Winter, Joanne (1924—)
Winter, Joanne (1924—)
Baseball player who pitched 63 consecutive shutout innings, a record which still stands . Born on November 24, 1924, in Illinois; never married; no children.
Born in 1924 and raised by her father from age ten, after her mother died, Joanne Winters spent part of her childhood living above a gym in Maywood, Illinois, where her brother John trained as a boxer. Describing herself as someone who "always liked to run, jump and holler," she not only learned how to handle a punching bag at an early age, but played baseball, earning 35 cents a game. When her father moved the family to Chicago, she was good enough to pitch warm-up games for the National Girls Baseball League teams. After her brother enlisted during World War II, Winter convinced her father to move to Arizona, where she hoped to try out for either the Phoenix Queens or the Ramblers, both nationally prominent women's softball teams at the time. Although she was accepted by the Ramblers, she was given so little opportunity to pitch that when she was offered a contract with the Racine Belles of the All-American Girls Baseball League, she headed back to Chicago without a second thought.
During her first year with the Racine Belles (1943), Winter started 29 games and ended the season with an 11–11 record. That first year, she also batted a respectable .253. She entered her second year totally committed to the team and to improving her record. However, she turned in a disappointing 15–23 in 40 starts, amassing the most losses in the league for the year. In 1945, her stats were not much better; in 34 starts, she posted a 7–22 record, again racking up the league high in losses. Winter blamed much of her problem on her slow pitch which she described as "feeble underhand like the figure eight."
Following her second disastrous season, Winter returned to Arizona, ready to quit the game. Her father suggested she contact Nolly Trujillo, a Phoenix softball pitcher who specialized in an underhand rise ball delivered in a slingshot manner, with minimal windup. Winter contacted Trujillo and ended up working with him several hours a day, attempting to master his technique.
When Winter returned to Chicago for spring training, she was armed with determination and her speedy new pitch. It changed everything for "the stately right-hander," as she was referred to in the program. She ended the 1946 season with a 22–10 record, striking out 183 batters, more than three times above her past high, and setting a league record she shared with Connie Wisniewski . Unlike Wisniewski, however, Winter also pitched 63 consecutive shutout innings, a record that still stands. The Racine Belles also won the Shaughnessy Series championship that year, frosting on the cake for Winters.
Winters posted a 22–13 record in 1947, the year sidearm pitching was introduced into the league. "Many pitchers attempted it, but few succeeded," writes Barbara Gregorich . "The delivery was difficult to master, and umpires had a hard time determining if a pitch was legal (that is, if it truly came in sidearm, and not over-hand)." Having just perfected her underhand pitch, Winters stuck with it during the season, figuring she could learn to pitch sidearm during the off-season.
She spent the off-season in the gym, working with Belles manager Leo Murphy to master the pitch. But during spring training, she began experiencing back pain during the eighth or ninth inning. She endured the pain for the entire season, ending with a 25–13 record. In 1949, she started 32 games, winning 11 and losing 13. As well, her batting suffered: she managed only 6 hits in 66 at-bats.
At the end of the 1950 season, plagued by poor attendance, the Belles folded, and Winters returned to softball, pitching for the Admiral Music Maids of the National Girls Baseball League in Chicago. She quit after a few years and moved back to Arizona, where she taught tennis at the Arizona Biltmore Hotel and took up the game of golf. Getting caught up in the new game, she eventually went professional, winning the Phoenix City Gold championship in 1959 and 1960, and the Arizona State championship in 1962. She later founded the Arizona Silver Belle Championship Gold Tournament and the Diamonds in the Rough Gold School in Payson and Scottsdale.
Gregorich, Barbara. Women at Play: The Story of Women in Baseball. NY: Harcourt Brace, 1993.
Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts