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South Bend Blue Sox

South Bend Blue Sox Side One South Bend Blue Sox Side Two

Location: River Crossing Student Housing, Ironwood Drive, Indiana University South Bend, South Bend (St. Joseph County), Indiana  46615

Installed 2021 Indiana Historical Bureau, The History Museum, and Indiana University South Bend

ID#:  71.2021.1

To learn more, listen to the IHB podcast Talking Hoosier History (or read the transcript) for the episode: "The Dutiful Dozen:" South Bend Blue Sox and Women's Professional Baseball.


Side One:

The South Bend Blue Sox was one of four original teams in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (1943-1954). Founded during WWII, the AAGPBL contributed to the war effort by boosting morale through family entertainment. Scouted from across North America, the players constantly balanced their outstanding athleticism with league standards of femininity.

Side Two

The Blue Sox played in all twelve AAGPBL seasons. Their move in 1946 from Bendix Field to the more centrally located and better-equipped Playland Park, near here, increased attendance. They won Playoff Championships in 1951 and 1952. The AAGPBL garnered public recognition from the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1988 and the 1992 film A League of Their Own.

Annotated Text

Side One:

The South Bend Blue Sox was one of four original teams in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (1943-1954).[1] Founded during WWII, the AAGPBL contributed to the war effort by boosting morale through family entertainment.[2] Scouted from across North America, the players constantly balanced their outstanding athleticism with league standards of femininity.[3]

Side Two:

The Blue Sox played in all twelve AAGPBL seasons.[4] Their move in 1946 from Bendix Field to the more centrally located and better-equipped Playland Park, near here, increased attendance.[5] They won Playoff Championships in 1951 and 1952.[6] The AAGPBL garnered public recognition from the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1988 and the 1992 film A League of Their Own.[7]

[1] Jim Costin, “Girls Softball,” South Bend Tribune, April 17, 1943; “South Bend Approves Team in Girls’ Softball League: Business Men Back Plan to Join Circuit,” South Bend Tribune, April 28, 1943; “Girls Softball Club Gets Aid of Veterans,” South Bend Tribune, May 13, 1943; “Girls Open Softball Play Today,” South Bend Tribune, May 30, 1943; ”Ladies of the Little Diamond, TIME Magazine, June 14, 1943;  Keith Brehm, “Off the Record,” The Journal Times (Racine, Wisconsin), August 27, 1943; Merrie Fidler, The Origins and History of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, Foreword by Jean Cione, (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., Inc., 2006), 36. All newspaper articles cited in the footnotes were accessed via unless otherwise noted.

The other three original teams were the Rockford Peaches (IL), Racine Belles (WI), and Kenosha Comets (WI).

The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League underwent multiple name changes during its twelve-year tenure, so the Players Association decided upon the universal name All-American Girls Professional Baseball League to encompass its complete history. Wrigley originally dubbed the league the All-American Girls Softball League (AAGSBL) but midway through its first season in 1943, the name changed to the All-American Girls’ Base Ball League (AAGBBL) to avoid confusion with amateur women’s softball leagues. However, given that the game being played by the League through the first season was not fully baseball yet either, the name changed again after the conclusion of the ’43 season. The new name, the All-American Girls Professional Ball League (AAGPBL) was used through the 1945 season. The title reverted back to the All-American Girls’ Base Ball League (AAGBBL) for the 1946 season and stayed as such for five years.  The final name change took place in 1951, when the League switched to the name the American Girls Baseball League (AGBL). Popularly, it was still called the AAGBBL. The Players Association adopted the conglomerate All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) to avoid confusion in early 1981.

[2] “Mr. Wrigley’s statement for the press on the Girls’ All-American Softball League,” February 17, 1943, Meyerhoff Files, Drawer 19, News Releases, Wrigley Press Release (copy provided by applicant); “Girls Softball Plans Make Headway Here,” South Bend Tribune, May 7, 1943; “Girl Pro Softball Players Must Toe ‘Good Conduct’ Line, South Bend Tribune, May 9, 1943; Mina Costin, “Boys Have Gone to War; Now It’s the All-American Girls,” South Bend Tribune, May 27, 1943;  “Blue Sox Enjoy Second Day Off,” South Bend Tribune, June 29, 1943; Keith Brehm, “Off the Record,” Journal Times (Racine, Wisconsin), August 10, 1943; Eddie McKenna, “Prominent Nash Officials See Employes [sic] Enjoy Softball Game,” Kenosha Evening News, August 17, 1943 (copy provided by applicant); Eddie McKenna, “Comets Catch-on With Fans; Special Nights for South Bend Tilts,” Kenosha Evening News, August 20, 1943 (copy provided by applicant); Keith Brehn, “Off the Record,” Journal Times (Racine, Wisconsin), Augusts 27, 1943; “Funds Sought for Blue Sox,” South Bend Tribune, April 7, 1946; Fidler, 29-68.

There were several factors that spurred Philip K. Wrigley, the owner of the Chicago Cubs, to found the League. First, softball had developed across the country as a popular sport for women since the turn of the twentieth century, and women’s softball leagues spanned from coast to coast. Second, by 1943, America had “near-total involvement” in the Second World War, which affected nearly every aspect of society, including recreation and entertainment.  This led directly to the third factor. Because of the manpower requirement for the war effort, fear emerged among club owners that Major League Baseball would be shut down or postponed during the war. According to Merrie Fidler, “Thus it was that the AAGSBL’s beginnings germinated out of the potential wartime demise of Major League Baseball.” Wrigley wanted to keep Wrigley Field operational even if men’s baseball was shut down. However, this fear did not come to fruition, and Wrigley knew this before the league got going, so he shifted gears. Instead of its purpose being to replace men’s baseball, Wrigley adjusted the AAGSBL objectives “to compliment [sic] the war effort in the mid-sized industrial communities that supported its teams.” (Fidler, 33) In Wrigley’s 1943 press release about the League, he justified its existence as something that contributed to the war effort: “Americans, more than any other people, depend upon organized, competitive sports for their recreation need. By cheering their favorite players and teams, mingling with other fans and enjoying the excitement and color of various sports events they find an outlet for their pent-up energy and an escape from their problems and troubles. Americans thrive on outdoor games and the crowds that attend them, and in war times this kind of entertainment becomes an actual necessity.” Wrigley wanted to provide morale to the public and improve women’s softball, as well as the players standing in society by the League embracing the “highest social standards” of the day (Fidler, 34).

League President Albert McGann emphasized in the South Bend Tribune in 1946 that the Blue Sox were a “non-profit organization, a community project in the strictest sense of the word. The Blue Sox afford wholesome entertainment for the whole family. Twenty-five to 40 percent of the attendance is made up of women and girls. Children account for five to 15 per cent.”

[3] Jim Costin, “Girls’ Softball,” South Bend Tribune, March 3, 1943; “Girls Softball Loop Signs 64,” South Bend Tribune, May 6, 1943; “Girls’ Pro Softball Opens Here May 30,” South Bend Tribune, May 16, 1943; “Canadian Girls in New League,” South Bend Tribune, May 20, 1943; Alma Overholt, “Clara Schillace, Wing-Footed Outfielder, is Softball Heroine,” Kenosha Evening News, May 22, 2943; “Girls Pro Softball Team Arrives, “ South Bend Tribune, May 26, 1943; Mina Costin, “Boys Have Gone to War; Now It’s the All-American Girls,” South Bend Tribune, May 27, 1943; United Press, “Girl Softball Players Stir Fans’ Interest,” South Bend Tribune, May 28, 1943; “Ladies of the Little Diamond,” TIME Magazine, June 14, 1943; Jim Costin, “Jim Costin says:” South Bend Tribune, August 20, 1943; Jim Costin, “Jim Costin says…” South Bend Tribune, May 30, 1943; “Jo-Jo D’Angelo of South Bend is Singer; Mary Baker Models: Both Softball Aces,” Kenosha Evening News, June 18, 1943; “Baseball, Maestro, Please,” TIME Magazine, July 31, 1944; “Girls’ Baseball,” LIFE, June 4, 1945; Bob Overaker, “Girls on the Ball,” Indianapolis Star Magazine, August 10, 1947; Don H. Black, “Belles Retain Ten 1946 Players in AAGL Allocation Meeting, Racine Journal Times, May 6, 1947; Don H. Black, “Havana’s Brightest Diamond Star, Viyalla, Tours With Racine Belles,” Racine Journal-Times, May 7, 1947; Jim Costin, “Jim Costin Says: Latin Glamour Now,” South Bend Tribune, March 10, 1947; “Cuban Girls Bid for Jobs In Pro Loop,” South Bend Tribune, April 8, 1948; “Sox Complete Player Deal With Lassies,” South Bend Tribune, May 10, 1951; “Marrero Bests Jean Faut in 2-1 Duel at Fort Wayne,” South Bend Tribune, August 1, 1951;

Fidler, 43, 50-124, 182, 186 (Fidler, Ch. 3, 10, 11, 12); Table 15: Number of Players from Respective States/Provinces, 1943-1949 & 1951 in Fidler, 186; 1951 Board Meeting Minutes cited in Fidler, 190; Jim Sargent and Robert M. Gorman, The South Bend Blue Sox: A History of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League Team and Its Players, 1943-1954, Forewords by Betsy Jochum, Sue Kidd, and Jean Faut, (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2012), 96-100, 120-121. Martha Ackmann, Curveball: The Remarkable Story of Toni Stone, (Chicago: Lawrence Hill Book,s 2010), 109; Mamie Belton Johnson Goodman interview with Martha Ackmann, April 18, 2005, cited in Ackmann, 158; “Rules of Conduct,”;; Carol J. Pierman, “Baseball, Conduct, and True Womanhood,” Women’s Studies Quarterly, (Spring-Summer 2005), Vol. 33, No. 1/2, 68-85; Peter Dreier, “A Lavender League of Their Own,” The Nation,

Wrigley’s scouts for the League combed the United States and Canada for the best softball players, and in the early years began recruitment from “municipal, state, regional, and national American Softball Association tournaments” (Fidler, 182). The Cubs’ main scout, Jimmy Hamilton, was responsible for establishing League try-outs across the US and Canada and selecting the League’s original players. Player demographics gathered from 1943-1951 show that the players hailed from 31 US states, 4 Canadian provinces, and Cuba.

After spring training in 1947 which took place in Havana, Cuba, the League signed its first Cuban player. The League sponsored several post-season exhibition tours across Latin America and South America in the late 1940s, which prompted further recruitment of Latin American players. Not only did the tours increase international publicity for the League, but also promoted the development of women’s baseball similar to that being played by the AAGPBL in places such as Cuba and Puerto Rico.

While Cuban players were welcomed into the fold, no African American players were ever officially offered a spot on an AAGPBL team. There appeared to be an unofficial policy of segregation throughout the League. Major League Baseball had not been integrated during the early years of the AAGPBL, but even after MLB integration with Jackie Robinson in 1947, the League remained off-limits to Black women. In at least two separate instances, Black women tried out for the South Bend Blue Sox, but never officially made the roster. Prior to the opening of the 1951 season, two Black women “worked out with the Sox” in early May 1951, but no further mention of either woman appeared in the South Bend Tribune. After the 1951 season concluded, the League Board of Directors discussed the possibility of Black women joining the League, with varying ball clubs coming down on different sides of the issue. According to meeting minutes, “The consensus of the group seemed to be against the idea of colored players, unless they would show promise of exceptional ability, that in the event a club did hire one of them, that none of the clubs would make her feel unwelcome.” Another Black woman tried out for the Blue Sox in 1952, but she was not mentioned in the South Bend Tribune coverage of that season at all and apparently never made it onto the roster. It is clear that Black women wanted to play in the League but were not actively recruited and were often met with both unofficial and official hostility. Historian Martha Ackmann asserts that Toni Stone, the first woman to play in the male Negro Leagues, was interested in playing with the AAGPBL and wrote League executives about trying out. Stone never received a response. Similarly, Mamie Johnson, a Black player following in the footsteps of Stone, attended an AAGPBL tryout in the Washington D.C. area with her friend and first baseman Rita Jones. According to an interview with Johnson, when she and Jones arrived at the try-outs, “they looked around and saw that all the players were white…Before they could put on their baseball gloves, AAGPBL players and organizers gave them a stare that communicated everything.” The pair was clearly not welcome.  Johnson recalled, “It dawned on me. They think we’re not as good as [they] are.”

The lack of inclusion of Black players likely was connected to Wrigley’s emphasis on white middle class notions of femininity that were built into every aspect of the League. This brand of femininity was couched in language surrounding respectability, but race and sexuality certainly played into it. In this instance, respectability meant white and heterosexual. Wrigley believed that for society to fully accept women’s professional baseball and to shed stereotypes of women softball players, he would have to highlight the players’ femininity. The women would be promoted as “All-American girls,” which included the adoption of a skirted uniform in pastel colors, employing team chaperones, and enrolling the players in charm school. The League also implemented strict codes of conduct. For instance, the players were required to abide by such League rules as “Always appear in feminine attire when not actively engaged in practice or playing ball,” “Boyish bobs are not permissible,” and “Lipstick should always be on.”

[4] “About the South Bend Blue Sox,”; “Season Timeline: The AAGBPL Timeline of Seasons,”; “Table 4: AAGPBL Teams, 1943-1954, Dates of Entry and Duration of Play,” in Fidler, 74; Sargent and Gorman, 10. See South Bend Tribune newspaper coverage from 1943-1954, via

Over the course of the League’s twelve-year existence, fifteen different teams operated but only ten teams existed simultaneously in any given season. The Rockford Peaches and the South Bend Blue Sox were the only two teams to play in every season from 1943 to 1954.

[5] Jim Costin, “Jim Costin Says,” South Bend Tribune, February 3, 1946; “Blue Sox Report Heavy Demand for Box Seats, Season Tickets,” South Bend Tribune, March 29, 1946; “Funds Sought for Blue Sox,” South Bend Tribune, 1946; Jim Costin, “Chicks Spoil Home Opener at Playland,” South Bend Tribune, May 27, 1946; Jim Costin, “Jim Costin says: Girls’ Season Ends,” South Bend Tribune, September 10, 1946; Jim Costin, “Jim Costin Says: Blue Sox Attendance,” South Bend Tribune, August 25, 1947; Jim Costin, “Blue Sox Lose Two Before 3, 550 Fans,” South Bend Tribune, June 1, 1948; “Chicks Beat Blue Sox, 1-0 In 15 Innings,” South Bend Tribune, September 13, 1948; Fidler, “Table 10: Comparison of League Publicity and Promotion Budget with Seasonal Attendance, 1943-1954,” 137; "Attendance of the South Bend Club for Entire Nine Years: 1943 to & Including 1951," Dailey Notebooks, volume 7, pg. 3, 6, 11-11v, Rare Books and Special Collections, Hesburgh Libraries, University of Notre Dame.

For the first three years when South Bend played at Bendix Field and the war raged on, their attendance hovered between 40,000-50,000. Since the team failed to make the playoffs, post-season games did not bump attendance records.

1943: 41,918

1944: 49,294

1945: 49,223

After the move to Playland Park, however, attendance rose dramatically. Several factors contributed to this. The first was the end of the war and with it various wartime travel restrictions such as gas and tire rationing that had previously limited some fans from attending games. Second and related to the first, Bendix Field was located on the far west side of town and was not easily accessible and offered limited parking and seating. Playland, however, was centrally located in South Bend, offered plenty of parking both free and paid, provided more seating, including 2600 permanent covered seats for inclement weather, and featured a brand-new lighting system that was more powerful than that at Bendix as well as nicer accommodations for the players (showers and dressing rooms), fans (unimpeded views), and press (better location and lighting around the new press box). Third, with the addition of new teams, League attendance across the board increased dramatically over the next few years, peaking in 1948 for the League.

South Bend:

1946: 112,135 [with playoffs: 121,626]

1947:104,309 [with playoffs:115,996]

1948: 93,687 [with playoffs: 96,779]

1949: 95,878 [with playoffs: 100,880]

1950: 67,727 [didn’t make playoffs]

1951: 68,268 [with playoffs: 81,356]

1952: 57,216 [with all-star game and playoffs: 63,699]

IHB does not have attendance figures for South Bend for the final two seasons of the League.

[6] Paul Neville, “Sox Trounce Rockford, 10-2 in Final Tilt,” South Bend Tribune, September 14, 1951; Paul Neville, “On the Level with Paul Neville,” South Bend Tribune, September 18, 1951; “Faut Pitches, Bats Her Team to 6-3 Victory,” South Bend Tribune, September 12, 1952; Joe Doyle, “According to Doyle,” South Bend Tribune, September 12, 1952; “Season Timeline: The AAGPBL Timeline of Seasons,”; “1951 South Bend Blue Sox,”; “1952 South Bend Blue Sox,”; “Appendix 4: AAGPBL Champions,” Fidler, 343.

Not only did they win the playoff championships twice (defeating the Rockford Peaches both times), but the South Bend Blue Sox were League champions twice as well. They tied with Rockford for the pennant in the 1949 season with a record of 75 wins and 36 losses and then won outright in 1951. For more on their come-from-behind dramatic win of the 1952 playoffs after player walkouts, listen to our Talking Hoosier History podcast episode “‘The Dutiful Dozen’: The South Bend Blue Sox and Women’s Professional Baseball.”

[7] Eliza Berman, “Meet the Real Women Who Inspired A League of Their Own,”, April 9, 2015, Accessed via Inspire Database; Fidler, 9-11, 244-268, 279-287; Betsy Jochum, Foreword in Sargent and Gorman’s, The South Bend Blue Sox, 1-3; Sue Kidd, Foreword in Sargent and Gorman’s The South Bend Blue Sox, 3; Sargent and Gorman, 11, 258; Matt Rothenberg, “Thirty Years Ago the AAGPBL came to Cooperstown,” Part of the Baseball History Series,; Richard Goldstein, “Dottie Collins, 84, Star Pitcher of Women’s Baseball League, Dies,” New York Times, August 15, 2008; Joan Holderness, “Holderness, Joan (Interview transcript and video), 2010,” Digital Collections, accessed May 6, 2021,; Paula Diperna, “Honoring Women in Baseball: On family baseball pilgrimages, now girls will have role models, too,” New York Times, October 31, 1988; Richard Goldstein, “Rose Gacioch, 89, a Star In Women’s Pro Baseball,” New York Times, September 16, 2004; A League of Their Own, directed by Penny Marshall (Columbia Pictures, 1992), DVD (Columbia TriStar Home Video, 1997); Sam Carr, “Before A League of Their Own,” Part of the Baseball History Series,

The players from the AAGPBL were not officially inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame but rather were honored within a permanent exhibition titled “Women in Baseball.” The opening of the exhibit in November 1988 in part inspired the hit movie directed by Penny Marshall, which starred Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, and Madonna. Both the permanent exhibit and the popular film brought the AAGPBL back into the public limelight three decades after it folded.