AAGPBL Interview - Lois Barker
Lois Barker was the oldest rookie in the AAGPBL in 1950. She recently took some time to answer our survey:
1) How did you get interested in playing baseball and where did you play before you turned pro?
Always loved the game of baseball and my dad began playing the game with me when I was three years old. So I really grew up with the game - my dad played on the local team here in town and it just seemed it was destined for me to learn the game. I played softball from sandlot all the way up to what could be called semi-pro ball. Never organized baseball until 1950 in the AAGPBL.
2) Describe your signing.
Somehow I learned of the League - wrote to the Chicago office for info and then was invited to tryouts here in New Jersey. After the tryouts I was offered a contract with the AAGPBL. I went to Rookie School in South Bend, Indiana, and then was assigned to the Ft. Wayne Daisies to go to spring training. But I was traded to the Grand Rapids Chicks when the schedule began.
3) What position(s) did you play? Which teams did you play for?
I played for the Grand Rapids Chicks in right field and third base.
4) What was the best thing about playing pro ball?
#1 - A childhood dream being fufilled and really coming true.
5) What was the worst thing about playing ball?
#1 - Being homesick; it was absolutely terrible and I nearly gave up to come home.
6) What was the highlight of your career?
Everything about the whole experience was a highlight really. But learning to play the gmae at the highest level and being coached by professional baseball players and being acknowledged by the fans was really a memory never forgotton. The friendship of players, managers, chaperones and people in general will always be a highlight of my playing days. Especially Mom and Dad Ackerman, the folks I boarded with when we were playing at home in Grand Rapids.
7) Who were the best players you played with or faced? Comments?
Really the girls that made it through the tryouts and training camps and were given contracts were all very good athletes and I truthfully don't think I could pick out the best players.
8) Do you think the fans and press accepted you more as the years wore on? (Describe how it was when you started. Did increased exposure change some minds?)
In the area the League operated, the fans really did accept the players and the game. Where it was not known I don't know if it was accepted. No one in my area [New Jersey] would believe me when I told them I was away all Summer playing professional baseball. Of course today they believe because of the induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame and the movie A League of Their Own.
9. Who were your favorite big league ballplayers during the era you played in?
I'd have to say Willie Mays - Bobby Thompson - Ernie Banks - Nellie Fox - Gil Hodges to name a few. I enjoyed watching all of the players that played the game to the best of their ability all the time they were on the field.
10) Do you follow big league ball now? If so, how do you think it compares with your day?
I still do follow baseball but am very very disillusioned with today's game. They should get back to the game of baseball and forget all the nonsense that has become part of the scene. Too much greed in the game, both owners/management and players. Fans are the forgotten element of the game. All the little plays that win ballgames have gone from the game.
11) Should women have their own pro league, should they play in the majors, or should we have both?
I think women should have a pro-league but it must be kept to playing women. The women have the talents, desire and will to play, but the anatomy just isn't there. I've watched women playing against men in many sports and it is very very boring. I truly believe it would lower the interest in the game to try to put both together.
12) How do you feel about the Silver Bullets?
I've watched the Silver Bullets play. I've also talked with the manager when I've been asked to throw out the first pitch in a game and I expressed my same opinion, the girls were excellent athletes but no match playing against mens teams. About 2 or 3 innings were all I could watch, too boring.
13) Briefly describe your life since your pro career ended.
Life after baseball has been very good. I worked in a company connected with the aerospace industry. Worked at all the way from entry level to supervisor. Worked until I was 62 and decided to retire. Also played softball for about ten years after I got permission to play amateur sports again. Stayed interested in sports (softball) to this day and help local leagues and teams in any way I can. So life has been very good to me and I've been very Blessed to have been able to accomplish all I ever wanted to achieve.
14) What advice do you have for young women who want to become pro ballplayers?
Listen to the coaches - play hard and always play at 100% of your own game. Don't try to be anybody else. Don't hotdog - let your ability do the talking for you. Play within the rules of the game and set good examples for the younger players who follow you.
15) Any other comments or memories
Many many memories - memories that will be with me as long as I'm here and able to keep going. I've achieved every dream I had as a child and will always be very greatful to any and all who along the way have helped me to achieve them all. Like I said, I have been very Blessed throughout my life time and always even after clouds have often come along the sun has always followed and all is well.
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