By Dan Curran   Published Apr 09, 2005 at 5:18 AM

Pardon me for writing this, but those Milwaukee Chicks were really hot.

No, that's not the utterance of one who just spent a night bar hopping on Water Street with a bachelor party. I am, of course, referring to the 40-19 record of Milwaukee's entry in the All American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) in the second half of the 1944 season.

That hot streak brought the Chicks the second half title during the franchise's one and only season in Milwaukee. The AAGPBL employed a format in which the winner of each half of the season played for the league championship. In a best of seven series, the Chicks defeated the champs of the first half, the Kenosha Comets.

The Chicks -- and the Rockford Peaches -- sported a name that probably wouldn't be acceptable to modern day sensibilities (please ignore the existence of the Miami Hooters, an Arena Football League team from 1993-'95.) The team name derived from a children's book that was popular at the time, "Mother Carey's Chickens." The name was appropriate as the team was managed by future Hall-of-Famer Max Carey.

The creation of the AAGPBL in 1943 is largely attributable to Philip K. Wrigley, then owner of the Chicago Cubs. The idea of a women's baseball league was first proposed by a Major League Baseball committee charged with researching new sources of revenue. At that time baseball teams were struggling because much of their labor pool had been siphoned off by the war effort. Some minor league teams had folded. Wrigley proposed the committee's suggestion of a women's league to the other major league owners.

The other owners balked at investing in women's teams, so Wrigley bankrolled his own league. The teams had entries in smaller midwestern cities. In addition to the Kenosha Comets, the pioneering teams in the debut season of 1943 were the Racine Belles, the Rockford Peaches and the South Bend Blue Sox.

Wrigley's league was initially called the All American Girls Softball League. However, some of the rules were changed to make the games more like baseball. Base runners were allowed to lead off, the pitching mound was moved further from home plate and the distance between bases was lengthened. During the first season the name of the league was changed to the All American Girls Professional Baseball League.

The AAGPBL took the image of its players seriously. Each team was provided a female chaperone. League rules stated that both the living quarters and the social activities of the players had to be approved by the chaperone.

The AAGPBL provided a "Charm School Guide" to its players. The guide detailed how players should groom, what they should wear and standards of behavior. The conclusion to the guide advised players to "be clean and wholesome in appearance, be polite and considerate in your daily contacts, avoid noisy, rough and raucous talk and actions and be in all respects, a truly All American girl."

One of two expansion teams in the AAGPBL's second year, the Milwaukee Chicks franchise seemed to be tenuous from the start. Other teams had local financial backing. The Chicks had no such support, relying only on subsidy from the league to pay start-up costs.

Another disadvantage for the Chicks was the presence of the popular Milwaukee Brewers minor league team. Managed by future Hall-of-Famer Casey Stengel, the Brewers regularly drew 10,000 fans to Borchert Field, the stadium near 8th and Chambers that was shared by both teams.

As the favored tenant, the Brewers claimed the more desirable night games at Borchert. The Chicks were forced to attempt to draw fans during the day, including many weekday games.

The second-rate status of the Chicks was such that they were unable to play any of the games in the championship series in Milwaukee. The Brewers had a playoff series at the same time, forcing the Chicks to play the entire seven-game series in Kenosha.

While the Brewers had Stengel, the Chicks had a future Hall-of-Famer of their own. Manager Carey had been a star outfielder with the Pirates and Brooklyn Dodgers, in a career that spanned from 1910-1929. Carey was inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1961. A career .285-hitter, Carey was elected to the Hall of Fame mostly for his fielding and base running prowess, although he also hit over .300 in six seasons.


With the outfield dimensions of Borchert Field suited for the men of the Milwaukee Brewers, the Chicks were not going to win games with home runs. Similar to Carey's own style during his playing days, Milwaukee's female nine played a game marked by aggressive base running. The Chicks stole 730 bases during the 115-game season.

The Chicks were led by two dominant pitchers. Josephine Kabeck had 26 wins and a 2.66 ERA in 366 innings. Connie "Iron Woman" Wisniewski, who would be named the league's player of the year the following season, won 23 games and posted a 2.23 ERA for the Chicks. The top offensive stars were Merle "The Blonde Bombshell" Keagle, the AAPGL home-run queen, and Vickie Panos. Panos swiped 141 bases, second most in the league that year.

The victims of sparse crowds at Borchert Field, the league-champion Chicks relocated to Grand Rapids, Michigan for the 1945 season. The franchise remained in Grand Rapids through the 1954 season, when the AAGPBL folded.

Milwaukee still toasts the 1982 Brewers that fell just short of a championship. Yet few here recall the title brought home by Milwaukee's girls of summer.

However, the Milwaukee Brewers have done their part to bring the Milwaukee Chicks, as well as their peers in the AAGPBL, out of obscurity. A Wall of Honor in Miller Park includes tributes to the AAGPBL and to the Chicks championship season. Each year two inductees from the AAGPBL will have plaques added to the display.