By National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
"Head, Hear, and Hustle"
All-American Girls Professional Baseball League: 1943-1954
The success of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League extended beyond baseball. While the women were talented ballplayers, the league also gave them opportunities for victory beyond the ballfield, including the chance to travel, earn money, and play a male-dominated sport. The league changed many players’ lives forever. Discover the lives of these female pioneers and learn more of their impact on baseball through this digital scrapbook, created by the Steele Graduate Intern Class of 2018.
Gertrude "Lefty" Ganote scrapbook covers, undatedNational Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
Many AAGPBL players kept scrapbooks of their time playing ball. The books included such items as photos, clippings, ephemera, and even patches. Gertrude “Lefty” Ganote, who played in the league from 1944-1945, is just one example of a woman who chronicled her time through scrapbooking. Ganote crafted this cover for her 1944 scrapbook.
Formation of the League
In 1943, Philip K. Wrigley, owner of the Chicago Cubs, wanted to find a way for America to continue enjoying baseball despite many major leaguers leaving the game for World War II. His solution was to form a league of women baseball players. The league, ultimately known as the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, would mix both softball and baseball rules and further required the women be feminine and well-mannered. This meant that they wore skirts on the field and during team travel, styled their hair, always wore make-up, and attended charm school. The league opened with teams in Racine and Kenosha, Wisc., Rockford, Ill., and South Bend, Ind. Additional teams joined during the league’s 12-year stretch. Women from all over the United States, Canada, and Cuba joined the league. It wasn’t just All-American, it was Pan-American. Through the AAGPBL, these women found success both on and off the diamond through education, careers, and even gaining U.S. citizenship.
1943: Dottie Hunter
The league opened on May 30, 1943. The women were well-received by fans who were amazed at how well the women could play. Among the first women to join the league was first baseman Dorothy “Dottie” Hunter. Hunter began playing in 1943 for the Kenosha Comets, then became a chaperone for the Racine Belles and Milwaukee/Grand Rapids Chicks from 1944 to 1954. Chaperones were important members of the teams. Often ex-players like Hunter, their roles included being caretakers and friends of the players, enforcing the rules of the league, and treating injuries.
Dottie Hunter glove (1943)National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
In 1943, Dottie Hunter used this glove as a first baseman for the Kenosha Comets. As a player and chaperone, Hunter was one of the few women to participate in the league all 12 years.
Dottie Hunter of the Racine Belles photograph (circa 1943)National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
All players, including Hunter, donned skirted uniforms, wore make-up, and styled their hair to appear more ladylike during games. For the first two seasons, players attended pre-season charm schools to learn about maintaining proper appearances both on and off the field. As a chaperone, Hunter later ensured the women adhered to these rules of femininity.
Max Carey, Dottie Hunter, and John Rawlings photograph (1944)National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
Chaperones like Hunter worked with the managers and coaches to ensure the safety and well-being of the players. Vivian Anderson, who played for the Milwaukee Chicks in 1944, remembered the “well-groomed, well-spoken” chaperone Hunter. Working with manager Max Carey, Hunter supported the players and encourage team unity.
1944: Annabelle "Lefty" Lee
By 1944, the league was garnering more attention and gaining fans. Women moved to the Midwest hoping for a chance to play professional baseball. Due to the success of the first season, Milwaukee and Minneapolis joined the league. Annabelle “Lefty” Lee was one of the many women who joined the league that year. The California southpaw, assigned to the Minneapolis Millerettes, was one of the few women to pitch a no-hitter. Lee’s career spanned from 1944-1950 playing for the Minneapolis Millerettes, Fort Wayne Daisies, Peoria Redwings, and Grand Rapids Chicks. Lee saw the league as an opportunity to travel, and her American and Cuban journeys broadened her knowledge of different people and cultures.
Annabelle Lee photograph (1944)National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
Lee was a formidable pitcher in the league. While she posed for this photograph, her skills on the mound were the real deal. She even taught her nephew and future major leaguer, Bill Lee, how to play ball.
Minneapolis Millerettes at Pre-Season Training photograph (1944)National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
Lee sits in the front row, second from the left in this photograph of the 1944 Minneapolis Millerettes. The Millerettes failed to draw well in a city with more options for entertainment and spent the last half of the season on the road.
1945: Dottie Wiltse Collins
In 1945, the beauty and charm school requirements ended. Instead, the teams played at army camps and veterans' hospitals to support the war effort. The Milwaukee Chicks moved to Grand Rapids and the Minneapolis Millerettes became the Fort Wayne Daisies. Dottie Collins played for Minneapolis in 1944 and Ft. Wayne from 1945-1948 and in 1950. She tossed two no-hitters in 1945, the year she met her future husband, Harvey Collins. She was not allowed to play sports in high school, and took the opportunity to play ball seriously. In 1948, she even played until she was four months pregnant, then returned to the league in 1950 after having her baby. Collins finally hung up her cleats at the end of the 1950 season to be with her family.
Dottie Collins Posed photograph, undatedNational Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
When Collins first arrived in the league in 1944 and saw the uniforms, she thought, “No way are we gonna play baseball in that…But it was put to us that either you play in them or we’ll give you a train ticket home. Well, we weren’t about to go home.”
Fort Wayne Daisies Diary: scrapbook (1945)National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
Many women kept diaries while on the road. They wrote down scores of their games and kept track of how they fared in the league. Collins met her future husband in 1945 and wrote about it in her diary.
Fort Wayne Daisies pennant (circa 1949)National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
Fans of the Fort Wayne Daisies waved these pennants as they cheered on their team, which included California native Dottie Collins. Her record in 1945 was 29-10 with an impressive 0.83 ERA.
Fort Wayne Daisies Players with their Bus photograph (circa 1950)National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
Like all the AAGPBL teams, the Daisies traveled from city to city by bus. It was the easiest and most cost effective way for the teams to travel across the country, and the bus remains the vehicle of choice for the minor leagues today.
1946: Vivian Kellogg
The AAGPBL’s golden years began after WWII. Attendance boomed and rule changes such as sidearm pitching and a smaller ball made the game more like the majors. With the addition of the Peoria Redwings and Muskegon Lassies, the AAGPBL now boasted eight teams. The continued success of the league was due in part to talented players like Vivian Kellogg. Considered by many to be the best first baseman in the league. Kellogg played ball with her brothers and improved her skills on travel softball clubs throughout Michigan. Before the AAGPBL, Kellogg worked for the phone company, Michigan Bell, and made $37.50 a week. With the AAGPBL, Kellogg brought home $75 a week. The pay raise gave Kellogg an independence not offered to many women at the time.
Vivian Kellogg suitcase (Between 1945 and 1950)National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
Kellogg traveled widely with the league. Stickers on her suitcase tell the story of her travels to such places as Florida, Missouri, Kentucky, and Cuba. Kellogg recalled, “We lived out of a suitcase. But it was fun!”
Vivian Kellogg and Diane Van Allsburg photograph (1945)National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
Posing with her niece, Kellogg was an inspiration to young women who wished to participate in sports. After the AAGPBL, Kellogg “wanted to give something back,” so she became a youth league coach. A Little League field in her hometown was dedicated to her on May 1st, 1994.
1947: Dorothy Kamenshek
In 1947, the league did something different with Spring Training: they sent the women to Cuba. For two weeks, the teams trained and played exhibition games. This was the first time many players traveled outside of the United States. It also introduced the league to future Cuban players. Dorothy Kamenshek was one of the many players who enjoyed Spring Training in Cuba. During her decade with the league from 1943-1951 and 1953, Kamenshek was a seven-time All-Star and two-time batting champion for the Rockford Peaches. Kamenshek’s weekly $125 paycheck was one of the highest in the league, eight times more than the national minimum wage of $16 a week. Thanks to her ample salary, she was able to pay for college and become a physical therapist. She remembers, “Baseball gave a lot of us the courage to go on to professional careers at a time when women didn't do things like that.”
The Sevilla-Biltmore Hotel tag (1947)National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
When the AAGPBL traveled to Cuba in 1947, the women stayed in the Sevilla-Biltmore Hotel in Havana. The women played games against the local Cubanas, a woman’s baseball team, and drew larger crowds than the Brooklyn Dodgers, which had spent Spring Training in Cuba prior to the AAGPBL’s arrival.
Letter from Max Carey to Mrs. Brumfield (1946-11-20)National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
Letters like this were sent to invite players to Spring Training in Cuba. Many of the women had never traveled by plane before.
Rockford Peaches Autographed ball (1948)National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
Dottie Kamenshek spent her entire baseball career with the Rockford Peaches. This ball, signed by the 1948 team, includes her signature.
Dorothy Kamenshek Action photograph (Between 1943 and 1953)National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
Known for her jumping ability and doing the splits for the ball, Kamenshek was widely considered one of the best first basemen in the league. Her personal motto was, “anything less than my best is failure.”
1948: Audrey Wagner
More than 900,000 fans purchased tickets to watch the AAGPBL women play in 1948, the league’s most successful season. The league added two more teams, the Springfield Sallies and Chicago Colleens, which a year later became traveling developmental teams. The year the league peaked in attendance was also when Kenosha Comets player Audrey Wagner (back row, second from left) peaked on the field. Wagner was a scrappy outfielder whose slugging made her a star. She was the only player to hit over .300 in 1948, winning the league’s batting title. Wagner was one of the youngest players in the league when she started in 1943 at the age of 15. She used her earnings to put herself through college and eventually medical school at the University of Illinois-Chicago. Her graduating medical school class of 1955 included only 12 women.
Although charm school was no longer required after 1945, femininity was still highly important to the league’s image. In 1948, Wagner wore this Kenosha Comets uniform. The league manual explicitly stated that “the more feminine the performer, the more dramatic the performance.”
Wagner was the star of the Kenosha Comets. After she won the Player of the Year Award in 1948, the team celebrated her success throughout the next year, as seen in this 1949 scorecard.
Known for her power hitting, Wagner was a consistent threat at the plate. Her talents helped gain her a hefty salary of $125 a week and allowed her to finance her dream of becoming a doctor.
Wagner was popular with fans and eagerly signed autographs for them throughout her career. She was equally popular with both her teammates and her opponents. Wagner was still practicing medicine when she died in a small plane crash at the age of 56. Later, at AAGPBL reunions, many players recalled her kindness and thoughtfulness.
1949: Margaret Villa
Prior to the 1949 season, an American All-Star barnstorming team traveled to Cuba and Latin America to enhance the league’s recruitment of Cuban players. The effort was also aimed at expanding, promoting, and increasing the AAGPBL’s profits by establishing an International League of Girl’s Baseball. Margaret "Pancho" Villa was one of the Latina Americans who played in the AAGPBL. Sadly, the AAGPBL followed the major leagues’ old “gentlemen’s agreement” and permitted only Anglo and light-skinned Latina women to play. Overcoming prejudices related to her heritage, Villa’s leadership and hustle on and off the field led her to become captain of the Kenosha Comets. Her talents allowed her to travel with the 1949 All-Stars to Latin America.
Margaret Villa Throwing photograph (Between 1946 and 1950)National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
Villa was a talented infielder for the Kenosha Comets. Her love for the game and her team was palpable. She could never quite believe she was actually being paid to play baseball. Remembering her time in the AAGPBL, Villa noted, “I’d pinch myself quite often. … I thought I was in heaven!”
Kenosha Comets headline (1948-05-21)National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
Villa was a team leader who always gave 100 percent on the field. On one occasion, Villa was named the co-manager of the Comets alongside chaperone Jo Hagemann, after Kenosha manager (and former NHL hockey star) Johnny Gottselig was suspended.
When the league sent a team to barnstorm across Latin America, Villa was one of the few people who could speak both English and Spanish, allowing her to engage with diplomats and foreign leaders and attend upscale events. Villa remembered how exciting the trip was: “We went to homes of leaders of the countries, the dictators, and they lived like kings.”
Because of World War II, Villa never finished high school. Instead, she went to work for U.S. Rubber in East Los Angeles. It wasn’t until the AAGPBL scouted her that she was able to finish school. She boarded in the home of a retired English professor in Kenosha who tutored her.
1950: Pepper Paire Davis
The 1950 season saw the decentralization of league ownership, and for the second year in a row attendance declined. Despite the downturn, the women of the league continued to play with heart. Lavonne “Pepper” Paire joined the league in 1944 at the age of 19, playing for Minneapolis, Racine, Grand Rapids, and Fort Wayne during her career. A catcher, Paire posted a career fielding percentage of .977; in 1950, she drove in 70 runs in 110 games for Grand Rapids. After retiring from the league, Paire advocated for women in sports. She served as the first female coach for the World Children’s Baseball Fair and later served as the spokesperson for the Women’s National Adult Baseball Association.
Paire co-wrote the official song of the AAGPBL, the "Victory Song.” She was paid $5,000 for the song’s use in the movie A League of Their Own. She also served as a technical adviser for the film.
Pepper Paire Davis photograph (Between 1948 and 1952)National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
A member of the Grand Rapids Chicks from 1948-1952, Paire was one of the league’s top catchers. Always a team player, she created simple signals for pitcher Jaynne Bittner, who needed glasses. Bittner was afraid the league would expel her if they knew, so Paire devised the signs to hide her problem.
Pepper Paire and Inez Voyce photograph (Between 1949 and 1952)National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
Although the women were always told to maintain the highest forms of femininity and charm, they still liked to have fun. Here, Paire is jokingly trying to hit fellow player Inez Voyce with her bat, a not-so-ladylike gesture.
1951: Ysora Castillo
In 1951, the AAGPBL’s attendance continued to decline. The lack of funds restricted recruiting to only the United States. The struggling league was forced to disband the traveling Chicago Colleens and Springfield Sallies teams. Ysora Castillo, an alumna of the Colleens, successfully made the jump to the “big league.” Castillo was one of nine native Cubanas who played in the AAGPBL. Castillo and other Latina ballplayers sought better lives in America. Although they faced many challenges in the U.S., women like Castillo believed the chance to play baseball was worth the struggle.
Ysora Castillo Tagging Mary Baumgartner photograph (Between 1949 and 1951)National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
Castillo is seen here tagging a sliding runner during a game. She did not need to know English to make great plays on the diamond, but it did create problems off the field. Her inability to communicate with her teammates made her unhappy and prompted her to return to Cuba for a short period.
Chicago Colleens and Springfield Sallies Teams photograph (1949)National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
Before coming to the United States in 1949, Castillo and other Cuban players played for the Cubanas. Many then traveled to the United States and played for the Chicago Colleens and Springfield Sallies. Castillo stands first on the left in the Colleens’ team photo.
Castillo was nicknamed both “Chico” and “Pepper” by her fans and teammates. When members of her team cheered “la chica” in Spanish during games, fans mistook it for “Chico.” “Pepper” came from her fiery attitude. In Texas in 1949, she was thrown out of a game for badmouthing an ump in Spanish, not realizing how widespread the understanding of Spanish was.
Ysora Castillo was just a teenager when she left her native Cuba to play baseball in the United States. Castillo eventually left the league to marry Raymundo Kinney, a stadium worker, and later worked in electronics and moved to Florida.
In 1997, Castillo became the first female professional player honored by the Federation of Professional Cuban Baseball Players in Exile. A long-time inspiration to young baseball fans, Castillo regularly receives and answers her fan mail.
1952: Gloria Cordes
At the end of the 1951 season, the Kenosha Comets and Peoria Redwings disbanded, leaving only six teams in the circuit, and some of the older members began looking for “real jobs,” a college education, or other opportunities. Yet Gloria Cordes was among many who continued to play. After the Police Athletic League in her Staten Island home rejected her, Cordes joined the AAGPBL. She debuted in 1950 and pitched for the Muskegon/Kalamazoo Lassies and the Racine/Battle Creek Belles. Her best year was 1952 when she pitched 24 complete games with 16 wins. Her 1.44 ERA was second only to Jean Faut. As a pitcher, Cordes found it difficult to pitch in a skirt. She worked around the uniform by taking it in and remaking it into more of a “pencil” skirt. This allowed her to pitch without the skirt catching her arm or hand in the wind-up.
Gloria Cordes Pitching for the Kalamazoo Lassies photograph (1952)National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
A highly respected pitcher, Cordes was selected by former Fort Wayne and Rockford Manager Bill Allington for the Bill Allington All-Stars. The team barnstormed the country playing mostly men’s teams.
Gloria Cordes shoes (Between 1950 and 1954)National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
Cordes wore these spikes during her career. Notice the “pitcher’s toe,” a leather and steel cap used to keep the toe on a pitcher’s back foot from being worn out. Although the materials have changed, these modifications remain part of the pitcher’s trade today.
Gloria Cordes photograph (1950)National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
In 1997, Cordes was elected to the Staten Island Hall of Fame, and in 2012 received the Staten Island Sports Hall of Fame’s Bobby Thomson Award for service. She continued giving motivational speeches at local schools, especially to young women, into her 80s.
1953: Joyce Steele
Six teams competed in the circuit in 1953, with the Battle Creek Belles moving to Muskegon before the start of the season. While the league faced challenges, die-hard fans still came to the ballpark, allowing the women to continue playing. Newcomer Joyce Steele was signed by the Kalamazoo Lassies that year. Before joining the AAGPBL, Steele played with a boys youth team in Wyalusing, Pennsylvania, but was sent home when an opposing team’s manager complained. She recalled being “crushed,” but did not let it stop her from playing ball. A one-year player with limited playing time, Steele nevertheless experienced the camaraderie among the players. When men in the stands yelled or booed, veteran players threw balls at them and stood up for the rookies. After Steele’s stint in the league, she played softball until 1988. She credited the league for teaching her about teamwork, a lesson she passed on to the children she coached later in life.
Joyce Steele photograph (1953)National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
After Steele was selected to join the Lassies, the league sent her back home to Pennsylvania so she could finish high school. Once she graduated, the switch-hitter played first base and outfield for Kalamazoo.
South Bend Blue Sox Autographed ball (1953)National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
The South Bend Blue Sox were one of the founding teams of the AAGPBL. After winning back to back play-off championships in 1951 and 1952, the team finished in second to last place in 1953.
1954: June Peppas
The 1954 season was the AAGPBL’s swan song as the financial issues facing the league took their final toll. That year, only five teams remained in the circuit: the Fort Wayne Daisies, Kalamazoo Lassies, South Bend Blue Sox, Grand Rapids Chicks, and Rockford Peaches. Of players those who remained in the league, none were scrappier than June Peppas (far right), who played from 1948-1954. In 1953 and 1954, the first baseman was named a first team All-Star. For 1954, she batted a team-leading .333 and swatted 16 homers. Moreover, the lefty slugger also pitched, posting a 6-4 record that year with a 3.32 ERA. And she was tough. She once decked a man so hard because of a “smart aleck comment” that he had to crawl away. On a lighter note, Peppas was known for doing a shimmy, the “Peppas wiggle,” every time she went up to bat.
Kalamazoo Lassies trophy (1954)National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
June Peppas received this championship trophy after she and the Kalamazoo Lassies won the 1954 title. The southpaw posted two victories and batted .450 in that last Championship series, and was the winning pitcher in the final game of the series.
All-American Girls Professional Baseball League All-Star Team photograph (1954)National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
In 1954, the All-Stars traveled to first-place Fort Wayne’s Memorial Park on July 9, where the host Daisies won, 10-4. Peppas was an All-Star at first base for the 1953 and 1954 seasons despite the fact that she also pitched extensively.
Peppas (middle) reflected on the AAGPBL later in life stating, “Baseball and the league taught me a lot. It taught me that there are good friends around. The league is something that I’ll never forget.”
After the league folded, Peppas ran a printing company in Michigan with her life partner Polly Huitt. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in vocational education in the 1960s at Western Michigan University. One of her biggest accomplishments was reviving the AAGPBL through a newsletter starting in 1980, eventually leading to the league’s reunions. She served as president of the AAGPBL Players Association for four years.
After the league folded, many women returned to their hometowns. Some married and had children, others started new careers. Some Cuban players began applying for citizenship.
In an age when women were discouraged from entering many career fields, the ability to play professional baseball was a dream come true. Participating in the AAGPBL went beyond just playing a game, it explored uncharted territory.
The opportunities to travel, learn about new cultures, earn a decent living, and gain independence were among the enduring legacies of the league.
Group at an All-American Girls Professional Baseball League Reunion photograph (1986)National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
Due to the regional nature of the league, many Americans never knew about the league or its women. It took nearly 30 years after the demise of the AAGPBL for the league’s first reunion, but these events helped former players reconnect and relive old memories.
The AAGPBL gained national recognition when the film "A League of Their Own" premiered in 1992. After the movie, many of the players spoke publicly about their time in the league and how it changed their lives. They became advocates for women in sports and women’s equality. This tunic was worn by Megan Cavanagh, who played Marla Hooch in the film.
The legacy of the AAGPBL continues today. When the league began, players faced sexist ideas and opinions about the roles they should play in society. They played ball anyway and became trailblazers for women competing in sports today.
Joyce Steele photograph, undated by Sherry DulaneyNational Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
Members of the league, such as Joyce Steele, enjoy discussing their time spent playing baseball in the 1940s and ‘50s. They continue to inspire and push young women to pursue their dreams.
Today, many AAGPBL women have gained recognition due to the “Diamond Dreams” exhibit at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and the movie A League of Their Own.
“We are quite proud of our accomplishments,” June Peppas reminisced, “and we hope the All-Americans will never be forgotten again. We were a proud lot.”
"Heart, Heart, and Hustle" quoted by Pepper Paire Davis about Dorothy Kamenshek. Source
Graduate Steele interns:
Lily Brandt, MA in Museum Studies, Syracuse University
Meaghann Campbell. MLS, Indiana University
Sophie Grus, MA in Museum Studies, University of Missouri - St. Louis
Marisa Hernandez, MMLIS, University of Southern California
Jessica Hollister, MLIS, University at Buffalo
Joella Travis, MLIS, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Kelli Yakabu, MLIS, University of Washington