As a female, and a baseball fan, one of my greatest laments is never having witnessed the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. The beginning and end of the AAGPBL happened way before I was born. I've heard stories... my grandparents remembered the women who played professional baseball between 1943 and 1954. I sometimes wonder what would have happened if the league hadn't been set up for failure from the very beginning.
I want to set up a new series here at BYB. One about the women who time has all but forgotten. The women of the AAGPBL. Their stories aren't told enough. They aren't given nearly enough respect for their accomplishments. And I'll start with the woman who inspired the 1992 movie "A League of Their Own," Dorothy 'Dottie' Kamenshek.
Dottie, also known as Kammie, was a star in the AAGPBL. At 17, she was an excellent outfielder on a local softball league. A scout for the AAGPBL saw her play and convinced her to tryout in Chicago. Dottie made the league and played for the Rockford Peaches, in Illinois for the entirety of her career, from 1943 to 1953.
She started her career in the outfield but was moved to first base. She became one of the best fielders in the game, having finished her career with a .950 fielding average. She won the leagues batting title in 1946 with a .316 BA, and in 1948 with a .306 BA. When the league created the All-Star team in 1946, she made the team every year until her retirement. She finished her career with a .292 BA in 3,736 at-bats, coming in fourth on the leagues leader board. She also stole 109 bases in 107 games in 1946. She once commented:
"I'm not one for statistics, really. I never paid any attention to that. I didn't consider myself an individual player, team victories were more important to me."
Dottie played so well that she garnered attention from former New York Yankee, Wally Pipp. According to a report in TIME, Pipp called her "the fanciest-fielding first baseman I've ever seen, man or woman." He wasn't the only one impressed by Dottie. A mens minor league team in Fort Lauderdale, attempted to recruit her. She refused believing that it was a publicity stunt.
In 1953, Dottie was forced to retire due to back injuries. She went on to study at Marquette University, and got a degree in physical therapy. She became the director of the Los Angeles Crippled Children's Services Department.
Dottie was quoted as saying "Baseball was just natural. I didn't have to work at it too hard." The Baseball Hall of Fame has files and clippings on Dottie, and she is included in the Diamond Dreams exhibit. She is remember by many as the greatest women's baseball player.
Dottie passed away May 17th, 2010. Growing up with stories of Dottie made ma believe that I could play professional baseball if I wanted to. She carried herself with the same kind of grace and heart that many of my childhood Yankee heroes did. She remains an inspiration for many female baseball fans, like myself. She is a baseball legend.
--Erica Morales BYB Senior Writer
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