Spotlight: Universal Newsreel Highlights Female Baseball Players

Note: This post was originally meant to highlight opening day of MLB baseball for the 2020 season while commemorating the role women play in the sport. While baseball may be on hold during this difficult time, we still wanted to highlight the achievements of women in the sport and hope this post helps get you to opening day.

Baseball, America’s pastime, has a long and storied history. One major aspect of that history, women’s participation in the sport, is often overlooked. From its infancy, women have played a large role in the sport’s development and integration into American culture. Beginning in the late nineteenth century, women played baseball on college campuses, in industrial leagues, through local community groups, and on barnstorming teams. The very first team at any level to be paid to play baseball was an all-female African American team, the Philadelphia Dolly Vardens.

The most well-known role women have played in baseball came during World War II when a professional women’s baseball league, the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, was formed. The league, made famous by the movie, A League of Their Own, provided a sense of normalcy on the home front and protected against total collapse of Major League Baseball.

Clip taken from Universal Newsreel Volume 2 Release 65 (UN-UN-2-65)

Prior to World War II, during the 1920’s and 1930’s, women played baseball in junior and minor leagues throughout the United States. In 1930, Universal News highlighted a minor league game played between Niles and Oakland in a story titled, All-Girls Teams in Slug-fest as Niles beats Oakland 27-4. While the captioning for the story focuses mostly on the players’ looks and feminine physique, the footage shows the true athleticism of the players.

un-un-2-65 textOriginal captioning for Universal Newsreel Volume 2 Release 65 (UN-UN-2-65)
un-un-2-65 without textCaption: Oakland, California – Flapper ball players of Niles swat their way to victory over Oakland.


You can view more records pertaining to women baseball players and baseball in general at the links below.

Baseball Records from the Still Picture Branch
Baseball Records from the Motion Picture Branch
Additional blog posts about baseball