Girl baseball stars emerge mid-way through first season

A crowd of 2,388 baseball fans – a record for Rockford, Illinois – gathered at Beyer Stadium on the evening of July 13, 1943 for a much-anticipated double-header between the Racine Belles of Racine, Wisconsin and the home team favourite, the Rockford Peaches.

The teams, two of four making up the All-American Girls Softball League team, would be deciding the League’s first season’s first-half championship.

The 1943 Racine Belles of the AAGPBL, managed by Johnny Gottselig, was the favourite to win the half-season championship.

The 1943 Racine Belles, managed by Johnny Gottselig, was the favourite to win the half-season championship.

Early in the season, the South Bend Blue Sox had surged ahead of the other teams but the team had gradually sunk in the standings.

By the second week in July when the first-half championship was to be decided, the Belles, managed by Johnny Gottselig, were seen as the most likely winners. The Blue Sox, managed by Bert Niehoff, were in last place.

The Rockford Peaches proved to be impossible to beat in the first game winning 10 – 3. The second game told a different story, however, when the Belles recovered to score a final of 8 – 5 and to take the first-half championship with 34 wins against 20 losses.

Eleanor Dapkus, the Belles’ infielder, had to be carried off the field when she twisted her knee sliding into home in the ninth inning. She had, however, made her contribution in the fourth inning when she hit a home run, according to the Kenosha News, by “driving the ball clear to the outside wall in left field, a mighty swat.”

Ironically, none of the Racine Belle players were among those who led the League standings as “spotlight and headline stealers” at the half-way mark of the 108-game season schedule.

Helen Nicol of the Kenosha Comets, one of the talented Canadians who were among the League’s top  players, won kudos for the lowest earned run average of 1.76.  Although Margaret (Sunny) Berger led the pitchers in games won and lost with 13 and three, Nicol (wins/losses of 12 and 6) topped the pitchers’ standings having pitched 30 consecutive scoreless innings against Berger’s team, the Blue Sox.

Gladys ‘Terrie’ Davis, another Canadian, who won kudos during the season’s first-half games for her outstanding plays as shortstop for the Rockford Peaches, had the highest batting average with .372.

Gladys 'Terrie' Davis, who would go on to win the League's batting championship at the end of the season, is third from the left in the back row. 1943 Rockford Peaches of the AAGPBL with their manager Eddie Stumpf in the front row left and chaperone Marie Timms, front row right.

Gladys ‘Terrie’ Davis, who would go on to win the League’s batting championship at the end of the season, is third from the left in the back row.

Outfielder Shirley Jameson of the Kenosha Comets was singled out as the master of base-stealing with 84 steals in 51 games.

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About Lois Browne

I'm a mystery writer, blogger and traveller.
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