Women’s baseball exhibit aims to teach about a sports history moment

Marissa Bean

The 2016 baseball season is quickly approaching, but Bridgewater State University is going back in time to seasons past.

The university’s Archives and Special Collections office has recently put up a display for the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League on the second and third floors of the Maxwell Library.

The exhibit features memorabilia from the eleven seasons of the AAGPBL, which was active from 1943 to 1954. The AAGPBL was the basis for the 1993 film, A League of their Own, starring Tom Hanks and Geena Davis.

Memorabilia in the exhibit includes baseball cards, a player’s uniform, photographs, and a bat signed by the players at a reunion at the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Although the university provided the artifacts pertaining to World War II in general, one local couple provided all of the baseball material. The couple collects women’s sports history memorabilia, and they lent many of the items they own to the university.

Orson Kingsley, university archivist and special collection librarian, met with the couple that provided the items for the display.

“They are very into promoting women’s sports history and physical education, so they let me use their materials to help set this up,” Kingsley said. “They have contacts with all of the living women’s baseball players from the All-American League from 1943 to ’54.”

A few objects in the couple’s personal collection were too valuable to loan out, and one in particular might be going on permanent display elsewhere.

According to Kingsley, the league used seven different baseballs in the eleven years that it was active. The couple owns one of each size that was used in a game. This collection was too valuable to loan to the university, and it has been “earmarked for the Baseball Hall of Fame,” Kingsley said.

Although the exhibit will have to be taken down in April to make room for the student art show, Kingsley is looking towards another exhibit in the future.

“The idea is that this is a smaller exhibit, with hopes that in the fall of 2017 to have a much larger ‘women in sports’ exhibit,” Kingsley said. “This is acting as a teaser to this future, much bigger exhibit.”

The owners of the pieces in the current exhibit have more items that they are willing to loan to the university, and there is time to find more items from other collectors.

Kingsley said that he isn’t sure how people will react to the collection if they hadn’t seen A League of Their Own, but those that have seen the film will recognize the exhibit’s importance.

“It’s important because it represents a snapshot in women’s sports history from this baseball league, which the movie from the early ‘90s, A League of their Own is based on this league. A lot of people know that movie, and most of my knowledge about this league was from that movie,” Kingsley said.

“The women’s history is unique because it started during World War II and only lasted for eleven years,” Kingsley said. “By the time it ended, it was much closer to real baseball than softball. I don’t think there’s really been a league similar since then.”

The exhibit will be on display until late April in the Maxwell Library.

Marissa Bean is the Editor-in-Chief for The Comment.

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