“You Want to Ride the Ball…..”

“You Want to Ride the Ball…..”

(originally written in March 2017)

 

 

I heard some version of that sentence at least three times. It still haunts me a bit from time to time. Allow me to work up to giving you more information at the end of the blog.

During the summer of 1978, I began working as a Union Laborer. School was out and I wanted to earn some extra money. One of my brothers knew the Union Steward and he had no problem getting me a union card. That is, he had no problem after I paid $500 for “dues” which was interesting since the union only charged $350. It is called “greasing the wheel” and I was set. I had no issue with paying the money because a union worker made a good wage. I was set to work from June 1- August 10.

Grab a Broom

I was assigned to work at the new power station they were building just outside of Havana. The first day they took all my information and assigned a foreman to me. I was to grab a broom and clean all day. They had part of the plant up and union men of all trades were working on it. I was to clean an area that was the outside perimeter of the plant. I was told NOT to clean the inner circle. It was open to the sky in that area and workers were working high and they wanted to keep people out of the area on the ground level. They told me that was to prevent injury and things could be accidentally dropped from high. They assured me nothing had every fallen but it could. By 9AM I am cleaning and sweeping and leaning on my broom like any good union laborer when about 10:30AM I heard a whizzing sound and then workers yelling. One of the groups above had allowed a roll of cable to slip out of their grasp and it can down to the ground with a whizz. Whiping around and it would have decapitated any one in its path. So much for nothing every dropping.

Geniuses at Work

A couple of interesting things happened that I want to share that didn’t directly affect me but is related to the power plant construction. The first one deals with a railroad. There was a crew that was to build a railroad track from one end of the site to the other. Rails were mounted on five foot planks and then they were placed together (linked) to form the tracks. Problem was… they started with a crew on one end and another crew on the other end and they miss meeting each other by a good 50 feet. They had to go back and remove some of them and re-do the linking so they could complete the project. This took about 3 days to get it back on track.

Another day here was a horrible thing happen. Every day new pieces of steel were lifted up and beams were placed in the building of the plant. One particular day I happened to notice them swinging in the beam and a guy standing on the adjacent beam slowly signalling the beam into the correct place. He got to the last part and told the operator to set it down. Just as he did it moved about 3-4 inches and it was set down on the feet of the guy doing the signalling. Long story short he was taken to hospital and had three toes on each foot gone. The beam had crushed them. Ugh.

Sitting Idly

Another thing was I was working in the back lot of the site and I came across a guy sitting in a crane. He was just sitting there. He sat there for about 4 hours and then when I came back past him I struck up a conversation. I asked him why his crane was not running and why he just sat there. He said several days before he was sent out there to work and when he was done they instructed him to leave his crane and they would have him bring it up the next day. Problem was… in between that time they had unloaded a very large load of lumber in the path of his return. They couldn’t get him back. He was told to go to his machine and just sit there until the path was clear for him to return. It was 6 days later that they finally got him back. He was paid the entire time to just sit there.

What to Do With Lazy Workers

One oddity happened. I had worked there for about 3 weeks with a guy named “Butch”. He didn’t work hard and he showed up about three days per week. The supervisors called a short meeting one morning and informed all of the workers that Butch had been promoted and was to become a supervisor immediately. Wait, this is the guy that doesn’t work hard and only 3 days per week? Yep. About 3-4 weeks later we got the scoop. They put him in that job to make him show up. It worked. Butch was there everyday and didn’t have to work, only supervise. I guess somebody was a genius to think of that.

Jackhammer

I had a horrible couple of weeks when I was assigned, daily, to run a jackhammer. They needed concrete taken out of a 80’x60′ area that was 14 inches deep. It was a mistake and they neeed to rectify it. So for about 10 working days I ran that hammer. It was hard work, slow work and when I got home I was shaking a bit like a jackhammer. Then they rewarded me for four days ( I never complained to them about the jackhammer) and was given a job “spotting.”

Making Sure Nobody Gets Covered Up

This job is on the ground as the backhoes are working. The holes are about 40 feet deep they have a laborer in the hole doing some digging to make it a clean dig. So I stood on top of the hole and watched the laborer work as the backhoe also worked in the same hole….. if the laborer should get covered by the backhoe I was to signal the operator to stop and then I was to alert others that he had been covered up. Then three of us were to go into the hole and dig him out. It never happened.

The Ball

One day my foreman’s boss approach me and ask me if I wanted to work high. I asked him what he meant and he pointed to the top of the building. I stood there for a long while and then I began to talk.

Me: “You want me to work up there?”

Boss: “Yes, it’s an easy job. All you do all day is make sure everyone has water. You check the water jugs.”

Me: “I don’t know.”

Boss: ” It’s easy. They have flooring and railings up there and besides you make a $1 more per hour.”

Me: ” Ok, I guess I can.”

Boss: ” Good. You want to ride the ball up?”

Me: “huh?”

Boss: “The ball. The ball on the crane. just grab ahold and ride it to the top.”

Me: “Nah, I don’t think so.”

Boss: “Ok, there are steps that go up there. ”

So off I went. I found the stairs and headed up. Oh but wait! The stairs ended at the fifth floor and there are eight stories to the building. What am I looking at? Oh my. There was a straight up ladder that extended to the sixth, seventh and eighth story. Straight up. I stood there for a few seconds when some random guy came by and asked me if there was a problem. I told him I was unsure about climbing the ladder to the top. He responded with, ” do you want to ride the ball up?” I declined and grab the rungs of the ladder. White knuckling my way one at a time. I reached the top level. What am I going to do now? I had to swing my legs over to get on the flooring of the work area. I froze for a bit. Some guy asked me if I was ok and I shook my head affirmatively and slowly swung my leg over and crawl over to reach the top.

I was at the top and not feeling very well.  My new supervisor approached me and asked me if I was ok.

New Boss: ” hey buddy, you ok, you don’t look so good.”

Me: ” I guess I am ok.”

New Boss: “Great, let me get you started and you now that you make a $1 more per hour working high, don’t you? (I nodded) You have five areas up here to make sure they have adequate water supply. If a water jug gets almost empty you need to signal the guy down there running the ball. Tell him and he will send a new one up.”

So he pointed to my first area and I started over there…but one thing didn’t look good. They told me there was flooring a railings up here. Technically, they were correct. BUT it was boards running from beam to beam with a rope railing around the edge. GULP. So I started over. Slowly I inched my way over, holding on to the railing. The boards were bowing in the middle and I felt really uncomfortable. I reached the water and it was fine. I told myself I couldn’t do this job. I inched my way back and got to some solid footing when another random guy stopped me.

Random Guy: “Hey buddy, you ok?”

Me: “No I don’t think so. I don’t feel real good working high.”

Random Guy: “But you get a $1 more per hour working up here.”

(I thought that $1 more isn’t going to help me when I die up here)

Me: ” I think I need to go back down.”

Random Guy: “Ok, you want to ride the ball down?”

Me: “No thanks.”

So I decided to forego the dollar more and head back down. I walked over and then it struck me that I need to go back down a straight ladder and I froze. I had to swing my leg over and grab the rungs of the ladder at the same time. I stood there. Another guy asked me if I was ok and repeated the same offer to have me grab the big ball on the crane and ride it down. I mustered the courage to climb down. I finally, reached the ground, and my legs were shaking and I felt ill.

Once on ground,  the first supervisor came to me and I told him I couldn’t work high. He said it should be worth it for a $1 more. I made some comment about being at the top and seeing Canton from there and how I wanted to live to have a family and the dollar meant nothing to me. I told him I was sick and was going home.

That night, laying in bed, I could visualize everything I saw from the time starting up to getting back on the ground. I passed up the extra money but that didn’t bother me. The next day back to work, the supervior told me that less than 20% were cut out to work high.

I wonder if things would have been different if I would have ridden the ball.

 

 

Previous Blog Posts:

Sunday Fight Behind the Root Beer Stand

Remembering My Time Around Easton

“Oh Well, I Will Strike Her Out Anyway”

What Were Our Parents Thinking?

Call the Sheriff

Kilbourne Condom

I’m Still Paying For It

My First School Basketball Team

The History of Me- My Birthday

 

Women in Baseball Wednesday Rules of Conduct

Women in Baseball Wednesday  Rules of Conduct

THE RULES OF CONDUCT FOR PLAYERS AS SET UP BY THE ALL-AMERICAN GIRLS PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL LEAGUE

 

THE MANAGEMENT SETS A HIGH STANDARD FOR THE GIRLS SELECTED FOR THE DIFFERENT CLUBS AND EXPECTS THEM TO LIVE UP TO THE CODE OF CONDUCT WHICH RECOGNIZES THAT STANDARD. THERE ARE GENERAL REGULATIONS NECESSARY AS A MEANS OF MAINTAINING ORDER AND ORGANIZING CLUBS INTO A WORKING PROCEDURE.
ALWAYS appear in feminine attire when not actively engaged in practice or playing ball. This regulation continues through the playoffs for all, even though your team is not participating. AT NO TIME MAY A PLAYER APPEAR IN THE STANDS IN HER UNIFORM, OR WEAR SLACKS OR SHORTS IN PUBLIC.
Boyish bobs are not permissible and in general, your hair should be well groomed at all times with longer hair preferable to short hair cuts. Lipstick should always be on.
Smoking or drinking is not permissible in public places. Liquor drinking will not be permissible under any circumstances. Other intoxicating drinks in limited portions with after-game meal only, will be allowed. Obscene language will not be allowed at any time.
All social engagements must be approved by a chaperone. Legitimate requests for dates can be allowed by chaperones.
Jewelry must not be worn during game or practice, regardless of type.
All living quarters and eating places must be approved by the chaperones. No player shall change her residence without the permission of the chaperone.
For emergency purposes, it is necessary that you leave a notice of your whereabouts and your home phone.
Each club will establish a satisfactory place to eat, and a time when all members must be in their individual rooms. In general, the lapse of time will be two hours after the finish of the last game, but in no case later than 12:30 a.m. Players must respect hotel regulations as to other guests after this hour, maintaining conduct in accordance with high standards set by the league.
Always carry your employee’s pass as a means of identification for entering the various parks. This pass is NOT transferable.
Relatives, friends, and visitors are not allowed on the bench at any time.
Due to the shortage of equipment, baseballs must not be given as souvenirs without permission from the Management.
Baseball uniform skirts shall not be shorter than six inches above the knee-cap.
In order to sustain the complete spirit of rivalry between clubs, the members of different clubs must not fraternize at any time during the season. After the opening day of the season, fraternizing will be subject to heavy penalties. This also means in particular, room parties, auto trips to out of the way eating places, etc. However, friendly discussions in lobbies with opposing players are permissible. Players should never approach the opposing manager or chaperone about being transferred.
When traveling, the members of the clubs must be at the station thirty minutes before departure time. Anyone missing her arranged transportation will have to pay her own fare.
Players will not be allowed to drive their cars past their city’s limits without the special permission of their manager. Each team will travel as a unit via the method of travel provided for the league.
FINES OF FIVE DOLLARS FOR FIRST OFFENSE, TEN DOLLARS FOR SECOND, AND SUSPENSION FOR THIRD, WILL AUTOMATICALLY BE IMPOSED FOR BREAKING ANY OF THE ABOVE RULES.

Women in Baseball Wednesday- AAGPBL- Formation History

Women in Baseball Wednesday- AAGPBL- Formation History

Note: With major league players off to World WarII and minor league teams becoming non-existant, the time was ripe for women to play baseball. The fan base was ready and willing for this new sport.

 

All American Girls Professional Baseball League

 

By the fall of 1942, many minor league teams disbanded due to the war. Young men, 18 years of age and over, were being drafted into the armed services. The fear that this pattern would continue and that Major League Baseball Parks across the country were in danger of collapse is what prompted Philip K. Wrigley, the chewing-gum mogul who had inherited the Chicago Cubs’ Major League Baseball franchise from his father, to search for a possible solution to this dilemma. Wrigley asked Ken Sells, assistant to the Chicago Cubs’ General Manager to head a committee to come up with ideas. The committee recommended a girls’ softball league be established to be prepared to go into Major League parks should attendance fall due to franchises losing too many quality players to attract crowds.

With the dedication of a group of Midwestern businessmen and the financial support of Mr.Wrigley, the All-American Girls Softball League emerged in the spring of 1943. The League was formed as a non-profit organization. A board of trustees was formed which included Philip K. Wrigley; Branch Rickey, Brooklyn Dodgers President and General Manager; Paul V. Harper, Chicago attorney and trustee for the University of Chicago and Chicago Cubs attorney; and Ken Sells, who was named President of the League. Midway in the first season of play, the board of trustees changed the League’s name to All-American Girls Baseball League (AAGBBL) to make it distinctive from the existing softball leagues and because the rules of play were those of Major League Baseball. However, the retention of shorter infield distances and underhand pitching caused some controversy in the media about “Baseball” in the League name. Thus, at the end of the 1943 season, the official League name was again changed to the more descriptive All-American Girls Professional Ball League (AAGPBL). This title was retained until the end of the 1945 season when All-American Girls Baseball League (AAGBBL) was again adopted and retained through 1950. It was during this time period that overhand pitching and smaller ball sizes were adopted. When independent team owners purchased the League at the end of the 1950 season, the official League name was changed to the American Girls Baseball League (AGBL), but popularly it continued to be identified as the All-American League or the All-American Girls Baseball League (AAGBBL). Through the organization of the Players’ Association in1986, and through their efforts to gain recognition by the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1988, the league has now come to be recognized as what it was in actuality: the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL).

The first major issue facing the trustees was to establish what game of ball was going to be played by the women and to define the rules for this new brand of ball. Chicago Cubs’ scout, Jack Sheehan, former player and part-time scout for the Cubs, and Vern Hernlund, supervisor of recreation for the Chicago Parks Department, worked with Ken Sells to write the new set of rules for the League. Since the only organized ball for women in the country was softball, they created a game which included both softball and baseball. There were semi-pro women’s softball teams of quality women players in Chicago and many other urban centers throughout the U.S. and Canada. The skill of these teams provided a logical basis for the use of a 12-inch softball and underhand pitching. They wanted, however, to liven up the game. In an effort to increase hitting and spotlight base running and fielding, they extended the length of softball’s base paths and pitching distance. They also incorporated men’s base running rules by allowing runners to lead off and steal bases. Softball at the time included 10 players. This new game would parallel men’s baseball in a number of players and types of equipment.

The second major issue facing the trustees was to find the talented women playing softball or baseball across the country. Jim Hamilton, 30-year veteran player, manager, owner, and Chicago Cubs’ scout was hired as the Head of Procurement to locate and sign women from all over the United States and Canada. In Canada, the driving force was Johnny Gottslieg, former defenseman for the Chicago Blackhawks National Hockey Team in the 1920s and 1930s.

Gottselig, a native of Regina, Sask., was managing the Blackhawks’ Kansas City farm team in 1942. He had many contacts among sporting figures in the provinces, one of whom was a Regina-based hockey scout named Hub Bishop. Bishop was responsible for signing Mary “Bonnie” Baker, All-Star catcher for the South Bend Blue Sox, and other highly skilled players from the many popular softball leagues which existed in Canada. Johnny Gottselig became the first manager of the Racine Belles in 1943 and managed his team to the first recognized World Championship of the newly organized AAGPBL. Wrigley already had an established recruitment network in place from his ownership of the Cubs and had sports connections throughout North America. Jim Hamilton, with several assistants, was responsible for procuring players from California to New York. Many players were screened from the Chicago Softball League and other existing softball leagues throughout the country. Bill Allington, former minor league player and then a coach in the California leagues, was also an active scout for the All-American League. Allington became the manager for the Rockford Peaches in the summer of 1944 and remained as a manager in the league throughout the league’s existence.

By sending out scouts and setting up try-outs in dozens of major cities, Wrigley attracted hundreds of women from all over America and Canada who were eager to play in this new professional league. Of these, only 280 were invited to the final try-outs in Chicago where 60 were chosen to become the first women to ever play professional baseball.

Team Formation

Wrigley originally envisioned that Major League baseball parks could profit from having the women play on the dates the men’s teams were scheduled to be on the road. He calculated this would maximize the use of the parks which were now only utilized 50% of the time. He approached other Major League owners, but the idea was not well received. Four non-Major League cities were selected that were in close proximity to the League headquarters in Chicago and close to each other. The cities chosen were Racine and Kenosha Wisconsin, Rockford, Illinois, and South Bend, Indiana. Arthur Meyerhoff, Wrigley’s advertising director, was given the responsibility of coordinating operations with city officials and civic leaders in the communities. A projected budget was developed. Wrigley agreed to fund half the cost of operating each team and all over-budget expenses. The host city directors agreed to pay the other half of projected operating costs.

Teams consisted of fifteen players, a manager (coach), a business manager, and a woman chaperone. It was believed that by acquiring notable men sports figures as managers for the girls’ teams, there would be greater curiosity and interest by the public. The first managers selected were Johnny Gottselig; Bert Niehoff, former Major League player and minor league manager; Josh Billings, former Major League player; and Eddie Stumpf, former Milwaukee Brewers catcher.

Spring training was set for May 17, 1943, at Wrigley Field in Chicago. All the players stayed at the Belmont Hotel close to Wrigley Field. The final selection process began on the first day. League officials systematically scrutinized each player. They were tested on playing their field position, throwing, catching, running, sliding and hitting. At the end of the day, no one wanted to answer the phone for fear of being told they would have to pack and go home. Those who survived the cut were signed to professional league contracts which stated they were not to have any other employment during the baseball season. Salaries were high for many of these young players, some as young as 15. In many cases they were making more than their parents who had skilled occupations. Salaries ranged from $45 to $85 a week plus. Those who were signed not only had to be highly skilled players, they also had to comply with high moral standards and rules of conduct imposed by the League.

In addition, femininity was a high priority. Wrigley contracted with Helena Rubenstein’s Beauty Salon to meet with the players at spring training. After their daily practices, the women were required to attend Rubenstein’s evening charm school classes. The proper etiquette for every situation was taught, and every aspect of personal hygiene, mannerisms and dress code was presented to all the players. In an effort to make each player as physically attractive as possible, each player received a beauty kit and instructions on how to use it. (See Charm School and Rules of Conduct for details).

Mrs. Wrigley, Wrigley’s Art Designer, Otis Shepard, and Ann Harnett collaborated to design special uniforms for the League. Ann Harnett, Chicago softball star and the first girl to sign a contract with the league, became a model for the new uniforms. The one-piece short-skirted flared tunic was fashioned after the figure skating, field hockey, and tennis costumes of the period. Satin shorts, knee-high baseball socks and baseball hat completed the uniform. Each city had a different colored uniform and its own symbolic patch decorated the front of the uniform.

 

Next: The Charm School

Women in Baseball – Central Illinois Gals

Women in Baseball – Central Illinois Gals

One of the earliest memories that I have was in kindergarten when the teacher asked us to write what you want to be then you grow up. I remember putting ‘athlete’. I remember putting that, and my teacher said, “You can’t be an athlete, Sarah.” She was a nun. I went to Catholic school. I remember her telling me that, and I was so disappointed. I said, “but why not?” And she said, Girls aren’t athletes, Sarah. Only boys are athletes.”

In 1988 by Sarah Gascon (from “A Game of Their Own” by Jennifer Ring)

Sarah Gascon is now a world-class handball player for the USA

 

The Women in Baseball movement is real. It took the movie that was directed by the late Penny Marshall called, “A League of Their Own” to revitalize this topic. In fact, this movie is the highest-grossing baseball movie ever made. It is just ahead of the Jackie Robinson movie “42”. There are women now playing in colleges, leagues, and lower levels of the game. There are umpires that are female in the minor leagues along with baseball executives in the major leagues. There is a long history of women that have been owners of major league teams with varying degrees of success including Helene Robison Britton as the owner of the St. Louis Cardinals for six years beginning in 1912.

On this blog, I will try to touch on the many aspects of baseball and the role women played in it. It will likely begin around September 10-20.

The following schedule has been set:

  • August 7- AAGPBL Formation History
  • August 14- AAGPBL- Rules of Conduct
  • August 21- AAGPBL- Charm School
  • August 28- none
  • September 4 and every Wednesday- Player Bios from Central Illinois players

 

I want to be sure to feature those that were born around Central Illinois that played professional baseball in the AAGPBL. If you know of someone that needs to be featured, send me a message. I currently have a list of local gals that I may feature if I can find enough information from my research.  They will be done in a random order but here is the player list and the city they were born in. Also, the names in parentheses are their married name and many played before marriage.

  • Amy Irene Applegren – Peoria
  • Helen Westerman (Austin)- Springfield
  • Mildred Baker- Peoria
  • Mary Rudis (Bestovic)- Springfield
  • Lila Burk- Peoria
  • Bonnie Cooper- Tremont
  • Elizabeth Dailey- Peoria
  • Carol Damon- Peoria
  • Betsy Wanless (Decker)- Springfield
  • Loretta Flessner- Peoria
  • Betsy Gerring- Peoria
  • June Gilmore (Hawton)- Peoria
  • Mabel Holle- Jacksonville
  • Irene Ives- Peoria
  • Esther Luman (Kelly)- Peoria
  • Irene Kerwin- Peoria
  • Ruth Miller- Jacksonville
  • Janice O’Hara- Beardstown
  • Rose Folder (Powell)- Springfield
  • Mary Elizabeth Farrow (Rapp)- Peoria
  • Marilyn Akin (Shambaugh)- Peoria
  • Emily Stevenson- Champaign
  • Ruth Waca- Peoria

If you know family members of any of these players please alert them to this site and if they want to send copies of memorabilia or talk to me about their relative playing baseball, that would be awesome! tknuppel@gmail.com 

Several of these women are included in the Encyclopedia of Women and Baseball book and I will be using that for biographies. It is a great book from author Leslie A. Heaphy and I recommend it for your reading if you want much more on this topic.

I will be featuring an article about the Peoria Redwings (1946-1951) and the Springfield Sallies (1948).

 

ENJOY!

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