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Rockville shortstop's league broke up 60 years ago; she has fond memories

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With the World Series in full swing, the St. Cloud Times dropped in on a retired shortstop in Rockville who had to hang up the baseball spikes six decades ago.

And she says it seems like just yesterday.

Jean Havlish was 17 when she broke into the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League in 1953, the Times reports. The following season would be the last before the league disbanded.

But Havlish, who turns 79 next month, tells the Times the two years she spent playing for the Fort Wayne Daisies stand out in her life.

Havlish grew up in St. Paul in the neighborhood called the North End. The Society for American Baseball Research notes that same area centered around Rice Street produced Jerry Kindall, who played in the major leagues for a decade, and Jim Rantz, a longtime scout and executive with the Twins. “If you lived on Rice Street, you either watched baseball or played it,” Havlish told SABR.

Havlish played well enough that the Daisies traded one of the league's best-known players to get ahold of her. In 2011 she told the publication Sr. Perspective when Fort Wayne traded Dottie Schroeder – "an icon in the league" – for Havlish local writers who covered the team were not happy.

Havlish was known for her fielding rather than her hitting. Her page on the league's website says she was nicknamed "Grasshopper."

She told Sr. Perspective she did have a stretch early in the '54 season when she hit home runs in three straight games "... but after I hit the three home runs, the manager said it’s time to move the fences back. We went out of town and when we came back, the fences had been moved!”

When the women's baseball league folded after the Daisies won the 1954 championship, Havlish turned to softball for awhile before finding great success as a champion bowler. She was inducted into the U.S. Bowling Congress' Hall of Fame in 1987.

By then she'd moved to Rockville, where she still lives.

The place of the women's professional league in baseball history has gained more recognition over the years. The St. Cloud Times says Havlish donated the glove she used at shortstop to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2009 and this summer she signed autographs at an exhibit on the women's league that was part of the All-Star Game Fan Fest in Minneapolis.

But it was the 1992 release of the movie "A League of Their Own" that probably did the most to raise awareness of the league. Havlish tells the Times she's never seen the movie and is not interested in watching it. She actually lived it and six decades later says she wouldn't trade it for anything.

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