Happy birthday, AAGPBL
May 30 doesn’t just mark the day that Kyle Lohse is going to no-hit the Braves and propel the Cardinals into an enduring tear of winning baseball. It’s also the anniversary of the first game of Cal Ripken’s consecutive-games streak (1982), of Barry Bonds’s three-strikeout big-league debut (1986), and of the doubleheader in which Frank Chance—of Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance fame—was hit by pitches five times, once losing consciousness (1904).
And it’s the birthday of the All-American Girls’ Professional Baseball League, which made its entrance into the American sports scene on this date in 1943 as the South Bend Blue Sox played the Rockford Peaches and the Kenosha Comets played the Racine Belles. The four-team league would expand to include seven more clubs by 1948 and 1949; by the team the AAGPBL folded after the 1954 season, it had made professional ballplayers of more than 600 women.
Mandatory Helena Rubenstein makeovers, short skirts, and charm-school attendance notwithstanding, the AAGPBL broke ground in a big, bold way. The idea that women should be paid athletes was transgressive enough; that they should do so as members of teams proffered a model of female solidarity that still frightens patriarchal types today. Decades before Title IX, half a century before the WNBA or the Women’s World Cup, the AAGPBL hit, pitched, and slid their way through several stories’ worth of glass ceilings.
So today, while most of the baseball world is frothing over Terry Francona’s texting habits, why not give a birthday gift to some women we can all agree to love? Become a member of the AAGPBL to help keep their history alive and their alumnae connected, or just visit their website and get to know the people behind the movie. Happy 69th!