SABR

Dropping the Pitch: Leona Kearns, Eddie Ainsmith and the Philadelphia Bobbies

By Barbara Gregorich

This article was published in the 2013 The National Pastime.

Leona Kearns was a young woman, a teenage pitcher during the Roaring Twenties. Eddie Ainsmith was once a major-league catcher. When their lives intersected, tragedy was the result.

Back when automobiles were rare and baseball players heroes, Claude and Evalina Gard Kearns raised seven children in the small town of West Union, Illinois: Russell, Forest, Louise, Leona, Jeannette, Nellie, and Roy. Agent-in-charge for the New York Central Line, Claude worked in the depot, where he was also the local Western Union operator. Eva ran the household. “Mom was strict but broad-minded,” Nellie Kearns remembers. “She would cut-up, though. She and Dad went by train to California once. Mom knew everybody in the train by the time they got off, Dad didn’t know a soul. Dad was kind of gruff on the surface, but not inside.”

Eddie Ainsmith: Seen here with the Washington Senators circa 1913.Eddie Ainsmith: Seen here with the Washington Senators circa 1913.West Union’s sand prairie and underground water supply nourished wheat, corn, soybeans, and watermelons. Leona and her younger sister Nellie both worked in the fields during harvest. Reflecting on the fragile nature of the fruit, Nellie remembers that kids worked at passing watermelons down the line, but not at packing: That important job was reserved for adults. “There was an art to placing melons in boxcars,” she explains. “They were lined with straw to protect the watermelons.” On weekends West Union’s hard-working farmers and merchants congregated in town to watch baseball games. Before each game townspeople performed Herculean labors grooming the field—games were played in a cow pasture that had to be cleared of cows and manure before the umpire called, “Play ball!”

Born on March 22, 1908, Leona Mae Kearns grew up swimming, skating, and biking. But her real passion was baseball. At 14 she was good enough to pitch and play first base on the men’s town team. “I was never good enough to make the men’s team,” says Nellie, her voice full of pride for Leona. Nellie Monon Kearns, four years younger, was also crazy about baseball. Seventy years later, Nellie, who was her sister’s catcher, can still see Leona’s repertoire. “Fastball and a curve and a drop,” she says without hesitation. “And she threw a knuckleball. You cramp your knuckles around the seams. The thumb and little finger control the ball. It comes in without rotation.”

Leona Kearns was neither the first nor last young woman to pitch for a men’s team—though the six-foot-tall, hard-throwing southpaw was certainly one of the most striking. In 1925 a scout for the Philadelphia Bobbies spotted her and immediately asked to speak to her parents.

A come-lately bloomer girl team, the Bobbies were formed by Mary O’Gara of Philadelphia. From the 1890s through the 1930s, sexually-integrated bloomer teams barnstormed the country, usually fielding six women and three men against men’s teams. By 1911 pitcher Maud Nelson, whose career began in 1897, was touring the Midwest and East with her own team, the Western Bloomer Girls. A short time later Margaret Nabel took over the New York Bloomer Girls and built them to prominence. With Nelson and Nabel touring from Oklahoma to Vermont and Florida to the Maritimes, Mary O’Gara had little elbow room. This may have been what prompted her to take the Philadelphia Bobbies on a tour of Japan in 1925.

In the long story of women as ballplayers, men are always present ... sometimes friend, sometimes foe, but often nothing more than promoter. With calamitous results, catcher Eddie Ainsmith entered the life of the Philadelphia Bobbies and Leona Kearns.

Edward Ainsmith wasn’t nourished in the rich prairie of Illinois, where children formed watermelon brigades, passing the large fruits from hand to hand without breaking them, observing how carefully they were packed and shipped by train to big-city destinations. Ainsmith was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he grew up admiring pugilism. But Ainsmith went the opposite direction of another Massachusetts native, Rocky Marciano, who grew up admiring baseball but, failing that, took up boxing (and became one of the most famous heavyweight champions). “I didn’t raise my son to be a catcher,” quipped Marciano’s mother, who presumably saw more nobility and less danger in the boxing ring. Ainsmith’s parents felt otherwise, and it was because they objected to boxing as a career that Eddie pursued baseball. In 1910 the 19-year-old Cambridge native was signed by the Washington Senators. Almost immediately he became the catcher for the immortal Walter Johnson. Ainsmith shouldered the responsibility of catching baseball’s greatest pitcher effortlessly.

Synchronized at pitch and catch, the batterymates were as unalike as can be. Johnson was a Kansas farm boy, soft-spoken, mild-mannered, and wholly dependable. Ready to fight at the drop of a cap, Ainsmith was on more than one occasion suspended by American League president Ban Johnson for throwing dirt on, leaping on, or punching an umpire. Fans, too, were assaulted by Ainsmith, as were citizens outside the ballpark. After Ainsmith and pitcher Joe Engel beat up a motorman, Engel was fined $50 and Ainsmith sentenced to 30 days in jail. Probably through the intervention of Senators owner Clark Griffith, the sentence was suspended.

At 5’11” and 180 pounds, Ainsmith was incredibly powerful. Griffith believed him “the most underrated catcher who ever played baseball.... The toughest and strongest ballplayer who ever lived.” Runners trying to score bounced off the young backstop, and Griffith recalled that when Johnson’s fastball looked like it was going for a wild pitch, “Ainsmith would reach his bare hand up in the air and catch it on the raw flesh without wincing.” Of the 110 shutouts that the Big Train hurled, Ainsmith caught 48 (Gabby Street was next with 17). Johnson once remarked that there was no other Washington catcher who could hold him when he opened up at full speed.

In 1914 a whole crop of the nation’s young ballplayers married, Ainsmith among them. Newspaper accounts joked about which player would be the first to become a father. Eddie became one the following year, but when his wife died several years later, he left his daughter in Texas in the care of her aunt while he played ball. In the early 1920s he married again.

As he traveled through baseball, Ainsmith’s misdeeds—fistfights, fines, late night revels that broke curfew—accumulated like muck in the stables of Augeus. The public tolerated (perhaps even approved of) such immaturity, then as now. But when Ainsmith was drafted for World War I and Griffith successfully appealed the drafting, the public frowned upon the athlete’s special treatment. Griffith soon traded Ainsmith to Detroit, where he played until 1921, when the Tigers traded him to the Cardinals.

Shackled with a .232 batting average and a rowdy reputation, Ainsmith was traded to the Dodgers and then to the New York Giants, managed by feisty autocrat John McGraw. When Ainsmith flouted McGraw’s house rules during the pennant race of 1924, the manager released him. Ironically, the Giants won the pennant but went down to Walter Johnson and the Senators in the World Series. Ainsmith, unwanted in the major leagues, went down to the minors. During the offseason of 1924, he took 28 young men to Japan, where each of them earned $830 playing exhibition baseball. In 1925 Eddie Ainsmith became a promoter of women in baseball when he collaborated with Mary O’Gara to tour Japan with the Philadelphia Bobbies.

Eager to play baseball and see the world, Leona Kearns longed to join the Bobbies and play in Japan, where, she was told, she could earn as much as $500. Claude wanted her to go, Eva did not. Nellie remembers their mother shed copious tears—tears that saturated Leona’s first passport application, making it necessary to fill out a second. Despite her fears, Eva gave in. In the end she wouldn’t stand in the way of her daughter seeing the world and playing baseball.

“I was very envious when I heard about her trip to Japan,” confesses Leona’s best friend, Arlene Tolbert Watt. Afterwards, she felt differently. “There was a lot of discussion. A lot of people blamed Claude because he let her go. You don’t think of the danger of being involved with strangers.”

Is the word danger in a young person’s vocabulary?

“We used to do some real stupid things,” says Arlene. “There was a gravel pit south of where we lived. We used to ride our bikes there and swim. It was a real danger spot, but we were confident that we could swim.” Arlene characterizes Leona as a daredevil who wasn’t afraid of anything. The daredevil, a child of the Roaring Twenties, whistled incessantly. “There was a song popular back then, ‘Doodly Doo,’ one of those odd songs, and Leona was always whistling it. It used to drive her mother mad.” Arlene pauses. “The first time I went to see her mother after, she said, ‘Oh, if I could only hear her whistle ‘Doodly Doo’ one more time.’”

Granted a leave of absence from high school in September 1925, Leona bid goodbye to family and friends and boarded the train to Chicago, where she stayed with her sister Louise until, under the chaperonage of Eddie and Loretta Ainsmith, she left for Seattle. Meanwhile 11 Bobbies and manager Mary O’Gara took a different train from Philadelphia to Seattle.

On experienced bloomer teams, players ranged in age from 14 to 40: Rookies and veterans worked together to forge a skilled entity with strong bonds. On the Bobbies, the players ranged in age from 13 to perhaps 20: There were no veterans and no team leader. Incredibly young (their best player was 13-year-old Edith Houghton, who went on to a long ball-playing career and later became a scout for the Philadelphia Phillies), the Bobbies hadn’t been tempered by time. Unlike Maud Nelson and Margaret Nabel, O’Gara hadn’t, either. She and her charges blithely undertook a jaunt to Japan, trusting they would win baseball games and come home richer.

Not until Ainsmith arrived in Seattle did the Bobbies first meet Leona. Philadelphia player Nettie Gans, perhaps 15 at the time, recorded her first impressions in a diary. “October 4, Sunday. Played a game in Tacoma. It was a good game. Slim pitched. She is from Illinois. Mr. Ainsmith brought her on the trip. She is six feet tall and sixteen years of age, with a wonderful pitching arm.”

Ainsmith also introduced the Bobbies to Earl Hamilton, former pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Hamilton and his wife would travel to Japan on the same ship as the Bobbies. Claude and Eva Kearns had never met Ainsmith. They had trusted the scout and what seemed like a golden opportunity. But when weeks went by without word from their daughter, they became worried. Eva telegrammed the Ainsmiths in Seattle just as a letter from Leona was traveling through the mail, assuring her parents she was having a swell time and that the Ainsmiths are sure fine people.... He made me a present of a $5.50 ball glove while we were in Minnesota.... and he bought us each a sweater that cost $10.00. After receiving her mother’s telegram, Leona wrote again, reporting that the Bobbies won a game in Seattle, 14–13, and won another in Tacoma, with attendance over 2,000. Say Mom, you had ought to meet these people. They are sure nice and sure know how to treat you.

Leona was only 17 years old—young enough to be impressed by Ainsmith, too young to discern the difference between gifts and character. Too young, at first, to discern dissension. Among the sad keepsakes in Eva’s cedar chest is an unsigned typed report, probably written by Nella Shank. According to the report the Bobbies split into two factions in Seattle, with Edith Ruth and Shank (two of the older Bobbies) wanting Ainsmith to manage the team. The younger players, ages 13–17, sided with Mary O’Gara, their manager and chaperone. Disagreements unresolved, bearing new uniforms with “USA” stitched across the shirt and sleeves, the Bobbies boarded the President Jefferson on October 6, traveling first class.

One-way passage had been paid for by the Japanese promoters, who promised large gate receipts, which would take care of the team’s room, board, and passage home— and turn a profit, too. If I make $300, wrote Leona, we will get us a Ford Coup when I get back. We are going to play two games a week and loaf the rest of the time. As she penned these words, Leona had only $2.00 remaining in her pockets.

In literature’s most famous voyage, Odysseus sailed from Greece to battle in Troy. After 10 years of war he set sail for home, only to experience another decade of the world’s deceptions and dangers, from the lures of Circe to the unpleasant options of Scylla or Charybdis. Leona’s voyage was much shorter, though no less fraught with deception and danger. The passage to Japan gave her time to observe her companions and perhaps reflect on what would happen when the team reached Yokohama. Mr. Ainsmith has had me out on deck, giving me a workout, she wrote the day the ship docked. He is getting me ready to pitch in Japan. He got me a swell bat and had his name carved on it. He and I get along just fine but he is having trouble with the rest of them.

According to Leona, the Bobbies flouted Ainsmith’s command, remaining on deck long past curfew. When the shoe was on the other foot, the man who was released from the Giants for flouting McGraw’s restrictions didn’t like it. Far worse than the curfew violations in Leona’s eyes was the lack of talent. In an uncharacteristically critical observation, she wrote: These girls can’t play ball, but they just think that they can. ... Dissatisfied with the caliber of her teammates, Leona was at least happy that the hazards of seafaring were over: We have had two storms since we have been on the Pacific and I thought that my time had come. The waves dashed to the top and you couldn’t hardly walk.

After 11 days at sea, the American ballplayers checked into the Marunouchi Hotel, where reporters surrounded them. Stuffed with tea and cakes, the visitors were showered with official dinners and gifts, laden with bouquets of flowers, and transported in rickshaws. One of the Japanese ballplayers gave Leona a string of pearls. “She was bringing them back for my mother,” remembers Nellie. “Mother loved pearls, she wore them all the time.”

In what remained of October after the banquets and sight-seeing, the Bobbies played three ballgames, losing each. If this bothered Leona, she didn’t let on. Say Mother. We’re sure having a swell time on this baseball tour. The young woman who whistled “Doodly Doo” had an impish sense of humor, telling her parents that we girls are not allowed to drink the water here, so we are going to live on beer.

The time was not so swell on the field as the Bobbies traveled from Yokohama to Tokyo and then Osaka, losing game after game. Initially the Japanese reporters and fans wanted to like the Bobbies. When Edith Houghton pulled the hidden-ball trick and gleefully tagged out the runner at second, the crowd rose to its feet in admiration. Leona, too, was respected for her abilities. The pitcher of the Osaka Foreign Language School Team sent her a postcard: “Miss Kearns, I’m glad to have met you. On that day, you were very splendid. You are a good batter. You made nice hits in spite of me. You are the only lady whom I can’t struck out.”

Empress of Russia: circa 1917.Empress of Russia: circa 1917.Despite Leona and Houghton—and professionals Hamilton and Ainsmith, who stepped in to serve as pitcher and catcher—the Bobbies were not competitive against the Japanese college men. E.R. Dickover, US Consul at Kobe, assessed that “because the girls could not play a sufficiently strong game to compete with any school team in Japan and as the Japanese would pay only to see a baseball contest and would not turn out simply because one of the teams was composed of girls, the trip was a financial failure from the start, despite all the advertising efforts of the promoters.”

Leona never called the trip a failure. In early November she joked: Say Mother, this trip is sure ruining me. When I get home, I will find myself pressing buttons and ordering my breakfast in bed.

Mixed in with the words of real humor are those of real-life concerns: She reported that she was down to 20 cents in American money. Later she wrote from Kobe to say that the team was going to Korea. I may be home for Christmas, but I doubt it very much. Leona didn’t mail that letter immediately, perhaps she thought it sounded too barren. A second part of the letter is dated November 20: I am now in Korea and am sure having a good time. Just got in from playing a game with the dental college and we won by a score of six to two. This was the last letter from Leona to her family: For the next eight weeks, she did not write home.

Months later Gertrude Rasch, an American living in Japan, would write to Eva Kearns, explaining Leona’s lack of communication. “I think she did not write you much because it was not easy to write and tell Mother that the trip was not successful, and, besides, you know young people always find it so easy to think that if things are not good today, they will be all right tomorrow.”

Two of the Bobbies’ three Japanese promoters had disappeared without paying them a penny, and the third, T. Shima, went bankrupt. The money that Ainsmith and O’Gara spoke of never materialized—not $830, not $500, not $200. In Kobe the disagreements between Ainsmith and O’Gara came to a head. “Unlucky Friday 13th,” Nettie Gans wrote in her diary. “Mary fell, not too bad. Mr. Ainsmith and Mary had a discussion about going to Formosa with the girls. I believe it has something to do with money being paid. She didn’t want us to go without her although Mr. Ainsmith and Mr. Hamilton had their wives with them. The girl he brought from Chicago went with him, Mr. Ainsmith, as did two of our girls.”

Cast adrift by the Japanese promoters and at odds with O’Gara, Eddie Ainsmith faced a situation he couldn’t escape through fisticuffs. Assembling a team of Nella Shank, Edith Ruth, and Leona Kearns, plus himself and Hamilton and four Japanese players, he opted to play his way out of trouble. The nine began their own barnstorming tour in Korea, hoping to rake in the now vitally necessary dollars. Of all this, Leona’s parents knew nothing. Nor did the parents in Philadelphia hear that their daughters were destitute half a world away.

Ainsmith at least sought to help himself through action. Mary O’Gara remained in Kobe, throwing herself on the mercy of others. According to Dickover’s report to the State Department months later, Shima solicited contributions from wealthy Japanese to pay for the Bobbies’ passage back to Philadelphia. In this, as in his baseball promotions, he was unsuccessful. Dickover considered appealing to Americans living in Japan, but his advisors thought it hopeless and he agreed, assessing that “the American community, which is constantly being called upon to repatriate stranded American citizens, would not respond to an appeal and most certainly could not raise the Yen 10,000 or more needed to pay the girls’ living expenses and passage home.”

One lone American did respond. Henry Sanborn, who owned and operated the Pleasanton Hotel in Kobe, fed and housed the Bobbies at his own expense. Using what influence he had, he tried to persuade the Osaka Mainichi Shimbun to publicize a fund-raising campaign, but the paper declined. Just when it looked as if all the efforts of Shima, Dickover, and Sanborn had failed, N.H.N. Mody, a wealthy British-Indian in the banking business who was residing at the Pleasanton, handed Sanborn a check for ¥12,000 (approximately $6,000). Mody let it be known that the money was a gift outright, not a loan, its sole purpose being to pay for the Bobbies’ passage home. Observed Dickover: “The gift is the more admirable in that it is believed that Mr. Mody was not acquainted with any of the baseball party at the time.”

On November 18, while Ainsmith’s group was playing ball in Korea, Mary O’Gara and nine of the Bobbies boarded the Empress of Russia, bound for Vancouver. O’Gara apparently used all of Mody’s ¥12,000 gift. Whether she gave thought to Ainsmith—or to Nella, Edith, and Leona—is not known. On deck, the Bobbies played tennis, jumped rope, and threw basketballs. Nettie Gans reflected on November 26, “Today is Thanksgiving and I think I have quite a bit for which to thank the Lord; in fact, I think all the Bobbies realize this fact, especially that we are going home safely.” From Vancouver the Bobbies took a train to Philadelphia, arriving home on Sunday, December 6.

Back in Illinois Leona’s older brother Russell, who worked for the Clark County Democrat in Marshall, read on the wire services that the Bobbies had returned to Philadelphia. Alarmed, he queried R.W. Bruce, the Chicago General Agent of the Admiral Oriental Line, who responded on December 9: “Altho we have had various postal cards from Mr. and Mrs. Ainsmith, yours is the first intimation that the team was meeting with financial difficulties in Japan.... I am asking our Philadelphia Office to get in touch with Thomas Cook & Sons, Mr. Barth of Philadelphia, thru whom all arrangements were completed.... In the meantime, I feel you may assure the parents of Miss Kearns that the team is in the capable hands of Mr. and Mrs. Ainsmith, whom I know personally and that their safe return to the United States would be assured in any event.”

Hollow assurances: Even as Bruce sent them, Ainsmith had returned to Kobe, where he solicited aid from the US Consul. Although Dickover accompanied Ainsmith and Hamilton to the police, requesting them to secure the “guaranteed” money, the police could do nothing. Again Henry Sanborn tried to help, this time by selling his brasses and other curios. The sale netted only ¥600, insufficient for passage home. Ainsmith then informed Dickover that he could obtain money from the US, but only enough to repatriate himself and Loretta—not enough for Nella, Edith, and Leona. On December 22 Dickover requested assistance from the Department of State. Around this time, Leona mailed a Christmas card home, but she didn’t write. No words in her young life could describe the hopelessness she must have felt in the face of the dissension, incompetence, and irresponsibility encountered on her odyssey.

Two days after Christmas Eddie and Loretta Ainsmith said goodbye to the three young women and sailed away, homeward bound. To his superiors back home (who perhaps rebuked him for letting Ainsmith leave) Dickover explained: “While Mr. Ainsmith was morally bound to care for the girls and should have remained with them until their repatriation, he could not be held legally responsible and so was permitted to leave.” Edith Ruth, Nella Shank, and Leona Kearns moved into Henry Sanborn’s hotel, where, penniless, they stayed at his expense.

With no news from Leona (and never any from O’Gara or Ainsmith), Claude and Eva Kearns grew more worried by the day. Claude appealed to the Great Northern Railway Company in Philadelphia for an explanation of what was happening. On January 4, 1926, the man in charge of passenger travel responded: “I am asking Miss O’Gara today to write you concerning the details of this trip, also the reason for their return home and why Miss Kearns decided to remain in Japan.” But there is no letter from Mary O’Gara in the stack of faded letters and telegrams that Eva saved. A few days later the parents of the three young ballplayers were informed that their children were stranded in Japan and that passage for each would cost $300. Claude Kearns wired the $300 for Leona. “He probably had to borrow it from the bank,” reflects Nellie. Then everybody waited. “We were looking forward to Leona coming home. There was going to be a big reunion.”

Informed by the Department of State that passage had been paid for, Dickover booked Nella, Edith, and Leona for second-class passage aboard the Empress of Asia, due to leave Kobe on January 13. A benefit dance was held, the money used to buy the young women winter coats and dresses for the cold homeward passage.

If ever there was an unlucky ship, the Empress of Asia was it. On its way to Kobe, the vessel rammed and sank a river steamer. After docking in Shanghai for repairs, the Empress finally departed Kobe five days late, at 4 p.m. on Monday, January 18.

Homeward bound at a speed of 16 knots, the Empress encountered frequent snow squalls, winds up to 70 miles per hour, and waves 80–90 feet high. On Friday, January 22, four days out of port, the captain recorded that the waves had finally subsided. When the crew opened the steel storm doors for second-class passengers, Leona ran wild up and down the deck, elated to be going home. At 3:00 p.m. the senior assistant purser warned her that the ship was rolling and that it was dangerous to run around the deck in that manner. She then went below to take tea in the salon with Edith Ruth.

In West Union the day was just beginning. Claude heard the telegraph keys tapping out his code number as he unlocked the stationhouse door. At 7:32 a.m. he took the message. Kobe, Japan. To Kearns, West Union, Ill. Leona washed overboard. Am overcome with grief. Sanborn.

Claude called the dispatcher to cover for him, then walked home. “He was home before 8:00,” recalls Nellie, who was playing in the yard. “I remember Mom was standing in the kitchen door. She saw the telegram in his hand. Mom knew.”

Knowledge and hope pull in opposite directions. Eva and Claude hoped there was some mistake, that their daughter was alive. Claude immediately left for Vancouver, and when Nella Shank and Edith Ruth debarked on January 28, he was waiting for them. “Leona’s father had been in Vancouver to meet us,” says the unsigned report, “and to hear the sad details. He wanted to hear all about it from us, thinking it could hardly be true.”

In finality, the steamship company turned over all of Leona’s possessions. Claude transported them home, where Eva put them in a chest. Shank and Ruth continued their trip by train, reaching Philadelphia on February 3. The next day, Loretta Ainsmith telegrammed the Kearns family: “Frightfully shocked we extend hearty sympathy letter follows. Mrs. E. Ainsmith.” Edith Ruth’s mother penned a letter of condolence. “I was very much grieved to hear of your dear loss.... It was an ill-fated trip from beginning to end. And I really think it was all due to the girls manager here in the city. As there was a disagreement between the two managers from the start.”

Half a world away, Gertrude Rasch felt otherwise. “I do not see how the other two girls can make any excuses for Ainsmith,” she wrote to Eva. “To me, it is a most unpleasant thought that any man and woman could sail away and leave three girls in a strange country.”

When her sister died, Nellie Kearns was 13 years old. She remembers the event vividly, from her father’s walking into the yard that January day to her mother’s packing Leona’s things into the cedar chest. “It’s always there,” she says of the tragedy. Her parents were crushed by the loss. Arlene Watts confirms this. “It took all the life out of her mother. It’s the uncertainty of it that affected the family the most.” Missing a body to confirm the loss, many people find that mourning takes longer—and may never be completed. Arlene herself used to dream that Leona was alive.

Seeking answers, solace, connection of some kind, Eva Kearns felt compelled to speak to the last two people who had seen her daughter alive. Traveling to Philadelphia, she called on Edith Ruth and Nella Shank. Edith did not want to talk about the incident, but Nella did.

Nella, feeling seasick, had been sitting out on the deck of the Empress of Asia the afternoon of January 22. In the salon, Leona finished her tea, then stepped out to join her friend. At that very moment a massive wave rushed toward the ship. Leona must have shouted a warning to Nella, who opened her eyes to witness the mountainous wave hanging over the ship. She saw Leona leap over a bench and run toward the bulkhead door.

The massive wave crashed.

In the tea parlor, Edith Ruth witnessed the event. Racing toward the door, she saw Nella clutch a rail as the receding wave pulled everything with it. Leona was nowhere in sight. Edith’s screams of terror alerted the crew. The captain cut the engines, stopped the ship, and circled the roiling sea for an hour.

No trace was ever found of Leona.

Safe at home, Ainsmith continued his career in baseball, playing for minor-league teams. During the 1930s Walter Johnson hired him as a coach. When coaching proved unsuccessful, Ainsmith unabashedly took up the wearing of the blue, becoming an umpire. Later he became a scout. For a very brief time in 1947, he was hired as manager of the Rockford Peaches of the All-American Girls Baseball League. Eddie Ainsmith lived to be 90 years old. If he ever reflected that he spent his life catching a baseball but dropped the most important pitch, he never told a soul.

BARBARA GREGORICH’S love of idioms, humor, and early readers is reflected in her written storybooks, activity books, and filmstrips for a variety of educational publishers. Her best-known book is "Women at Play: The Story of Women in Baseball" (Harcourt, 1993). Having lived in Cleveland, Boston, and Chicago and having been a baseball fan from the time she can remember, Barbara has always wanted Cleveland, Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox, and Chicago Cubs to win the World Series ... in her lifetime.

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