By the time the motion picture “A League of Their Own” opened on July 1, 1992, most Americans had forgotten or never knew that for a brief time there had been a women’s professional baseball league in the United States. But with this hit movie, director Penny Marshall brought the league and the players back into the spotlight.
The film portrays the lives of the manager and players of the Rockford (Illinois) Peaches in 1943, just as the All-American Girls’ Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) is being formed. During the movie the Peaches play the Racine (Wisconsin) Belles several times. The Belles costume featured here was worn by an extra and appears briefly about 1 hour and 5 minutes into the movie, as the actress walks off the field into the dugout clearly showing this costume’s number #37 on her back.
The Belles, who spent eight seasons in Racine from 1943 until 1950, won the league’s inaugural play-off Championship, defeating the Kenosha Comets in three straight games to win the best of 5 series. The team played at Horlick Field, named after William Horlick, the inventor of malted milk.
The team relocated to Michigan following the 1950 season, first to Battle Creek and then to Muskegon, playing a total of three additional seasons. The Belles folded following the 1953 season, and the AAGPBL went out of business entirely in 1954.
To hear from three former Racine Belles, listen to this 2017 interview from Milwaukee’s NPR station, WUWM 89.7.
This story was edited and adapted from LAB’s original Curators’ Favorites article (October 2008).
“I grew up at 1516 Carlisle, which was 1/2 block away from Horlick Field. I was lucky enough to watch the Racine Belle’s play when I was 8, 9 and 10 years old. (years 1951 to 1953) As kids, we used to sneak into Horlick Field by climbing over the fence in left field to watch the games. I believe the Belle’s played with a 10 1/2 inch baseball. What a great team to watch.”
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Fidler, Merrie A. “The Origins and History of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League” (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., Inc., 2006).
Johnson, Susan E. “When Women Played Hardball” (Seattle, WA: Seal Press, 1994).
Browne, Lois. “Girls of Summer in their own League”(Toronto, Canada: HarperCollins Publishers, Ltd., 1992).
Yearbooks and Scorecards of the Racine Belles (Wisconsin Historical Society Archives).
“AAGPBL Teams: Racine Belles.” AAGPBL Teams: Racine Belles. Accessed April 25, 2020. https://www.aagpbl.org/teams/racine-belles.