were playing by baseball rules. So they had softball-sized balls and they were running on a smaller field and they were pitching underhand. originally. They were playing by major league standards. And that slowly progressed to basically just playing major league baseball by the end of it. And they transitioned from underhand to sidehand to overhand, which definitely altered how the women played because they were used to playing softball, more or less. There were definitely women who were playing barnstormer leagues with baseball rules, but most of them were used to playing softball.
There were, some of the ladies like the South Bend Blue Sox pitcher and outfielder Betsy Jochum, she would tell stories of playing in the sandlot with the boys.
And, so you had a lot of girls, ladies, who would do that. But when they would actually compete, they would compete with softball. And Kristen mentioned, you know, moving from softball tactics with baseball rules into baseball tactics. And, you know, I talked about seeing the history through the artifacts. And in our collection, we have the balls from the very start of the League to the very end of the League. And there is a three-inch size difference. They go from 12-inch balls, and then you have an 11-inch ball, 10-inch, down to nine-inch, which is a standard baseball size. And with that, they were able to pitch faster, they started pitching overhand. So, the items and the tactics all just gradually changed. And it was the, this is gonna sound a little cliche, it was the same old sport in a whole new way.
Yeah. And you know, they had to compete with the war effort. A lot of them were traveling from town to town and trains. And then when gas rationing didn't have, they didn't have to worry about that anymore. They got vehicles. And then the decline of the League really was partially because of the end of the war. Men were coming back, a lot of people can see in the movie, A League of Our Own. But it also, you know, a lot of the women just weren't interested in it anymore. Their priorities changed. Not that they didn't love the game, but it was a job, and then their job had to become something else. So it sort of ended without officially ending. We have lots of newspaper articles about, talking about the next season, and then next season just never happened.
Interesting that there wasn't a hard end. It just didn't happen.
What was the general age range for the women?
It was actually pretty young, pretty broad. And there was a lot of girls in high school that got special permission from their parents to leave school for a little while to go do it. But we had women who, probably up until late 20s.
Yeah. There were a couple in their late 20s. And I think the youngest was, I think it was 13 or 14.
I think Dottie Schroeder was the youngest girl. She played for South Bend for a little while. But she bounced around to a lot of teams. And I think she was actually the only girl to... She played the most for sure. But I think she played almost every season. And I think she was 15 or 16 when she started. She was very young.
It would make sense if she was so young that she would also be the one to play the most seasons, right?
Kristen and Kristi 13:02
Her other responsibilities wouldn't kick in until, you know, when you're 20 or 21, other life responsibilities might take over a little bit faster.
Yeah. And I think a lot of people don't realize, you know, the majority of the ladies, being younger, they were single, a lot of them still lived at home. You know, they were sort of your typical young American woman in that decade. But there were also players who had already been professional players in other sports such as basketball. There were players who already had believ it or not, not college degrees and full time jobs. There were players who were mothers and left their families to go and play because it was extra income for the family and...
There was actually a woman who was pregnant and played. She played until she was visibly pregnant. She got an okay from her coach and her doctor that was like, "You can play as long as you want to."
So like to the end of her second trimester, or be right begining of her third.
It was, she was very, very... She was a pitcher. I cannot recall her name offhand. I feel like I should. But, like, her husband was home and was like, "That's fine." And her mom took care of the baby for a little while. And then they went, she, after she had her daughter, she went and kept playing.
Wow. I don't think we would let pregnant people play in this century. It's really interesting. And especially, you know, in the '40s it would have been strange enough for a woman to, a married woman, to have a job. Then to have a child and go right back to work. That's very, not what you usually think of for that decade.
Yeah, it really isn't. And World War II, it sort of changed the rules with society, you know, it became more acceptable for women to have full time jobs. You know, after the war ended, still not as acceptable as being a stay-at-home mom and the father being the breadwinner. But it was becoming more common. And there were several women that after their time in the League, they then went to colleges or universities, received degrees anywhere from, you know, one-to-two year certificates to four-plus year degrees. Some went on to graduate school and these women didn't just pave the way for women in sports, they sort of paved the way for women to say, "Yeah, I can do that." And to go out and do that. Whatever "that" is that you chose.
Yeah, I could see that.
So, with the background, that there are a lot of teenagers in the League, it makes a little more sense why there would be such strict or, such detailed, behavior expectations. It's easy for us now to read some of the things like "make sure you take a shower after a game," or some of the other things and be like, "Why would you have to specifically say this,?" But if you're dealing with a 15 year old away from home for the first time, celebrating her freedom, it would make sense why the adults would want to create such guidelines. And then if you add on top of it that Wrigley had a very specific idea for what he wanted the League to be and look like, we can agree or disagree with, you know, the details, but it makes sense why they existed.
Probably the most famous, or well known, requirement of these woman is that they would wear lipstick on the field or off. Off field kind of makes sense, because Wrigley's whole thing was "we want to make sure that everybody knows these are woman," you know, "because we can't tell by looking at them, so we need some external cues just to make sure we all know" but, on the field, my word, how much dust gets caked onto your lips if you're wearing lipstick? Like, that must have been miserably uncomfortable. Do we have any first-hand accounts of that aspect?
As far as I know, because when the girls were signed on to play, they were all given a booklet which more or less was describing how they were supposed to appear off field. You know, your beauty standards, maybe some exercises that we think of as absolutely crazy today but like would be considered pretty normal for the average woman to be expected to do day to day.
Kristen and Kristi 17:48
Well, there was face exercises on like how to keep your chin smooth and not have laugh lines.
For those listening, we just both demonstrated it and realized you can't see us.
Yeah, yeah, but like the type of makeup they were all required to have in their bag and things like that. But as, as far, they actually also had to go to charm school for a little while. They didn't end up having to do that for the entire length of the League because everyone didn't like it. But as far as terms of like how they were supposed to appear on the field, it was far less strenuous as people think it was, and seeing things like the movie and things like that kind of gives them a false idea of how strict it actually was for them. There were definitely, like, you could get in trouble. There were fine to had to pay and...
Kristen and Kristi 18:45
And they definitely still did wear the make-up, but the requirement of, like, reapplying all the time. Yeah, like, it was not as strict.
Yeah, having like a full face of makeup on the field, that wasn't necessarily what they were aiming for. It was more like "play like a boy on the field," "look like a lady off the field."
And then they would touch-up, occasionally touch-up, their lipstick or their rouge maybe in between innings or whatnot. But it wasn't, like Kristen said, as strict to when you're on the field you have to keep reapplying.
So, I know a couple of the ladies had talked about, you know, starting with lipstick at the beginning of the game and then it got wiped off and at the end of the game they looked like different people. So they would still be quote-unquote presentable and have the feminine look at the beginning, you know, before everyone sees them play, when they walk out on the field.
Yeah. It sort of was understood that that's not how it's going to... There's no way that you could keep that up the entire length of a game and still put on a show that people would actually want to go watch.
Yeah, cuz you're gonna sweat.
No one looks good at the end of the baseball game.
Right. I found the League's website and I was looking at some of the documents they had there. And I was really wondering how much people actually followed through and how much this was sort of "this is what we want, but really, we know it's not going to happen" sitution.
Yeah, there were a lot of ideas. Philip K Wrigley had a lot of things that him and his cohorts wanted to see. One, his wife actually helped develop a lot of the guidelines for the makeup, how to act, uniforms. And she was sort of an intermediary. She would enforce some of the ideas that the gentleman wanted to see. But she also would speak up if something was unrealistic. And at the end of the day, if there was something that was really unreasonable, and it's fun to hear the ladies talk about the times that this would happen, if, you know, for instance, I'm just using this as an example, if Mr. Wrigley had wanted the women to reapply lipstick every single time after it started to wear off, but then suddenly you have dozens of teenage and young-20-something women who aren't happy with that. who's going to win that argument. And, they would speak up if there was something that they thought was completely unreasonable. So on paper, the guidelines were definitely attempted to be enforced, just weren't always enforced quite to the extent.
There's always rules that you're very strict on. And then the rules where you're like, "Well, I guess this can... we can be a little lenient with that."
Sure. So did woman in other sports wear makeup?
It was sort of the same guidelines, and it would depend on the type of sport that they were playin. For tennis, you were typically under a more strict guideline with regards to being presentable. But that also was individuals or doubles, you know, smaller matches, not quite as widely watched nor understood. It wasn't quite the same as team sports like basketball or baseball were. And basketball very much had the same guidelines as baseball.
Almost all of these women across the board outside of the sport, yes. Wear your make up. Adhere to typical beauty standards of the time. On the court, on the field, that varied by sport as to what was acceptable. And sometimes it boiled down to what socio-economic class are you in. You know, what was expected of you in general. And...
It might have been held to a stricter standard with the League, if only because it was presented as a Major League Baseball situation and not, like, just your local team.
So, my understanding of history at this time, is that women were told it was their patriotic duty to wear makeup so that they would look beautiful, and somehow this supported the war effort. Have you found that to be generally true?
Yeah, more or less.
It was the idea... Short answer is "yes." The longer answer is that it was the idea of, not wearing makeup specifically, as it was to present the idea of the polished American woman to the world. The strong woman, the woman who could work, the woman who could play sports and still be feminine, and be a stay at home mom, and basically do everything. And makeup, sort of was the badge of that. It was emblematic of this feminine ideal at the time. So, when you would have pictures taken of a lot of the women in the factories, for instance, realistically, a lot of them have said, you know, they put on makeup to go to work, they did not reapply it throughout the day, or they might reapply it at lunch. But in so many of the pictures, they have the lips on, and they have...
The perfect hair. So, I think a lot of what we take as image, like visual representations of the time, we don't realize quite how staged they actually were. You know, even if your makeup did wear off during a game or while you were working, if there was going to be a photograph of you working or playing that was used in promotion, if they wanted to take a live-action shot to use as promotion, you would make sure you looked the part.
Interesting, just in the logistics of actually making sure that happened.
They worked really hard to promote themselves to look a specific way and act a specific way. I mean, there were standards. They couldn't be seen with pants on or shorts on when they were off the field. It was really to give you this standard, but also the fear that people had of women going to work outside of the home that they were going to lose that wholesome American goodness. And, by having them act like ladies off the field, it gave people that, I guess, for some people that hope that what they grow up believing is what I should be doing isn't completely gone.
Yes, they're out there playing baseball like a man. But they're still what I expect a woman to be. So it was kind of a, sometimes poor, but it's still a compromise that they were working with.
And there is, you know, Kristen mentioned, you weren't supposed to wear shorts or pants in public, but we have photographs of the women wearing shorts and pants. It happened, but there was a control to their image.
And one thing I think that is not spoken about as much is at this time, there was, you know, this fear that women were going to go off to play sports and men wouldn't be necessary. You know, the women would become lesbians. Women wouldn't want to be moms. You know, things that nowadays we know are very individual characteristics of people that aren't defined by... You know, you're not heterosexual one day, you decide to go play baseball, and suddenly you're homosexual. We know that that's not how it happens. But there was still the mind frame of turning your women gay, or if not that, there was this idea that you would at least accidentally teach your girls that they could be too independent, and you didn't want them to rely on themselves too much.
So, you know, the women very much were individuals, they, you know, just like anyone nowadays, you know, I put on makeup before I leave the house, but I don't have to, but I like to. So, some of the women then, they would wear makeup regularly all the time. But then, you know, some of the women, they would go out of the house in pants and not wear makeup, and they would be married mothers, and it's just because they didn't want to. It's very much, you know, the story of what really happened, what everyday life was like versus what was projected, and what still really happened, but only in a choice sliver of time.
No, that makes a lot of sense, and I think when we're thinking about current events in history, that's something to keep in mind, that the recorded history that is easily accessible often shows a very specific aspect and perhaps recorded history that is harder to access has a different perspective.
Yeah. And that's honestly where some of our job comes in with working in museums and also working in, like you do, in libraries. We have access to a lot of records and a lot of different things that even we sometimes knowing where to look still have to look deeper to find just how broad and widespread history is. And so, if you don't have access to everything, then nowadays, you still have the internet, which has a lot of sources, but maybe not quite as many. And you know, you go back each consecutive decade and there's less and less accessible to the average person as far as just wanting to look up, "Did they wear lipstick?"
Yeah. Can we talk about the uniforms?
Oh, we most certainly can.
Kristen and Kristi 29:05
I listened to an interview with some of the players, and they were saying it started off with the super, super full skirts.
And eventually through player feedback, they got shorter, but I still can't understand why they continued to wear knee socks that then showed skin when they kept getting injured by having their skin exposed. You know,? Like, why was there not pushback on this to adjust uniforms that maybe they're still wearing skirts, but their legs are protected?
Kristen and Kristi 29:15
Well, a lot of it is, it goes back to it actually being considered inappropriate for the women to wear pants. So there weren't going to be pants like men's baseball uniforms have, which are actually kind of protective. So, then they had the option of these dresses and they were longer initially, as you know, and you mentioned that they shortened them. A lot of the players started doing that against regulation. There are, well, by the end of the League, the majority of the dresses were actually shortened above where they were supposed to be.
Yeah. It's actually shocking. I have photos in the archive, where at the beginning you can see in '43, like it's below some people's knees. And then, by the end of the League, like...
You can see the bloomers.
You can... Yeah, you can see the shorts that they wore underneath it. Like, if people walked around like that, they'd be like, "You're kindof indecent right now."
And they, of course, shortened them for ease of playing, because these women wanted to win baseball. So, when they were on the field, they just wanted ease of movement. They wanted to be quicker. They didn't want their skirts catching them while they were pitching, when it was still underhanded pitching, things like that. And, when you look at what's available, as far as leg protection at the time, the knee high socks were more, you know, those had more to do with the proper footwear and the shoes. They didn't wear anything between the knees and their bloomers, because at the time, thigh high stockings would not have worked. You either would have needed to have worn a garter belt with them, which, on top of the shorts, or bloomers, and the dress, that would have been a lot.
Also not very functional. I can imagine that the clips would have broken all the time.
Yeah, the, not very functional. And yeah, not very sturdy.
But also, the material that the stockings would have been made out of, it would not have offered any protection. They would have gone through so much money, actually, replacing them. Because, with one slide you would have torn them up. And so, thigh highs were out. Pants were out.
Also, they would have just been under the assumption that they're gonna get hurt, regardless. Yeah, it would have been really nice to wear pants, but if your option is wearing a dress, and getting to do your job and something that you love, or putting on pants and doing it for free, it sounds very weird, but, like, I would have chosen wearing the dress too, and knowing that I was gonna get hurt one way or another.
There was at one point, talk of potential, and this was very, very brief, when the skirts, the, when the guidelines were actually allowing the skirt hems to be raised, of wearing some sort of pant underneath. But if you're playing in the summertime, it was too cumbersome. It was too hot. And so that was nixed. At the time, they didn't have leggings, like we have nowadays. You know, nowadays, it's not just tights, something more like a tights material at that time would not have held up to a slide and thicker leggings like jeggings that we have nowadays, that just wasn't a thing back then.
So it kind of boils down to the options that would have protected the legs were not, they weren't realistic options for playing the game and still, you know, maintaining that feminine image that we discussed, and then the options that they could adopt would not have actually offered the protection for the legs. And a lot of those women's started parading their, maybe not... parading's not the right word. They would discuss their, the strawberries on their thighs, they even now they still talk about them, and it's sort of a badge of honor. And you know, at some of these reunions, you can hear them talk about, "Well, I had one all the way from my hip down to just below my knee." And, you know, the sort of, "Well, mine was worse."
But, it's a positive reflection on it. And I think, and this is just my personal assumption, is that it sort of proved to the women after so long of being told that they couldn't hack it with the boys, it proved that, wow, they were playing with worse injuries than the boys were and they weren't complaining about it, you know, it was sort of... it was validating, almost. And that's not to say that that's an excuse for not being able to protect your legs, but, finding the silver lining in your circumstance. If you're going to tear up your leg, you know, look for the positive meaning behind.
I find it interesting from a psychological perspective that we have a society that is saying "we want our woman to be as culturally feminine as possible. And also we don't mind that they're permanently scarred," which seems to be the opposite of cultural femininity, but yet as a society, they were okay with it. And, anyway, I don't think there's an answer there. I just find the contrast interesting.
No, it is interesting. And if you think about it, with fashion history and makeup history, the history of feminine presentation, I'm going to call it. There's that old adage that beauty is pain. And whether you're looking in sports or other aspects, there are a lot of things that, what men and women actually throughout the ages, but especially women, have done that could be permanently debilitating, scarring, or could be dangerous and lead to injury. But we've done it for the sake of maintaining that image that, you know, our time period tells us that we should have.
Yeah. So, I also heard in the interview, in one of the interviews, is that these uniforms were a single dress, which doesn't make sense to me, because the player was describing, it can be challenging to raise your arms over your head and have the full range of motion. Why did they not just make them skirts and blouses? Or did players do that against regulations just so they could play better?
Well, the dresses, they did have an issue of mobility. We've actually both been able to wear replica uniforms. We have an event every summer at our baseball field. And we, short summary, we wear the uniforms and walk around. They can be difficult, especially for our mobility.
But, blouse and skirt, whereas it would have made that easier, there would have actually been an issue with your shirt constantly coming untucked. With the dress, it's a belted dress with a zipper up the side. And between that and the bloomers, there's not much of a chance, there's not a 0% chance, but there's less of a chance, of the audience accidentally seeing skin on your torso at this time. And if a blouse and skirt had been adopted, one the blouse most likely would have been buttoned up. And between that and the skirt, there's a high possibility of, you know, the blouse coming umtucked, the skirt moving around a little more, even if it's belted, because it's not being held in place by the top. And, also the higher probability of the blouse just going up a little too high. So separates offer more mobility, but as far as time-period, of decency...
I think in the end, it really was them trying to be like, well, what fits what we want to present to people, but also is as functional as we can make it. So it's, you know, what are we willing to sacrifice, but still keep up the appearance, because it does offer a very streamlined look when you're wearing it.
And for listeners who might not be aware of, like, material makeups at the time, because nowadays, so much of our clothing, even so much of our denim has elastic in it, it has stretch. So, it can be form-fitting, but you can still move, you're not going to tear it. At this point in time, there really was not stretch or elasticity to the clothing. It was pretty solidly cotton, there weren't a whole lot of synthetic materials used either. So, it was like a cotton denim, or at times a canvas sort of... think about fabrics in that range. And so, you would get them tailored to fit or in some circumstances they couldn't afford to have been tailored to fit, so you just belt up one that's, well, not fitting super appropriately. But yeah, if your arms couldn't move, they probably were going to keep not moving.
And if you're wearing a blouse with buttons and you move your arms, it's not going to stretch, the buttons will just pull. But same with the dresses, if you bend the wrong way, you might just bust the zipper. There's not going to be that give there. So the uniforms that we have in the collection, there are a lot, a lot of areas actually along the zipper seam and in the torso that have been sewn up. And you know, there are some that were sewn up from what are obviously slides or playing the game. A lot of them you can tell were split by movement. Now whether that was because it was too small or because you're making an extreme movement, I don't know. But, you do see that in, you know, where they've been re-sewn.
Because at this point in textile development, there wasn't really elastic. I remember people who came of age in the '60s even, talking about how undergarments had no elastic and bathing suits didn't really stretch and how much more comfortable things are when there's stretchable materials. But, thinking about in the '40s and as an athlete, and as a woman, you might need a bit extra chess support, unless you're particularly small, but yet there's no elastic. How did woman address that concern? Or like, was it like they weren't accepted as players if they were over a certain size?
I definitely have never heard of any player that was turned down because they possibly had a larger chest region.
There's actually quite a few players are...
Yeah, there, we've seen lots of photos with women who definitely were not small-chested. I think it's probably the same for most female athletes at that time, is they were probably wearing some form of just a normal bra. Which, even at that time, did at least give you some support. Perhaps not meant for diving for a base. But definitely did. But you know, women, they, you find ways to make that work. Whether or not the ladies perhaps bound their chests with something. There's not a lot of records that I have ever come across where they talk about that. But, I think the general conclusion would be that they were just wearing normal bras, and if you were worried about a little more bounce in your stuff, you found a way to fix that on your own.
And looking at the undergarments from the time period in general... Our museum also has one of the region's largest historic clothing collections. And we have a lot of underwear. Which is actually very fascinating to look at.
The bras of the time, like Kristen said, not very supportive, you didn't have sports bras, yet. Sports bras came about a couple of decades later, actually, starting with the utilization of two jock straps, and making that work for a woman. But, they did still have, I don't even want to call it padding, because when I say "padded bra," I think there's the image of what we have nowadays with like the, the thick, curved padding meant to lift you up. But at this point in time, a more padded bra would have been padded around the entire cup. So, bras at this time were full coverage, often conical shaped. And ones, if you were having a higher level of activity, you might seek out a bra that was more heavily stitched and made with maybe double or triple-layered fabric as opposed to most of them were single layered fabric, sort of cut into triangles or different shapes and then stitch that way. Which of course, the more support you got, the more expensive it was because you were needing the skill of extra stitching, extra pattern making, and extra material, which during World War II, provided its own challenges with fabric rationing. But that is a completely separate talk that could go on for an hour on itself.
Yeah. So without elastic, how did their socks stay up?
Their socks were... essentially they were tighter.
Also sweat will hold a lot of things up after a while.
Sweat does hold a lot of things up. The socks would slide down periodically. Women would have to pull the socks up, especially if they couldn't get socks small enough. But again, nowadays, we're used to our socks stretching over our calves. Like, I have beefy calves. And now the public knows that my calves are beefy. And so, I'm used to getting socks that will stretch up and be the right shape. And then, you know, tube socks were for the most part one size, maybe two sizes. And as you're building up the muscle and playing, they'd be a little tighter and with friction, they mostly just stay up on their own - friction and sweat, like you said.
And they definitely had muscular legs. So.
And what about their shoes? Were they wearing men's style shoes for play? And then they had to switch to female style shoes off the field?
Yes. They were wearing what we would think of as cleats. So, what the average man would have worn on the field is what they were playing with and then off the field would have been what they normally wore off the field. Probably like a Mary Jane mule kind of thing or...
Sometimes a loafer.
Yeah, sometimes a loafer. Or, you know, heels if they were doing something a little fancier. They didn't really expect them to go beyond their means. Like, you know, buying extremely expensive clothes to be on there. You just had to dress like a lady.
But then, as far as on the field, as opposed to, you know, you can go on the field with makeup on and still maintain that image of femininity. Doing so with footwear provided an extreme safety concern.
So there wasn't even... There really is no gray area for faking it even. You really need to go on the field in flats and, you know, cleats. If you're wearing flats like the men do, you might as well wear the cleats and be able to hold yourself in the ground. Anything else? You know, one rolled or broken ankle and your player's out for the season, if not for good.
So in our last couple of minutes, do you have any stories from chaperones? Because it seems like they don't get a lot of attention.
Yeah, they really don't. And, you know, everybody really gets that idea of the way that the women were in the movie: very stern and matronly and didn't let them have any fun and all the players were always trying to get them. And as far as I could hear, it was never really like that. They actually had really great relationships with their chaperones. Because like we had said earlier, a lot of them were fairly young women who had never been away from home, really, away from their families. These chaperones really acted as their moms on tour.
They made sure that if a young man wanted to take them out for a movie or something, when they were off that they were acceptable to go out with. A lot of the girls, they didn't stay in hotels a lot of time when they were on the road. They were staying at fans' houses, and they made sure that the homes they were staying at were okay. A lot of them got really homesick. And so these women would be, you know, taking care of young girls who missed their families and making sure that they were okay. And then for the young ladies who came from Cuba later on, who definitely were far, far from home, having a mom there really was beneficial to them. So they were more like your on-tour mom, your stage mom. And a lot of the women who actually ended up retiring from playing ended up becoming chaperones. So, they ended up becoming chaperones, and a lot of them towards the end of the League actually ended up becoming coaches. So, it really, they kind of did everything and had really great relationships with everybody.
And that's not to say that some hijinks didn't ocasionally occur.
Oh, yeah! They, there were definitely stories of short-sheeting your chaperone or, you know, putting salt in something and, you know, silly things that you would do on the road, but not, you know, poisoning your chaperone so that you could go out dancing.
Did the chaperones have their own rulebook that they were expected to follow?
I believe so. I don't think I've ever seen anything that talks specifically about what they were supposed to do. But it was more, it was basically the same kind of rules that the ladies were expected, the players, were expected... to play, you had to look a certain way when you were seen by the public. And, you know, it was just a general assumption that you would be making sure that the ladies acted like ladies, and anything that they were told to do, that they were doing.
You were a good example.
Yeah. So basically, being your mom: making sure you did your homework and that the boys were nice and that you made it to the train on time. "It's cold outside, so put your jacket on."
Well, is there anything else you would like to say?
I mean, there's so much more...
We could keep talking talk about this...
That we could talk about.
Yeah, people are probably really tired of us by now. And we didn't even get to go into any of the changes concerning, like, race, having African-Americans join the League. And when our Cuban players joined.
I guess, we could talk on that quickly. Initially, of course, the League was predominantly white women. There were some Latinx women allowed to play, and that was typically if they could pass as white: if they were light -skinned enough. As time went on, there were some exceptions starting to be made.
And actually, Kristen, you had told me something about if an African-American female or a darker-skinned Cuban female were good enough, then they would be afforded a spot on the League. But still then, I think people need to be aware that white women could join the League with talent. African-American women and darker-skinned Latinx women could join the League only later on if they were exceptionally talented. So, it still wasn't fair.
It definitely wasn't. But at the time when they started, African-American males weren't allowed to play in the Major Leagues. It wasn't until '47 that Jackie Robinson joined the Dodgers. So, it...
He actually went down to the spring training in Cuba for the AAGPBL.
Yeah, at the same time that the AAGPBL was training in Cuba, as well. So, it definitely was wrong. Everybody can understand that that was wrong. But it was what was done at that time.
It was typical of the time period.
Yes. And we do have papers that say later on in the League, that they were openly saying, "African-American woman, please come join the League." But if someone tried out, and they were amazing, they were like, "Yeah, we can put them on the League. And if they do join a team, every team is to treat them like they are, like they're everybody else. They are a player and we're going to treat them like that."
That was something different from a lot of social circles at the time is, once you were in the League, no matter what race or social class you were, you were to be treated the same. With the same respect as the other women. It just was harder for some people to get in the League. And, there also were other Leagues, which that again, could be a whole other talk. The AAGPBL was not the only League and I think it's easy not to realize that.
Yeah, and they actually I mean, offseason, these women were playing on other teams, other Leagues, and they did play against African-American women. We have newspaper clippings of girls who did exhibition games in Chicago, and were playing against female Negro League players. And they were like, "They were amazing." But, they weren't in charge of who got to be in the League, so just because... So, yeah.
And there's one quick thing that I want to point out is, Kristen had mentioned female Negro League players. And I know, nowadays, that's a word we, even in history...
We don't like the name.
We usually don't just, don't say, but the teams were, the Leagues were actually called the Negro Leagues...
For men and women at that time. So that is the official name of several of those Leagues.
So I just wanted to clarify for history purpose.
Yes. And there is, is it a museum? Or is it just an organization? I found them when I was doing research, but like, that's still the name that they use, because they specialize in the Negro Leagues. So, that's what they're called, even today.
It is in Kansas City, actually. The Negro League Baseball Museum is in Kansas City.
Yes, thank you.
I knew the name of the museum. For those listening, I completely just looked up to make sure I had the right city.
Sometimes Google is your best friend.
That is right.
Kristen and Kristi, thank you for giving us your time. It seems like there's so much to learn about baseball in the United States, and even woman in baseball, that people could do all kinds of research and keep learning even more. So thank you for getting us started.
Oh, you're very welcome.
We're still learning, too.
So, if anyone out there is listening, and they're like, "Well, that's not quite right." Or, "That's right, but there's more to it." We're actually always open to hearing from other people, because that's how we learn.
Most of our knowledge has come from the other players and books. We, well, we didn't just, you know, manifest. So.
But thank you for having us on. It's been really fun.
Yes, we always love talking baseball with people.
Listeners, I hope you have enjoyed today's episode. If you would like to learn more about the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, of course, the League has its own website, but Kristi and Kristen, as they mentioned are working for the History Museum in South Bend, Indiana. That museum has a website or maybe you could go visit it and learn more. There's so much to know and even more that Kristi and Kristen were telling me that we didn't have time to include in this episode.
If you have enjoyed this episode, please share it with someone.
[Outro Music] Jill 54:30
Until next time, keep learning.