DE PERE – Their story was told in a popular movie. And some surviving members of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League spoke Tuesday at St. Norbert College about their time playing ball.
It was part of the college’s Sport and Society forum series.
They came as teenagers from small towns across the Midwest to play in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.
“They chose two people, girls, from Kenosha to help fill in,” said Joyce Hill Westerman.
“I received a letter in 1948 inviting me to come to Chicago for a tryout in the All-American girls league and I had never heard of them,” said Louise “Lou” Erickson Sauer.
Though neither Westerman nor Sauer had much experience, each found success.
“The manager said, ‘what position do you play?’ And I said, ‘well, how do you say shagging balls for a men’s team?’” said Sauer, who threw hard enough to land a spot as a pitcher.
“That was my biggest thrill in baseball, to say that I was on a championship team,” said Westerman, who caught Sauer’s first season.
“It was the greatest three years of my life,” said Sauer.
Both left to start families before the league folded in 1954.
“You couldn’t go on forever,” said Westerman.
Nearly 70 years later, these women say they’re still surprised at the significance their careers have on the history of sports.
“I thought, ‘we’re having fun playing ball with a bunch of girls and they’re good.’ Never gave it a thought beyond that,” said Sauer.
“Nobody even knew I played professional ball until 1982 we had our first reunion. By 1988, we were recognized in the baseball hall of fame in Cooperstown,” said Westerman.
Sauer and Westerman say sharing their stories means giving their legacy as professional ballplayers some insurance runs, wishing future generations of girls might get their chance to step to the plate.
“I hope that one day there will be a professional league,” said Westerman.
The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League was made famous by the 1992 film “A League of Their Own.” Players in town today say that movie helped preserve their legacy.