Did Major League and Minor League Baseball Ban a Female Player From Playing in the Minors?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about baseball and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the baseball urban legends featured so far.

BASEBALL LEGEND: A minor league team signed a female baseball player but then saw her contract voided by the commissioners of the minor leagues and the major leagues!

STATUS: True

The Harrisburg Senators played in the Class B Interstate League during the 1950s and they were not doing particularly well in either the standings or attendance.

So for whatever reason, in June of 1952, the team offered a contract to Eleanor Engle, a local softball player and a stenographer with the Pennsylvania Utilities Commission.

She suited up and took batting practice with her teammates. Here she is in the dugout with the team (this image from The Sporting News was recently turned into a baseball card featuring Engle)…

However, Engle’s tenure as a member of the Senators was short-lived.

George Trautman and Ford Frick, the commissioners of the minor and major leagues, respectively, quickly voided the contract and Engle’s professional baseball career was stopped in its tracks.

Trautman even went a step further in a statement to the press:

So as to remove any possible doubt as to the attitude of this office toward any such contract I am notifying all clubs that signing of women players by National Association clubs will not be tolerated and clubs signing, or attempting to sign women players, will be subject to severe penalties. I have consulted with Commissioner Frick on this matter and he has asked me to express his concurrence in the view that this is just not in the best interest of baseball that such travesties be tolerated.

While it’s true that it is likely that the Senators were just doing it for the publicity, it is still a shame to see such a violent reaction to the notion of a woman playing professional baseball, especially in the minor leagues!!

Engle went on to work for IBM for almost 30 years.

Retired now, Engle is in her early 80s, and has recently begun discussing her baseball past, even allowing the aforementioned card to be made (she had denied all entreaties about collectibles over the years while she was still working at IBM).

Here is the said card, courtesy of Checkoutmycards.com…

The legend is…

STATUS: True

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is [email protected]

One Response to “Did Major League and Minor League Baseball Ban a Female Player From Playing in the Minors?”

  1. Sherry Poston on June 9th, 2016 at 7:55 pm

    Continuing… Baseball was “Poppy Trautman’s” life – regarding who should or should not (i.e. Women) be allowed to play in the game as a professional I believe was based soley on what he felt was best for the sport at that time. He advanced minor league ball to its zenith in his lifetime so I respect his judgement. Would he have changed his opinion had he lived … I can only guess … if he felt it was in the best interest of the sport…probably

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