AAGPBL Interview - Mary Nesbitt
Mary Nesbitt was one of the first players in the AAGPBL. She shared some of her memories with us.
1) How did you get interested in playing baseball and where did you play before you turned pro?
I've played ball ever since elementary school. On all the school teams. All state teams. Went to nationals at 14 in Chicago, again to nationals in Louisville at 65 (yes, 65). This was fast-pitch softball. Playing in the pro league - we were converted to baseball which was right down my alley.
2) Describe your signing.
No big deal about signing our contract. I was excited for sure. I thanked God for being at the right place at the right time.
3) What position(s) did you play? Which teams did you play for?
I was a pitcher for the Racine Belles for three years, first base for the Peoria Redwings for three years.
4) What was the best thing about playing pro ball?
We made lots of friends. At home games we were always invited to family homes for meals and fellowship. A chance to travel, each team had a team bus after the first year.
5) What was the worst thing about playing ball?
We had to travel by train the first year. We were still at war and the military had priority, so we sat on the end of our suitcases in the aisle. We didn't complain, we passed the time by playing cards.
6) What was the highlight of your career?
Winning the 1943 Championship with the Racine Belles as a pitcher. Hitting a grand slam in Peoria with the Redwings. Over 10,000 fans present. The stadium behind my picture was the home of the Peoria Redwings.
7) Who were the best players you played with or faced? Comments?
Sophy Kurys - Second base for the Belles - Led league in stolen bases
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?)
At first everyone was curious as to what we could do. After a few games the crowds began to increase. We proved our point.
9) Who were your favorite big league ballplayers during the era you played in?
The Babe - we were playing one night (I was pitching) when over the loudspeaker it was announced that Babe Ruth had passed away. The crowd and players stopped for a moment of silence. It was very touching. I was a fan of Ted Williams, Hank Aaron, Joe D.
10) Do you follow big league ball now? If so, how do you think it compares with your day?
Yes, I'm a Braves fan. We played in skirts - I had my share of strawberries. There was no radar to check our speed, no batting gloves. No such thing as TV. It was radio and newspapers.
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?)
There are some women's baseball leagues. I don't know if they're pro or not. Our league has endorsed the schools to let the girls have baseball teams. You see the girls playing on little league teams with the boys. When the girls get to the ninth grade they are pushed on the fast-pitch softball teams and most want to play baseball. More power to them.
12) How do you feel about the Silver Bullets?
They had a good thing going. I haven't heard anything about them for a long time. More power to them if they're still active.
13) Briefly describe your life since your pro career ended.
I married Mr. Wisham. We settled here in Hollister. We raised two boys and two girls - all grown. I retired as a school bus driver after 22 years. Mr. Wisham retired from Georgia Pacific (26 years). When my youngest started school I went back to playing ball. This time it was fast-pitch. I was still playing at 68. Mr. Wisham and I had 52 years together. He passed away in 1998. I'm still very active, throwing out first pitches at ball games. Just celebrated my 80th birthday.
14) What advice do you have for young women who want to become pro ballplayers?
Play every chance you have. You have to become dedicated. You eat, sleep and breathe baseball.15) Any other memories or comments?
I've always said I was at the right place at the right time. I had just graduated from high school in 1943 when I was scouted by a scout sent out by Mr. Wrigley. His name was Jimmy Hamilton. I was the only girl on a mans' softball fast-pitch team when he approached me about the league. I had to go for a two-week tryout at Wrigley Field. I was assigned to the Racine Belles for three years and then to Peoria for three years. The Lord has kept me healthy all these years and I am grateful.
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