Obit of the Day: Inaugural Member of the AAGPBL
Mary Nesbitt Wisham was playing baseball with a men’s team in Chattanooga, Tennessee when a scout invited her to tryout for a new women’s baseball league. The 18-year-old high schooler took a train to Wrigley Field, one of only 280 women in the country invited to attend.
Mrs. Wisham was one of the first 60 players selected to play in the inaugural season of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL). And what a season it was for her and her Racine Belles. A left-handed pitcher with a impressive knuckleball*, Mrs. Wisham pitched 47 games and won 26 of them against only 13 losses, earning a spot on the AAGPBL’s first all-star team. The Belles would go on to win the first-ever AAGPBL championship, defeating the Kenosha Comets three games to none.
Switching off between the mound and first base during her first three seasons, she was a dual threat. Between 1943 and 1945, she won 65 games while posting a 2.43 earned run average. She also led the league in batting in 1945 with a .319 average.
She took the 1946 season off after marrying Vester Wisham, the Racine Belles’ bus driver, but was coaxed back in 1947 with the promise of a $500 bonus (about $5200 today).
When she returned she joined the Peoria Redwings, an expansion team that joined the league in 1946. Her best season was 1948 when she hit .292, with 24 doubles and 64 stolen bases leading the Redwings to their only winning season and playoff appearance.
After another season off in 1949 (OOTD could not determine the reason), Mrs. Wisham returned for 1950 season but only played in 49 games - while hitting .340. She was pregnant with her first child and retired from the game.
After leaving the AAGPBL, Mrs. Wisham became a school bus driver in Putnam County, Florida. She continued to play in softball leagues. In 1975 she and her daughter, Mary Elizabeth Wisham, were players on the Kentucky state championship team and would end up finishing ninth in the women’s fastpitch national championship. Mary Nesbitt Wisham was 50 years old at the time.
Mrs. Wisham, who never considered herself a part of history (“I never give it a thought. I was just thrilled to death because I love to play ball and did pretty well I thought.”) died on November 17, 2013 at the age of 88.
(Image of Mary Nesbitt Wisham as a member of the Peoria Redwings, circa 1947-1950, is courtesy of AAGPBL.org)
* During the first four seasons of the AAGPBL pitchers threw underhand.
Other members of the AAGPBL featured on Obit of the Day:
Doris Sams - Threw a perfect game