It wasn't quite selling Babe Ruth to the Yankees to finance a play, but in the annals of professional baseball there aren't many worse moves than the South Bend Blue Sox selling Rose Gacioch to the Rockford Peaches in 1945 because the Sox' owner found her grammar unladylike. Gacioch, who died last week at 89, was never particularly dainty--she was the basis for Rosie O'Donnell's character in the movie A League of Their Own. "I played ball ever since I was a kid," Gacioch said last year. "Mother didn't like it. She said, 'That's for the boys.'"
Gacioch was a factory worker in Wheeling, W.Va., who had played one year of baseball and done some softball barnstorming when, at age 28, she tried out for the Sox of the newly formed All-American Girls Baseball League. After being sent to the Peaches, she became one of the league's top hitters, but it wasn't until the league allowed overhand pitching in 1948 that she became a star. Using the curveball her brother, Steve, had taught her, she went on to become the league's only 20-game winner, going 20-7 in 1951. She retired when the AAGBL folded in 1954--the same year she won the Women's International Bowling Congress classic division doubles championship. "I made a nice life for myself," she said. "I didn't get paid much. I never got married; I didn't have time. I got to see the world when I started playing ball."