Racine Belles

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The Racine Belles were one of the original teams of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League playing from 1943 through 1950 out of Racine, Wisconsin. The team played its home games at Horlick Field.

History[edit]

             1943 Racine Belles Championship Team         
Front row, L-R: Irene Hickson (C), Edythe Perlick (CF), Claire Schillace (RF), Annebelle Thompson (P), Madeline English (3B). Middle row, L-R: Eleanor Dapkus (LF), Sophie Kurys (2B), Dorothy Wind (SS), Gloria Marks (P), Dorothy Maguire (C), Margaret Danhauser (1B). Back row, L-R: Charlotte Smith (IF/OF), Joanne Winter (P), Johnny Gottselig (Manager), Mary Nesbitt (P/1B), Dorothy Hunter (IF), Marie Anderson (Chaperone).

In 1943, the Belles claimed the first Championship Title in the league's history. This team was characterized by strong pitching, solid defense, timely hitting and speed on the bases.

Racine won the first half with a 33-10 mark, and finished the regular season with an overall record of 55 wins and 38 losses. Mary Nesbitt led the pitching staff with a 26-13 record for a .667 winning percentage (fifth-best of the league), including 308 innings of work in 47 appearances. She also hit .280, scored 34 runs, and drove in 29 more in 73 games. At a time of the season, Nesbitt put together an 11-game winning streak. Besides Nesbitt, the Belles also counted with Joanne Winter, who posted an 11-11 record, to give the team a strong one-two pitching staff. Slugger right fielder Eleanor Dapkus hit a league-lead 10 home runs, while Sophie Kurys stole a league-best 44 bases and scored 60 runs. Margaret Danhauser, Maddy English, Edythe Perlick and Claire Schillace could be counted on for their bats and solid defense.

The first AAGPBL Championship Series pitted first-half winner Racine against the Kenosha Comets, second-half champ. In the best-of-five series, Racine swept Kenosha to clinch the championship. Nesbitt claimed complete-game victories in Games 1 and 3, and saved Game 2 after Winter ran into trouble in the eight inning. Irene Hickson, who shared the catching duties with Dorothy Maguire, led all-hitters with a .417 average and five RBI in the three games.

In 1946, Anna Mae Hutchison posted a 26-14 record with 102 strikeouts in 51 games, setting an all-time, single-season record for games pitched, and also hurled the first nine-inning no-hitter in Belles history, a 1–0 victory over the Kenosha Comets. Winter finished with a 33-9 record, including 17 shutouts and 183 strikeouts in 46 pitching appearances. The Belles claimed first place with a league-best 74-38 record, and won the semifinal round of playoffs by defeating the South Bend Blue Sox in four games. In Game 1, English drove in the winning run by hitting a double in the bottom half of the 14th inning. Then, in decisive Game 5 she knocked the winning run with a single in the bottom half of the 17th inning. In this first round series she went 11-for-31 for a .353 average, including her two game-winning RBI. After that, After that, the Belles beat the 1945 champions, the Rockford Peaches, four games to two in the final best-of-seven series to clinch the Championship Title. Throughout the playoffs, Kurys led all players in average, stolen bases and runs. On the other hand, Winter collected four wins in the playoffs, including a 14-inning, 1–0 shutout victory over the Peaches in decisive Game Six. The winning run was scored by Kurys on an RBI-single by Betty Trezza, while Danhauser handled 22 chances flawlessly. During the regular season, the Belles again showed a great defense, notably by infielders Danhauser (1B), Kurys (2B) and English (3B), while Perlick (LF), Schillace (CF) and Dapkus (RF) patrolled the outfield. And moreover, fielding ability and speed on the bases were immensely more crucial and challenging in a dominant pitching league.

But after eight successful seasons the Belles lacked the financial resources to keep the club playing in Racine and decided to move to Battle Creek, Michigan at the end of the 1950 season. Some founding team members, including Danhauser, Dapkus, English, Kurys, Perlick, Schillace and Winter, were disappointed with the new location and would not make the move. During eight years, the Belles were a close-knit team, always like a family away from home. They thought that all would be different, like a new team, maybe a new manager and, specially, a new location.

After the moving, the team was renamed the Battle Creek Belles and played from 1951 to 1952. For their final season, they moved to Muskegon, Michigan and played as the Muskegon Belles.

Season-by-Season records[edit]

Year Manager W L W-L% End GB Details
1943 Johnny Gottselig 34
25
 
20
23
 
.630
.521
 
1st
3rd
 

13.0
 
First half
Second half
Playoff champion
1944 Johnny Gottselig 28
26
32
31
.467
.456
4th
4th

13.0
First half
Second half
1945 Charley Stis
Leo Murphy
50 60 .455 4th 17.0
1946 Leo Murphy 74 38 .661 1st League and Playoff champion
1947 Leo Murphy 65 47 .580 3rd 4.0
1948 Leo Murphy 76 49 .608 1st Western Division Champion
1949 Leo Murphy 45 65 .409 7th 29½
1950 Norm Derringer 50 60 .455 6th 15½

All-time players roster[edit]

Bold denotes members of the inaugural roster

Chaperones[edit]

Notable achievements[edit]

  • In 1945 the team won the attendance trophy for having the largest audience on opening night, May 23, with 4,019 fans.
  • The Belles were the first team in the AAGPBL to sponsor a junior team. The Junior Belles were local high school girls who played on four teams, the Golds, the Greens, the Reds, and the Grays. Their coaches, uniforms, and equipment were provided by Western Publishing, the sponsor for the professional Belles.
  • Although the 1992 film A League of Their Own features the Racine Belles, all of the characters playing on the team were fictional, and ballpark scenes were filmed in Evansville, Indiana. Nonetheless, the Belles did win the league championship in 1943, but over the Kenosha Comets, not the Rockford Peaches as the movie depicts.

Fastpitch[edit]

Previously, a minor league team also named Racine Belles played in the Wisconsin-Illinois League from 1909 through 1913, and then in the Bi-State League in 1915. It was a Class D team in 1909 and 1915, and a Class C team from 1910 to 1913.

The name Racine Belles now refers to a non-profit organization dedicated to the development of girls' fastpitch softball in southeastern Wisconsin.

Sources[edit]

  • A League Of My Own: Memoir of a Pitcher for the All-American Girls – Patricia I. Brown. Publisher: Macfarland & Company, 2003. Format: Paperback, 216pp. Language: English. ISBN 978-0-7864-1474-1
  • A Whole New Ball Game: The Story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League – Sue Macy. Publisher: Puffin, 1995. Format: Paperback, 160pp. Language: English. ISBN 0-14-037423-X
  • All-American Girls Professional Baseball League Record Book – W. C. Madden. Publisher: McFarland & Company, 2000. Format: Paperback, 294pp. Language: English. ISBN 0-7864-3747-2
  • Biographical Dictionary of American Sports – David L. Porter. Publisher: Greenwood Press, 2000. Format: Hardcover, 2064pp. Language: English. ISBN 978-0-313-29884-4
  • Encyclopedia of Women and Baseball – Leslie A. Heaphy, Mel Anthony May. Publisher: McFarland & Company, 2006. Format: Paperback, 438pp. Language: English. ISBN 0-7864-2100-2
  • Women in Baseball: The Forgotten History – Gai Ingham Berlage, Charley Gerard. Publisher: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1994. Format: Hardcover, 224pp. Language: English. ISBN 0-275-94735-1
  • The Women of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League: A Biographical Dictionary – W. C. Madden. Publisher: McFarland & Company, 2005. Format: Paperback, 295 pp. Language: English. ISBN 0-7864-3747-2
  • When Women Played Hardball – Susan Johnson. Publisher: Seal Press, 1994. Format: Paperback, 320pp. Language: Language: English. ISBN 1-878067-43-5
  • Racine’s Horlick Athletic Field: Drums Along the Foundries – Alan R. Karls. The History Press, 2014. ISBN 978-1-62619-444-1

External links[edit]