Working to Keep Girls Professional Baseball League History Alive

Rick Chapman didn't know much about his mother's days playing professional baseball until he went to an All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) reunion in 1982 to represent her, one year after her passing.

"She had just said she played ball while playing catch with us," Chapman said. "When I went to the reunion in '82 to represent her I learned more about her playing than she had ever said. There is a lot of history getting lost."

Chapman, now the president of the AAGPBL Players Association, said the goal of the organization remains singular: "We are trying to keep the legacy going."

The AAGBPL formed in 1943 and ran until 1954. Chapman estimates about 640 women played, although the organization could never locate about 100 of those women. Of the roughly 500 who were a part of the AAGPBL Players Association, only 89 are still living, with the youngest members in their early 80s.

To keep the AAGPBL Players Association moving forward, anyone can join as an associate member for $35 per year, helping keep the legacy and history of the league alive.

For the past 17 years, the AAGPBL has helped give the organization a bit of prominence at the annual MLB FanFest during All-Star Game festivities. A handful of former players travel to the event every year to sign autographs and sell merchandise.

Since the first reunion of the women in 1982, the group has traveled around the country with a new reunion location each year. The next, in September 2018, will serve as a 75th anniversary of the AAPGBL and take place in Kansas City. Past reunions have been held in Cincinnati, Albuquerque, Palm Springs, Calif., North Bend, Ind.,  Kalamazoo, Mich. and other locations the teams originally played.

With the recent 25th anniversary of the movie A League of Their Own, which chronicled the league, Chapman says the organization was able to get the word out about the AAGPBL at events across the country.

"We go wherever we can to keep the legacy going," he said.

Moving forward, as the AAGPBL Players Association continues to welcome new members, the bulk of the focus remains on preserving the archives and history already compiled. The largest trove of information is stored at The History Museum in South Bend, Ind., which has an ongoing exhibit dedicated to the AAGPBL. A wealth of information about the history of the league can also be found on the organization's website at aagpbl.org.

It took the AAGPBL for Chapman to find out details about his mother's playing days. His hope is the entire baseball community can use the organization to learn about the hundreds of women who gave baseball a unique twist in history.

Tim Newcomb covers gear and business for Baseball America. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.

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