AAGPBL Interview - Shirley Burkovich
We were a baseball family. My dad and brother played. Being a girl, my only option was playing with the boys on vacant lots and in the street. I did tag along with my brother to shag fly balls and be the bat girl.
2) Describe your signing.
I signed my first contract when I was 16, after attending a tryout in Pittsburgh. Because I was still in high school I had to have permission from the school district and my parents. I was allowed to leave school in March for spring training. Because of my age my Mom went with me to make sure it was a legitimate league. She met the chaperone and manager and decided it was okay for me to stay.
3) What position(s) did you play? Which teams did you play for?
I was a utility player. Played all positions. Just plugged a hole somewhere. My first season was with the Muskegon Lassies. My last season was with the Rockford Peaches.
4) What was the best thing about playing pro ball?
Having the opportunity to play with some of the best women baseball players at the time.
5) What was the worst thing about playing ball?
There were no worst things about playing baseball! It was a dream come true for me. My only regret is that the league disbanded. I had planned on this being my career.
6) What was the highlight of your career?
Recognition by the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown on November 5, 1988.
7) Who were the best players you played with or faced? Comments?
There were many 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?)
I didn't come into the league until 1949, and by that time we were well respected as ballplayers.
9. Who were your favorite big league ballplayers during the era you played in?
Growing up in the Pittsburgh area, the Pirates team was my favorite, not individuals.
10) Do you follow big league ball now? If so, how do you think it compares with your day?
Yes, I follow baseball. I don't think it is fair to compare our era with today's. The equipment is different andso are the ballplayers.
11) Should women have their own pro league, should they play in the majors, or should we have both (a women's league and the chance for the best women players to play in the majors?)
We are hoping for girls to have the opportunity to play baseball if they so choose. Starting a girls "little league" would be a start in that direction. And then someday a League such as we had. No, I don't think women should play in the Major Leagues - period.
12) How do you feel about the Silver Bullets?
They had the right idea, but I think they went about it the wrong way. They could have put together two women's travel teams and toured the USA. Playing against men is not what I thought was good for women's baseball.
13) Briefly describe your life since your pro career ended.
I went to work for Pacific Bell Telephone in 1953. Worked for them for 30 years and retired in 1983. Now we do free baseball/softball clinics with former Major Leaguers. I speak at schools, do fundraisers, try to keep active in the community.
14) What advice do you have for young women who want to become pro ballplayers?
First, get an education. Find out what else you are really good at, and then if pro sports don't work out you have another option. Work hard at whatever you decide on. That is true in any career.15) Any other memories or comments?
It's great that so many people still have an interest in our league.
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