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!

Several Short Bios from the Central Illinois Area

This is the final post on major league players born in Central Illinois. I could have included many of the stars of the game from these counties such as Jim Thome, Joe Girardi, Robin Roberts, Ben Zobrist, Dick Schofield and many more. I made the decision to stick with the lesser-known players. Here are some of their bios. In a few months, I will begin a series on the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) and highlight the girls and teams from the Central Illinois area. If you have any personal information on those ladies, feel free to send me a message. 

I hope you have enjoyed this series.

John Louis “Lou” Johnson was born in Pekin, Illinois on  November 18, 1869. In his major league career with the Phillies, Johnson posted a 1–1 record with a 6.06 ERA in four appearances, including three starts and two complete games, giving up 22 earned runs on 44 hits and 15 walks while striking out 10 in 32 ⅔ innings of work.

Red Dorman was born as Charles Dwight “Red” Dorman in Jacksonville, Illinois on October 3, 1900, and played for the Cleveland Indians for 28 games during the 1928 Cleveland Indians season. He made his debut on August 21, 1928, and doubled in his first at-bat. He hit .364. in that season.

Joe Sullivan was born on September 26, 1910, in Mason City, Illinois, and the family moved west towards the State of Washington shortly after his birth. He played five seasons in the Major Leagues with the Detroit Tigers (1935–1936), Boston Red Sox (1939–1940), Boston Braves (1941), and Pittsburgh Pirates (1941). In five major league seasons, Sullivan had a record of 30–37 with a 4.01 ERA. A knuckleball specialist, Sullivan once pitched 12 straight innings of scoreless relief.

Darby O’Brien was born on September 1, 1863 – June 15, 1893) He played outfield for the New York Metropolitans in 1887 and the Brooklyn Bridegrooms/Grooms from 1888–1892. O’Brien developed lung problems during his playing career and continued to play, despite his ill health. When he reported to spring training for the 1893 season, the team found that he was too ill to play and sent him to Colorado to try to recover. They played a benefit game to raise money for him. He died later that year of typhoid fever at the age of 29 in his hometown.

Bernie Neis was born in Bloomington, Illinois on September 26, 1895. He played for the Brooklyn Robins, Boston Braves, Cleveland Indians, and Chicago White Sox between 1920 and 1927. He later managed in the minor leagues in 1932 and 1933. His lifetime average was .272 with 25 home runs.

Jim Cox was born May 28, 1950, in Bloomington, Illinois. He played for the Montreal Expos between 1973 and 1976. He batted and threw right-handed. In a four-season career, Cox was a .215 hitter (66-for-307) with three home runs and 33 RBI in 110 games played, including 33 runs, 11 doubles, two triples, and three stolen bases.

James Abner “Stub” Smith was born in Elmwood, Illinois on November 24, 1873.  He played in few games for the Boston Beaneaters in 1898 and got one hit in ten at-bats.

Roy Ogden Wise was born in Springfield, Illinois on November 18, 1923. He played for the Pittsburgh Pirates during the 1944 Pittsburgh Pirates season appearing in two games on May 12 and May 13. He finished with a 9.00 ERA and one strikeout.

George (Lucky) Whiteman was born on December 23, 1884, in Peoria, Illinois. He played mainly as a left fielder for the Boston Americans (1907), New York Yankees (1913) and Boston Red Sox (1918) between the 1907 and 1918. Whiteman filled in the outfield for the Boston Red Sox whenever Babe Ruth was pitching. He finished a .271 batting average with one home run and 31 runs batted in in 85 games played.

Jack Brittin was born in Athens, Illinois on March 4, 1924. In six total games pitched in the big leagues, all in relief, Brittin had a 0–0 record with a 6.75 earned run average. He allowed seven hits, six earned runs and nine bases on balls in eight full innings pitched.

 

Got a thought? Email me at tknuppel@gmail.com

 

Richard Kinsella and his son Bob- Born in Springfield, Il – Baseball Scout and Team Owner

Central Illinois has had many major league baseball players in history. Let’s look at them from the 12 counties that we have selected to become Central Illinois. (Logan, McLean, DeWitt, Woodford, Fulton, Peoria, Mason, Tazewell, Cass, Morgan, Menard, Sangamon).

 

As I snooped around looking for information on Robert Kinsella, I happily stumbled upon an article about his dad and the connections to baseball and some names of baseball history that he interacted with on a daily basis.

Not to forget Richard (Bob), he played in four major league games for the New York Giants in 1919-1920. He made his major league debut on September 20, 1919 and played his last contest on October 2, 1920. He was 3-for-12 in his career

 

check out the other bios HERE.

==============================================================================================

 

This article is published with permission from the Sangamon County Historical Society. Check them out as they have some great research items and stories to read.

 

Richard Kinsella (baseball scout, team owner)

 

Richard “Sinister Dick” Kinsella (1862-1939) was a semi-pro baseball player, owner of Springfield’s Three-I League team and a well-known local politician. But he was famous nationally as the right-hand man of John J. McGraw, the Hall of Fame manager of the New York Giants from 1902 to 1932.

“Sinister Dick” got his nickname not because of skullduggery but because of his dark, bushy, intimidating eyebrows. (A sports writer reportedly once said “his eyebrows looked like fright wigs.”)  Nonetheless, Kinsella was a tough, old-school baseball man.

He also was a shrewd judge of talent. As a scout – at first, in fact, McGraw’s only scout – Kinsella discovered dozens of major-league baseball players, including Hall of Famers Carl Hubbell, Frankie Frisch, Freddie Lindstrom, Mickey Cochrane, and Hack Wilson. He may also have been involved in McGraw’s signing of Joe “Iron Man” McGinnity; Kinsella said he and McGinnity once played on the same team in Springfield.

Kinsella played first base during his own on-field career, which apparently was spent with town teams; businesses like the Illinois Watch Factory, Myers Brothers department store, local railroads and others sponsored teams during the period. The Illinois State Journal hinted at his playing style in an 1897 story involving a feud between Kinsella and Springfield Mayor Marion Woodruff: “Kinsella has been a power in Democratic politics in Springfield ever since the days when he played baseball and the bleachers went wild over the manner in which he stole second (base).”

Kinsella served on the Sangamon County Board of Supervisors and then was county treasurer from 1898 to 1902. He was a delegate to several Democratic national conventions, including serving as sergeant-at-arms at the 1912 convention. He also operated Kinsella Paint and Varnish for more than 50 years in Springfield.

Kinsella was among the early boosters of local minor-league baseball, starting at least in 1890 when a group of businessmen tried to raise money to support Springfield’s team in the Central Interstate League. The Springfield Senators had finished second in the Central Interstate in 1889. However, the league did not resume in 1890.

Springfield Senators, 1905; player-manager Frank Donnelly in center. (Center text says "Champions for 1905," but the Senators actually finished third in the league that year.) (Sangamon Valley Collection)

Springfield Senators, 1905; player-manager Frank Donnelly in the center. Despite references to the Senators being “champions,” the team actually finished third in the league in 1905. (Sangamon Valley Collection)

Kinsella later became a director of the Springfield Baseball Association, which sponsored a team in the Three-I League beginning in 1903. That first team was the Springfield Foot Trackers, according to baseball-reference.com; the name changed in 1904 to the Springfield Hustlers and then back to the Senators in 1905.

Most sources on Kinsella report that he became the owner of the Springfield franchise in 1904, but that is incorrect. Harry Jones owned most of the stock of the Springfield Baseball Association until fall 1905, when Kinsella challenged allegedly improper payments to the association’s secretary – Jones – and its treasurer. The legal dispute was settled in November 1905, with Kinsella paying $5,000 for 80 percent control of the team, according to newspaper reports.

As owner (or what newspapers called “the Springfield magnate”), Kinsella put together a winning organization, and the Senators were league champions in 1908 and 1910. However, his approach was to churn the team’s roster, hiring promising prospects and then, once they showed potential, selling their contracts elsewhere. Critics, many of them his Three-I competitors, said that was unfair and damaging to the league.

The Illinois State Register also crossed swords with Kinsella in 1910. Angered when the newspaper reprinted a St. Louis item suggesting Kinsella had assaulted an umpire – actually, he apparently had come to the ump’s defense – he barred Register reporters from League Park, the field at 11th Street and Black Avenue where the Senators played. The ban was to apply, Kinsella said, even if the reporters bought tickets and even at games not involving Three-I teams. (Town leagues also used the park.)

The Register responded in a June 16 commentary, one perhaps written by “sporting editor” Jimmie Dix, who was the special object of Kinsella’s ire.

If Dick Kinsella wants to run a baseball nine, that’s all right. He is a baseball genius in the picking of players and organizing pennant-winning teams. The State Register prints the news about it. Dick Kinsella’s business in this matter is running a ball nine. The State Register’s business is printing the news. We owe that to our 17,000 subscribers, not one of whom has ever made a request that we let Dick Kinsella tell us who we shall send to report the news or how we shall report it.

Despite the Senators’ on-field success, attendance at League Park in 1910 fell short of the Three-I League’s minimum of 35,000 patrons.

Meanwhile, Kinsella had begun scouting for McGraw’s Giants in 1907. So when he was offered the chance in 1910 to head the St. Louis Browns scouting organization, Kinsella put the Senators up for sale. Getting no solid offers in Springfield, he moved the franchise to Decatur in May 1911; that December, he sold out to another Springfield syndicate, once again headed by Harry Jones.

After scouting for the Cardinals, Kinsella joined the New York Yankees staff in 1916. He later returned to the Giants organization.

Jim Sandoval, writing for the Society for American Baseball research, outlined Kinsella’s scouting secrets.

Kinsella … subscribed to newspapers in every town or city that had professional baseball. He made connections with the compilers of league statistics to get the official averages in advance of publication. He also acquired lists of players on waivers.

Kinsella once signed a player, Benny Kauff, by taking a job on a plantation near a Mississippi resort where the player and other baseball figures were holding meetings, Sandoval wrote: “While the baseball people were meeting, Kinsella was meeting secretly with Kauff.”

Sandoval debunks another characteristic Kinsella story, that he once bought the contract of a prospect for $25 and a bird dog. Kinsella did give the dog to St. Louis Cardinals manager Roger Bresnahan, but as a gift, not as part of a player deal, Sandoval wrote.

However, Kinsella was part of a spectacular brawl at a St. Louis hotel in 1915. The fight grew out of an argument between Giants catcher Larry McLean; Sandoval describes the result:

As many as six players helped Kinsella. Accounts say two chairs were broken on McLean, with Kinsella breaking a rocking chair over his head, then chasing him around the fountain in the courtyard. McLean ran away, chased by McGraw and Kinsella, and McLean escaped by jumping into a passing automobile.

Kinsella in the 1930s (SJ-R)

Kinsella in the 1930s (SJ-R)

Kinsella retired from scouting in 1930. He remained active in politics, however, and ran Henry Horner’s Sangamon County campaign for governor in 1932. In return, Horner in 1933 named Kinsella director of the state division of oil inspection, a job he held till his death in 1939.

Long-time Illinois State Journal sports editor Bob Drysdale remembered Kinsella in his “Dope Bucket” column on Oct. 15, 1939:

One of the best – and greatest – of baseball’s old guard was called out by the Great Umpire last night when Richard F. (Dick) Kinsella died. Mr. Kinsella, more than anyone else, brought baseball fame to Springfield. As a player, manager and scout, he put this city in the forefront of the game. Stars discovered by him as a scout for the New York Giants have become baseball immortals. … He saw the game grow. He helped it to grow. If scouts ever gain their deserved recognition and win places in baseball’s Hall of Fame, Richard F. Kinsella will lead them all. He was the best.

Notes

*The Rippon-Kinsella House, the Kinsella family home at 1317 N. Third St., is listed on the National Register of Historic Sites. As of 2015, it was a bed-and-breakfast home.

*Richard Kinsella and his wife Mary Kathryn had four sons, three of whom died as young men. The fourth, Robert (1899-1951), played in four games for the New York Giants in 1919 and 1920.

A diamond at David Lawless Park, winter 2015 (SCHS)

A diamond at David Lawless Park, winter 2015 (SCHS)

*Some biographies give Dick Kinsella credit for building Springfield’s first baseball stadium. That appears to be overstated. League Park was created in 1902, and the grandstand was built in 1903 and improved in 1904. As a director of the Springfield Baseball Association, Kinsella no doubt played a role in the construction, but he didn’t take control of the Springfield team until late 1905. League Park’s grandstand and bleachers were destroyed by an arson fire in June 1911, a couple of months after Kinsella moved the team to Decatur. (Kinsella later wrote that he moved the team because of the fire; that was incorrect.)

The site of League Park, after lying vacant for decades — for many years, it was a periodic circus and carnival grounds — is again a baseball facility. Renamed David Lawless Park and operated by the Springfield Park District, it is the home of four diamonds.

Bob Barnes – Born in Washburn- Played for White Sox

Bob Barnes – Born in Washburn- Played for White Sox

Central Illinois has had many major league baseball players in history. Let’s look at them from the 12 counties that we have selected to become Central Illinois. (Logan, McLean, DeWitt, Woodford, Fulton, Peoria, Mason, Tazewell, Cass, Morgan, Menard, Sangamon).

 

He was born as Robert (Bob) Avery Barnes on January 6, 1902, in Washburn, Illinois in Woodford County. There appears to be nothing written about his youth until he reached the minor leagues. He pitched for the Muskegon Anglers and Grand Rapid Homoners (that was the only year the team name was Homoners and I can’t find the meaning of the word) in 1924 where he was 4-4 and pitched 76 innings and allowed 86 hits and 30 earned runs. He was a lefty hurler.

He started out at age 22 playing for the Chicago White Sox and had a career of two games. On July 8, 1924, he pitched against the New York Yankees for one inning. It that game, he allowed 3 hits and three earned runs with no walks or strikeouts. His next game was on July 10, 1924, and was his last major league appearance. He tossed against the New York Yankees again with 3.2IP/1H/8ER/0BB/1K. He finished his career with a 19.29 ERA.

He died on December 8, 1993, at the age of 91 years in Peoria, Illinois. He is buried in the Lacon Cemetery in Lacon, Illinois.

 

Check out the other Central Illinois biographies HERE.

 

 

« Previous Entries Next Entries »