Wis. softball team's manager has unique historyBaumgart helped make American history as a player in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, the one made famous in Tom Hanks' movie, "A League of Their Own."
By: By Tom Kertscher, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Superior Telegram
MILWAUKEE — The coed softball team from Faith United Methodist Church has as its manager one of the most accomplished baseball players in Milwaukee.
In Jackie Baumgart, 81, the team also has one of the city's oldest managers — and perhaps one of its wisest.
"We're very much in a learning process," Baumgart said. "But we have fun and that's the focus of what we're about."
Baumgart helped make American history as a player in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, the one made famous in Tom Hanks' movie, "A League of Their Own."
The league lasted from 1943 through 1954. Baumgart played in 1950 and '51 for the Springfield Sallies and the Kenosha Comets.
"I signed a blank contract," she recalled, noting the pay turned out to be $65 per week. "Well, I wanted to play. It didn't make any difference."
A part of the experience was traveling with chaperons, who accompanied the players on most of their dates.
A highlight was playing in Yankee Stadium, where she met Yankee legend Yogi Berra.
Another, Baumgart said, was simply "putting on the uniform, of course."
Baumgart first proved herself on the sandlot, eventually outplaying her two older brothers.
"I watched and I listened and I watched and I listened, and I learned how to do things before I could do them," she said. "I first got better than my brother Jim, and then I got better than my brother Dale."
These days Baumgart engages her competitive spirit on Friday nights in an interdenominational league at LaFollette Park in West Allis, where many players have no hope of playing as well as she did.
"It gives me the opportunity to help them become a player, and it gives me the joy of doing that," she said. "It's a fun time, but competition always squeaks in there. If you've ever played anything at all, the competitive nature just boils right up."
Baumgart believes baseball has helped keep her young.
"Playing baseball, physically and emotionally, gave me a way to express myself," she said. "That's so very important for people growing up."
Her advice to the chronologically young:
"Listen to what it is that makes you happy, what you really, really, really love to do," Baumgart said. "You have to be able to do what you're given the gifts to do. And then there will be happiness."
Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, http://www.jsonline.com