An AAGPBL moment in time

Written by: Cassidy Lent

On August 19, 1945 in the city of Fort Wayne, Ind., two teams in the All American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) faced each other in a doubleheader; the Fort Wayne Daisies swept the Rockford Peaches, led to victory in both games by their impressive starting pitcher, Dorothy Wilste.

Wilste or Dottie Collins, as she was better known, remembered that day well in her later years for two different reasons: She helped to beat the number one team in the league and, after the second game, she met her future husband, sailor Harvey Collins. Less than a year after this initial meeting, the two were married on Sunday, March 10, 1946 at her parents’ home in Inglewood, California.

Collins didn’t allow her newly married life to keep her from playing. She participated in both the 1946 and 1947 seasons. But, roughly two years after they were married, Collins discovered that she was pregnant. Very few people knew about Collins’ pregnancy. Besides her family and doctor, only her manager, Dick Bass, and her catcher, Mary Rountree, knew. Both later admitted to being worried for her and tried to figure out ways to keep both her and the baby safe. Her doctor had cleared her to play, telling Collins that she would know when it was time to stop. She did, and on Aug. 1, 1948, after the first game of a doubleheader against the Peoria Redwings with a 13-8 record and 2.01 earned-run average, Collins took a leave of absence from the league. The Collins’ first child, a daughter they named Patricia, was born on Dec. 22, 1948.

Everyone was very excited for the birth of Patty. It was even announced with great fanfare in the All-American Girls’ newsletter, the Mail-Bag, in January 1949. A fan was so thrilled by the birth that they made Patty a matching Fort Wayne Daisies uniform, possibly the very one she is wearing in this photo of her and her mother in 1950 when Patty was about 19 months old. Patty attended games early in her life, cheering on her mother with her father and paternal grandmother, Hetty Collins.

After taking the 1949 season off to spend time at home with both Harvey and Patty, Collins returned to the Fort Wayne Daisies for the 1950 season. After going 13-8 and posting a 3.46 ERA, she would officially retire from the league to focus on being a wife and mother. A few years later, Collins and Harvey welcomed their second child, a boy they named Daniel (after Dottie’s father), on March 18, 1954.

Collins wasn’t the only ball player who had to make these choices; other members of the AAGPBL would end up getting married and/or having children while playing or shortly thereafter. Not all of the players talked about their time with the AAGPBL with their children. Collins said: “That came out when we went to Cooperstown in 1988. So many of the kids didn’t even know their mother had ever played pro ball. It was amazing! It was a case of most of the girls going home, putting their scrapbooks and equipment in the attic and never getting them out again.”

Thankfully, Collins and Harvey, who believed in the importance of athletics, made sure that this was not the case with their daughter and son. Her children knew about her time with the Daisies, but it wasn’t until the reunion and exhibit opening at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in November of 1988 that Patty understood what her mother had done when she was younger. Patty also almost didn’t attend the event that fall.

“I looked at her scrapbooks...but it didn’t hit me what I was reading,” Patty said. “Everything with mom was golf in those days.”

Collins recalled in later years: “We were ready to pull out the next morning, and Patty called and said, ‘Mom, can I go, too?’ I’ll never forget that. I thought it was great, because I didn’t beg her to go. It was up to her.”

Collins died on Aug. 12, 2008. Her son died in 1983 and her husband in 2000. Collins’ legacy continues to live on through her daughter, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren and through memories captured in time, like this moment between mother and daughter.

Cassidy Lent is the reference librarian at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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