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Nelson, Maud (1881–1944)

Nelson, Maud (1881–1944)

American baseball player . Name variations: Maud Brida; Maud Nielson; Maud Olson; Maud Dellacqua. Born Clementina Brida on November 17, 1881, in Tyrol, Austria; died in Chicago, Illinois, on February 15, 1944, married John B. Olson, Jr. (a baseball owner-manager), around 1911 (died 1917); married Constante Dellacqua (a chef), in 1922 or 1923; children: (stepson) Joe Dellacqua.

Although Maud Nelson dominated the early years of women's baseball, as a player, a scout, a manager, and owner of some of the top female teams of the day, her name has pretty much been lost to history. Her obscurity is due, at least in part, to the variety of names she used during her lifetime—Brida, Nelson, Nielson, Olson, and Dellacqua—and to the fact that she was a modest woman, not given to self-promotion. Many of the women who played under her management never knew about her early years as a world-renowned Bloomer Girl pitcher, or about her finesse at third base.

Nelson was born in 1881 in a Tyrolean village in Austria and immigrated to the United States with her family at an early age, although it is not known where they settled. Nelson's life remains a mystery before the age of 16, when the petite brunette joined the barnstorming Boston Bloomer Girls as their starting pitcher. By the fall of 1897, the Bloomers had played in ball fields up and down the East Coast and in October of that year traveled to Eugene, Oregon, where the Eugene Guard praised their "professionalism," and their "hard snappy game." Everywhere they played, Nelson was singled out for her talent. In 1900, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported that the Bloomer Girls defeated the Union City team 3–1, then went on to acknowledge the pitching staff. "The feature was the pitching of the Misses Maud Nelson and Edith Lindsay , only three hits being made off them." Nelson became such a draw that she had to pitch every day, although sometimes she struck out a side for three or so innings, then turned the game over to another pitcher. As well, late in the game, Nelson might switch over to play third base, "the hot corner," according to Barbara Gregorich , "where players must stop bullets, recover, and make the long throw to first base with great accuracy and velocity. That Nelson played this position, particularly in late innings, testifies to her skills and instincts." Gregorich goes on to mention that Nelson was also a fairly decent hitter.

After leaving the Bloomer Girls at the age of 27, Nelson became a starting pitcher for the Cherokee Indian Base Ball Club. At 30, she met and married John B. Olson, Jr., and joined him as owner-manager of the Western Bloomer Girls. Nelson immersed herself into her new duties, and gained a reputation for getting things done. She did everything from training to booking games and recruiting new players.

When her husband died in 1917, Nelson rejoined the Boston Bloomer Girls for a spell and also managed a women's team for the Chicago Athletic Club. In 1922 or 1923, she married Constante Dellacqua, a chef and a widower with a young son. With Dellacqua, she put together yet another team, the All Star Ranger Girls, which she managed until the Depression made it difficult to sustain a team. After 40 years in baseball, Maud Nelson lived out her retirement years in a house near Wrigley Field in Chicago. She died there on February 15, 1944. Gregorich notes that three generations of women owe their professional baseball careers to Maud Nelson: "She was the first and the greatest: the reliable starter and the keeper of the flame."

sources:

Gregorich, Barbara. Women at Play: The Story of Women in Baseball. NY: Harcourt Brace, 1993.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

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