Women’s History Month: The Rockford Peaches
By the fall of 1942, many minor league baseball teams disbanded due to World War II. 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 Professional Baseball League emerged in the spring of 1943. The League was formed as a non-profit organization. Although the teams were based in the Midwestern United States, the teams had players from all over the country and even Canada. The All-Girls Baseball league would last for 12 years; nearly a decade after the war was over. One of the most prominent teams in the league was the Rockford Peaches.
The Peaches are one of the four original teams that made up the League in 1943 (the others being the Racine Belles, Kenosha Comets and the South Bend Blue Sox) and only one of two teams that would play the entire 12 years of the girls softball league (along with South Bend).
In their inaugural year, the Rockford Peaches finished last with a record of 35 wins and 57 loses. Two years later, they would go on to win the League Championship in 1945. They would go on to finish the decade winning three consecutive Championships in 1948, 1949 and 1950.
The Peaches played their home games near downtown Rockford at Beyer Stadium located on the corner of Seminary Street and 15th Avenue. For the entire existence of the league, it was home to the Peaches. Ticket prices for a reserved seat were $1.50 and $0.75 for a general admission ticket. The stadium was also known as the “Peach Orchard.” Although the stadium was torn down in 1990, there is a ticket booth that marks the location of the Peaches’ stadium. In 2004, the Rockford Park District approved a proposal to renovate the area, but so far there have been no definite plans.
Plans are underway for a rededication ceremony in Rockford for Beyer Stadium. Although the event is scheduled for June 5, 2010, little information is known at this time.
For more information about the Women’s Professional League and its teams, visit the All American Girls Players Association website HERE.