With World War II ramping up by the fall of 1942, minor league baseball teams were closing shop. Many young men were being drafted for the war effort, lowering the number of quality players available. Seeking to fill the gap, the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) was founded in 1943. This chart shows the AAGPBL attendance records by year.
The AAGPBL was the first professional women’s league specifically for baseball. This included over hand pitching, longer base paths and mound distance, and men’s sized baseballs. There were women’s professional softball leagues at the time, but the leagues were distinctly different.
The first season of the league was in 1943 with 4 original teams. They were all located around the Chicago area where league headquarters were. The original cities were Racine and Kenosha in Wisconsin, and South Bend and Rockford in Illinois. In later seasons the league would expand to 6 and then 8 teams for a brief time. They even created a 4 team minor league located in Chicago to train and develop players.
AAGPBL Attendance Records by Year
As you can see, after a modest opening season in 1943, attendance records dramatically rose to a peak of just under 1,000,000 fans in 1948. Attendance declined in 1949 and further lowered in each subsequent year until it officially closed down in 1954.
One of the big reasons for the decline was a result of the league becoming more decentralized. The 6 remaining teams bought out the league owner at the end of 1950, operating their teams individually. The result of this was that there was no centralized force to promote, attract talent, coordinate league proposals, etc. The league slowly unraveled as individual teams faced financial hardships.
Popularized by the movie “A League of Their Own” the AAGPBL captured America’s attention and proved that women are more than capable of playing baseball.