Editorial Note: This article was published, courtesy of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, in the St. Charles Cosmos-Monitor edition of Saturday, July 25, 1931. Reporter Louis La Coss later went on to win the 1952 Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing.
The clipping from which this transcript was made includes photos of the team in action; it is on display in the museum of the Boone-Duden Historical Society, New Melle, Missouri. A few obvious typographer’s errors have been silently corrected in the transcript; endnotes do not appear in the original article.
The Hamburg, Mo. Blue Jays Are Star Baseball Players
Their Hurler Has Mastered the Art of Controlled Curve Ball Pitching, the Catcher Handles Speed Balls and Twisters and Is Adept at Cutting Down Base Runners, the Infielders and Outfielders Cavort with the Speed, Grace and Accuracy of Seasoned Professionals, and They Hit Them Far and Wide, Having Lost but Four Games in Three Seasons of Regularly Scheduled Play.
By LOUIS LA COSS.
Globe-Democrat Staff Writer
HAMBURG, MO.—Batteries for today: For the Blue Jays, Mades and Greiwe; for the—”
The announcement by the umpire is lost in the thrilling crescendo of shouts from the lusty rooters who have gathered this Saturday afternoon on the Toonerville baseball diamond to see their favorites level bats with an invading nine from St. Louis. The crowd, which fringes the playing field, some of them seated in automobiles and others squatted on the ground under convenient shade, applauds with gusto when the home team takes the field for the first inning. And what an unusual home team!
Out on the field dash nine uniformed players—all of them girls. But you would never guess that they were girls except that their jaunty caps sat on feminine bobbed hair. Otherwise they appeared to be the usual type of players to be found on any diamond with flannel blouses and pants of regulation pattern, striped woolen hose and gymnasium shoes. Across the front of each blouse was “Blue Jays”—the Hamburg Blue Jays, if you please, as nifty an aggregation of girls on the field or off as one might find in all Missouri.
If you were inclined to smile at the prospect of seeing a team of girls going through the traditional maneuvers of baseball players, you were due for a big surprise. Edna Greiwe took her post behind the plate, and Lola Mades went to the pitcher’s box. Mrs. Raymond Oetting, the only married woman on the team, went to first; Fay Mades to second, Vera Seib to shortstop and Laura Yahn to third. The outfield was manned—the name is used deliberately—by Ruby Martin, Evelyn Knippenberg and Junia Mades. The Mades girls are sisters.[i]
Manager Morris Muschany, the man identified with the team, took his fungo bat[ii], and while Lola was tossing a few to Edna in preliminary warm-up, batted fast ones to the infield. Vera scooped up a hot grounder with the ability of a Charley Gelbert[iii] and with a swift underhand throw, shot the ball to first, where it was promptly gobbled into the ample mitt of Mrs. Oetting. Wheeling, she sped the ball to second, were Fay grabbed it, tagged a mythical runner in orthodox style, and with a quick throw doubled another mythical runner off third. While this snappy infield practice was going on, Muschany hoisted high flies to the outfield, where Knipp and Junia and Ruby gathered them in with the easy grace of a Douthit.[iv]
Handle Themselves Like Veterans
In the field the Blue Jays handle themselves with the assurance of boys their age—their average age is 17. This is their fourth year of team play, and the fact that they are undefeated this year and lost only four games during the previous three years indicates that the brand of baseball they play is not the kind one expects from girls. Hard hit balls are handled by them with a normal percentage of accuracy and their throws are not humpbacked. Vera Seib, for instance, pegs to first base from short on a line, and during an afternoon of play she was not guilty of an error. She arrowed the ball into Mrs. Oetting’s mitt with a precision that might well excite the envy of boys who pride themselves on their shortstopping ability.
A word about the battery—Mades and Greiwe. Lola Mades is a small chunk of a girl, with a wealth of black hair that cuddles around her neck. One imagines that in an afternoon frock she would be an adorable little creature. In her baseball uniform she’s a business-like pitcher, who knows the secret of throwing outdrops and inshoots. Taking her stance in the box, she has an easy windup, throws either underhand or overhead and can speed the ball down the chute to the plate with dazzling accuracy. There is certainly nothing feminine about the way she handles herself.
Her battery mate is Edna Greiwe. She, too, is a stocky little brunette, who dons her mask, squats behind the plate, signals to Lola and catches everything that comes within reach. More than one daring runner who tried to steal second discovered that she can throw unerringly.
Morris Muschany is the person responsible for the Blue Jays. He lives in Howell, where he operates a general store and an undertaking establishment.[v] If you do not know where Howell is, perhaps you know the location of Hamburg. The two are tiny villages in the south end of St. Charles county, some forty miles from St. Louis. To reach them one travels through St. Charles, turns left off Highway No. 40 just at the outskirts of the city, and then follows a macadamed road for sixteen miles. At a junction of two county roads are a filling station and two refreshment stands, which for a better designation, are called Toonerville by the folks in the country around.[vi] Hamburg lies two miles southeast of the junction, and Howell a mile west. For purposes of convenience a baseball diamond has been laid out at Toonerville, which is used jointly by Hamburg and Howell.
In Muschany one meets a man whose hobby is baseball.[vii] A man of middle age, he has played baseball all his life, although he never made any serious efforts to make it a career. But he prides himself on being able to spot a baseball player when he sees him—or her—so, four years ago when he saw some of the Hamburg school-girls tossing a ball around during recess, he conceived the idea of a team which should play regulation baseball and carry out a summer’s schedule.
“I talked things over with the girls,” he said. “They were enthusiastic, so I set a date for practice. None of the girls had uniforms, only a few of them had gloves. Six of the girls on the team today were there at the start. They are Lola and Fay Mades, Ruby Martin, Vera Seib, Evelyn Knippenberg and Mrs. Raymond Oetting. Mrs. Oetting was unmarried then.
”By scouting around I managed to make up an entire team with a few substitutes. We could have matched any number of games with men or boys, but I didn’t care for this arrangement, so we played with pick-up girl teams at St. Charles, O’Fallon and a few other towns hereabouts.
“Our first uniforms I bought. They were of khaki and although serviceable, were not like we have today. The ones the Blue Jays have now we purchased out of the proceeds of the various games we have played during the past three years.
”The girls play regular baseball with a few exceptions. The pitcher’s box is 45 feet from the plate instead of 60 feet. The bases are drawn in 10 feet. This is the regulation playing field for women players. We use a special make ball, the exact size used professionally, but not quite so hard. Other than these changes the Blue Jays take the field under the same conditions as pertain to men’s play.
Know Rules of Game as Well as Men
“I found the girls willing pupils. All of them, naturally, are baseball fans. Most of them come from families in which their brothers play baseball. They know the rules of the game as well as the men. Although I am manager and coach, the girls really have taught themselves. Take Lola Mades, for instance. She has what I call a great throwing arm. She’s small, but she has a world of speed and she’s fast learning how to put the curves on a ball. She has wonderful control. Why, only a few weeks ago we were held to one hit, but won because he opposing pitcher gave three walks. Lola didn’t walk a man—I mean, a girl.
”You will notice that the girls throw like men. None of this lobbing them in the air in the general direction of the bag. They throw accurately and most of them with a fair degree of speed. Believe it or not, many runners have been cut off by good throws from the outfield. All this they picked up themselves. I gave them the general idea and they did the rest.
The 1928 Women's Baseball Team from Howell
(names marked * later played for the 1931 Hamburg Blue Jays)
Top row: Morris Muschany, Lola Mades*, Luella Zeyn, Mable Schneider, Helena Meier, Vera Sparenberg, Elinar Greive
Bottom row: Evelyn Knippenberg*, Elva Bacon, Vera (Seib) Muschany*, Ruth Kessler, Fay (Mades) Schlueter*
Photo courtesy of the St. Charles County Historical Society
“Perhaps the most important thing I taught them was how to bat. It is not natural for a girl to take a full cut at the ball. The easiest way for them to hit is to take a half swing, which is neither a cut nor a bunt. Now, most of the girls have learned to stand up to the plate, wait for a good ball and step into it. Take Edna, there. She lams a ball like a man. The outfielders have plenty of work when she’s at bat.
”The girls range in age from 15 to 18. Most of them live in Hamburg, a few in the country around here. We call the team the Hamburg Blue Jays because Hamburg is the post office for several little communities in this section. At the present time we are trying to complete our schedule for the summer, but because we refuse to play men and will not play on Sunday, we are having a bit of difficulty. We have played pick-up teams of men and have beaten them, too, but Sunday games are out because I was reared to respect the Sabbath, and I don’t favor Sunday baseball.”
When the girls started to play baseball they were the subject of much chafing by the men and boys of the countryside. Perhaps, they, too, thought it was a joke when it started, but four years of successful ball playing, in which the individuals have developed into real athletes have left no room for would-be jokesmiths. When Lola Mades whips one down the groove and it smacks into Edna Greiwe’s glove while a baffled batter wonders where it has disappeared, scoffers remain to cheer and loyal Hamburgans are all rooting for the home team now.
The Toonerville diamond has been the scene of many hectic battles. Its playing surface may be a bit bumpy and at all times dusty, the bases may be mere gunnysacks filled with sand and the outfielders may occasionally have to back into a cornfield to catch a hard-hit ball—but the grand old national game is played here with a vim and vigor that is a challenge to all who believe that baseball is a man’s game.
“Why not,” says Mrs. Oetting, she who refused to quit the game simply because she became a married woman. “It’s great fun, and we beat them as they come. My place may be in the home, but a diamond on the finger doesn’t mean that I shall quit the diamond at Toonerville. No sirree! Atta boy, Lola! Shoot it over!”
—Courtesy St. Louis Globe-Democrat
[i] The caption of the team photo accompanying this article reads: "The Ten Blue Jays of Hamburg, Mo.: Left to Right, Fay Mades, second base; Lola Mades, pitcher; Junia Mades, center field; Dorothy Connolly, substitute outfielder; Ruby Martin, left field; Edna Greiwe, catcher; Vera Seib, shortstop; Laura Yahn, third base; Mrs. Raymond Oetting, first base; Evelyn Knippenberg, right field."
[ii] A fungo bat is specially designed for use by coaches in baseball and softball practice. It is intended to hit balls tossed into the air by the batter, rather than pitched balls (Wikipedia).
[iii] Charles Magnus Gelbert played shortstop for the St. Louis Cardinals 1929-32 and 1935-36 (Wikipedia).
[iv] Taylor Lee Douthit played outfield for the St. Louis Cardinals from 1923 to 1931, when he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds (Wikipedia).
[vi] The Toonerville filling station and cafe (D-333) were owned and managed by Gertrell (Gus) and Annie Fridley of Hamburg. Gus’s cousin Elva Bacon, the daughter of Ervin and Lulu Bacon of Howell (C-169), played for Coach Muschany on the team that won the St. Charles County Championship in 1928 (personal communication).
[vii] Morris Muschany’s son, Don Muschany, later wrote (1977), "As you know, my father loved all sports, especially baseball. It made little difference if he were coaching boys or girls. He coached several girl softball teams which won county championships. He really was proud of those teams, and had some of the best players that could be found in the State of Missouri." —From a letter to Dr. Norman K. Muschany, published in The Rape of Howell and Hamburg, Missouri (An American Tragedy) by Donald K. Muschany (1978, p. 193). The Hamburg Blue Jays baseball team was honored with a float in the St. Charles Bicentennial Parade in 1969 (online index, St. Charles County Historical Society photo archive).