Parichy's Bloomer Girls bloomed, then faded

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By JOHN STANGER

The Parichy Bloomer Girls team was a member of the National Girls Baseball League which started in 1944. Mr. Emery Parichy, who owned the team, had a roofing business in Oak Park and a stadium in Forest Park.

I started going to Bloomer Girl games in 1952 with my buddies. I told my family how well the women played, but my granddad didn't believe that women could play ball as well as I told him they could, so he decided to see for himself. After going to a game with me at the end of the 1952 season, he became a fan, and I believe that we went to a half dozen games during the next two seasons. My granddad and I either took the Chicago Avenue bus to Harlem or we walked to Harlem and Chicago and took the Harlem bus south to Parichy Memorial Stadium, which was located on the northwest corner of Harlem and Harrison in Forest Park. When I went with my pals, we either rode our bikes or took the bus.

All the seats were much cheaper than those at Wrigley Field or Comiskey Park. However, no matter who I went with to a game, we always got to the stadium early to watch batting practice. One stadium rule that my buddies and I disliked was if a person caught a foul ball or a home run, he/she would have to return the ball to one of the burly ushers.

Ballplayers dressed in uniforms similar to those worn by major leaguers - knickers, caps, high socks and short sleeve shirts with the team logo on the front. These ladies made few errors and played a good, fundamental game. The game was fast pitch underhand, 10- to 12-inch softball. The base paths were 60 feet in length, and the pitcher's mound was about 45 feet from the plate. The players used mitts, and the catchers wore full gear. The bats were shorter and lighter than those used in the big leagues, and if the pitcher wound up, she would have to pause at the end of the wind-up before releasing the ball. Also, the base runners had to keep in contact with the base until the pitcher released the ball before leading off or attempting to steal. Umpires were in place at home and at each base.

The crowds were huge, drawing heavily from Oak Park and Forest Park as well as River Forest. I remember the names of two other teams in the league - the Rockola Chicks and the Admiral Music Maids. Since the teams played in the Chicago area, they were owned by Chicago-area businesses. Not only did Mr. Parichy own a fine ball club, but within the stadium was a great restaurant and a museum based on Parichy's extensive collection of memorabilia. It preceded even Cooperstown.

In the mid-1950s the league disbanded and Parichy Stadium was torn down to make room for the westward expansion of the Eisenhower Expressway. Going to the games was great fun, but time marches on, and we cannot live in a world that was. We must be prepared to live in a world that is constantly
changing.

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