Thelma Eisen

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Gertrude Tiby Eisen.jpg

Gertrude Eisen

Biographical Information[edit]

Speedy Outfielder Thelma Eisen played in a short-lived professional football league for women in California in 1940 as a fullback. When Los Angeles banned tackle football for women, the team moved to Guadalajara, Jalisco. She then moved on to the Bank of America in Los Angeles and wanted to play for the company softball team, but never heard back. A friend from the team later told her it was due to anti-Semitism.

Eisen tried out for the new All-American Girls Professional Baseball League and won a job for the 1944 Milwaukee Chicks, hitting only .204/~.257/.242 with 91 steals. In the 1944 Scholarship Series, she hit .250 with Milwaukee's only home run in a winning effort. In '45, the club became the Grand Rapids Chicks and she had a .240/~.307/.294 year. She was fourth in the AAGPBL with 94 hits, tied for 7th with 44 runs, second with 16 doubles (one behind Helen Callaghan), tied for 8th with 41 steals, third with 115 total bases and sixth in average. In the playoffs, she hit .357, but Grand Rapids lost in round one.

In 1946, Thelma hit .256/~.349/.331 for the Peoria Redwings. She was 9th in average, 10th in total bases (120), second with 128 steals (though 73 behind leader Sophie Kurys), 9th in runs (68) and tied for the triples lead (9, even with Rose Gacioch and Eleanor Dapkus). She made the AAGPBL All-Star team as the #3 outfielder behind Merle Keagle and Lib Mahon. She also managed the team briefly, becoming the first female manager in league history.

1947 marked a decline as she hit .216/~.302/.254 for Peoria and the Fort Wayne Daisies. She batted .220/~.266/.254 in '48 (4th in the league with 88 steals). She hit .214 the first two rounds of the playoffs, then led the club in the finals at .316. She drove in two of their four rounds in the five-game defeat and had 6 of the 20 hits as the rest of the team only hit .108.

He batted .184/~.248/.222 in 1949 and was 1 for 12 in the playoffs. Her three homers tied Inez Voyce and Audrey Wagner for the league lead. In 1950, Eisen batted .238/~.324/.299, was third in the league with 20 doubles, tied for second with 75 steals and was second with 87 runs, trailing only Kurys in the latter two categories. She batted .500 in the first playoff round (7 for 14) but only batted .148 as the club fell in the next round to the Rockford Peaches.

She hit .195/~.243/.320 in 1951 yet still ranked among the leaders in runs (88, tied for fourth), steals (88, third-most) and doubles (17, third). She was 3 for 10 in the postseason. She wound up at .265/~.322/.284 her final year for Fort Wayne, finishing third in the league in steals (54), tied for 7th with 110 hits and second with 77 runs, only four behind leader Betty Foss. She was 4 for 13 that playoff year.

Overall, she hit .224/~.295/.268 in the AAGPBVL and .270 in the postseason. She stole 674 bases in the regular season.

After retiring as a pro, she was a star for the Orange Lionettes, a softball club, and helped them to a world championship. In 1993, Eisen helped put together an exhibit on women and baseball for the Hall of Fame.

Undated anecdotes[edit]

Eisen once played a charity game for a Jewish hospital in Chicago, IL. Her uncle said she would get a bad reputation playing baseball, though he showed up to cheer her in the game.

While playing for Fort Wayne, she once headed back to the dugout with only two outs. Manager Bill Wambsganss complained "I never heard of a Jew that couldn't count" after waving her back to the field.

Sources: The Big Book of Jewish Baseball by Peter Horvitz and Joachim Horvitz, 1947 Major League Baseball Facts, Figures and Official Rules by Dell Publishing, "Jewish Women Headline New Set of Baseball Cards" in the Fall 2005 edition of the American Jewish Historical Society publication Heritage, The AAGPBL Record Book by W.C. Madden

Related Sites[edit]