by Ryan Woodward, IWBC Director
Happy Anna May Day! That’s how I now refer to May 1st, the birthday of former professional baseball pitcher Anna May Hutchison. The IWBC needs no excuse to celebrate the full, exciting history of women in baseball, but we will make the most of any opportunity to share the stories and advocate for increased participation in the sport. I continue to be motivated to fill in the gaps in the historical narrative of women’s baseball history. Hutchison’s induction into the Kentucky Sports Hall of Fame earlier this year is the latest example.
Born May 1, 1925, Hutchison grew up in Louisville, playing softball with the local Girls Athletic Association. She won a citywide championship and was subsequently recruited by the AAGPBL while competing in a regional tournament in Indiana, earning a spot as catcher for the Racine Belles for the 1944 season. “Hutch” spent six seasons in the league and halfway through her career, she would shine as one of the elite sidearm pitchers of the league, setting new records for pitchers, earning consecutive All-Star honors, and leading her team to the 1946 championship.
I have read and researched as much as possible about the league for nearly 30 years and knowing there were a handful of players from my home state adds a touch of Kentucky pride. The story doesn’t end there, however. Hutch's mere participation in the league is noteworthy, but she unexpectedly excelled during the two seasons of sidearm pitching - becoming a back-to-back All-Star and pitching in the championship playoffs both years. Kentucky as a whole should be proud of that. Knowing about this simply wasn’t enough anymore. This needed to be shared. She should be honored. The gaps needed to be filled.
The Kentucky Sports Hall of Fame has recognized athletes and sports figures who are Kentucky natives as well as individuals who participated in their respective sport or made a significant impact in their sport in Kentucky since 1963. No woman had ever been inducted for baseball, so instead of dwelling on how unfortunate that is, I set out to change it. The application called for up to 500 words on why the nominee should be considered. It is challenging to succinctly craft the right words, in the best order, with the most impressive stats, and an effective balance of human interest. Challenging, but manageable and worth it when the Louisville Sports Commission named Hutch to the Kentucky Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2020.
The public may never know about Hutch’s life after baseball - excelling at basketball, golf, and bowling, or her long career as a teacher in Wisconsin. Visitors to Louisville will learn, however, that she was an All-Star sidearm pitcher and Kentuckians can take pride in knowing the Commonwealth has a history of women competing in baseball at an elite level. This is only the beginning of the IWBC finding ways to fill in the gaps in the historical narrative, even if limited to 500 words.
Happy birthday, Anna May!
(word count: 498)
For more on Anna May Hutchison’s induction into the Kentucky Sports Hall of Fame:
Three Native Kentuckians To Be Inducted Into Kentucky Sports Hall of Fame
Kentucky Sports Memories: Anna May Hutchison
For more on Anna May Hutchison’s life and career:
Belles of the Ballpark: Celebrating the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League
Wisconsin Sound Archive: Interview with Anna May Hutchison, April 30, 1992