The former site of Playland Park is now Indiana University South Bend’s River Crossing Student Housing. But from 1946 to 1954, athletes took the field at the Park to compete as the South Bend Blue Sox, one of the four original teams of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL).
On May 26, the 75th anniversary of the first time the Blue Sox played at Playland Park, Betsy Jochum, a member of the original South Bend Blue Sox, John Applegate, executive vice president for University Academic Affairs,Chancellor Susan Elrod, South Bend Mayor James Mueller, and other leaders dedicated a historical marker celebrating these women.
The marker, a collaboration between The History Museum and IU South Bend, was installed near the site of Playland Park where the Blue Sox played after their first three years of competition at Bendix Field.
IU South Bend welcomes this historical marker on our campus. It is a marker of important community collaborations, like the one with The History Museum, but also a marker of the rich history within the community of South Bend, said Chancellor Susan Elrod. We are proud to be the site that will forever commemorate the achievements of these athletes and their efforts to expand sports for women.
Brittney Hale, a vocal performance major at IU South Bend’s Ernestine M. Raclin School of the Arts, wrapped up the formal program with a rendition of the AAGPBL Victory Song. Afterward, attendees toured the space and learned more about Playland Park and its grandstand from Dr. Jay VanderVeen, anthropology professor at Indiana University South Bend, and The History Museum’s display of AAGPBL photographs, game programs, uniforms, and equipment.
As the national repository for the league, The History Museum has over 2,000 items in our AAGPBL collection, said Brian D. Harding, Executive Director of The History Museum. We gladly tell their story and preserve their history, and a historical marker is another excellent way to do so.
In February The History Museum celebrated Betsy Jochum’s 100th birthday and unveiled a new display of her memorabilia in their exhibit Polished in Public, Fierce on the Field: The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.
With the entrance of the United States into World War II, Chicago Cubs owner Philip K. Wrigley was apprehensive that major league baseball would suffer as players were drafted into the armed services. In 1943 he established the AAGPBL hoping to keep stadiums full and public support of major league baseball active. Sixty women were chosen for the four teams that played during the first season. In years to come, 11 more teams would be formed. The League played 12 seasons of ball, giving over 600 women the chance to play professional sports. The AAGPBL was immortalized in the 1992 film A League of Their Own.