I think I’ve clarified why Thelma Golden, the ‘strike-out queen’ of Toronto softball in the late 1930s and 1940s who was assigned by the All-American Girls Softball League to play for the Rockford Peaches, returned home to Toronto before she played a game as a pro.
In Girls of Summer: In Their Own League, I wrote that other Canadian players had suggested Golden left because she wasn’t given the special privileges she demanded or that she had found the batters too much of a challenge.
But there seems to have been a much more sensible reason for Golden to give up prospects for a professional career.
Toronto’s Globe and Mail columnist Bobbie Rosenfeld, herself a well-known amateur athlete, heard from Golden during the tryouts.
Goldie says the squad of 75 is in strict training and no foolin’…Up at 7, breakfast at 7:30 and then a mile hike to Wrigley Field for workouts…Lights out every night at 11…This is the daily routine until May 26, when the lucky ones will be allotted to places on the proposed four teams…
After reporting a couple of days later that Golden had signed a contract and been assigned to the Rockford Peaches, Rosenfeld wrote that Golden had given it all up.
…with the glitter of gold dangling before her eyes, [Golden] chucked a juicy pro contract with the All-American Girls’ Softball League out of the window to return to home and mother…
About three years ago, Thelma suffered an injury that ripped all the muscles around her ribs…Consequently she has had to space her mound duties…When her pro contract called for some sixty games she would be expected to pitch she gave it a polite “No thank you…”
That makes a little more sense based on what others had written of Golden’s pitching career. A 1942 scouting report that covered Toronto players said at that time described Golden as “…one of the hardest pitchers to bat against…” but added that she “needs at least two days rest between games.”
Golden began her softball career in 1928 and by 1931 was already considered a star player. She must have been in her mid teens at the time the photo above was taken, which would make her about 28 years old when she auditioned for the All-American League.
She was up against some much younger players clearly, but there were others in her age bracket who signed with the League and played well for a number of years.
Golden played for the Montreal Royals during the 1943 season, which caused other Montreal players to raise the question of her amateur status. However, it was quickly decided that since she had never played in a pro game, her amateur status was intact.
Golden played only one season in Montreal and returned to Toronto and continued to play for another five years, suggesting that as long as she got the rest she needed, she was a pitcher to be reckoned with.
In 1948, Rosenfeld reported that Golden would not be playing further that season because she was entering the hospital for surgery on her back that would put her out of commission for months. Golden recovered but announced she would retire. She did play at least one exhibition game in 1950 to raise money for injured players.
UPDATE: Thelma Golden Fidler passed away in Toronto July 18, 1980.
This item is 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.