Sarah Jane Sands

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Sarah Jane Sands
All-American Girls Professional Baseball League
Right fielder / Catcher
Born: (1935-07-27) July 27, 1935 (age 79)
Orangeville, Pennsylvania
Bats: right Throws: right
Teams

Sarah Jane Sands [Ferguson] (born July 27, 1935) is a former right fielder and catcher who played from 1953 through 1954 in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Listed at 5 ft 4 in (1.63 m), 120 lb., she batted and threw right-handed.[1][2]

Summary[edit]

Playing career[edit]

Salty Sands, as she is better known, was only one of almost 600 women that had the distinction to play in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League during its twelve years of history. She was recognized for her defensive skills, strong throwing arm, and high knowledge of the game. Unfortunately, she did not reach the circuit until 1953, its next-to-final season, which prevented the full development of her qualities.

The AAGPBL was founded in 1943 by Philip K. Wrigley, who was in charge both of the Wrigley Company and the Chicago Cubs Major League Baseball club. Wrigley decided to create the league as a promotional sideline to maintain interest in baseball. By then, the military draft was depleting Major League rosters of first-line players and attendance declined at ballparks around the country. Arthur Meyerhoff, Wrigley's advertising director, was given the responsibility of coordinating operations. The AAGPBL lasted twelve successful seasons before folding in 1954, when other interests and forms of recreation began to claim the attention of sport fanatics. The circuit was owned by Wrigley only from 1943 to 1945, Meyerhoff from 1945 through 1951, while the clubs were individually owned from 1951 to 1954. It was a neglected chapter of sports history, at least until 1992, when filmmaker Penny Marshall premiered her film A League of Their Own, which was a fictionalized account of activities in the AAGPBL. Starring Geena Davis, Tom Hanks, Madonna, Lori Petty and Rosie O'Donnell, this film brought a rejuvenated interest to the extinct league.[3][4]

A native of Orangeville, Pennsylvania, Sands had her first contact with baseball at the age of four when her father took her to a ball game. She grew up playing sandlot ball with her neighborhood kids at an early age, most of them boys, but did not start participating organized baseball until she was 14. At this time, she became the proud batgirl of the 1949 Orangeville semi-professional baseball team. When I became the batgirl the wife of one of the players took one of the men's uniforms and cut it down to fit me, Sands recalled on an interview. Eventually, she asked her parents for permission to use an old pair of her shoes. We had a shoemaker in town and I took those shoes up to him. He removed the heels and put a set of cleats on, she added. Before each game, she also accustomed to learn correctly the fundamentals of the game, chasing fly balls, fielding grounders, and as warming up catcher. In her senior year, Sands told everyone who would listen that she was going to grow up and play professional baseball. She knew that when the high school coach allowed her to practice with the boys' team, which they accepted it very well. Her dream finally came true in the fall of 1952, when his father talked to an AAGPBL scout about setting up a meeting with his daughter. The young girl was invited to a tryout, she then passed the test to attain her purpose and was rewarded with a contract to play in the league.[1][2]

Sands was allocated to the Rockford Peaches, a team managed by Johnny Rawlings, who taught her the finer points of playing and having fun while doing it. In her two seasons for Rockford, Sands stressed that the girls playing were just doing what we loved and having a ball, as she said. Her love of the game was so strong that she moved to right field after learning the catcher position was filled by perennial All-Star Ruth Richard, whom she backed up correctly. In my two seasons as a pro, I only caught 12 games. The first year I got to play 76 of 110 games. The second year, despite injuries, I got into 60 games. I feel that a learned quite a bit while riding the bench, too, she explained.[1][2]

Rockford finished fourth in the league with a 51–55 mark in 1953. Further, the Peaches lost to the Grand Rapids Chicks in the first round of the playoffs, two to one games. In 1954 Rockford ended 37–55, out of contention.[5][6]

After her retirement[edit]

Following her playing retirement, Sands continued involved in baseball in one capacity or another ever since, from Little League coach to women's softball, to keep her love of the game going. She also has been an active collaborator of the AAGPBL Players Association since its foundation in 1987. The association was largely responsible for the opening of a permanent display at the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York since November 5, 1988 that honors those who were part of this unique experience. Sands was among the 61 former players who were in Cooperstown for 10 days of filming for the Penny Marshall's film. Notably, the AAGPBL veterans played on Doubleday Field in the final scene scored to Madonna’s song This Used to be My Playground.[1][7]

In 2003, Sands was inducted into her Alma Mater Bloomsburg High School’s Graduates of Distinction Hall of Fame. She also was asked to threw the ceremonial first pitch to the USA Olympic Softball team during the squads visit to Williamsport in 2007. In addition, she sat on the panel on two Society for American Baseball Research meetings celebrated in 1974 and 1995. I am truly blessed! The good Lord gave me the love of baseball and the talent to play. I had a dream and God intervened and made it possible. Now it's my turn to repay that debt, she said flatly.[1][2]

Sands returned to Cooperstown in March 2010, when the Hall of Fame authorities invited her for a celebration of Women's History Month. She still living in her homeland of Orangeville, Pennsylvania.[7][8]

Statistics[edit]

Batting

GP AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA
136 414 37 87 5 0 1 29 9 13 48 .210

Fielding

GP PO A E TC DP FA
133 169 27 14 TC 210 .933

[9]