Review of Diana Star Helmer, Belles of the Ballpark: Revisiting the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League

 

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When the movie A League of Their Own opened up in the summer of 1992, it reintroduced movie goers and baseball fans to an important period of baseball history that told the story of the women who made up the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.For decades after it ended in 1954, the AAGPBL seemed more like a forgotten part of baseball’s past, but its impact would change the lives for every woman who participated in it.

In Belles of the Ballpark, Diana Star Helmer has successfully written a book that captures the spirit of the women who made up the AAGPBL. At the same time, she also explains the challenges she faced to retell the players’ stories’ which emphasizes the way the league has been perceived historically until the movie came out.

Helmer divides the book up into two parts. The first half of the book provides a historical overview, giving readers the day-in and day-out life of the women who made up the league, while the last half is a oral account from the women who partook in it. She takes you more in-depth to show the financial challenges and the stereotypes that came along with being a woman ballplayer in the 1940s and 1950s. At its height, the league had become increasing popular throughout the upper Midwest with the emergence of several different leagues and teams. Helmer provides an excellent overview on the different teams in the AAGPBL and the way they helped transformed these smaller cities.

Despite the effectiveness of the historical narrative and the players who participated in the league, some areas of the book were a little general. Whether it was a reluctance from women to tell their story or lack of memory, Helmer could have provided a little more pertaining to the players’ stories. However, it does not take away from the book’s effectiveness in celebrating the impact these women had in the history of baseball.

Helmer reiterates that the majority of the players who played in the league typically never looked to talk about their experiences playing baseball,. and this became a challenge for her while writing the book. Yet, it never detracted her to share their stories emphasizing her passion and dedication to preserve the memory of the AAGPBL. Helmer celebrates those women who played professional baseball from 1943-1954 and their experiences and place in baseball history should not be forgotten.

 

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