AAGPBL Interview - Audrey Kissel
Audrey Kissel played second base for the Minneapolis Millerettes in 1944. She responded to our interview request with this letter:
It's always wonderful to hear there are people out there who take great interest in our league. I've been writing letters to each of you who want to know more about the league, and sometimes it takes me a while to answer; so I've decided to write a letter that I can send along to anyone of you, and hopefully it will say what you need to know.
Most of the letters I receive are from people who know pretty much about the league, but want to know my part in it. Well, I grew up at a time when there were softball parks all over and sandlots on just about every corner. If there was a game going on I would always get in it, and if there wasn't a game going on, I would get one started. I had 3 older brothers who played great softball and baseball, and they really coached me well. (This is the story of most of the girls in the league. Remember, we didn't have TV or computers back then.)
At age 11 I began playing in the St. Louis softball parks and I loved every minute of it. I played in the St. Louis parks until I was 18, when I went to LaSalle, IL to try out for the AAGPBL, and I made it. So at 18, I played for the Minneapolis Millerettes in 1944. I played second base, and loved every minute of it. My nicknames were "pigtails" and "Kiss". My teammates called me Kiss because my last name was Kissel. The radio announcers called me "Pigtails" because I wore pigtails in every game. I couldn't stand hair in my face when I played ball. We played every day and twice on Sundays. We traveled by train and bus. Each team had a chaperone, and we had to be in 2 hours after the game. That gave us time to shower and get something to eat, and then back to the hotel. When we were in our home towns we stayed with people in their homes, who were screened by people hired by the league to be sure they were okay for us to stay with. There were two girls to a home. We stayed with a wonderful older couple, and we felt at home with them.
My most memorable memory was when I played in the perfect game pitched by Annabelle Lee. That's no hits, no walks, no runs, no errors. Three up and three down each inning. Nobody reached first base. It was very exciting for me, and near the end it was quite tense. Nobody wanted to ruin it for her, and we did it. Needless to say, we won. You don't hear of too many perfect games. I'm very proud of it.
In 1945 I was about to sign my contract to go back to play ball. I was engaged to a sailor. He was shot down over Jap-held territory, and was missing in action. Then word came that he was rescued. He was given a 30 day leave, and we were married. My 1945 contract is in my scrapbook along with all my other articles and pictures. Fred always says he ruined my career, but actually he started a new one for me. He's a wonderful husband, and we have 5 children and 9 grandchildren. Most of them were great in sports. Some received full scholarships, and the are very successful in life. We are very fortunate to have such a wonderful family.
I always said I was born at the right time, because loved and lived to play ball. To have a Professional Women's Baseball League formed at just the right time was like a big dream come true. We were doing what we all loved to do most, and getting paid for it too. It was one of the greatest highlights in my life, and I'll never forget those special moments. You might say it was "icing on the cake."
The movie "A League of Their Own" shows a candy man as their owner. It was really Phillip K. Wrigley, the chewing gum man, and owner of the Chicago Cubs, who formed the league. Ken Sells was the business agent for the Cubs, and Mr. Wrigley had him set everything up. Mr. Wrigley kept it for 2 years, 1943 and 1944, and in 1945 he turned it over to franchises in the cities. It went on to 1954, and then folded. You'll have to talk to some of the girls who played in the later years for that information.
In 1988 we were all inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. That was another time I will never forget. It was wonderful. To see all those women that we played with and against was fantastic. We hadn't seen each other in all those years, and it seemed like a fantasy. We have reunions every year in different cities, and Fred and I have been very fortunate to be able to go to all of them. Each one has been fantastic.
We've really had a wonderful life, and we're still going. God's been good to us!!!
p.s. On May 21, 2000, Fred passed away. It was very sudden, and I wasn't ready for it. But then, when is a good time for something like that? We had 55 beautiful years of married life together, and we made many many beautiful memories. I really miss him, but I have so many wonderful friends, and they keep me busy. Fred was so excited about the AAGPBL, and he enjoyed the reunions as much as I did.
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