Hello fellow mystery seekers, I’m back again with another Mystery Monday for your viewing pleasure! Today’s topic is on a subject near and dear to my boss’s heart, the Fort Wayne Daisies.
Some of you Fort Wayne natives out there may be familiar with the city’s professional female baseball team. From what I’ve been told, there’s even a movie on it (along with the documentary it was based on. Check out the History Center’s news page, there’s going to be a showing of it here November 4th at 6 p.m.) But if you’re anything like me, you most likely haven’t heard of it, making this iconic Fort Wayne team our mystery of the week.
To begin with, let’s delve into the history of the team. The Daisies were a pretty big facet in the Fort Wayne community in their heyday, during and following the World War II years (1945-1954). With the men all off at war, women found themselves branching out into new social spheres, including the ball parks. And let me tell you, these ladies could play. The Daisies made it to the playoffs every year from 1947 to 1954, ending in first place from 1951 through 1954, won the final five batting championships of the league and two Player of the Year awards, and, with Helen Callaghan leading all hitters in 1945, the Daisies amassed six batting crowns to set a league record. These ladies were ferocious on the field and they accomplished all of this while wearing skirts. Imagine sliding into base bare legged. I’m in awe.
So why are the Daisies such a mystery? If they accomplished so much, why haven’t more people heard of them? Well, the answer falls in two parts, one social and the other technological. After the war ended and the men returned, many of the players hung up their caps and mitts and settled back into their pre-war routines. In the book Belles of the Ballpark: Celebrating the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, the son of Helen Callaghan explained, “The way she says it…is that it was a part of her past. When she started raising a family, that was on her mind, and so she wanted to do that.” Some players continued to play ball, but the prevailing era of the Daisies ended as the women settled down and began families. There are a lot of other contributing social factors, but it’s a similar story to the women working in industry and other male-centric areas during the war.
The other reason stems from the availability of older information within museum settings. In this day and age, many museums and institutions have begun to make the move from paper to digital. This transition is very costly, in both money and labor, so the process can be slow. A lot goes into making a digital catalogue and sometimes things just fall through the cracks, people forget an artifact exists, or it just isn’t considered a priority. We only just recently stumbled upon the archival box holding the brunt of our Daisies’ photos (due to my boss’s sudden interest in promoting them sparking a memory of a dusty box existing in the archives room) and have begun the process of converting the collection to digital. While a daunting task, it leaves me excited for the other mysteries hiding in the collections. Who knows what could be stumbled upon next?
We have high hopes of creating an exhibit on the Daisies and their awesome exploits to bring these ladies back from the depths of obscurity and into the limelight where they belong. If you’d like to help us with this project, we’re looking for donations and contributors! If any of you out there know of some Daisies memorabilia and would care to share, contact my boss (Karen Butler-Clary) at 260.426.2882 (ext 312) or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to add it to our exhibit!
Keep an eye out for the cool events the Center will be hosting to honor the Daisies, because there is much more to come!