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  • Writer's pictureJames Sargent

Sophie Kurys, All American League

EXCERPT from my interview with: Sophie Kurys, July 25, 1996

From my book, We Were the All-American Girls McFarland, Inc., 2013)

Kurys’ teams: Racine Belles, 1943-1950, Battle Creek Belles, 1952 Positions: OF, 2B; Batted: R, Threw: R

Honors: Player of the Year, 1946; set league single-season stolen baseball record of 201 in 1946; set AAGPBL career record in stolen bases with 1,114

All-Star teams: 1946, 1947, 1948, 1949; Career batting average: .260 in nine seasons

BREF BIO: Sophie Kurys grew up in a Ukrainian-Polish family in Flint, which, along with Detroit, was one of Michigan’s two great auto manufacturing centers. She came of age during the Great Depression. A talented athlete who loved softball, basketball, volleyball, and track, she won Flint’s Mott Decathlon at age fourteen in 1939. Because of hard times, Sophie left school in the eleventh grade to work and help her family. She also played ball, for example, starring for the CIO Autos fast-pitch softball team in 1942. In April 1943, Sophie attended a tryout at Berston field House. With snow flurries outside, she and two other Flint girls impressed the scout and were invited to final tryouts for the new All-American League based in Chicago. After the circuit’s tryouts at Wrigley Field, Kurys was one of fifteen women allocated each of the wartime league’s four teams. Sent to the Belles of Racine, Wisconsin, she spent the next eight years of her life starring on the venerable diamond at limestone-walled Horlick Field.

Sophie Kurys wrote her own rags-to-riches story in the AAGPBL, and she talked to me about her favorite memories in 1996:

INTERVIEW: “In 1946, we went fourteen innings to win the final playoff game against the Rockford Peaches, 1-0. I singled, and when Joanne Winter struck out, I stole second. Betty [Trezza] hit to right field, through the infield. It was sharply hit, and Rosie Gacioch was playing shallow. I had started to steal third, and Leo Murphy, our manager, just kept waving me to go, winding his arm up, and 'Go! Go!' When I slid into home, I slid away from the tag. The throw was coming from right field. That was a close play, but I was safe, and we won the game.

“Max Carey, the league president, was there, and there was so much hitting – I think they got 13 hits off our pitcher, Joanne Winter. Bill Allington, of Rockford, was classified as one of the smartest managers in our league. I think they had about four squeeze plays. But he tried them with the bases loaded, and they just kept bunting the ball right at Joanne, and she’d just flip it to the catcher, because she [catcher] didn’t have to tag the runner. It was a force at home. I think he tried that four times, and it didn't work. Credit Joanne for that.

“There were so many sensational catches in that game. I have seen Willie Mays make his ‘basket’ catches, but I have never seen a catch like Edie Perlick made. We had a brick wall that was about 400 feet away from home plate, and people were sitting up against that brick wall, and naturally we couldn’t hit that ball that far, but if the ball got to the people, it was a home run. Rosie Gacioch was a fairly good hitter. She really nailed the ball, and I don't know, Edie, whatever sense she had, sixth sense, or whatever, she just seemed to take off at the crack of the bat. Right at the last second, she turned around and leaped and caught the ball! I can still see it, to this day. It was the most tremendous catch I've ever seen in my life, and it saved a home run…”

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