AAGPBL Interview - Pat Brown
Pat played for the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League before earning not only a college degree but three additional degrees! She took the time to answer a few of our questions.
I started playing baseball around the age of six with my brothers in our back yard. As we grew older, we played sandlot baseball with the boys in Winthrop. When school baseball teams were started most of the boys joined the school teams, and girls were not allowed to play.
2) Describe your signing.
I had just completed the All American Girls Professional Baseball League Rookie School in South Bend, Indiana. The Kenosha Comets of Wisconsin offered me a contract which I signed in about three seconds. From South Bend I went to join the Kenosha Comets at their training camp in West Baden, Indiana.
3) What position(s) did you play? Which teams did you play for?
I wanted to play first base or the outfield, but I had been chosen because of my strong throwing arm, so I became a pitcher. Most girls played softball, so finding baseball pitchers was often difficult. I played for the Kenosha Comets, the Chicago Colleens and the Battle Creek Belles in Michigan.
4) What was the best thing about playing pro baseball?
As I said earlier, I played baseball since I was about six, and loved the game. I was heartbroken when told that I could not play on the school teams because I was a girl, and girls couldn't play baseball. At ages 10 to 15 girls can keep up the pace with boys teams. In fact, I was a better player than some of the boys I had played sandlot baseball with. So, to me, the best thing about playing professional baseball was threefold: 1. I was playing baseball again; 2. I was traveling all around the country and getting paid for it; and 3. All of us in the AAGPBL showed people that women could play baseball and play it well.
5) What was the worst thing about playing baseball?
Nothing, except the fear of being released. Other than that it was one of the most exciting times of my life.
6) What was the highlight of your career?
The first highlight was signing the contract with the Kenosha Comets. The second highlight was when my team, the Chicago Colleens, played the Springfield Sallies in a three-inning exhibition game at Yankee Stadium prior to a Yankees / Athletics game. No one would ever guess who volunteered to umpire our game. It was an all-star cast of four Yankee players: Home - Ralph Houk, First - Gene Woodling, Second - Ed Lopat, Third - Allie Reynolds. We also met Connie Mack, Manager of the Athletics. Who would have ever thought that girls would be playing baseball at Yankee Stadium?
7) Who were the best players you played with or faced? Comments?
All of the players in the AAGPBL were the best women baseball players. We had to be the best or we wouldn't be on the teams.
8) Do you think the fans and press accepted you more as the years wore on? (Describe how it was when you started. Did increased exposure change some minds?)
The League started in 1943 as the All-American Girls Softball League, but the people wanted baseball, and by 1945 the League began to play only baseball and the name of the League was changed to the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. In 1949 it was estimated that close to one million people went to the games. So to answer the question, yes, we were accepted by that time. I joined the League in 1950.
9. Who were your favorite big league ballplayers during the era you played in?
Ted Williams and Joe Dimaggio.
10) Do you follow big league ball now? If so, how do you think it compares with your day?
Yes, I follow Major League Baseball. My favorite team is the Red Sox. I do not believe in the Curse of the Bambino, but as of now, July 2004, the Sox have fallen apart, and I am already quoting our favorite phrase, "Wait until next year." With all the money and perks flowing freely amongst the major league players today, I find it difficult to make a comparison. It would be like comparing apples and oranges, although I would not have minded getting one of their salary agreements.
11) Should women have their own pro baseball league, should they play in the majors, or should we have both (a women's league and the chance for the best women players to play in the majors?)
I believe that more opportunities should be available for women to play professional baseball against other women. But some day if a woman comes along who has the skills and ability to play in the majors, she should have the chance to try out. I like the idea of women's leagues playing each others so they can improve their skills. There are more opportunities for women to play baseball today, but not in a professional capacity.
According to their website (www.uswb.org) the US Women's Baseball organization consists of 12 leagues around the country. 40 top players from these leagues were recently chosen to play on the first USA Women's Baseball Team this summer. They are playing against teams from other countries. Hopefully these leagues will continue to grow throughout many countries.
12) How do you feel about the Silver Bullets?
I was excited when I heard about the Silver Bullets, but was let down when I saw that the Coors Company, their sponsor, was having them play men's teams, college kids, local men's teams across the country, etc. I think the Coors Company could have afforded to have two women's teams touring the country playing each other. This would have given the public an opportunity to see how well women could play baseball. When our two teams, the Chicago Colleens and the Springfield Sallies traveled throughout the United States and Canada, people were surprised and impressed with how well we played baseball. With the Silver Bullets, sometimes they were mismatched, and eventually attendance decreased. The women were good baseball players, but they needed another women's team as competition.
13) Briefly describe your life since your pro baseball career ended.
Going through the tryouts to get into the League, and playing for the AAGPBL changed my life. I was doing something very few women did, and I loved the game of baseball. There were good playing days and there were bad playing days. There were injuries and there were good times. Struggling to make the team, traveling around the country doing something that few women would get a chance to do and to make wonderful friends. All those things and seeing the country at the same time just made me work harder and game more confidence in myself and the ability to fufil my other dreams.
I got to go to college when I didn't have any money. I became a lawyer at a time when very few women were lawyers. I did all the things that were not widely open to women. I did not do these things to challenge anyone, but because I loved baseball, because I yearned to go to college, and I wanted to be a lawyer. The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League gave me the confidence to move on and fufil these dreams.
14) What advice do you have for young women who want to become pro ballplayers?
I give the same advice to all the girls and women who ask. I tell them to "follow your dream" whether it be as a lawyer, a doctor, a construction worker, a baseball player or any other field of endeavor. In the past all these professions and many others were for men only. Even today it is sometimes difficult to break through the barriers. But times have changed and places for women in the workplace and in sports are improving. Even for women in baseball, for example, Women's amateur baseball leagues are available around the country. So no matter what dream you have for the future, I say don't give up. Follow your dream.15) Any other memories or comments?
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