Twila Shively, daughter of Glenn Shively and Eva Bryant, played softball for the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Twila played for the Grand Rapids Chicks from 1945 to 1947 and the Peoria Redwings from 1948 to 1950. The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League existed from 1943 to 1954. The league was began by Philip K. Wrigley, of the chewing gum family, who had inherited the Chicago Cubs major league baseball franchise from his father. It should be remembered that Mr. Wrigley conceived his idea for the girls league while the United States was involved in World War II.
“It was after the 1944 season when it was evident the major leagues would be not affected by the war, that Wrigley sold the league to Chicago advertising executive Arthur Meyerhoff. It was under Meyerhoff that expansion and publicity of the league reached it’s peak. In the first three years after World War II, teams often attracted between two and three thousand fans to a single game. “
“In 1943 when the league began, the girls were actually playing fast-pitch softball using an underhand pitching delivery but with certain variations to make the game faster. Runners were allowed to lead off and steal, and the size of the diamond was larger than the field used in softball but smaller than a baseball diamond. As the leagues grew in number of teams and fan support into the postwar years, fast-pitch softball rules were modified. For example, the circumference of the ball was decreased in increments from the original 12-inch ball in 1943 to 10 3/8 inches in 1949 and finally to 9 inches, regulation baseball size, in mid-1954, the league’s final season. The pitcher’s mound was moved further from home plate in gradual steps, from 40 feet in 1943 to 50 feet in 1949, to 55 feet for the next four years, and finally to 60 feet in 1954. Also, a cork center and red seams were added to the ball in 1948. Combined with overhand pitching, which also began in 1948, the smaller and livelier ball led to an increase in batting averages during the last half of the league’s existence”.Twila Shively was featured in an article on the girls league in the Saturday, August 29, 1942 issue of The Chicago Daily News: “She’s Hedy Lamarr of Softball, Twila Shively Looks Like Model, Runs Bases Like Ty Cobb.
Has Baseball “Savvy” Plus Pretty Face by Carl Guldager
This is Twila Shively. Sure you’ve met girl softball players before but never a girl like Twila. No bone-crushing handshake, no deep-voiced “Howdy”, no female version of Jimmy (“The Beast”) Foxx – just a demure quiet girl. But don’t take our word for it. Look at those pictures. (The article includes 4 pictures of Twila). Miss Shively is not a model, “Twi” is an athlete. She is a veteran in softball competion, an expert swimmer, and she rides in a civilian defense cavalary unit. “I’ve been playing softball for eight years”, she said softly as though that were all there was to it. But we have it on the best authority that the brand of ball played by Miss Shively is the finest outfielding the top-bracket Metropolitan league can offer. The fastest fly chaser in the business is “Twi”. A deadly certain fielder, her accurate arm and baseball “savvy” combine to rate her tops on the field. “But I don’t hit so much” she offered just a bit regretfully. However once on base her speed again makes her a constant worry to pitchers. She can run and slide with the grace and skill and spike-flashing daring of a femme Ty Cobb. Last year when Twila was playing for the Garden City girls she was first choice in the draft that follows the end of the regular season. The winning teams are allowed to draft two players from teams not in the Amateur Softball Association championship tourney. The Rockola Music Girls chose “Twi” as the most valued supplement to their team.
Twila’s death was mentioned in the Tuesday, November 30, 1999 issue of the South Bend Tribune. “Twila Shively, former ballplayer and teacher, dies”…Shively and other young women wowed the nation in the pro baseball leagues, inspiring the 1992 movie “A League of Their Own”. Shively inspired kids for nearly 30 years as a teacher at South Bend’s Washington High School. Shively died on Thanksgiving last week at the age of 79. Four years of Alzheimer’s disease and a yearlong fight with lung cancer finally caught up with Shively in the Douglas, Michigan, nursing home where she stayed. Born in Decatur, Illinois, her pro baseball career spanned from 1945 to 1950 in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, where she played first base and outfield and started in almost every game. She excelled in stealing bases. She played for the Grand Rapids Chicks, whom she helped lead to a 1947 championship along with the Chicago Colleens and the Peoria Redwings. She went on to study at Illinois State Normal and Indiana University and immediately landed a job as a physical education teacher at Washington. She also coached the school’s softball and volleyball teams to city championships.
Thank you to Arleene Johnson Noga, a former AAGPBL player, for kindly sharing information on Twila and the AAGPBL. Quotations regarding the AAGPBL are from the information on their web site on the Internet. Thank you to Jerry Shively for sharing information on Twila’s lineage and her carrer. Also thank you to Richard Shively and Paul Nitchman for information they submitted.