1943 Season – ‘spirited and thrilling competition’

aagpbl, south bend blue sox, 1943

South Bend Blue Sox, 1943, one of the four founding teams of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League

At the end of the first season of play, 1943, a report was written that summarized the accomplishments of the players in the League’s four founding teams — South Bend Blue Sox, Kenosha Comets, Racine Belles and Rockford Peaches.

There’s no name attached to the multi-page report, but judging from blanks in some of the information, obviously intended to be filled in later, it was likely written by the business manager of the South Bend Blue Sox, Sam Force.

The report highlights the League’s outstanding players of the year, and underscores the fact that at this point, it was financially a losing proposition — at least for the Blue Sox.

In its first and auspicious season of play the All-American Girls Ball League featured spirited and thrilling competition, with the Racine Belles bringing the first league championship to their city. …Racine won the first half honors and won a Scholarship Series against Kenosha, who won the second half of the season. Racine won the batting championship for team batting, with an average of .246. They also had the greatest number of runs, hits, total bases, home runs, stolen bases and runs batted in. They were last in fielding as a team.

Gladys (Terrie) Davis, from Toronto, Canada, who played with the Rockford Peaches as shortstop was a runaway batting champion with an average of .372 in the first half and for the year an average of .332. Betsy Jochum of South Bend from Cincinnati, Ohio, who played outfield was second-half champion with an average of .295.

Shirley Jameson, AAGPBL centrefielder

Shirley Jameson, centrefielder, was under 5′. Jameson, who became very popular with the fans, was the second player signed with the League.

Diminutive Shirley Jameson, Dundee, Illinois school teacher, proved herself one of the most popular and capable players in the league. She patrolled center field for Kenosha and led the league in runs scored and stolen bases by a wide margin and also drew the most passes, 66 base-on-balls in all.

Chicagoan Ann Harnett, Kenosha’s third sacker led in extra base hits with 2. Miss Jochum, the second-half batting champion led in total number of hits and had 12 doubles. Marge Stefani of Detroit, second base for South Bend, led in triples with 11, and Eleanor Dapkus, outfielder with Racine, led in homers with 10. She was injured in the second half which cramped her hitting during the last part of the season.

The South Bend Blue Sox were runners-up in both halves of the season. They also led the League in fielding by a wide margin – 934.

The prize South Bend combination of shortstop [Dorothy] Schroeder and second base [Marge] Stefani led the fielders of the League at their respective positions, as did their teammate Johanna Hageman at first base. Miss Hageman, incidentally, was the only player in the League to play in every game during the season.

Ann Harnett led the fielders at third for Kenosha and Jameson of the same team topped the regular outfielders. Helen Westerman, also of Kenosha, had the best record amongst the catchers.

Helen 'Nicky' Nicol, AAGPBL pitcher

Helen ‘Nicky’ Nicol, talented pitcher, who was already a softball star in western Canada when she joined the League.

In pitching, Helen Nicol of Kenosha walked away with the most number of wins – 31 and less losses – 8.  A percentage of .795 and an earned run average of 1.81. She also had the most complete games with 33 and most innings pitched – 348, most strike-outs – 220. She tied with Olive Little [of the Rockford Peaches] for shut-out with 8. Miss Little pitched the only no-hit, no-run game for the season against South Bend on August 15, and won 2-0.

Mary Nesbit of Racine was second to Nicol in games won with 26 and in numbers of innings pitched 308-1/8. Nesbit appeared in the same number of games as Nicol and [Margaret] Berger of South Bend – 47….Berger and Nicol were right handers and Nesbit was a lefty.

The report gives the total fan attendance for the year for the four teams as 176,612. The Racine Belles drew the most with more than 49,000 paying customers. South Bend drew 42,000 fans. The numbers reflected the popularity of the game, but they weren’t enough to put the teams in the black. The report says that the Blue Sox collected just over $35,000 for the season, but paid out nearly $47,000 in salaries, travel costs and other expenses, for a shortfall — which would have been made up by the businesses sponsoring the team — of nearly $12,000.

In the years that followed, the League spent more money on promotions and made a number of changes to the game to raise attendance with, initially, a lot of success. However, these two issues of attendance and revenue remained problems for the League throughout its existence.

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About Lois Browne

I'm a mystery writer, blogger and traveller.
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