IN A LEAGUE OF HER OWN

THE MEN WERE AT WAR, THE WOMAN WERE ON THE FIELD AND SOPHIE KURYS WAS PROBABLY STEALING A BASE

That game was the basis for an article in Sports Illustrated for Kids last year. Two kids travel in a time machine to watch the Belles-Peaches game--and remark upon the skirts and the designation of the women as "girls."

In her rookie year, Kurys played in the first night game ever in the Cubs' home, Wrigley Field. Seven thousand fans attended, and Kurys got three hits in four at bats.

The Cubs themselves didn't play at night there until 1988. Amid the newspaper publicity surrounding the Cubs' first night game, Kurys picked up the telephone and dialed her local sports desk to tell them about the 1943 game.

"Oh yeah?" said a bored voice on the other end.
"I know you don't believe me," she told the reporter, "you think I'm some sort of a kook. But that's the truth."
"Well, thanks for calling," the voice said, hanging up.
"That's the way it goes," she shrugs. "We were always secondary, right?"

In the league's heyday during World War II, daily newspapers covered the women's games and printed box scores. The games drew crowds, too. On cold Midwestern nights, the fans--up to 5,000 or so a game--huddled in coats and warmed themselves with thermos jugs of hot coffee, while the girls shivered in their skirts.

The league folded in 1954, killed by the return of the ballplayers from the Korean War, major league TV and the lack of a girls' minor league system.

Kurys then played professional softball in Chicago and Phoenix. She played against a male team in a charity game, "but they paid us on the side, because we were professionals."

After her baseball career was over, Kurys went into business in the town she'd played for: Racine, Wisconsin. She worked for a company that manufactured aeronautical and automotive electrical parts until 1972, when she moved to Phoenix. Here, she worked as a sales rep for Apex Machine Products until two years ago, when she retired. Now she keeps busy by playing golf a couple of times a week and working for her church, Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

In 1988 Kurys and other All-American League vets were invited to the baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, to open a permanent exhibition on the women's league.

"At long last we're getting some recognition," she says. "People are beginning to realize that there really was a major league for women. It's my theory that some of those women should be inducted into Cooperstown. After all, we played just as hard as the men."
She points to a photograph of the display at Cooperstown, on the bookcase with her religious pictures and family snapshots. Typically, she doesn't gush over how wonderful it is. "I hope they leave it up," is what Sophie Kurys says about the display at Cooperstown.

MUSICAL HORS D'OEUVRES LOCALLY PRODUCED ... v6-24-92

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