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Leagues of Their Own Design
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In The Great American Novel Philip Roth stretched his genius to chart the history of the Patriot League, an imaginary third major league whose existence was subsequently expunged from all record books and even from human memory owing to its nefarious demise. An actual third major league, one for women only, has similarly all but been forgotten. In 1954, for economic reasons, the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (aagpbl ) folded its tent after a dozen seasons. Several generations of women with baseball in their blood have emerged since. Here we meet three of them who came of playing age in three very different parts of the country. The three seemingly had only one thing in common before I sat down with them: each had played baseball either with or against me. But as we all talked, I discovered they have many more commonalities. Before recounting what they told me about the diverse paths they have taken to play the game at a high level in the wake of the aagpbl ’s disappearance, let me introduce them:

jan borgia edwards was born in Cleveland in 1938 and grew up in Bay Village, Ohio, where she was a classmate of mine. She holds a ba in English from Wooster and also ma s in theater arts and counseling. After teaching in Mansfield, Illinois, she and her ex-husband moved to California where she completed a long tenure as a teacher, counselor, and coach. Following a forty-two-year career in education, Jan retired in 2003 while serving as the director of counseling at Vallejo High School. Currently she volunteers by driving high-risk patients to medical appointments and teaches adult classes on “Living Well.” During her playing days Jan was often called “Borge,” a tribute to her ferocious bat; her career ba was in the .420s and she still swings a mean golf club.

sal coats was born in Walnut Creek, California, in 1961 and spent her early years in Piedmont before moving to Sonora during her freshman year in high school. She holds several degrees including an ma in kinesiology/teaching and coaching from California State University–Chico. In 1992–93 Sal was the second baseman for the Oakland Oaks, an otherwise all-men’s baseball team for which I served as player-manager, and she later played professionally in the Ladies League Baseball, the only women’s pro league since the aagpbl to last a full season, before helping to found a California women’s version of the Men’s Senior Baseball League (msbl ). Following a lengthy string of jobs that allowed her ample time to pursue her first love—baseball—Sal has worked for the past eight years at Genentech, Inc., in South San Francisco.

melissa frydlo is “The Moll of a Million Monikers.” Among them are Frid, Mel, Mo, Bird Dog, Nurse Nancy, Muff, Missy, Albie, Sadie, Moxie, and a new one she will discuss. Moxie, the nickname on her baseball card, best befits her. Moxie was born in Buffalo, New York, in 1971. After moving to Amherst, New Hampshire, when she was eight, she graduated from Milford High School in nearby Milford. Moxie holds degrees in architectural design and landscape architecture from Cazenovia College and the University of Massachusetts, respectively, and is currently a project engineer for arcadis in Springfield, Massachusetts.

jan :

Three women meeting for the first time, we’re all naturally curious about one other. I’m especially curious how Moxie acquired so many nicknames and what Sal was paid to play pro ball.

moxie :

When you play on as many teams as I have it’s bound to occur. I’ve always felt nicknames were a sign of acceptance and even affection. In vintage baseball, which I now play, everyone has several.

sal :

I pulled down $1,200 a month; I was a tough bargainer and among the higher paid players.

jan :

Wow! Not bad. I know you both wonder what brought David and me together. We were the pitchers in the 5th and 6th grades for our rival crosstown elementary schools in the annual “Army-Navy Game,” I for the girls and he the boys. But whereas David went on to play...

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