AAGPBL Interview - Betty Petryna
Betty played for the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League at its peak. She took the time to answer a few of our questions.
1) How did you get interested in playing baseball and where did you play before you turned pro?
While growing up I watched my three brothers play baseball and always had a yen to join them. Of course they wouldn't let me. I was able to play softball through grade and high schools. I also played softball for a city team for two years. This was in Regina, Saskatchewan. While playing for a Regina team called "Eilers" Jewelers I was scouted by an American scout from the AAGPBL. He approached me through my softball coach to tryout for the league down in Opa Locka Air Force Base in Florida. The year was 1948.
2) Describe your signing.
The scout, my softball coach, myself and my parents met at my home in Regina in March of 1948. My parents agreed to let me try out as all expenses would be paid for me there and also back if I didn't make a team. I was 17 1/2 at the time. The scout assured my parents all the girls were chaperoned at all times, which they were. I signed a contract stating I would be paid $75 a week while playing. I would also recieve $5 a day spending money while playing on the road if I was signed on by a baseball team. I would be covered if any injuries occured. I went to Opa Locka Air Base in Florida along with 400 other girls from the USA, Canada and Cuba.
3) What position(s) did you play? Which teams did you play for?
I played third base. I played for Grand Rapids in 1948, Ft. Wayne in 1949 and for Muskegon in 1950. I played for Muskegon for two months, then decided to quit baseball as I missed my husband a lot at the time.
4) What was the best thing about playing pro ball?
Being paid a salary for doing something which I truly loved to do. Traveling around the USA playing baseball. Meeting a wide variety of talented girls from the USA, Canada and Cuba that enriched my life. Meeting my first husband on a blind date while playing for the Grand Rapids team in 1948. We married in November of that years and I never went back to Canada to live after that.
5) What was the worst thing about playing ball?
The many long rides in buses getting from one city to another. We stayed no longer than three days in each city and were able to be in our home city after nine days on the road. We played seven days a week. Pretty demanding times... but I truly enjoyed it all.
6) What was the highlight of your career?
While playing for the Ft. Wayne Daisies I established a record of 12 assists from third to first in one game. It is a record which has never been broken while the League was in existance, even in the men's professional leagues of today.
7) Who were the best players you played with or faced? Comments?
A young girl who could play shortstop alongside any professional male player. Her name was
Dottie Schroeder. I played third base beside her in 1949.
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 years I played, 1948, 1949 and part of 1950, the attendance was at its high. The press coverage started tapering off in the 1950s as the men's professional teams were on the comeback. At this time fans started comparing our play against the men and could see we were not as strong physically to get the home runs and long hits on a regular basis.
9. Who were your favorite big league ballplayers during the era you played in?
To be honest, I didn't establish any favorites in the men's big league. My husband at the time was a die hard Cubs fan, so my loyalty was with the entire Cubs team.
10) Do you follow big league ball now? If so, how do you think it compares with your day?
I follow the Cubs and White Sox. Years back I felt the players played with baseball heart even though they were underpaid. My feeling today is that money issues have put a different light on the game. A sense of greed seems to have set in with the players, which can reflect on their as we as spectators expect them to be perfect because of their salaries. It doesn't seem to happen which makes me feel it isn't a spectator sport like years past.
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?)
Women are not able to stand up to the physical strain of playing with men. I am sure you might find a few who could hold their own with men, only acceptance would be a huge problem. Women's pro leagues would not survive. Fans love the home runs. Women couldn't produce these on a long term basis.
12) How do you feel about the Silver Bullets?
I am not too familiar with them.
13) Briefly describe your life since your pro career ended.
My first husband, Roger Allen, and I lived in Dekalb and Sycamore, Illinois all our married life (51 years). We raised three children. One son and two daughters. ALl three were highly motivated to play baseball and softball. I spent 30 years of my life teaching special education children. Upon retirement I lost my first husband to lung cancer. I later married a gentleman; Donald Mullins, who I am still married to (2 1/2 years). We enjoy travelling in our trailer over most of the USA and Canada. Trying to visit our combined children and grandchildren is a joy for us.
14) What advice do you have for young women who want to become pro ballplayers?
Enjoy playing always. Be Motivated. Play hard every game. Be willing to take instructions from managers and fellow players. Set goals of improvement. If most of these factors are met your talents will be recognized and hopefully rewarded with tryouts on any pro teams in existance. Loving what you do and never giving up are key factors.15) Any other memories or comments?
Our type of baseball surprised the populace of the time. When the fans realized our abilities, fans became staunch followers. Some tended to follow us from city to city, which was exciting for me. Recieving gifts and flowers was not uncommon for a lot of players. We were not allowed to accept dates from fans. The chaperoning was excellent on "ALL" teams. The ladies were in their late 20s or early 30s and unmarried.
I learned how to drive a car from one of my baseball roommates while on the Grand Rapids team. I learned how to golf, also.
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