In 1945, Marysville woman was a pro baseball player
Genna Martin / The Herald
Dorothy Roth, 86, looks through a photo book with pictures from her life.
Genna Martin / The Herald
Dorothy Roth, 86, played a season with a women's pro baseball league in 1945 to earn money for school. "At that time it was a no-no for girls to really be active in sport, except tennis," she says.
She says she lived her own little slice of it.
While the men were off at war in 1945, Roth played for a season on an all-female pro baseball team.
Her team wasn't in the Hollywood movie version, but she was among the female heroines keeping baseball going during World War II.
It's a story Roth, 86, tells her grandkids and that her kids grew up hearing. When the folks at her Grandview Village retirement community in Marysville learned of her baseball past, they wanted to not only take her back to the ballgame but to also put her in it.
They arranged for Roth to get an invitation to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at a Seattle Mariners game.
Jennifer Dennis, Grandview Village director, helped organize the fanfare, which included "Team Dorothy" shirts and ball caps for about 100 residents of Village Concepts Communities in Western Washington.
Roth said her baseball stint isn't something that comes up often and she lost touch with those other girls of summer.
"It has been about 70 years," she said. "I don't think there's many of us left."
She doesn't have any memorabilia and admits there are details she hasn't thought about for decades.
She said she was a high school senior in Forest Park, Ill., when a scout saw her play intramural ball and recruited her for a team.
Roth said she did it for the money, which wasn't a lot but enough.
"It was hard times," she said. "So I signed up for a season. I wanted to go to college."
Home field was in Forest Park near Chicago.
"They had built this stadium for the men, and all the men were drafted," she said. "It was a beautiful stadium. It had lights."
She played first base and left field.
"I was mediocre," she said.
Some fans weren't very forgiving about mistakes.
"I was on first and I did something wrong and all of a sudden I had a beer bottle tossed at me," she said. "Most of the men were rejects. They were old and cranky. They all wanted to be baseball players. But they got into the game and were rootin' and tootin' for us."
She and her teammates didn't buckle under pressure. After all, there's no crying in baseball.
"I don't remember any tears," she said.
Her pride didn't extend off the ballfield.
"At that time it was a no-no for girls to really be active in sport, except tennis," she said.
"I was ashamed. When I walked home from practice I would go two or three blocks out of my way so the girls playing tennis wouldn't see me. It wasn't ladylike to play baseball."
Still, it got her to college.
It was there she encountered Al, "the most conceited, self-centered man" she'd ever met.
"I was working my way through a college in a dining room. He hit me with a tray and said, 'Are you naturally solid or do you have a girdle on?' " she said. "That was terrible. I hated him."
But Al did have one good quality.
"I was flunking accounting and he was an accounting major. So I snuggled up to him and he helped me pass accounting."
You guessed it. She married him.
It was no ordinary wedding. They were wed on TV in New York City. She submitted their love story to be on "The Bride and Groom Show" and won.
In addition to the glory of being on TV, the prize included a gown, honeymoon, stove, refrigerator and a year's worth of food.
She took a job teaching.
"I started in a one-room schoolhouse with outhouses," said Roth, who had a long career in education.
Al's job as a city manager brought the family to Oregon. After he died, she moved to Marysville to be closer to her daughter, Holly Leach, superintendent of Northshore Christian Academy.
Her son, Greg, is a pastor in California.
Leach said she was inspired by her mom's stories of baseball and more.
"She talked about taking any job she could to get to college. Education is really very important to her," Leach said. "She always emphasized perseverance and being adventurous and trying things and achieving your goals."
Roth also was "Dorothy the Riveter" and she took flying lessons.
"I wanted to be the next Amelia Earhart," Roth said.
Baseball is a small yet important chapter of her life.
"A door was opened and I walked through it," she said. "Every little step, no matter what it is, lets the next person see, 'Maybe I can do that.'
"It was a men-oriented society and women have put their foot in and shown we can do it."
What does Roth think about the fat salaries ball players make these days?
"I started too young," she said. "I need to go back and try again."
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