Manitoba

Recognition still pouring in for 93-year-old Manitoba woman who was a 1940s baseball star

Evelyn Wawryshyn’s professional baseball career began in 1946, but she’s still being recognized for her achievements 72 years later.

Evelyn Wawryshyn being inducted into Ukrainian Sports Hall of Fame in Pennsylvania

Evelyn Wawryshyn of Tyndall, Man., played six seasons in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, starting in 1946. (Submitted by Penny Topolnitsky)

Evelyn Wawryshyn's professional baseball career began in 1946, but she's still being recognized for her achievements 72 years later.

It was back in the mid-1940s that her talents were first recognized by baseball scouts.

Wawryshyn, who comes from Tyndall, Man. — a small town about 40 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg — was playing a game in the northern Manitoba city of Flin Flon as part of the Canadian Ukrainian Athletic Club, when she was spotted by scouts working for Philip Wrigley, the owner of the Chicago Cubs at the time and a member of the family that gave Chicago's Wrigley Field its name.

Wrigley needed players for the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League — the league featured in the 1992 film A League of Their Own, and which Wrigley founded in 1943 as many of his male players were fighting overseas.

"I got a telegram from Wrigley asking if they would like me to come and start for a salary of, I think it was $45 or $50 a week," said Wawryshyn, who legally changed her name to Moroz after she got married but still goes by her maiden name.

She boarded a train to Chicago, where she was selected to play for the Muskegon Lassies. She played second base and outfield for six seasons in the league, becoming a member of the league's all-star team in 1950.

Hall of Fame induction

On Saturday, 93-year-old Wawryshyn will be inducted into the Ukrainian Sports Hall of Fame in Pennsylvania. She can't travel to the award banquet, so her daughters are going for her.

Penny Topolnitsky says this isn't the first time her mother's athletic achievements have been recognized. Wawryshyn is already a member of the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame and the Manitoba Baseball Hall of Fame. She, along with the other Canadian players in the All-American league, have also been inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.

"It's always an honour for her, of course, to be inducted into anything and to have someone recognize your accomplishments," said Topolnitsky.

She said growing up, she and her siblings didn't fully understand the significance of their mother's accomplishments.

"Now as we're older, and you look through her scrapbooks, it's remarkable to think that she was a young girl, and she left her home in the country, in Tyndall, Man.… to leave and get on the train to the big city, in Chicago," she said.

Wawryshyn will be inducted this weekend into the Ukrainian Sports Hall of Fame in Pennsylvania. She's already a member of the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame and the Manitoba Baseball Hall of Fame and, along with the other Canadian players in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, has also been inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. (Submitted by Penny Topolnitsky)

Like many players, Wawryshyn picked up some superstitious habits that persist to this day. She still puts her left shoe on first, every time, Topolnitsky said.

Wawryshyn left professional baseball when she married and had two children, returning to Tyndall after the death of her husband. There she married Topolnitsky's father and had four more children.

When they go to the award banquet on Saturday, Topolnitsky will bring along an audio recording of Wawryshyn accepting the induction, to play during the ceremony.

"She's not one for a lot of fanfare, never has been, but in the family, of course, we're proud of her and her accomplishments," said Topolnitsky.

"So it's nice when other people recognize her."


With files from Jamie-Lee McKenzie and Cameron MacLean

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