One of the names I encountered in researching the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League was Freda Savona, who was considered one of the great female softball players in the country – as was her younger sister, Olympia.
They played for the world champion New Orleans Jax at the time Wrigley was setting up the All-American Girls Softball League.
Neither Savona signed with the All-American League, although both were extolled in a 1942 League scouting report – along with many other American and Canadian softball players who eventually were recruited.
The fact that Freda, with “the greatest set of softball brains ever owned by a girl softball player,” according to the scout, wasn’t signed was enough for the rumour mill.
Saturday Evening Post had said of the New Orleans team, “Give ’em a cud of tobacco and these female softball players would look just like their big league brothers.” And although the Savonas weren’t mentioned, Time magazine reported that League scouts rejected some outstanding players because they were “too uncouth, too hard-boiled or too masculine.”
It was enough to prompt Freda Savona to take action. The Globe and Mail‘s sports columnist Bobbie Rosenfield reported on June 26, 1943 that she had received a letter from Savona with words that “fairly sizzle.”
The letter is in direct denial of the story out of Chicago (picked up here) that Freda tried to crash the pro softball ranks and was turned down because she wasn’t ‘the type.’
On the contrary La Savona was much sought after by the pro circuit and she encloses a letter sent her from K. W. Sells, president of the league, as proof.
Excerpts from it indicate that Sells was prepared to offer Freda top salary ($100 a week) if she would sign. Not only that, but the job as girl scout was hers for the asking at $160 per month during the times she wasn’t playing. Freda turned it down only to receive another flattering offer upping the original all-round contract $500 to $4,000 a year, but it still was no soap because, as Savona puts it: “I am fairly well fixed at the Jackson Breweries where I work.”
Guess that’s the answer to why one of the greatest girl softballers in the game today isn’t doing her stuff with the pros…”
There certainly isn’t anything in the scouting report to suggest reservations about the Savonas.
The scout reported on Freda’s exceptional skills as a shortstop and her great hitting ability, pointing out she was “TNT from either side of the plate…She excels in every department of the game.”
There was another good reason why Freda Savona might want to stay where she was, which the scout mentioned. The Jax manager would be reporting for military service shortly and Freda was to be named manager of the team.
A small part of the 12-year history of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. For more, buy the ebook for $3.99. Just click on the link in the right-hand side bar.