Jean Cione

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Jean Cione
Jean Cione.jpg
All-American Girls Professional Baseball League
Pitcher / First base / Outfield
Born: (1928-06-23)June 23, 1928
Rockford, Illinois
Died: November 22, 2010(2010-11-22) (aged 82)
Bozeman, Montana
Batted: Left Threw: Left
Professional debut
1945
Last professional appearance
1954
Teams
Career highlights and awards
  • All-Star Team (1952)
  • Championship team (1945)
  • Four playoff appearances (1945, 1948, 1949–1950)
  • Hurled two no-hitters
  • Turned an unassisted triple play
  • Women in Baseball – AAGPBL Permanent Display
    Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum (1988)

Jean S. Cione [″Cy″] (June 23, 1928 – November 22, 2010) was a pitcher who played from 1945 through 1954 in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Listed at 5' 8", 143 lb., She batted and threw left-handed.[1]

AAGPBL rules of play[edit]

The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League was a circuit that began to operate in 1943. Since the only organized ball for women in the United States was softball, the league officials created a hybrid game which included both fast-pitch softball and baseball. Compared to softball, the crucial differences were that nine (not ten) players were used, and runners could lead off, slide and steal bases. In its twelve years of history the AAGPBL evolved through many stages. These differences varied from the beginning of the league, progressively extending the length of the base paths and pitching distance and decreasing the size of the ball until the final year of play in 1954. For the first five years the circuit used a fastpitch underhand motion, shifted to sidearm in 1947, and never really became baseball until overhand pitching began in 1948.[2]

Brief profile[edit]

Born in Rockford, Illinois, Jean Cione was a dominant lefty pitcher who enjoyed a prolific career over ten seasons in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Cione is regarded one of the few pitchers to make the successful transition from underhand to overhand through the many stages of the league, although she hurled on awful expansion teams that did not give her much run support. An All-Star, she posted a 76–65 record with a 2.33 earned run average in 169 career games and pitched two no-hitters in the same month. In addition, she was a member of a champion team and turned in an unassisted triple play. Interestingly, from 1909 through 2009 there have only been 15 unassisted triple plays in Major League Baseball history. After the league folded in 1954, Cione taught sports medicine and physical education at the university level for 29 years, earning inductions into several halls of fame across the United States.[3][4][5]

Early years[edit]

Cione attended grades 1–12 in the Rockford Public School System, where she graduated in 1946. At school she used to play softball. In third grade she joined the boys' softball team, and when she reached eighth grade became to play on the Rock River School Boy's softball team, which competed with other league schools. In 1942, at age 14, she earned the first letter ever awarded to a girl by Rock River School. Cione later worked at J. L. Clarke, where she played on the company's girls team. She also taught herself the accordion, after being motivated by the piano music of Frankie Carle.[3][6]

As she grew up, Cione showed an intense interest in athletics and outdoor activities, developing a practice that was to continue throughout the rest of his life. When she turned seventeen, she attended an All-American Girls Professional Baseball League tryout held at Racine under the direction of Max Carey. She passed the test and was offered a contract to play in the league.[3]

AAGPBL career[edit]

Cione entered the AAGPBL in 1945 with the Rockford Peaches, a team based in her hometown of Rockford which was managed by Bill Allington. Other five teams competed in the 110–game regular season: the Fort Wayne Daisies, the Grand Rapids Chicks, the Kenosha Comets, the Racine Belles, and the South Bend Blue Sox.[3][7]

The 1945 Peaches roster featured a perfect mix of experience and motivated young players, such as Mildred Deegan (2B), Dorothy Ferguson (3B), Rose Gacioch (P/OF), Dorothy Green (C), Dorothy Harrell (SS), Dorothy Kamenshek (1B), Josephine Lenard (OF), Olive Little (P), Carolyn Morris (P) and Margaret Wigiser (OF). Cione was used as a reserve first sacker for Kamenshek. Eventually, she pitched and played at outfield.[3][8]

Since the beginning, Cione showed her skills in the field and was alert and cooperative with her manager and teammates. During that first year with the Rockford Peaches, I sharpened those raw skills and learned the strategies of the game from a manager that I consider the best in the league, Bill Allington from Van Eyes CA. He was a student of the game, and held practice sessions for us rookies and bench warmers every day the team played at home. I attribute my 10-year longevity in the league to my first year under this outstanding manager, she proudly recalled in her autobiography.[3]

Rockford took the AAGPBL pennant with a 67–43 record, surpassing Fort Wayne (62–47), Grand Rapids (60–50), Racine (50–60), South Bend (49–60) and Kenosha (41–69). In the best-of-five Series playoffs, runnerup Fort Wayne defeated fourth-place Racine in four games; first-place Rockford eliminated third-place Grand Rapids in four games, and Rockford won the league championship by beating Fort Wayne in five games.[9]

The Muskegon Lassies and Peoria Redwings were added as expansion teams for the 1946 season. Cione was sent to the Redwings, as the AAGPBL shifted players as needed to help new teams stay afloat. In 1947 she returned to Rockford. It was clear she was back where she belonged.[7][10]

By April 1947, all of the league’s players were flown to Havana, Cuba for spring training. At the time, the Brooklyn Dodgers trained in the Cuban capital because Jackie Robinson, who would be the first Afro-American to play in the Major Leagues, was training with the Dodgers for the first time. By then, city ordinances in Vero Beach, Florida, where the Dodgers normally trained, prevented blacks and whites players from competing on the same field against each other. Notably, newspaper stories from Havana indicate that the All-American girls drew larger crowds for their exhibition games at Estadio Latinoamericano than did the Dodgers. That year, Cione responded winning 19 games for the Peaches while posting a stingy 1.30 ERA in her first full pitching season. Besides Cione, the roster of the Peaches included top notch veterans as Deegan, Ferguson, Gacioch, Green, Harrell and Kamenshek, as well as the newly arrived Lois Florreich (P) and Alice Pollitt (3B). Unfortunately, Rockford finished in sixth place with a 48–63 mark, out of contention. During the postseason, Grand Rapids defeated South Bend in five games while Racine ousted Muskegon in four games. In the final Series, Grand Rapids dispossed of Racine in seven games.[3][7][9][11]

The next year Cione then found herself on the move again, this time to Kenosha (1948–1951), and then the Battle Creek Belles (1952) and Muskegon Belles (1953), before returning to Rockford in the league's final year (1954). Her most productive season came in 1950, when she won 18 games and hurled a pair of no-hitter in August: a 12–inning game against Grand Rapids and a seven-inning game against her former Rockford teammates. In 1952 she went 2–5, but sported a 3.24 ERA and made the All-Star team.[3]

In between seasons, Cione graduated from high school and went on to study at Eastern Michigan University, University of Illinois and University of Michigan.[12]

Career statistics[edit]

Pitching

GP W L W-L% ERA IP H RA ER BB SO WHIP
169 75 65 .536 2.31 1195 852 461 307 460 411 1.10

Batting

GP AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB TB BB SO BA OBP SLG
758 2447 240 548 67 27 8 247 86 693 232 299 .224 .291 .283

Fielding

GP PO A E TC DP FA
758 4163 593 148 4904 153 .979

Life after baseball[edit]

Following her baseball retirement, Cione received a bachelor's degree from Eastern Michigan University before earning her master's degree at the University of Illinois. From there, Cione took up teaching physical education in elementary school for a decade and then returned to EMU, where she taught sports medicine for nearly three decades. She was EMU's first women's athletic director as her alma mater established a women's athletic program, attaining gender equity in the sports programs there.[12][13]

Honors and awards[edit]

Jean Cione is part of Women in Baseball, a permanent display based at the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York. The exhibition was unveiled on November 5, 1988, to honor the entire All-American Girls Professional Baseball League rather than individual baseball personalities. She gained inductions into the Eastern Michigan University Athletic Hall of Fame (1986) and the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame (2003), and also served as vice president of the AAGPBL Players Association while supervizing the organization's website.[14][15][16]

A League of Their Own[edit]

The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League folded in 1954. Lady pitchers, catchers, and fielders drifted into obscurity until 1992 when the film A League of Their Own was released. The film kindled a renewed interest in these trailblazers who have their own places in American history. While the film does not use real names, filmmaker Penny Marshall seemed to be aiming for realism, as her work includes fake newsreel footage and pseudo-documentary present day scenes at the beginning and end of the fictitious story. Since then, Cione and her teammates have become the darlings of the media. They have been honored several times for their significant contributions, responding to request for autographs and corresponding with young athletes interested in hearing of their days in the AAGPBL.[17]

Jean Cione died at the age of 82 in Bozeman, Montana, where she had moved after retiring in 1992.[12]

Sources[edit]