#Shortstops: The Iron Woman

Part of the SHORT STOPS series
Written by: Sara Bennett

Years before Margaret Thatcher would be known as the Iron Lady, there was the Iron Woman: Connie Wisniewski.

Wisniewski was a star pitcher and outfielder for the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League from 1944 until 1952, almost the entire run of the League – which was active from 1943-1954.

She played her first season for the Milwaukee Chicks, then moved with the team to Grand Rapids in 1945.

She played for Grand Rapids until her retirement in 1952.

Wisniewski took a brief break from the AAGPBL in 1950 while she played for the National Girls Baseball League, a softball league in Chicago.

Wisniewski began playing softball as a child and like many other future All-American Girls Professional Baseball League players, found success on an industrial league team.

She played for the Hudson Motors team in Detroit. It was with this team that she honed her underhand pitch, earned the nickname “Iron Woman”, and was scouted by her future coach, Max Carey, for the AAGPBL.

Wisniewski’s pitching got her elected to the first AAGPBL All-Star Team in 1946, then again in ‘48, ‘49, and ‘51 as an outfielder. She was part of two championship teams and appeared in the playoffs eight times.

In 1945, Wisniewski went 32-11 on the mound for Grand Rapids, posting a 0.81 earned-run average. She was chosen as the league’s Player of the Year.

The game played by the AAGPBL evolved as time went on. It began as softball and transitioned to baseball.

The ball became smaller, the field got larger, and the pitching changed from underhand to side-arm in 1947, then overhand in 1948. Wisniewski found the new pitching styles painful and her arm couldn’t keep pace with the changes.

In 1950, Wisniewski switched to the Chicago Music Maids for one year. The Maids were a part of the National Girls Baseball League, a professional softball league in Chicago. They paid more than the AAGPBL, and most importantly for Wisniewski, still pitched underhand. Wisniewski wasn’t the only pitcher to have trouble adjusting to the AAGPBL’s new pitching standards; many players left for the NGBL. She ultimately wasn’t happy and returned to her Chicks the following year to focus on playing outfield and hitting for the rest of her career.

Wisniewski suffered many injuries over the years, but she retired while she was still playing well. Her legacy as a Chicks teammate extends beyond her stellar record.

In interviews, her teammates commented just as much on her character and her playing – and often took rookie players under her wing. After professional baseball, Wisniewski went on to work at General Motors for many years and opened a restaurant, the Chicks Dugout.

She passed away on May 4, 1995.

Sara Bennett was the digital collections intern in the Hall of Fame’s Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program for Youth Leadership Development

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Part of the SHORT STOPS series