League of Women Ballplayers
“It is impossible to make any statement on a softball league at this time because there may not be any league,” said Cubs general manager James Gallagher in January 1943. “That’s just one of the many projects we’re considering so as to be ready for eventualities. Wrigley Field is a big plant and we have to figure out what we’re going to do with it under varying circumstances. We have many ideas – which include even light opera.”
The women’s league, however, quickly became a reality. The new league’s first tryouts were scheduled for Chicago in the spring of 1943 and drew almost 300 women from across the United States and Canada.
“The need for additional recreation in towns busy with war defense work prompted the idea,” said Wrigley.
Former big league players such as Hall of Famer Jimmie Foxx, Johnny Rawlings, Bert Niehoff, Josh Billings, Leo Murphy, Bill Wambsganss and Dave Bancroft served as managers in the league, while Hall of Famer Max Carey was its president.
“Femininity is the keynote of our league; no pants-wearing, tough-talking female softballer will play on any of our four teams,” Carey said.
“Every day after practice, Mr. Wrigley sent us to Helena Rubinstein’s charm school to learn how to put on makeup, how to put on a coat, and how to get in and out of a car or chair,” said Lil Jackson. “Back at the hotel, he made us wear skirts. If you dressed in slacks, you had to use the servants’ elevator.”
Bill Francis is a Library Associate for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum