The Obit For Dolores Mueller

Pitcher on '49 women's baseball team

'LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN' | Played in South Bend's losing title bid

The Chicago Sun-Times, September 5, 2008

BY LARRY FINLEY Staff Reporter/

Dolores Mueller Bajda pitched for the South Bend Blue Sox in 1949, the year they played the Rockford Peaches for the championship.

"Dolores' thing was control," said her friend Terry McKinley Uselmann. "She was always over the plate."

» Click to enlarge image

Dolores Mueller Bajda baseball card from the 1949 South Bend Blue Sox.

But 1949 was not a championship season for the Blue Sox. The Peaches took four games in a row for the championship.

Mrs. Bajda, 77, died Tuesday at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

A product of Chicago's park playgrounds, she played one year for the old All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, the organization portrayed in the 1992 movie, "A League of Their Own."

"The league was formed because the boys were away at war," said Uselmann, who played for the Muskegon Lassies in 1949. "I met Dolores, who I called 'Champ,' in 1948 at Thillens Stadium. Our team was the Chicago Coeds, a minor league team for the All-American League. She pitched or played third base. I played all over. I loved to catch."

She had a good fastball and a "curveball that most people didn't know how to hit,'' Uselmann said.

The league was started in 1943 by Chicago Cubs owner Philip K. Wrigley because many major and minor league male players were serving in World War II. The league was started in 1943 with four Midwest teams. It peaked at 10 teams in 1948 and was down to five by the last year, 1954. Chicago fielded a team -- the Colleens -- in 1948 only.

The year Mrs. Bajda played, the Blue Sox tied the Peaches with 75 wins and 36 loses, before the Sox folded in the playoffs.

Strict rules imposed
"That was a lot of games," Uselmann said. "And the pitchers pitched double headers. There was no such things as relief pitchers. South Bend was one of the best towns. They had a big booster club. Rookies were paid $55 a week plus expenses."

Some of the players were as young as 15 or 16 years old, so all of the teams had chaperones and strict regulations, including bans on smoking or drinking in public, no "boyish bob" haircuts, no jewelry, no obscene language, and no slacks or shorts in public.

Players were required to wear lipstick. In the early days of the league, the women were required to attend "charm school," where they learned grooming and public appearance skills.

After her year with the Blue Sox, Dolores Mueller returned to Chicago, where she married Chester Bajda, and started a family. He died in 1985.

She became active in civic and political affairs on the Northwest Side, where a street was named after her. She also became a champion for more girl's sports activities.

Mrs. Bajda was active in the Old Timers' Baseball Association of Chicago, an amalgam of former players and associates established in 1919 and now headed by former Cubs outfielder Andy Pafko.

"Dolores became very involved in the 1990s when the movie ['A League of the Own'] came out," said Mark Braun, executive director of the Old Timers.'

"She brought in some of the All-American Girls in the late 1980s. It was a men's-only club until a bunch of us voted to repeal that. Then we made her an officer in 2000."

The veterans of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League have their own association and hold an annual meeting and vacation.

Uselmann said she liked the 1992 movie that starred Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, and Madonna.

"It wasn't a documentary," she said. "It wasn't a comedy, either. That was how the league was in the beginning."

Mrs. Bajda's survivors include a daughter, Barbara A. Scholnick, and four grandchildren.

Mass will be offered at 11 a.m. Friday at St. Hyacinth Basilica, 3636 W. Wolfram. Burial will be in St. Joseph Cemetery in River Grove.


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