AAGPBL Interview - Eleanor Dapkus
Eleanor was a longtime pitcher-outfielder in the AAGPBL. She is #10 on the all-time RBI list and sported a 53-34 record to go with her 1.87 ERA. She granted us the following interview.
1) How did you get interested in playing baseball and where did you play before you turned pro?
I was born in Chicago and lived there until about 1971. I was the tenth child in our family and the first girl after nine boys. I was naturally athletically inclined. I started playing sports with the boys at a very age. The only sports I didn't participate in were tennis and swimming. I did try swimming, but almost drowned a couple of times. I gave that up. As for tennis, none of the kids I hung out with played tennis
Baseball came naturally, but most of the time we played softball. Mostly we played in the streets or in the prairies. Later on when I got to be about 13 I joined the board of education playground teams. There was a woman physical education teacher for the girls and a man phys ed teacher for the boys on the playground. There was softball, volleyball, basketball, fieldball (similar to soccer), ping pong, roller skating, ice skating, horse shoes, rug making, ukulele contests, singing and marbles. I may have forgotten some, but I would participate in anything. I have 25 medals I won over the years.
2) Describe your signing.
When Phillip K. Wrigley decided to start the All American League in 1943, it was because the big leaguers were going off to war. The father of my playground teacher was a Chicago Cubs scout, so the teacher talked me into going to the tryouts which were being held in Wrigley Field. Fortunately I made the league and was sent to the Racine Belles in Racine, Wisconsin where I played for eight years. There were about 500 girls trying out. Wrigley had scouts all over the US, Canada and even Cuba signing girls for tryouts.
3) What position(s) did you play? Which teams did you play for?
When the league started we were playing underhand fast pitch. In about 1946 we started sidearm pitching and then in 1947 we switched to overhand pitching. I started pitching when we went to sidearm. I played eight years, all for Racine.
4) What was the best thing about playing pro ball?
Everything was structured professionally - from the town of Racine down to professional men as managers, mostly men who had been big league ballplayers. We also had chaperones who traveled with the teams.
5) What was the worst thing about playing ball?
Traveling got tiresome after a while. Sometime we would travel for hours and then have to play ball after we reached our destinations - sometimes it would be a double header.
6) What was the highlight of your career?
I think that pitching was the highlight of my career, plus the fact I hit ten home runs the first year I played.
7) Who were the best players you played with or faced? Comments?
The best players I played with on the Racine Belles were Sophie Kurys, Irene Hickson, Maddy English, Edie Perlick, Clara Schillace, Marge Danhauser, Betty Moe Trezza, Jo Winter, Dottie Maguire, Pepper Paire, and of course, me.
Some of the best players I faced were Jean Faut, Doris Sams, Olive Little, Bonnie Baker, and Marge Stefani. There were many of them. If you didn't play good ball you didn't survive the League.
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?)
Once the fans saw the brand of ball we played they really got behind us and were all for us. They always filled our stands. Increased exposure changed a lot of minds, especially after we won the championship the first year.
9. Who were your favorite big league ballplayers during the era you played in?
The reason Phil K. Wrigley had a league was because so many of the big leaguers were in service. I really didn't follow the big leagues then.
10) Do you follow big league ball now? If so, how do you think it compares with your day?
I do watch a lot of baseball on the TV. I watch the Cubs mostly. I think it is a better game today. More home runs are hit. I think things should be changed somewhat so that the game would progress faster.
11) Should women have their own pro 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 think that women should have their own pro league. My thinking is that no matter how good a woman player is, there just aren't enough women who could play with men. I could be wrong.
12) How do you feel about the Silver Bullets?
I thought the Silver Bullets were good but I didn't get to watch them a lot.
13) Briefly describe your life since your pro career ended.
After my pro career ended I went back to Chicago, got married and had two sons. I continued to play golf and bowl for a number of years until my knees started giving me problems. Then I had to quit.
14) What advice do you have for young women who want to become pro ballplayers?
I think young women who want to become pro ballplayers should be encouraged to do so.15) Any other memories or comments?
Playing ball in the All American League was one of the best times of my life. I think the movie "A League of Their Own" was a great movie. It is too bad the League did not continue.
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