Gisolo, Margaret (1914—)
Gisolo, Margaret (1914—)
Born in the mining community of Blanford, Indiana, in 1914, Margaret Gisolo was taught to play baseball by her older brother, Toney, a semipro and minor-league player. A natural from the start, she pitched for her grade-school team and played sandlot games after classes. In 1928, when the American Legion established a national baseball program for youngsters, she signed up and was accepted on the newly created junior team, the Blanford Cubs, becoming the first female in the national program. By June 18, the start of tournament play, the Cubs were fighting it out with the rival Clinton Baptists in the best-of-three series playoffs to determine the championship of the county. The first game was tied 7-7 and went into extra innings. In the top of the 12th, Gisolo singled to short right and drove in the winning run. When Clinton officials protested the game because a girl had played, Gisolo found herself in the midst of a controversy that would dominate her youthful career. While officials pondered the protest, the Cubs went on to win the second game, after which an Indiana American Legion state athletic officer suspended Gisolo for six days. Ultimately, officials upheld Gisolo's eligibility because there was nothing specifically stated in the rules which would bar girls from playing. The Cubs went on to win the state championship. In the seven games of tournament play, Gisolo, who regularly played second base, had nine hits in 21 at bats and made 10 putouts and 28 assists with no errors. Young girls began signing up for American Legion junior teams throughout the country.
On August 9, 1928, in Comiskey Park, the Blanford Cubs faced the Chicago Marine Post team in the Indiana-Illinois playoff. Although the Cubs lost the first round of interstate play, they were welcomed back to Blanford as heroes. Soon after the celebration, Gisolo was told that the American Legion had written a new rule to exclude girls from junior baseball, and that she would no longer be able to play for the Cubs. Although no one in Blanford supported the rule, it remained on the books until the 1970s.
Gisolo went on the play the game she loved, however, first with Rose Figg 's American Athletic Girls (a team started by Maud Nelson in 1914), and then with the All Star Ranger Girls from 1930 to 1934. (For part of 1931, she also played with the Hollywood Movie Stars Baseball Team.) She put the money she earned toward a college education, which prepared her for a wide and varied career. She was the supervisor of physical education for the public schools of Paris, Indiana, joined the WAVES (earning the rank of lieutenant commander), and taught physical education at the college level. From 1954 until her retirement in 1980, she was an instructor of tennis and dance at Arizona State University. Largely through her vision and efforts, the university developed a nationally recognized department of dance.
After retirement, Gisolo pursued tennis, and she and her partner won gold medals in doubles at the Senior Olympics in both 1989 and 1991. She still believes that her early experience in baseball helped her achieve her goals. "The sense of achievement and accomplishment was very positive," she recalls, "and that has stayed with me."
Gregorich, Barbara. Women at Play: The Story of Women in Baseball. NY: Harcourt Brace, 1993.