“I found that you can’t play ball in skirts, I tried. I wore a skirt over my bloomer– and nearly broke my neck. Finally I was forced to discard it, and now I always wear bloomers.”
I would be remiss if I didn’t begin this series with one of the two major inspirations behind my novel Legend of League Park. [The other will follow later]
Alta Weiss is one of the great claims to fame of the area in which I grew up. She was born in Berlin, Ohio and moved to Ragersville, Ohio in childhood. The fact that I didn’t learn much about her until I began research on this project is something I find unfortunate.
In 1907 at just 16 years of age, she was discovered by the Vermillion Independents, a semipro team in the Cleveland area and agreed to pitch for the then all-male team. Competitors, teammates, and spectators alike were in awe of the woman they and the press had dubbed the “Girl Wonder” and news of her spread quickly throughout Northeast Ohio. When she made her League Park debut in the fall of 1907 against the Vacha All-Stars (also a Cleveland area team), the Independents won 7-6. Soon special trains were being run into the city whenever Alta was slated to play.
Alta’s baseball stardom, though never on a pro-team, helped paved the way for her to be a pioneer in other fields as well. The money that she made from playing baseball was used to finance her education at Starling College of Medicine, which would later become Ohio State University Medical College. She was the only women to graduate in the class of 1914 and proceeded to take over her father’s medical practice.
Though she played her last officially uniformed game in 1922, she truly stands out as a pioneer woman of baseball history.
[Women in Baseball History is a weekly feature in honor of my book The Legend of League Park, which will be released in April.]
“Miss Alta Weiss can easily lay claim to being the only one who can handle the ball from the pitcher’s box in such style that some of the best semi-pros are made to fan the atmosphere. –The Loran Times Herald, 1907