The Women of Baseball - KOAM TV 7

The Women of Baseball: Two Four State women look back and inspire today's youth


One line - "there's no crying in baseball" - brings the movie "A League of Their Own" to many people's minds.  The movie was based on a true story, and two associate members of the league live right here in the Four States.

The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League ruled America from 1943 to 1954.  IIt was started during World War II, whenhen women had to take on stereotypical male roles while their men were off fighting, but there's so much more that went on behind the scenes.

The 1992 movie staring Tom  Hanks and Geena Davis glamorized the time in history.

Sisters Gina Casey and Alice Francasso live in Grove, Oklahoma, and the two know the story better than most.

Alice, now 89, can remember clearly the day she was recruited for tryouts in 1948.  The women's league recruited Alice and four of her softball teammates to try out.

"So the other four and myself went down to Obolaca for the last tryout and we were down there and my four teammates made it, and I didn't - I took a train home," says Alice.

Two sisters are associate members of the league and have memorabilia items and countless stories they can tell you firsthand what these women went through.

"They played ball for the love of the game," says Gina.  "They didn't play because 'oh, I can get this much money', and 'today, I got a hangnail and I can't play'.  It didn't work that way.  They only had 15 girls on a team.  Now the big leagues have 15 pitchers."

According to Gina, these ladies had it tough.

"You had to look like a lady, act like a lady, but play ball like a man, and they did," says Gina.

From playing in skirts, 11 p.m. curfews, and wearing lipstick on the field, the members didn't let that stop them from keeping their head in the game.

"That's where that saying came from 'there's no crying in baseball', because you went home and cried - those girls played with broken fingers, everything," says Gina.

While swapping male ballplayers for women during the war had some skeptical, at it's height over 900,000 fans were paying to see these women play.  And not just because they were pretty, but because they were good.

"Sophie Curry, she stole 201 bases in one season, one season alone," says Gina.

When the war ended and men returned stateside they also returned to their baseball fields.

Twelve years after it began, the league ended.

"And after that year it was forgotten, put under the rug," says Alice.

Put under the rug until 1992 when 'A League of Their Own' helped to inspire a whole new generations of women.

Alice and Gina say the league holds its 70th anniversary this year, proving the legendary women of baseball still got it.

The women of baseball did not give up when the league ended.  Alice and Gina spend their days traveling the country, speaking to young women, hoping to offer a little inspiration.

"I hope that they learn that they can do what we've done, that they can keep track of what they've done, keep a journal of what they've done, later on they can pass that on, or they can go on to bigger things," says Gina.

Today, Gina says things are different for young women.

"Being a man's sport, they didn't think we could play, but, like now, girls can get on boys Little League baseball teams," says Gina.

"They get scholarships now, not only baseball, but tennis, all other sports now, the girls are getting scholarships," says Alice.  "And they like playing ball, and they like their sport, so now they know once they get out of college, if they want to go be professional athletes, they have a chance now."

Thanks to professional women's teams and federal requirements such as Title IV outlawing discriminate based on gender, women in sports are part of the norm in society.

But it wasn't always that way.

"When those gals played in the short kind of the skirts, and wore nothing underneath but bloomers, you know, had their legs torn up all the time and they paved the way for this sport, I truly believe that, they are pioneers," says Lori Green, the softball coach for Labette County High School.

Though female athletes still have some mountains to climb regarding equal pay to men and television air time, Green says today's world is much kinder to the women of sports.

"You know, with Title IX and everything that is in place now I think women have the same, I want to think, a lot of the same opportunities as the men," says Green.

With 70 years of experience under their belts, Gina and Alice say they don't plan on letting up on their travel schedule anytime soon.  They say keeping young women interested in the sport helps keep the legendary women of baseball's legacy alive.

According to the Women's Sports Foundation women account for approximately 40% of sport and physical activity, but only 6-8% of total media sports coverage is devoted to female athletics.

Out of about 700 female players in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, only around 100 are still alive.

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