Dorothy Kamenshek

  • "Baseball was just natural," Dorothy Kamenshek once said. "I didn't have to work at it too hard." Kamenshek, who died May 17 at 84, is often called the best female baseball player ever.

    She was 17 when Chicago Cubs owner Philip K. Wrigley founded the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League in 1943 as a potential alternative to the men's teams, which were threatened by the military draft. Kamenshek--also known as Dottie and Kammie--was signed to Illinois's Rockford Peaches and made the All-Star team seven times during her decade-spanning career. She struck out only 81 times in 3,736 at bats and had the highest lifetime batting average in the league.

    Former New York Yankee Wally Pipp deemed Kamenshek "the fanciest-fielding first baseman I've ever seen, man or woman." Apparently he wasn't alone in this belief: a men's minor league team offered her a contract. She refused.

    She, along with her fellow players, had to put up with the league's short-skirted uniforms and charm-school classes, details captured in the 1992 movie A League of Their Own. She was one of the inspirations for Dottie Hinson, the lead character played by Geena Davis.

    Kamenshek retired in 1953, just a year before the league folded. She went on to graduate from Marquette University, practice physical therapy and become chief of the Los Angeles Crippled Children's Services Department. Success, for Kammie, wasn't limited to one field.