Sophie Kurys playing in the field for the Racine Belles
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Who Will Research Women’s Professional Baseball?

The Negro Leagues have long been an area where the very best of the online baseball research community has been able to shine. The little pockets that have formed around the Negro Leagues with nothing more than a deep desire to get the word out about those leagues and players have succeeded in doing just that. They did the research, found the statistics, and then took those statistics and added advanced measurements while publishing them in a way that connected with modern baseball fans. That movement continues and in every possible way, it is a great thing to witness and be involved with.

I have no intention of stopping my writing about the Negro Leagues. Those players, teams, leagues, coaches, managers, etc remain overlooked and undervalued when it comes to the coverage they deserve. However, a while back I came to the realization that there is one area of the baseball world that could benefit even more from the sort of research that has been poured into the Negro Leagues. In a grand sense, I am referring to women’s baseball but in a larger sense, I am referring to the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.

Go ahead and search for any AAGPBL player you can think of? Choose whichever major online stat site you want; Baseball Reference, FanGraphs, or Baseball Prospectus. Did your result turn up anything? Oh, your searches came up empty sans for a few empty entries on Baseball Reference? Welcome to the way women are treated in baseball research, even when they are playing at the highest level. What makes all of this borderline criminal is that there are statistics out there for the AAGPBL. Both on the official AAGPBL website and in the book, The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League Record Book by W.C. Madden. The website has been around for years and is a decent source for statistics and information about the league. The book has been in circulation since 2000 and is a treasure trove of statistics and information about the very first women’s major league.

Through Negro Leagues research we’ve seen what the baseball research community can accomplish when they have very little to work with. They’ve shown that they can dig and dig and dig to find the raw data. Much has been made of that raw data then being turned into advanced statistics that allowed baseball fans to get a better grasp of just how good the Negro Leagues were and the level of skill possessed by its players. In the case of the AAGPBL the raw data is already known and has been readily available for years. There’s no reason I shouldn’t be able to search for Charlene Pryer on any of the major stat sites and find not just her raw numbers but her WRC+, DRC+, bWAR, rWAR, fWAR, or more.

I’m sure to some it doesn’t seem like much of a big deal that AAGPBL statistics aren’t available on the major baseball stat sites. That loses sight of the fact that it delegitimizes the league that their stats aren’t readily available on those sites. That they don’t have advanced stats available speaks to how little researchers care about those women and the greater role of women in professional baseball. Those sites not even bothering to house the readily available raw stats for these women speaks volumes about how little the mostly male-dominated baseball research community thinks of them. If those sites can’t be bothered to care about the most rudimentary of AAGPBL stats and records then why should any baseball fan in the modern world care about the league at all?

I’m not focusing on the other professional women’s leagues as they do not have readily available statistics and would require more research than the AAGPBL would. That doesn’t mean that research shouldn’t be done, it absolutely should. We owe it to the women playing today to research and make their accomplishments readily available to the entire baseball community. That being said, the raw statistics of the AAGPBL are right there, have been for years, and the baseball research community at large continues to ignore them and that is a crime that we cannot continue to overlook.

I’m certainly not free from any wrongdoing when it comes to covering women’s baseball, specifically the AAGPBL. I have ignored them along with everyone else and were it not for a tweet exchange with the AAGPBL account a couple of weeks ago wouldn’t have gone down this rabbit hole. The facts at hand are that we have all dropped the ball in our coverage of women’s baseball and the AAGPBL specifically. To that end, I plan on writing more about those players and teams because they deserve the attention. Hopefully, the baseball research community follows suit, it’s long past time that women in baseball and the AAGPBL get their due.

Lead photo courtesy of Unknown – MLive

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Bill Thompson
Father (human/feline/canine), husband, Paramedic, Socialist, writer Internet Baseball Writers Association of America and Off the Bench Baseball; freelance writer at various online and print publications. Member Internet Baseball Writers Association of America & Society for American Baseball Research.

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