Immigration laws may have scuppered All-American plan for a winter season

There were rumours, hints of which sometimes appeared in mid-western newspapers, that the All-American Girls Softball League would move to the west coast for the winter season and play in Los Angeles and nearby cities.  WWII Poster, Canada, Attack on All Fronts

It came to nothing, but the League seems not to have given an official reason why not.  Home-front restrictions on travel may have played a role in their decision, but another likely culprit was the U.S. immigration laws.

At least, that’s what Rockford Peaches manager Eddie Stumpf told a Milwaukee newspaper (home town of his new wife) as reported by Dick Day, sports editor of Rockford’s daily, the Register-Republic.  

Day said that a number of the Peaches players had been approached about playing on the west coast, but Stumpf said it was the immigration authorities who “balked at the plan.”

Canadian players, Stumpf was reported as saying, were told they “would have to stay home.” They had come to the U.S. on a 90-day permit and wouldn’t be eligible for another until they had spent 60 days in Canada.

Those laws, combined with the restrictions caused by the war, might have proved too much for the League administration.

Over 20 Canadians on roster

In the first year of the League, Canadian players made up more than a quarter of the roster. Day reports that there were 21 Canadians playing on League teams during the 1943 season. Moreover, they were some of the top players – pitchers Helen Nicol and Olive Little, catcher Mary ‘Bonnie’ Baker, and the 1943 batting champion, Gladys ‘Terrie’ Davis. All four were named to the 1943 all-star team.

Mary 'Bonnie' Baker, catcher, AAGPBL, colour photo

Mary Baker was a highly skilled catcher, often written about as one of the League’s biggest assets.

The 1943 roster had a lot of depth in its talent but without any of the Canadians – especially these four – the prospects for a successful winter season might have seemed low.

Canadian participation in the League didn’t stay at 1943 levels. It wasn’t the numbers that dropped, but the roster that grew. Each team represented about 15 players. With four teams in 1943 and 21 of the players from Canada, they could have made up a team of their own with half a dozen to spare.

By 1944, a few more Canadians were added, but there were two additional teams, and the percentage of the total roster that was Canadian didn’t change much.

The number of Canadian remained the same until 1948 but decreased after that. The same forces that were causing a drop in League attendance were having an effect on softball players, as some of them opted for focusing their energies on marriage and motherhood.

By 1950, there were 10 teams (about 150 players) only 12 of whom were Canadian. In 1954, the League’s last year of operation, only two Canadians were still playing – Dorothy Ferguson Key, who joined the League in 1945, and Eleanor Callow, who had been playing since 1947.

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About Lois Browne

I'm a mystery writer, blogger and traveller.
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