posted January 30, 2013

"When Women Played Hard Ball" Lecture on Feb. 5 Marks National Day

In conjunction with the National Girls and Women in Sports Day sponsored by the Women’s Sports Foundation, Hope College will feature “When Women Played Hard Ball,” hosting two guest speakers from the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL), on Tuesday, Feb. 5, at 11 a.m. in the Maas Center auditorium.

The public is invited.  Admission is free.

Doris Cook and Rosemary Stevenson overcame gender ideologies and psycho-social gender norms to play organized professional sport in the AAGPBL during the 1940s and 1950s, a time when women were not considered athletic let alone professional athletes.   They will share their experiences of playing professional baseball in pre-Title IX days as well as offer insights into current and future trends of women in sports.

Cook joined the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League in 1949 at the age of 17.  She remained in the league until 1953, having played pitcher and outfielder for the Springfield Sallies, the Kalamazoo Lassies, and the South Bend Blue Sox.   Also at the age of 17, Stevenson started her career with the Grand Rapids Chicks, playing outfield in 1954.  Her career in the AAGPBL was cut short when the league folded in that same year.

Immortalized in the film “A League of Their Own,” which was fictional but based on true-life stories, the AAGPBL was founded by Philip K. Wrigley in 1943. During the league’s history, more 600 women played professional baseball in about a half a dozen Midwest cities.   These women’s years in the league was full of memorable experiences, marked by playing the game in uniformed skirts, attending charm school during spring training, and using equipment and rules that had been previously reserved for men.  In particular, it was friendships that became most meaningful. Cook and Stevenson have often relived those friendships and games to audiences in Michigan.  Now they bring their stories to Hope.

This event, as well as a sports clinic for middle-school girls also held in conjunction with the National Girls and Women in Sports Day, is sponsored by the Hope College Athletic Department and the NCAA Strategic Initiative Grant program.

The Maas Center is located at 264 Columbia Ave., on Columbia Avenue at 11th Street.